Technology for Educators

December 10, 2010

FollowUp.cc: Remind Yourself

Filed under: Productivity — Sue Frantz @ 4:26 pm

A month ago I wrote about NudgeMail, a service that allows you to send email reminders to yourself in the future. For example, if you send an email to Monday@NudgeMail.com, you’ll receive that email back from NudgeMail on Monday morning. An email sent to 1pm@NudgeMail.com sends that email back to you the next time 1pm rolls around. An email sent to 5minutes@NudgeMail.com sends that email back to you in 5 minutes. Unfortunately, NudgeMail mysteriously stopped working for me. Since I found the service so useful, I went searching for another company that provides a similar service. I found one that does the same thing, but has some additional features.

The advantage of NudgeMail is that there is no registration, no login. That’s also its disadvantage, I discovered. When it stopped working for me, I had no easy to way to see the future NudgeMails I had scheduled. My only option was to go through Outlook’s sent folder. (Actually, I used Xobni to narrow down the search – see this earlier post, but it still wasn’t easy.)

For email reminders, I’m now using FollowUp.cc.

It works the same way in that if I want a reminder on Monday, I send an email to Monday@FollowUp.cc. If I want a reminder at 1pm, I send an email to 1pm@FollowUp.cc. See FollowUp’s FAQ for all of ways you can set a time for a future reminder.

When I send the reminder, FollowUp.cc will add it to a calendar that I can access on their website, and it will be added to a calendar I can view in my own Google calendar. And when that reminder shows up in my mailbox later, I can ‘snooze’ it, so it’s sent to me again at some future point.

An example

I send this email:

A minute later, I received this email:

I can either do what I wanted to do, or I could ‘snooze’ it. If I click ‘1w,’ I will get this same email reminder back in a week. If I click ‘edit reminder manually,’ I’m directed to a webpage where I can set the time and date myself.

 

The FollowUp.cc calendar

I wrote that email on Friday, December 10th at 5:56am. When I visit my calendar at FollowUp.cc I can see that “An example for blog” has been added. It’s in red because by the time I was ready to take this screenshot, 5:57am had already passed.

Within the FollowUp.cc settings, you can get the URLs for both an iCal calendar and RSS feed.

If you use Google calendar, on the bottom left, there is a section called ‘Other calendars.’ Click add. Then select ‘Add by URL.’ Then paste the iCal URL from within your FollowUp.cc Settings.

The FollowUp.cc calendar only shows your upcoming reminders. (I snoozed the ‘an example’ reminder until tomorrow so it would appear in my calendar.) If you don’t want to see your reminders all the time, under ‘Other calendars,’ click ‘FollowUp.cc.’ The color will turn to white. Click it again to turn it back on.

I tried out the RSS feed, but I decided that I didn’t need my reminder information in my feed reader, too. My email and my Google calendar were plenty!

 

From other email addresses

By adding other email addresses to your account, you can send yourself reminders from them as well. Whatever account you send from, email reminders will go back to that account. All email reminders go into the same calendar though.

Remind others

If I email me with something like, “Let’s find time next month to discuss (some issue),” and I cc January3@followup.cc, then on January 3rd, you and I will both get this email in our inboxes. If I bcc January3@followup.cc, then only I will get the reminder. If I use Subtextual (see this earlier post), then I can add an additional message to myself. And, of course much mixing and matching is possible.

For example, let’s say that I email you, cc’ing someone else and January3@followup.cc. I then write a message: “Here’s the background…” But because I want to include some additional information in the reminder for you and me, I use Subtextual.

On January 3rd, the ‘here’s the background’ email will be sent as a reminder to ‘someoneelse,’ to you, and to me. The ‘here’s the strategy’ email will be sent as a reminder to just you and me.

 

Remind yourself about websites

FollowUp.cc also provides a bookmarklet. When I click a link in my browser, I can set a reminder to be sent to me later reminding me to visit that website.

 

Conclusion

The developers continue to make improvements. Keep an eye on this product!

