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.
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…
Returning 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.
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.
Right 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 →
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 →
In the commercial world of book sales, ereaders have surged into the spotlight over the last few years. Book retailers Amazon and Barnes and Noble each release new models of their dedicated ebook readers with the same frequency as other popular electronic gadgets. Since Apple first release its popular iPad, the world of tablet of computing is also making inroads into the ebook world.
The perception, however, is that ebook readers are popular mostly among casual, pop-lit readers. If you have an ebook reader (e.g. Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, Apple iPad), please complete this simple survey about how you use ebook readers in an academic setting.
Despite the promises made by children’s cartoons and most works of science fiction we continue to endure life without personal jetpacks, flying cars, robotic housemaids named Rosie, and an exhaustive and fully digitized record of human knowledge. And while there’s not much advice I can offer to get you any closer to those first three goals, I’m pretty certain that you’ve got the tools at your disposal to digitize any document or publication you can get your hands on.
You might assume that the proper tool for this kind of work would be a flatbed scanner. For a while that was definitely true. These days, however, your digital camera can almost certainly handle the job. Yes, even that point-and-shoot camera that you bought years ago to take on vacations and photograph your cat for her very own blog. I use my camera all the time to photograph manuscript material at archives and sections of books or articles that I can’t or don’t want to lug home from libraries. Continue reading →
We’ve mentioned Dropbox here at DiYiT before. In fact, back in our very first post Philip declared it to be “an academic’s best friend.” If you missed that post and aren’t familiar with Dropbox, you should definitely check it out. In a nutshell, Dropbox allows you to sync folders between two or more computers. You can also access the files in your Dropbox folders via the web at dropbox.com. The service effectively eliminates version control issues while also providing a convenient offsite backup for your files. For this post I want to describe how Dropbox has improved my research workflow by housing my Zotero database.
If you aren’t familiar with Zotero, unfortunately we don’t have a previous post to help you. At some point soon, I plan to write up a full review describing the many benefits of this free, open-source research organization and citation system produced by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. For now, you’ll need to check out their page to learn about this wildly useful add-on for Firefox. And although it has a certain cart-before-the-horse feel to it, I’m going to forge ahead with this current post about how Dropbox can improve upon the typical Zotero user experience. Those of you who use Zotero might benefit from it. And those of you who don’t will undoubtedly be switching over now that you’ve heard of it. So there’s really no downside here. Continue reading →