Create Zotero Hotkeys in Word for Faster Citation

About a month ago the fine folks at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media released an update to Zotero, their fabulous research management and citation software. The update broke Zotero free from the confines of the Firefox web browser and gave it the ability to stand as it own application. That change was big news for folks who prefer Chrome, Internet Explorer, or one of the many other browsers out there to Firefox. I’m actually a Firefox user so I wondered if the release would have much to offer for me beyond saving the step of opening Zotero in a separate browser window to make it seem like its own program. Did it ever!

The new standalone version rolled out a number of tweaks and upgrades to the previous iteration of the software, including a very useful duplicate detection and management system. But, for me, the most significant improvement over the old system came in the form of a wonderful new interface for adding citations to Microsoft Word and OpenOffice. In the new system, activating the “Insert Citation” action for the Zotero add-in brings up an elegantly simple search bar. To add an item you simply begin typing the author’s name or part of the title. As you type the system brings up a menu of options meeting the search criteria. It even moves items that you’ve previously cited in this file up to the top of the list for faster access. Once you see the source you’re looking for you can click on it or use the arrow keys to select it.

Adding additional information to the item such as page numbers or prefix or suffix text is as easy as pressing Ctrl and the down arrow. That command brings up a separate menu for the item where you can add those details. Overall it is a snap to use and makes it much easier to add citations to your text. And with a few tweaks to your word processor’s hotkey settings, you can improve your workflow even more. 

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Leveraging Twitter

First off, I want to welcome everyone back to DIY Ivory Tower. You might have noticed that the blog went on a brief hiatus during the late fall. My dissertation and the job market kept me quite busy during the past few months. Now that I’ve got another chapter drafted and a large pile of letters off to search committees, I have time once again to devote to DiYiT. Now on to the post…

Twitter LogosReturning home from the annual American Historical Association conference a few weeks ago, I found that one of my most important post-conference chores was the addition of dozens of scholars, editors, archivists, and librarians to my Twitter feed. During the conference I used Twitter extensively and for a variety of different purposes. And I wasn’t alone. All tolled, Twitter users sent over 4,200 messages about the AHA meeting to the public micro-blogging service during the conference. And since then another 500 or so tweets have rolled in as conversations begun during the conference have continued on Twitter. Given the value of all that tweeting, I thought it might be a good idea to put together a post describing the basic uses of Twitter by academics.

If you are completely unfamiliar with Twitter, I suggest that you check out this PDF describing the basics of Twitter put together by the Public Policy Group of the London School of Economics and Political Science. If you are familiar enough with the service to understand terminology like “tweeting” and “following,” then we can get right down to business.

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Group Tabs in Firefox for Greater Web Productivity

Mozilla’s Firefox web browser now includes a feature that some of you out there might find useful. First, though, I think it makes sense to say a few words about browser choice more broadly.

Web Browser Statistics from Wikimedia contributor Daniel.CardenasRight now the ongoing “browser wars” are dominated by three options, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE), Mozilla’s Firefox, and Google’s Chrome. In the last few years Chrome has been steadily eating away at IE’s market dominance while Firefox remained fairly stable at around 30 percent of the market. There are other options out there, most of which have small but very devoted user bases. But for our purposes I’ll just address the big three.

So as you probably guessed from the title of this post, I’m a Firefox user. For now I’m locked into that choice because I use Zotero, a Firefox add-on, to organize my research. Currently the fine folks at the Rozenwig Center for History and New Media are hard at work on a standalone version of Zotero that will allow it to work with other browsers. But since I’m not willing to trust my dissertation research to the currently available Beta version of that system, I’ll happily keep using Firefox for my web needs. And, frankly, when a standalone version of Zotero is ready for prime time, I suspect that I’ll remain a Firefox user. Here’s three reasons why: Continue reading

Silence Your Android Phone Automatically; And Tell Your Students To Do the Same

Let No Cell Phonesme start by saying that I’m not one of those people who flies into a blind rage when a cell phone goes off during a meal or a meeting or even during one of my classes. It annoys me at the movies, sure. But I’m not so foolish as to think that dinner with me or one of my lectures offers anything close to the experience of getting “lost in” or “sucked into” a great movie. In a theater, the ring of a cell phone jarringly returns to you the reality of being crammed in a room with dozens of other people, and maybe even some bedbugs.