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December 6, 2010

Google: AROUND

Filed under: Productivity — Sue Frantz @ 8:15 am

With the end of the term upon us, are you looking for a better way to detect plagiarism?

We’ve probably all put a suspect passage into Google. If the quote is exact, the source is easy to find. But what if the student has changed a few words? Those are a little tougher. But here’s a little known tool that can help a lot. In Google, you can use the operator AROUND (must be in all capital letters) to find terms are phrases that are ‘around’ each other.

Here’s an example.

Original passage: “When you have PTSD, it can seem like you’ll never get over what happened or feel normal again. But help is available – and you are not alone.”

Plagiarized passage: When someone has PTSD, it can seem like they’ll never get over the trauma.

If I drop the suspect passage into Google, this is what I get. The original source is not here. In fact I went 5 screens deep without encountering the original source.

 

But now let’s do a search using AROUND. To use it, I take a guess at what I think the original words likely were. I chose ‘PTSD,’ ‘it may seem like,’ and ‘never get over.’ Those are pretty sketchy terms to use in a normal Google search. But here, they become much more powerful.

PTSD AROUND(5) it may seem like AROUND(5) never get over. This tells Google to search for web pages that contain the word PTSD, then look within 5 words of it for the word seem. Also look for the word like and look within 3 words of it for never. Oh, and look for the word get, too. The first and third results give us the source. (Who knows which is the original? Plagiarism on the internet is rampant. That probably doesn’t help our students understand it’s wrong.) The second result does meet the criteria we gave Google; it just doesn’t contain the passage we’re looking for.

I hope all of your students properly cite their sources, but if they don’t, this search tool should provide some help.

Wondering what else Google can do? Check out the Google Guide.

[The tip on how to use AROUND comes from Amit Agarwal, Digital Inspiration blog. Thanks!!]

November 24, 2010

YouCanBook.Me: Customizing for My Purposes

Filed under: Collaboration,Productivity — Sue Frantz @ 10:26 am

Last month I wrote about a new service (YouCanBook.Me) that lets students schedule appointments with you themselves. (See the original blog post.) Now that I’ve been using it for a couple months, I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned.

The booking form

The default booking form asks those making an appointment with you to give you their email address (required) and leave a note (not required). I, however, want more information than that, and YouCanBook.Me gives me the power to ask for whatever I’d like. Specifically, I want the appointee’s name, email address, and the reason for the meeting. And I want the appointee’s name to show up in the subject line of my calendar.

In the YouCanBook.Me dashboard, clicking the ‘booking form’ tab allows me to make those changes. Each line produces a separate input box. The asterisk means the appointee must enter something in that field. Whatever is entered in the first line will be entered as the subject line for the appointment.

Default Booking Form

My Customized Booking Form

What the appointee sees:

How to get it to look that way:

[Thanks to my colleague Rich Bankhead for his suggestion to add a ‘bigbox’ for the ‘reason for meeting’ area instead of the default small box.]

A different calendar for each quarter

With the fall quarter coming to a close, it occurred to me that I didn’t want students to be able to schedule an appointment with me after the last day of the quarter, but I didn’t want to block off all of the days from mid-December to early January in my Google calendar since I use my calendar for things other than scheduling time with students.

YouCanBook.Me lets you select start and end dates for booking, so I changed the dates to match the dates of fall quarter.

But then I thought that some students may want to schedule an appointment with me next quarter right now. If the calendar ends on December 9, they won’t be able to do that until I change the calendar dates on December 10. Keith Harris at YouCanBook.Me suggested that I solve this by creating separate calendars for each quarter. What a great idea!

On the main dashboard, you’ll find a list of all of your calendars. If you have just one calendar, you’ll see just that one. Once it’s set up as you’d like, click ‘copy.’

I created three, one for each quarter. I changed the dates of each to match the dates for the quarter. Then I changed the title and the subdomain (on the ‘basic’ tab) to match the quarter.

