Category Archives: Digital Toolbox

1Password for Mac Supports One-Time Passwords

If you haven’t heard of two factor authentication – also called one-time passwords – you are missing out on one of the best ways to protect yourself online. Two factor authentication makes logging into a site or platform a two-step process. First there’s your standard user name and password, but then the second step is a one-time code that is generated just for this login and usually sent to you as a text message on your mobile phone.

With two factor authentication, even if someone is able to learn your user name and password, they won’t be able to access your account on that site unless they also have access to your mobile phone. A growing number of online platforms – especially financial and cloud storage services – offer two factor authentication to add an extra level of security to your personal information.

1Password for Mac [$49.99] makes it easier to use two factor authentication. Now you can set up the Mac app to provide the one time passwords to the login process. Once 1Password is set up for your account at a site, 1Password will not only insert your saved username and password into the login field, it will automatically generate and insert the one time password for you too. You won’t have to wait for that text message to arrive. Sweet!

Here’s a look at how 1Password puts one time passwords to work on the Mac. Hope it’s not too long before it’s also available on the iOS, Android and Windows versions too.

Wunderlist is Wunderbar

I am a big fan of Wunderlist [Mac, iOS, Windows, Chromebook, Android, Windows Phone and Web] and have it on my desktop and iThings. I use it to keep topic ideas for blogging, manage my presentations, organize writing projects and keep up with mundane things like grocery lists.

Wunderlist does for project management what Evernote does for notes management. They are similar in a number of ways. Like Evernote, your content physically resides online at Wunderlist and is automatically synched to all your computers and devices. There are also similar service levels. The basic level is free and offers more than enough features for most users. The Premium level is $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year and offers more space for existing features as well as several additional ones.

Wunderlist screen

A look at the detail panel for the Evernote item in the Presentation Topics list.

List items can have sub-tasks, notes and you can even attach files to them. This alone makes it a very useful project management system. Add the ability to share lists and assign tasks to others and things get real interesting. Then there are public lists. At first I didn’t appreciate the possibilities a public list offered, but once the light bulb went on I’ve found all kinds of uses for them. Among other things, they are an easy way for speakers to maintain their presentation lists. As you see in the example below, the Presentation Topics list is a public list embedded in a blog page. When I update the list in Wunderlist, the embed is automatically updated.

Wunderlist public list

A public list embedded in a WordPres page.

It gets better! Remember the note added to the Evernote item in the first graphic? When a visitor clicks any item in the embedded list, the contents of the note field are displayed for that item giving visitors a description along with the title.

Not every list is something “to do”. I’ve found reference lists quite handy too. I keep a list of all the presentations I’ve given – with the presentation file attached. This has become a very useful reference. Wunderlist also offers an extension for the Firefox and Chrome browsers. Safari users can set up the Share feature to include Wunderlist. I’m using it to grab “read later” things like interesting articles or recipes I might want to add to my cookbook.

The combination of Evernote and Wunderlist have done wonders for my productivity. Not only do they support my research efforts, they are a great help in managing everyday things too.

Life is good!

Saved Searches Save Time

One of the most amazing features found on today’s computers and apps is the saved search. For the family historian with a growing archive of digitized files and research material, this little jewel is a dream come true. It will save you a tremendous amount of time and effort. No, I am not exaggerating.

I first learned about saved searches in my photo organizer app. iPhoto not only captures metadata embedded in the digital photos I add to my collection, but also makes it easy to bulk edit photos to add more – like keywords. In iPhoto they call their saved searches “smart albums”.  When I create a smart album, iPhoto walks me through a procedure to define the parameters that will be used to determine whether a photo will be added to this smart album. Every new photo added to my iPhoto collection that meets this criteria will be automatically added to this folder. Only one copy of the actual photo file resides on my computer, but it’s possible for that photo to be displayed in any number of smart albums.

saved search in iPhoto

Crafting a saved search to create a smart album in iPhoto.

iPhoto’s smart albums soon became one of my favorite features. I wasn’t having to make multiple copies of a photo just to display it in different albums. And if I decide I want a different set of folders, all I have to do is add, remove and update the smart album properties. iPhoto does all the photo-shuffling for me. Life is good.

When I first began using Evernote, I had notebooks for each of the surnames I’m researching and was copying notes related to multiple families into multiple notebooks. This was almost as tedious as the paper workflow I found so cumbersome. Then I discovered Evernote’s saved search feature and managing my research became a joy. Today I only have one Family Research notebook. When a note or record relates to more than one family, I just add more tags.

Evernote saved search

Creating a saved search in Evernote.

Once an Evernote saved search is created, it’s faster to run the search than it is to navigate to a specific notebook.

Evernote's search panel

To activate a saved search, click in Evernote’s search box. The existing saved searches appear and you click the one you want to execute.

