I recently bought a new netbook after realizing just how much programming I was doing last semester as the RASL webmaster. Roting my 17.5″ laptop (with a rather short battery life) was no longer an attractive option with the amount of work I was trying to do on my lunch breaks. My new netbook is very stripped down and when you are setting up a new computer you realize just how much of your day to day computer usage is customized to how you work. One of the first things I did with my computer was download Firefox, in part because eCollege never seems to work right in IE but also because of all the fun add-ons that you can download.
Mozilla’s Firefox add-ons make moving through the internet easier and more convenient. There are several bundles on their website that are pre-bundled. I downloaded the Reference Desk collection and I actively use about half of it (more on my favorites below). I found some of my other add-ons in the Traveler’s Pack. I will probably post again later as I start using some of the add-ons I did not list here. StumbleUpon looks like it is a lot of fun but I’m still getting a handle on Twitter and I did not want to swamp myself with too many new programs at once.
I was introduced to Zotero by a colleague and it’s now hard to imagine writing a paper without it. Although the citations for APA are often flawed it does make it easy to go back and find the information you were referencing, it is possible to save webpages as a shot in time as well. Zotero is great for taking the grunt work out of alphabetizing a list of sources – but remember to go back with your style guide to insure that the citation format is correct.
A new add on for me is the Firefox Clocks which now I’m don’t know why I was ever doing without something like this, it has made scheduling so much easier. Before starting grad school I could not imagine ever uttering “what time is it in New York?” on a daily basis. I live and work in California but I “attend” school in New Jersey via Rutger’s distance program. Classes are asynchronous but many of the student organizations provide simulcasts of their meetings. In addition to student groups, I am beginning to dabble more in professional development webinars where most of the time stamps are listed in EST. FoxClocks lets you put a small clock in your Firefox status bar; I have my local time alongside the time for New York (US Eastern Standard). This is a must have if you collaborate with someone in another city or you want to take advantage of nationally broadcast professional development opportunities.
Another new discovery is Read It Later. I’ve started going through a massive number of blogs thanks in part to the ease of RSS reads and Google Reader. Often, I will go through my email and skim through my reader in the first few minutes at work and open up multiple tabs so I can go back and read through interesting posts in depth later in the day. Usually what happens is I when I have 20-30 tabs open, the phone would ring, a patron would need help or I would have to help a student worker so I leave my tabs set up. At some point between my beginning work and my next break one or more of the tabs would overload Firefox and cause it to run slowly, crash or otherwise interfere with another web program. Now, I can open my tabs and before I start working move some of them to Read Later with a click of an icon in the address bar. The best thing is Read It Later has a free app for my iphone, so I can pick up my blogs later in the gym or when away from my desk at lunch or on a break.