For example, for the winter quarter calendar, I changed the title to Winter 2011, and I changed the subdomain from sfrantz to sfrantz-winter. Here are my three calendars.

Rather than link to each of these separately, I embedded the calendars on a newly-created ‘appointment’ page on my website. On the top of the webpage I put the instructions for scheduling an appointment which I deleted from each calendar. And then I copied the embed html code from each of the calendars and pasted it on the webpage. You can use the embed code wherever you can use HTML code, including on pages inside your course management system (e.g., Angel, Blackboard).

The embed code can be found right above the preview pane in your YouCanBook.Me dashboard for each of your calendars.

[UPDATE 12/3/2010 : To embed calendars on a page, YouCanBook.Me uses iframes.  Unfortunately the security settings on some browsers keep some users from viewing that content.  After having a couple students say that they couldn’t see the calendars, I deleted the web page I created and am again linking directly to my YouCanBook.Me calendar.  In the calendar instructions I’m including a link to the next quarter’s calendar for students who want to schedule an appointment further out.  When this quarter ends, the hyperlink on my website will go directly to next quarter’s calendar whose instructions include a link to my spring calendar.  To see what it looks like, go to my main web page and click on “Schedule an Appointment with Me.” ]

Schedule 15 minute appointments for the first two weeks of the term

Keep the ability to create different calendars in mind if, say, you want students to set up 15-minute appointments with you at the beginning of the term, perhaps as a ‘come introduce yourself’ sort of meeting.

Copy an existing calendar, change the subdomain to something like YourName-15, set the start and end dates to whatever you’d like, then set the appointment length to 15 minutes. Give the link to students.

If you want to do the same thing at the end of the term, edit this calendar so that the start and end dates are for the end of the term.

Syncing with Outlook

I sync my Google calendar with Outlook 2010, and I’ve discovered that Google has a weird bug. When events with guests are scheduled in Google calendar, they get stuck in a weird loop with Outlook.  A ‘ghost’ version of the event (only those with guests) gets created and set to 1979.  Whenever Outlook syncs with Google calendar, that 1979 event gets dumped into Outlook’s deleted folder.  Since it happens every time they sync, that deleted event shows up over and over again.  The only solution I’ve found is to go into Google calendar, search for the appointment (which is not 1979) and remove the guest from the appointment (or delete the appointment altogether).

The default for YouCanBook.Me is to add the appointee as a guest to the appointment. This is handy because if you delete the appointment, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to notify the appointee that you’re canceling the appointment. If you don’t sync with Outlook, or if you do but don’t have the 1979 experience, there’s no need to change anything.

If you’re in my position with those ghost appointments showing up in your Outlook’s deleted folder, you can change YouCanBook.Me so that appointees aren’t brought in as guests. On the ‘afterwards’ tab, uncheck the ‘add participants’ box. That’s it.

If you’re using YouCanBook.Me, I’d love to hear how it’s working for you!

 

November 22, 2010

MS Office: Quick Access Toolbar

Filed under: MS Office,Productivity — Sue Frantz @ 4:08 pm

One of the cool features of MS Office 2007/2010 is the quick access toolbar. I have a sneaking suspicion it is underutilized. It allows you to quickly access any function, thus the name: Quick access toolbar.

This toolbar is at the very top of the screen in all of the MS Office programs. For example, this is what mine looks like in MS Word.

A click on the appropriate icon lets me quickly do that icon’s function. Or pressing ALT on my keyboard will assign numbers to each of the icons.

Then I just press a number that corresponds to the icon I want. For example, if I wanted print preview, I would press ALT followed by 2. That’s it.

Word comes with some default icons in the quick access toolbar, such as save (the little blue floppy disk). Its real power is that it lets you add and remove whatever functions you’d like. Since I grade papers electronically, I’m frequently accessing ‘track changes’ and ‘save as PDF.’ So, I added those functions to my quick access toolbar. ALT then 4 turns on track changes. ALT then 5 saves the file as a PDF.