When you mouse over a saved search, the Edit button appears on the right so you can update or remove that search. Drag a selected search to the Shortcuts section of your Evernotes sidebar and it can be accessed with one click. Saved searches appear with the magnifying glass icon.

I’m not sure what’s happening in the Windows world lately, but there used to be File Manager features for smart folders there. I don’t think they called them “smart” folders though. Mac systems now support smart folders and they recently included the ability to add tags to files too. You can even batch edit tags by selecting them and clicking the tag icon in Finder’s toolbar.

Saved searches and smart folders are amazing organizational tools. Yes, it will take some time to learn and time to develop workflows to best use them. This is one example where technology really can make things easier and faster.

Conversational Blogging

I’ve been using the Disqus commenting service on most of my blogs – WordPress and Tumblr – for several months now. I love it! Not only does it give me a much richer commenting experience – conversational threads are easier to follow and it’s easy to add links, photos and even embed video in a comment – but it also provides a central location where I keep up with the conversations at all my blogs.

Just yesterday I stumbled onto an article describing how to build a Blurb baby book from Day One journal entries. The article was great but the discussion in the comments was awesome. The article was published almost a year ago and the conversation is still going on. The commenters not only asked questions but also offered their own solutions as well as links to useful resources. Since it’s a topic I want to know more about, I added a comment so I can now follow it right in my Disqus profile. In addition, I’m also following all comments from the father who wrote the article because he’s just as fascinated with Day One as I am and I can learn from him.

Later in the day TNW did an interview with Disqus co-founder, Daniel Ha, using Disqus. Brilliant! I was delighted to learn there will soon be an iOS app. They are also experimenting with different ideas for building conversations across the web.

Disqus Profile

Here’s a look at my profile at Disqus showing my comments in the baby book conversation. To view the entire conversation, I just click the View in discussion link. I can also edit my comments. If I click on another user’s name (like Trevor in the example above), I’m taken to that person’s profile.

I see Disqus as opportunity. For bloggers, it’s a way to put the focus back on the blog. Since it works on just about every blog platform – WordPress.com is the only exception I know of – there’s only one login to remember. Keeping up with conversations on different blogs is easily done via your Disqus profile. And I’ve yet to see the first spam comment on any of my blogs. That’s got to be a record!

How can you put Disqus to work on your blog? Here are some ideas:

  • Interviews
  • Open Q&A sessions
  • Blog book tours
  • Chats during live events
  • Special interest groups

Want to see for yourself? Follow the link to this article and join the conversation. It will only take a few seconds to set up your Disqus account. The topic of this discussion is Conversational Blogging: Can comments become conversations?

Firefox Hello

Now this is a new twist . . .

The latest update to Firefox includes the ability to connect to anyone and enjoy a free video call. There are no accounts to create or systems to sign into. All you need is Firefox. What about the people you call? It would be best if they also used Firefox, but not necessary. They can use the Chrome or Opera browsers and receive your call. It’s just that Firefox is needed to start a call.

Of course, it’s also helpful if they have a webcam, speakers and a microphone . . .

If you haven’t updated your Firefox browser lately, do it now. Once the update is complete, you’ll see the Firefox Hello announcement on the splash screen and the Hello button in the toolbar. To start a conversation, click the Hello button.

Firefox Hello screenshot

Now click the Get Started button.

Firefox Hello screenshot

Click the Start a conversation button.

Firefox Hello conversation panel

Now a panel opens in the bottom right corner of the browser window and your camera and mic are activated. You can give this conversation a name if you wish. Instead of “calling” you “invite” the other participant to join your conversation. This is done by emailing the link to them or copying the link and pasting it into a text message. Use the appropriate button at the bottom of the panel to do this.

When the person you’re calling receives her invitation and clicks on the link, a conversation page is opened. She then clicks on the Join the Conversation button and answers the prompts to share the mic and webcam. It’s that easy!

You can learn more about Firefox Hello at the Firefox Help center.

The Evernote Periodicals Index

Have you wanted to build an index of the articles in your genealogical journals and quarterlies, but found all that data entry more than you could handle? Put Evernote to work and you can have it done in no time.

First, create a notebook for your periodicals index then use the Evernote app on your phone or tablet to photograph the table of contents for each issue you want to index. You’ll need some good lighting, a flat surface and maybe a few weights to help flatten the page while you photograph it. If the resulting image isn’t perfectly flat or perfectly squared, don’t worry. Evernote can handle it and as long as you can read it you’re good.

Each captured table of contents becomes its own note. Use the note title to identify the periodical and issue. That’s it!

Evernote Indexing

Evernote’s search makes it easy to find articles. Evernote can read the text in your image and will present you with the notes and text matching your search criteria. In the example below you see the results of a simple search. The title tells me which periodical and issue to dig out of my files.