These days, however, our phones are not just mobile. They are smart. And if you have a smart phone, then there’s no reason to allow it to do dumb things like ring, buzz, or chirp when you don’t want it to. Fortunately a variety of Android apps out there allow you to quiet your phone on a set schedule.

OSilence Schedulern my phone, I use a simple little app called Silence Scheduler (shown at left). I just tell the program the days and times that I have lectures, discussion sections, and meetings. And the phone switches automatically to silent mode during those times. When the time period ends, it switches the phone back to normal mode. No effort on my part required for the rest of the quarter. You can download it for free via the Android Market. And a quick search of the market also shows a number of other free apps that will do the very same thing for you.

If you have $6.23 to burn, you can also try out an Android app called Tasker. It can silence your phone on a schedule and much, much more. Tasker allows you to set conditional automation for nearly everything your phone can do. Want your phone to be silent and send calls directly to voicemail if it detects that you are driving based on your GPS signal? Tasker can do that. Want it to activate the GPS and network data whenever you open Google Maps? Tasker can do that too.  I’ve just started working with it so I won’t give a full review. But I’m already very impressed. I’ll let the folks over at Lifehacker fill you in with their review of Tasker and their subsequent post detailing some of the creative ways they were using it.

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Use Dropbox to Turn Microsoft’s Autorecover Feature into an Autosave Feature to Avoid Losing Work

old computer lab by flickr user Wesley FryerWay back in the 90s when I was an undergraduate, I worked as a lab assistant in a campus computer lab. Primarily my work there consisted of scanning lab users’ 3.5-inch floppy disks for viruses, assisting with file conversions between Mac and PC file types, showing users how to map their computer to the campus servers to retrieve their fancy new electronic mail, and a whole host of other, now entirely obsolete, tasks.

Unfortunately for all of us, one unpleasant duty of the lab assistant remains a part of all our lives today, dealing with lost work. Short of having to tell local vagrants that if they weren’t students they could not sleep in the 24-hour computer lab, consoling those who’d lost work due to viruses, file corruptions, computer shutdowns, or save errors was definitely the most difficult part of that job.

And somehow, despite all our technological advances over the last decade-and-a-half, we are still losing work. A colleague told me just the other day that he’d lost six hours of work in Powerpoint. His tale of woe prompted me to look into the advice I might give here at DiYiT beyond the old computer lab assistant standby of “save early and save often.”

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Take Advantage of Staff or Student Discounts to Save Money on Your Mobile Phone Bill

payphone by flickr user stevendepolo Here at DiYiT we don’t spend a whole lot of our time telling you how to spend or save your money. You can get plenty of financial advice browsing other corners of the web or by watching Suze Orman berate the people who call in to her oddly mesmerizing TV show. We do try to highlight free and low-cost tech products and software whenever possible because we’re well aware that most grad students eke out an existence at an earnings level just north of the poverty line. In this case, I wanted to describe a way for you to save some money on a piece of technology you almost certainly already own, your cell phone.

You may already know, or won’t be shocked to learn, that big companies negotiate lower cell phone rates for their employees with the mobile service providers. However, you might not have realized that these discounts extend beyond company-issued phones. They often apply to personal lines as well. In addition, unlike most deals that apply to cell phones, they can be applied at any time. You don’t need to wait until you are buying a new phone or signing a new two-year contract with a service provider. Continue reading

Stay Connected when Visiting Other Institutions with eduroam

As a graduate student it may not be all that often that you leave your office, laboratory, or the makeshift cubicle you’ve fashioned out of library books in your apartment. But occasionally, you will need to venture outside for one reason or another. And in order to attend conferences, do research, or collaborate with others, you may even need to leave the comfortable confines of your university and venture onto the campus of another institution.

Wi-Fi Trash Can, by flickr user Yuba College Public SpaceFor a long time getting internet access as a guest at another college or university meant jumping through bureaucratic and technical hoops, sneaking unsecure access at a library terminal, or simply leaving campus for a coffee shop with open Wi-Fi. Fortunately, a consortium of global universities is trying to make inter-campus wireless access as easy as logging in to your home institution’s network. The project, eduroam, currently lists 20 active institutions, 16 intuitions in testing, and another 25 interested intuitions in its U.S. network. And it boasts connections with 2,000 institutions worldwide. Continue reading