I’ll walk you through how to add ‘track changes’ to your quick access toolbar.

Click the down arrow on the far right side of the quick access toolbar. It will give you this menu.

If the option you’d like is there, great! (The checkmarks show the commands that are already on my quick access toolbar.) Since we’re looking for ‘track changes,’ select ‘More Commands.’ That will generate this pop-up window.

On the left side of the screen, Word gives you popular commands. Scroll to the bottom, and track changes is there. Alternatively, use the dropdown menu (where it reads ‘Popular Commands’ highlighted in blue) to select from the various tabs. Track changes is on the Review tab.

 

Once you find the command you’re looking for, click the ‘Add’ button in the middle of the screen. The command is now available in your quick access toolbar. Use the arrow buttons on the right to change the order of the commands.

That’s it! If you want to remove a command, select it so it’s highlighted, then click the ‘Remove’ button.

Note the commands you frequently use. Consider adding them to your quick access toolbar for easy access.

November 21, 2010

Dropbox: Share a File via a Link

Filed under: Collaboration,Productivity — Sue Frantz @ 7:40 am

Yesterday I wrote about a way others can upload a file to your Dropbox. (If you’re not familiar with Dropbox, see this post.) Today I want to tell you how others can download files from your Dropbox without them having to have a Dropbox account.

When Dropbox is loaded on your computer, it automatically gives you a folder named ‘Public.’ Any file you put in this folder can be shared with others simply by getting the file’s hyperlink.

To get the hyperlink, open the Public folder in Dropbox. Right click on the file you’d like others to download. Mouse over ‘Dropbox,’ then select ‘Copy Public Link.’

It will seem like nothing has happened, but your link has actually been copied to your computer’s clipboard. Let’s say you wanted to send the link in an email message. Open your email message and paste it into the body of the message. The hyperlink will appear.

I did a few tech presentations in November 2010, and here is the 4-page handout I gave the participants. You’re welcome to download it from my Dropbox: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/261051/Tech%20Presentations%20-%20Nov%202010.docx. Just follow the link, and your browser will ask you what you’d like to do with the downloaded file.

If you download the file, you’ll recognize several tech tools from this blog. You’ll also see some you may not have heard of. All of them are slated to appear in this blog at some future point. Enjoy!

November 20, 2010

DROPitTOme: Let Others Upload to Your Dropbox

Filed under: Productivity — Sue Frantz @ 9:17 am

As you know from previous posts, I’m a fan of Dropbox. If you’ve never heard of Dropbox, check out my blog post from a year ago.

DROPitTOme is a web-based service that allows others, to whom you’ve given a password, to upload files to a DROPitTOme folder located inside your Dropbox folder. If you don’t want the hassle of students emailing you their assignments, you can have them upload their assignments directly to Dropbox where they will automatically be downloaded to your computer. Actually, they will be downloaded to all of your computers where you have Dropbox installed and to your smartphone if you’d like, since the folder works just like any other Dropbox folder in that regard.

To set up DROPitTOme you first need to have a Dropbox account. If you don’t have Dropbox yet, go to my earlier blog post, read about Dropbox, then get it set up. Once you have Dropbox up and running, come back here. If you already have Dropbox, keep reading.

Go to DROPitTOme. Click ‘register.’ You will be asked to give Dropbox permission to allow DROPitTOme to access your Dropbox account.

After clicking ‘Allow,’ you’ll be redirected to this page where you’ll create a DROPitTOme account. The username will be your DROPitTOme URL. For example, my username is sfrantz. To upload files to my Dropbox, you would go to http://dropittome.com/sfrantz. The email address is where DROPitTOme will send notification that files have been added to your DROPitTOme folder. The password here is NOT your Dropbox password. The password you create here allows you to access your DROPitTOme account and change things later, such as your email address. The upload password is the password you will give to people, say, students, who will be uploading files to your DROPitTOme folder.