Are you getting digital editions of your periodicals? Even better! Use Evernote as your library – saving each issue in your periodicals notebook. In this case the entire publication is searchable.

This article originally appeared in the Moultrie Telegraph.

Wunderlist

I’ve always been a list maker which, over the years, has developed into a fascination with productivity apps. Right now I have the Mac’s Reminders app which I use for personal reminders and shopping lists and Wunderlist [iOS, Android, Win, Mac and Web] for managing my writing, research, presentation and society projects. This app found the sweet spot between simplicity and functionality making it something I use regularly. And it’s free. And it’s installed on every computer and mobile device I own so it’s always with me.

There are a number of things that make Wunderlist especially useful. My favorite is the ability to forward an email to Wunderlist. I just forward it to me@wunderlist.com and Wunderlist takes care of the rest. I also find it useful for keeping up with research and writing ideas. It’s always handy when I get an idea for an article or think of a new place to look for information on an ancestor.

Wunderlist Desktop on Mac

The Wunderlist desktop on a Mac.

Here you see Wunderlist on a Mac desktop. The left sidebar contains my lists and, once I click/tap to select a list, the tasks associated with it appears in the main area. At the bottom of the task area are several function icons. The selected task is displayed on the right. In this case, it is an email message I forwarded to Wunderlist to become a task. The content of the message appears in the notes area.

The key to everything is my Wunderlist online account. When I add or update an item in whichever app I’m using at the time, it is synched with the online account. Not only does this make that information available to all my other systems/devices, I can also share a list with other Wunderlist users. Family members can’t escape me when it comes time to organize family events.

Wunderlist sub-tasks

Sub-tasks in Wunderlist

I’ve found the lists and sub-lists features very useful for writing and research ideas. Here you are looking at my list of topics ideas for the Gazette. The list contains broad categories (shown in the center panel) and each category has its own sub-list of more specific topics. Not only does it help me brainstorm ideas, it provides a quick look at what’s already been written. The options in the right sidebar let me set deadlines and reminders for each task, add more detailed notes about it and even attach files. The checkbox identifies the task as completed and the star shows it as a priority task. Lists and tasks can be printed, shared with other Wunderlist users or published publicly.

Wunderlist collaboration features.

Wunderlist collaboration features.

Combine the list-sharing functionality with free apps for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android devices and I have an impressive collaboration tool. The example above shows how a society could use it to better manage board meetings. Although this example sends board members to Evernote for read-ahead material, Wunderlist does support attaching files to list items. And, as you can see here, it’s easy to post comments in the list item.

Wunderlist offers free, premium and business accounts. The premium account is $4.99/month or $49.99/year and offers unlimited sub-tasks, task assignments and file attachments.

Wunderlist is an amazing app and it’s become a very important tool in my digital research toolbox. Want to learn more? Stop by the Wunderlist channel at YouTube to see it in action.

iCloud Drops Prices

WoooHooo! I just got notice that my iCloud subscription was increased from 15GB to 20GB and that the annual price dropped from $20/year to $10.99/year. Although as a current user I can stay with my annual plan, the iCloud service is moving to a monthly plan and the pricing looks quite affordable. For example, 200GB is going for $3.99/month.

The upcoming iOS8 release followed by OS X Yosemite’s release will increase the ways my desktop and devices work with each other. I’m sure the extra storage will come in handy.

Replace Templates with TextExpander

Much of our genealogy research revolves around forms. And, while many of those forms – like census forms – are from outside sources, we often create our own customized forms to support our research efforts. These might be forms to help us index our collections or maintain research logs or create a cemetery inventory. I used to build a blank form in my word processing app and save it as a template file. That works well when each form is a single document, but what about a situation where the form is repeated several times within a single document?

I’ve been working on a guide to one of our local historic cemeteries for some time. It includes information from an early inventory and adds photos, additional information on the individuals buried there and more.

Basic data form used in my cemetery guide project.

My guide is being built in a sort of scrapbook style since I plan to include photos of the cemetery as well as documents, historical records and anything else that adds value to the cemetery’s history. I still need some structure for the details and to do that I’ve built a basic table to input a standard set of data items. You can see a sample of it here. This form will be used to generate a record for each entry documented in the early inventory, but it won’t necessarily appear on each page – especially once I start adding biographical information, images and scanned documents to the guide. So, in this case, a document template will not be very useful. Fortunately there is another option – a text replacement app like TextExpander [Mac – $34.99]. With it I can save a blank version of the table as a TextExpander form and, by typing a few characters, TextExpander will build this table for me at the point of my cursor. Using this method, I can easily create any number of “forms” within this document and include them when and where I want.

