Use URL Shorteners to Create Custom, Trackable Links

In the last few years we’ve seen an explosion of web sites offering a simple service: shrinking long URLs down to nice manageable sizes. Demand for URL shortening has been driven largely by Twitter’s 140-character per tweet maximum. Without a URL shortener you’d have little room in a tweet to say anything about an included link. The URL for this post, for example, would take up nearly three quarters of a tweet’s real estate.

Long Tweet

Fortunately for the web user, competition in the URL shrinking business has resulted in the rapid development of new features. Various shortener services now offer integration with web browsers or social media sites, link previews, and even profit sharing based on advertising. All in all there are far too many options out there for me to attempt any reasonable summary of them. A quick Google search for “best URL shortener” will net you plenty of blogs and other sites that have attempted to shoot that particularly quickly moving target. For this post I want to highlight two features offered by many URL shorteners that grads and academics might find particularly useful, whether you’re using Twitter or not.

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Save Time by Saving Keystrokes with AutoHotkey

Autohotkey LogoAutohotkey (AHK) is very powerful software. And it is exactly the type of tool that we want to highlight here at DIY Ivory Tower. At the most basic level, AHK allows you to create your own keyboard shortcuts in Windows. [Mac users should check out this post from Profhacker describing Mac software called TextExpander. It also mentions a few other Mac and Windows text expanders that can accomplish at least some of what AHK can do.] I started using AHK for very simple tasks like having my computer type my phone number when I press a certain combination of keys. I’ve got other hotkeys set for my name, a complex part (but not all) of my email password, my address, and my email address. These shortcuts come in very handy when filling out forms online or sending simple emails. Once you start using the software and reading through its user guide, however, you’ll quickly see that it is capable of very much more. Continue reading

How To Perform Nearly Any Task From Your Browser’s Address Bar

screengrab of the address barToday over at Lifehacker they’ve got a fascinating post about using the address bar in your web browser to perform a whole host of useful tasks.  After reading through their post and watching their how-to videos, I’ve already trained my installation of Firefox to recognize several of these shortcuts. In particular, I’m very excited about integrating Google Maps’ directions into my address bar and sending quick emails from there. Now I can get directions from my town to another location by simply typing “dir” and then the address of the second location in the address bar. And I can send a quick email to my wife by typing her name and then the body of the email in the address bar. Continue reading