After this quick registration process, you’re ready to go. Give your upload address and upload password to whoever has files that need to be uploaded to your Dropbox folder.

My students would navigate to my upload page: http://dropittome.com/sfrantz.

After entering my upload password, they can now browse their computer to find the file they want to send me (file maximum is currently 75MB):

After clicking ‘UPLOAD,’ they’re assured the file is loading.

Once uploaded, DROPitTOme says that the file has been successfully uploaded.

After the first file has been added using DROPitTOme, a folder by that name will be added to your Dropbox folder. Every time a file has been uploaded, DROPitTOme will send you an email message that looks like this:

The time on the email tells you whether or not the student submitted their assignment before the deadline.

Managing student assignment files

If you’re going to go this route for having students submit assignments, give students very clear instructions on naming their files. For example for each assignment, tell students how to name the file. “For this assignment name your file: YourLastName YourFirstName Psych100 ApplicationPaper1.”

After papers have been submitted, use the emails DROPitTOme sent you to identify the ones that were sent late, and rename the file with “—LATE” at the end. Save all of the DROPitTOme emails in case a student disputes the lateness of their assignment.

Consider setting up ‘rules’ in your email so that all emails from DROPitTOme go directly into a subfolder in your inbox. If you have 100 students submitting assignments at once, you don’t need 100 emails from DROPitTOme cluttering your inbox. (Creating rules in Outlook is worthy of a blog post of its own. Look for that one coming soon!)

November 5, 2010

NudgeMail: Remind Yourself

Filed under: Email,Productivity — Sue Frantz @ 6:38 am

UPDATE 11/30/2010: On Sunday,  11/21/2010, NudgeMail stopped working for my work email, but it still works with my personal email.  The emails are not showing up in either my junk or spam folders, so I’m not sure what or where the issue is.  Both NudgeMail support and my institution’s IT people are looking into the issue.  Since this service is still in beta, use with caution.

UPDATE 12/3/2010: While other people at my institution are still receiving NudgeMails, I’m not.  NudgeMail support says that the emails to me are leaving their servers.  My IT people say NudgeMail is not being picked up by any spam filters.  It’s a mystery.  But since I quickly became enamored with the service, I’ve been trying out other similar services.  Look for a future blog post on the one I currently like the best, FollowUp.cc.

**********************

When you stay at a hotel, do you remember how you used to request a wake-up call? Actually, maybe you still do that. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get a wake-up call for stuff you need to do?

And that’s why I’m excited about NudgeMail, a company that just launched this fall. NudgeMail lets you send reminders to yourself at whatever future date or time you choose. No registration. No login. No software to download. No complicated commands to remember. They really couldn’t have made this any easier.

Let’s say that I have an email exchange with you where we discuss working on a proposal for a joint presentation at an upcoming conference. The deadline for submissions is in two months. We decide to spend some time thinking about the proposal and then check back in with each other in a month. While I could put that on my calendar, if I did that for everything of this nature, my calendar would be cluttered in a hurry. I could add it to my to-do list, but then I would have 40 things on my to-do list. At some point, I stop looking at it. I know because that’s happened.

Or I could use NudgeMail. I just send an email (new email, forwarded email, or cc’ed email) to nextmonth@nudgemail.com (for the first of next month), or december5@nudgemail.com (for December 5th), or dec@nudgemail.com (for December 1st), or 1mo@nudgemail.com (for exactly one month from today). They’ve designed the system to be very flexible.

If I want a reminder later today, 5h@nudgemail.com will give me a reminder five hours from now. Or if I want a specific time, 5pm@nudgemail.com will give me a reminder at 5pm today. If I want a reminder tomorrow, tomorrow@nudgemail.com (delivered at 6:30am tomorrow; this default time setting can be changed) or 2d@nudgemail.com (two days from now) will do it.

Try it! Send an email to 5m@nudgemail.com. You’ll get a welcome email from NudgeMail, and then you will get a confirmation email telling you that you have a nudge set for today’s date at a time 5 minutes from now. In 5 minutes, you’ll get your reminder nudge.