These “forms” are called snippets in TextExpander and they consist of two parts: 1) the text to be inserted and 2) the abbreviation that will be used to call the snippet. To create a snippet, I start by typing the text that will be my snippet. In my table example, it’s more than just text but that’s okay. TextExpander will capture the formatting as well as the characters that make up my form.

A blank form will become the content of my snippet.

Here you see the blank form I created in my Pages word processing app. You’ll notice that I’ve merged the two columns in the top row and set that font to bold. I’ve also turned off the gridlines for the table. I’ll see them here as I edit the tables, but they won’t appear in print or PDF versions of the document. Once I’ve got the form the way I want it, I’ll select the entire table and copy it. When TextExpander is running, there’s an icon on the menu bar at the top of your screen. Click it to display a menu similar to the one you see here.

Since I’ve already copied my table in Pages, I’ll choose the Create Snippet from Clipboard command. This will bring up the snippet management screen with the contents of my clipboard – the table – displayed in the Content pane as you can see in the example below. Notice here that you don’t see the ghost table grid that is visible in Pages. Don’t worry, it’s still there. Below the Content pane is the Abbreviation pane. Here I put the characters I want to associate with this content. It’s the text I will type to insert the table form in my document.

TextExpander snippet management screen.

Notice in the left pane that I have set up folders to organize my snippets. The selected folder will be the location where my current snippet is automatically saved. If you look at the contents of my Editing folder, you’ll see special characters, snippets of HTML code and even WordPress shortcodes. TextExpander for Mac works in any app so I can use it to quickly add a custom form that combines HTML and shortcodes inside a blog post as easily as I created my table form in Pages. Are you using Evernote for your research log? Use TextExpander to add the appropriate form into a blank note. The few characters you type to add the form is much faster than copy/pasting a template note.

It won’t take long to find any number of other uses . . . like the special character snippets for use in Twitter and snippets to ensure that I stay consistent in my use of the term “ebook”.

While at first glance, the $34.99 price tag for this app might look a bit steep, it has more than earned its keep in my workflow. As a forms manager it will quickly pay for itself, but that’s just the beginning. There’s also a TextExpander for iOS app [$4.99] which synchronizes the snippet library with the desktop version via Dropbox. It works with many of my favorite iOS apps such as Byword, Day One, Drafts and Notebooks to save me lots of time and effort.

Note that TextExpander isn’t the only text replacement application out there. Windows users can take advantage of the PhraseExpress app. For each of these apps, the details may be a bit different, but the basic concepts are the same.

 

iPad Genealogy

Lately I’ve found I’m spending more and more research time on my iPad. There are two reasons for this – Evernote and MobileFamilyTree [iOS – $14.99]. MobileFamilyTree has a companion app for the desktop called MacFamilyTree [Mac – $49.99] but although both can use the same database when it’s stored on iCloud, the mobile app is entirely independent of the desktop version. I believe at the moment, it’s the only mobile iOS app that is. Another advantage is that both versions can synch family tree data with FamilySearch.org.

MobileFamilyTree person page.

MobileFamilyTree person page.

One thing I love about both the Mac and Mobile editions is that I can view and edit all of a person’s detail information on one screen without constantly opening and closing data boxes. That is so irritating.

Same person page in MacFamilyTree.

Same person page in MacFamilyTree.

Even with MobileFamilyTree’s synching capability, I still prefer to do most of my FamilySearching via web browser. Why? so I can capture source information and download record image files into Evernote. I’ve found the Dolphin Browser [iPad – free] has a much better Evernote capture interface than the Safari browser on the iPad. It works much like the Web Clipper installed on my desktop Safari.

Granted, the iPad is not the best platform for bouncing around between web sites and apps – something I tend to do a lot. My solution is to take written notes. Sure that slows me down, but I’m finding that’s actually a good thing. Writing those notes instead of copy/pasting or clipping them makes me think about them more – more time to consider what this record adds to my research. At the end of a session, I’ll use Evernote on my iPad to photograph those notes so they can easily be found again when I need them. So far, I’ve had very good luck with Evernote’s search engine “reading” my handwriting.

What’s the down side? Trying to read original documents – especially census records – on my iPad mini’s small screen. Sure I can zoom into a document so I can see the content, but when I do it’s displaying such a small bit of screen area that I’m scrolling all over the place trying to see all the information. That gets real tedious real fast.

Am I ready to give up my desktop? Not even. I do find that developing mobile research skills and workflows at home has significantly improved my efforts when researching at the library. Since I’m planning a couple of research trips, these skills can become even more useful when I have a limited amount of time in a distant archive.

That being said, I do see where the iPad could become a primary research tool – especially for seniors who never used a computer but have found the iPad quite useful. Platforms like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org seem to be making it easy to get them started and I expect that’s a trend that will continue to grow.