Alternatively, you can just send your emails to nudge@nudgemail.com with your time commands in the subject line. For a reminder at 10am tomorrow you can either send a message to 10amtomorrow@nudgemail.com or you can send a message to nudge@nudgemail.com with 10am tomorrow in the subject line. Either works just fine.

Now, if that’s not cool enough, when your nudge arrives, this is what appears at the top of the body of the message:

Not quite ready to deal with this message yet? Snooze it. Clicking a given snooze time will generate an email to snooze@nudgemail.com with your chosen time in the subject line and the reference number for the email (in this case, Ref#: 2244) in the body of the message. At the time you chose, you’ll get your original nudge message sent to you again.

Want a list of your currently pending nudges? Send an email to status@nudgemail.com. Want that list every day? Send an email to daily@nudgemail.com. (Check NudgeMail’s FAQ for more information on the available commands.)

NudgeMail is currently in beta, so it is completely free. In the future, they anticipate having a free version and a subscription version. It looks like pricing may be dependent on number of nudges per month, but that is subject to change.

Bonus Tip

Have you started using Subtextual (formerly bccThis)? If not, see this earlier blog post. I can send an email to you, put 1w@nudgemail.com in the bcc field, and then add a note to myself using Subtextual.

Try it!

Seriously, try it. It has the potential to be one of those tools you can’t live without. I’m going to start cleaning out my inbox right now.

October 20, 2010

YouCanBook.Me – Let People Schedule Themselves

Filed under: Collaboration,Productivity — Sue Frantz @ 11:02 am

UPDATE  12/2/2010: Be sure to read my more recent post on this tool.

It’s surprising how much of my email has to do with scheduling. Students or off-campus colleagues ask when they can meet with me in person or via a phone call. I ask when they’re available; they ask when I’m available. Five or six emails later we have a time. For my colleagues at my institution, they can just look at my Outlook calendar and suggest a time. Anyone else is stuck in the email spiral.

If you use Google Calendar, YouCanBook.Me solves this back and forth email exchange. (Since my work life exists inside of Outlook, I sync my Outlook calendar with my Google calendar so any changes made to one are reflected in the other. Click here to learn how to sync Outlook with Google Calendar.)

I have granted YouCanBook.Me access to my Google Calendar. They generated a fully-customizable webpage (http://sfrantz.youcanbook.me/) for me that looks like this.

Everything in green is an available time slot. Everything greyed out is already a booked time in Google Calendar (and, by extension, Outlook). When I add an appointment to my Outlook calendar, Outlook syncs with Google Calendar, and Google Calendar syncs with YouCanBook.Me. YouCanBook.Me then greys out the time covered by that new appointment.

Clicking on Monday, October 25th, 9:00am brings up this page. The person requesting an appointment just fills in their email address, name, the reason for the meeting, and the code that appears.

Clicking ‘confirm appointment’ seals the deal. YouCanBook.Me makes the change on my Google Calendar which syncs with my Outlook calendar, and I’m sent an email informing me of the appointment. The person requesting the appointment also gets a confirmation email with a link to use in case of the need to cancel. Clicking the link causes the appointment to disappear from my calendar. The requester also gets an appointment reminder 4 hours before the appointment complete with that same cancellation link.

The Dashboard

Let’s take a look at the dashboard for YouCanBook.Me. This is where you can customize YouCanBook.Me to look and act like you want it to look and act. Directly below the dashboard is a preview of what the page will look like. Any saved change to the settings generates a new preview. To save space in this blog, I’m not including the preview image in my screen captures.

On the ‘basic’ tab, I can change which of my Google Calendars are accessed, the title that appears at the top of the page, what URL I want to use (‘sfrantz.youcanbook.me’), a URL for a logo (notice my college’s logo in the top right corner of the schedule page), instructions for visitors, and how many people I want to be able to sign up for a given time slot (one is fine for me). On the right I can set the first time available, the last time available, the time slot length, days per page, and which days I’m available. Of course if I’m traveling or doing something else that makes me unavailable for an entire day, I would block out that day using Google Calendar or Outlook, and that day would show as unavailable in YouCanBook.Me.

See the little blue question marks in each of the dashboard screen shots? At YouCanBook.Me, click those to learn more about each area of the dashboard.


On the ‘advanced’ tab, I’ve set the minimum notice to 12 hours. That means that the earliest available appointment is 12 hours from now. (A visitor at 8am cannot schedule an appointment at 9am.) I set the time zone to Pacific Time since I’m on the west coast, but visitors can change the time zone to their location. For instance, if an east coast colleague would like to schedule a time to call me, s/he could change the time zone to Eastern Time and avoid doing the math.


The ‘booking form’ tab contains one of the most powerful features of YouCanBook.Me. Each line is a separate field on the booking form. Want more fields? Just add a line. Want the field to be required? Put an asterisk in front of it. You can even add checkboxes if you’d like. (In the dashboard, click the little blue question mark at the bottom right of the field to learn how.)


The ‘afterwards’ tab lets you determine what is displayed on the screen after someone has made their appointment, the email address where you want to be notified of new appointments, whether you want to send a confirmation email, and what it should say.

The ‘reminders’ tab lets me set an appointment reminder for me (none), and lets me send an appointment reminder for those who set appointments and determine when I’d like it sent (4 hours before the appointment time).

Finally, on the ‘appearance’ tab, customize the colors of your calendar. If you want to use your own cascading style sheets, you’re welcome to do so using the ‘css’ field.

Try it out, then leave a comment on how it works for you!

[UPDATE 11/24/2010 : Check out a newer post that offers some ways to customize YouCanBook.Me.]

November 19, 2009

Dropbox: Sync & Share Your Files Automatically

Filed under: Collaboration,Productivity — Sue Frantz @ 7:28 am

A few days ago I was visiting with a colleague in his office.  He was trying to find the most recent version of a particular file.  He had one copy on his computer and one copy on his flashdrive, but he wasn’t sure which was the most recent.  And he didn’t seem convinced that those were the only two copies.  Did he have another copy on a different flashdrive?  Did he have yet another copy on his laptop?

Dropbox lets you get rid of your flashdrive and keep all of your files synched.  Make a change to a Word document, and it’s changed everywhere else you have installed Dropbox.

Dropbox adds a folder to your ‘My Documents’ folder called ‘My Dropbox’.  Install it on your work computer, your home computer, your laptop.  Anything you put in that folder (documents, spreadsheets, slide presentations, video, images, etc.) will be copied to the Dropbox server, and then copied and downloaded to your other Dropbox-installed computers.

As well as being stored locally, your files are stored (think ‘backed-up’) on the Dropbox servers.  Visit the Dropbox website from any computer and log in to access your files.  This means you can access your slide presentation from your classroom’s internet-connected computer.  No more worrying about whether you’ve moved your most recent slide presentation to your flashdrive.  No more worrying about losing your flashdrive.

Want to go back to an earlier version of a document?  Visit your files on the Dropbox website.  Previous versions are kept for 28 days.

If you’re not sold yet, this next feature should do it.  You can share your folders with other people.  Add or change a file in that folder, and it changes for everyone else.  It acts like a shared drive, except the files are stored locally as well.

To share a folder, navigate to your ‘My Dropbox’ folder. Right click on the folder you want to share, mouse over ‘Dropbox’, then select ‘Share This Folder’.

Your browser will open a page on the Dropbox website. Just type in the email addresses of the people with whom you would like to share the folder (comma separated), and click ‘Share folder’. Your recipients will receive an invitation to install Dropbox, which they’ll need to do to share your folder. Once done, any files they add to the folder or any changes they make to an existing file will be uploaded to the Dropbox server and pushed out to everyone who’s sharing the folder, updating on all of their Dropbox-installed computers as well.

Want to know what’s been happening inside of your ‘My Dropbox’ folder? Visit the Dropbox website. Click on ‘Recent Events.’ You get to see what files you edited or added or deleted. You get to see what files others you share folders with have edited or added or deleted. Don’t want to keep visiting this ‘Recent Events’ page to see what’s new? At the bottom of the page, click ‘Subscribe to this feed’ to get new events sent to your RSS feed reader. (Don’t have an RSS feed reader? See this earlier blog post.)

Cost? You can store up to 2GB in your ‘My Dropbox’ folder for free. You can store up to 50GB for $9.99/month and up to 100GB for $19.99/month.

Installation? You can install it in less than 2 minutes.

What are you waiting for? Dropbox.

September 16, 2009

Navigate Folders Faster: QuickJump

Filed under: Productivity — Sue Frantz @ 8:03 am

As another academic year gets off the ground I’m shuttling more files around than I did all summer. I have folders, subfolders, and sub-subfolders on my C:\ drive and my college’s M:\ drive. I used to use the M:\ drive both as backup and to hold files not currently in use, like PowerPoints and handouts for courses I hadn’t taught in awhile. About a year ago I copied onto my new laptop my flash drive files that I carried around with me. I put them all in a folder called ‘flash drive files’ with the anticipation that I would sort it out later. I’ve found myself using the electronic equivalent of the ‘archeological dig’ filing system. You know the one I mean. Papers pile up on your desk, and you can find what you’re looking for, roughly, by date. “That was a long time ago, so that paper’s near the bottom.” My electronic files have begun to take on some of those same characteristics.

Managing folder trees to find the right folder to either locate a document or to save a new document has become an adventure. Sometimes even when I know exactly where something is, it may take several mouse clicks to get there.

Enter QuickJump, the latest product from TechHit, the company that brought us SimplyFile, the email filer I blogged about last month. (QuickJump only works with Windows products, sorry Mac users.)

QuickJump allows you fast and easy navigation of your folders. When you first run it, it only indexes the folders in “My Documents.” If you’d like it to index additional folders or folders on other drives, like network drives, just let it know. In my case, I added the network M:\ drive.

With a keyboard shortcut (CTRL-SHIFT-J is the default, but you can make it whatever you’d like) you get this pop-up:

An alphabetical listing of the first 100 of my 1134 folders is nice, but QuickJump’s power is in its searching ability.

When I type ‘assessment’ into the search box, I get the 85 folders that contain the word assessment. (I have 85 folders that contain the word assessment?!)

If I keep typing I can narrow it down even further. When I add “psych” I get it down to 7 folders. Much better! Partial words are fine. In fact, QuickJump revises the list of results as you type. After I had typed “assessment ps” I had already identified the folder I needed. Word order doesn’t matter, either. If the words or partial words you type appear in the folder tree anywhere, QuickJump returns the folder.

QuickJump works any time you want to find a folder. No programs open and you’re looking for a folder? CTRL-SHIFT-J. You’re in MS Word, and you’re ready to save your document? Hit save, then CTRL-SHIFT-J. You’re in your email program and are saving a file, like all of those emailed student assignments? As soon as the “save as” box appears, CTRL-SHIFT-J.

I did a little test. I timed how long it took me to get to a given subfolder buried 4 layers deep. With QuickJump, it took me 6 seconds to get there. Using standard navigation, by double-clicking on My Documents and double-clicking through layers of folders, it took me 9 seconds. QuickJump was 1/3 faster even when I knew exactly where to find the folder using standard navigation. That makes it exponentially faster when I’m not sure where a particular folder is!

QuickJump made my life run just a little more smoothly. Now if I can just find a similar product to help me manage all of those papers on my desk.

This product is $29.95 and comes with a 30-day free trial. Readers of this blog can purchase QuickJump for $23.95 (20% off). Just use this link before September 22nd, 2009.

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