Friday, June 25, 2010 “Evolve Your Gmail Inbox Nightmare Into A Streamlined Messaging System” plus 10 more “Evolve Your Gmail Inbox Nightmare Into A Streamlined Messaging System” plus 10 more

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Evolve Your Gmail Inbox Nightmare Into A Streamlined Messaging System

Posted: 25 Jun 2010 09:30 AM PDT

I have to admit that when it comes to organizing email, I’m a bit lazy. When I get an email from someone, I usually just fire off a quick reply and leave the email sitting in my inbox. When I used to use Yahoo Mail a lot, this resulted in my inbox growing to about 3000 to 4000 messages. Now, how exactly do you go about fixing a nightmare scenario like that?

The situation becomes even more critical when you start working remotely. Your job tasks and team discussions all occur via email. This makes email organization and streamlining even more important, because it can impact the quality of your work and whether you come across as a well-organized and highly functional person or not.

First of all, MakeUseOf is clearly the place to turn when you need help with your Gmail account. Two of my favorite MUO articles that focus on streamlining Gmail are Angelina’s awesome list of ways to use Gmail as a multitasking tool; and I also really enjoyed Ann Smarty’s article with some examples of how to use Gmail filters to improve your productivity. In this article, I’m going to share three powerful ways that you can get your Inbox to organize itself, rather than spending hours trying to repair the effects of your laziness in one sitting.

Cleaning Up Your Inbox as an Evolutionary Process

Organizing and cleaning up my Gmail inbox is about as appealing to me as doing the laundry or washing the dishes. However, instead of organizing your entire inbox and the entire pile of messages accumulated there, you can make a habit of doing just a few things differently moving forward. These “few things” will eventually cause your Inbox to clean itself up. Sound impossible? It’s not – it’s just a matter training your Gmail inbox to act more intelligently and to sort out your messages for you.

The first step making a promise to yourself to handle incoming emails by telling Gmail how to sort or organize them. By redirecting common incoming emails, you’ll discover that your Inbox cleans itself up very quickly.

For example, I recently set up Google Calendar to issue me reminder emails for the tasks that I’ve planned to do for the day. While this is a nice way to get things done, it’s also a great way to muddy up an inbox in very short order. I’ve let these messages pile up, but now I’m dealing with the notification emails that I’ve just received today and use it to retroactively go back and reorganize all of the ones currently cluttering my Inbox. While you have the message open, all you have to do is click on “More Actions” and then select “Filter messages like these.

This way, you don’t have to figure out what filter criteria you should use to apply to this group of images, the email system already knows the email address that the email came from, and it automatically fills out the “From” field for you.

Remember, in dealing with such emails as they come into your inbox today, you’ll be teaching your email account how to organize your inbox for you. This may take extra time today or tomorrow, but after a while you’ll realize that your Gmail account is keeping itself clean and organized! The real secret to “teaching” your Gmail account what to do with the message comes in the next step of setting up the filter.

If you’ve just started doing this, then you probably don’t have any labels ready for the messages that you hope to organize. Have no fear – just use the dropdown box next to “Apply the label” to select “New label…”  This will allow you to assign a label that well describes this type of email. For example, in this case I called the email type “Calendar_Notifications,” and then told Gmail to apply this new rule to past messages.

This is what streamlines your efforts. Rather than going back and reorganizing your thousands of old emails, you can let your efforts with the new emails that come in result in a cleanup of the existing pile of assorted mail cluttering up your inbox.

Use Superstars to Quickly Flag Emails

If you’re anything like me, you may get emails coming in from all over the place – informational emails from your bank or other organizations you do business with, emails from coworkers or people you manage, or important messages from team members that you’re working with. If you are dealing with a massive influx of email, then it’s a very smart idea to start “flagging” your email messages with stars.

Usually, starring a message means that the message is very important, but it is also a great way to break those “important” emails into subcategories for fast and easy searching later on. You can do this by enabling the “Superstars” Gmail Labs feature.

This feature lets you use up to 12 unique star icons so that you can not only separate important messages from the rest of the inbox pile, but you can sort those important messages into their own special type. You’ll need to know the name of the icon for searching, so in your Gmail settings page, just hover the mouse over the icon for the icon name.  When you’re reading a new email and you want to mark it as important and sort it – you can click on the “star” option and then click multiple times to change star type. In this case, I clicked five times to mark the message as an important informational email about my Orbitz travel plans.

Later, when you want to recall those important messages from within your inbox pile of emails, just conduct a search for the type by typing “has:blue-info” or whatever the name of the icon type is – and only those messages that you’ve flagged will get returned. For example, here are all of the messages that I flagged as important informational emails.

This makes it very easy to quickly find those messages that you used to have to hunt through your inbox for – saving time and avoiding a major headache.

Flag Critical Emails With Quick Links

Another important way to organize and keep track of those critical emails that you know you’ll need to deal with the first moment you can is by enabling the Quick Links feature in Gmail Labs. This sets up a simple Quick Links feature in the left menu pane of your Gmail account.

When you receive an email that you know you’re going to have to come back and find later, just click on “Add Quick Link” and Gmail will automatically record the URL for that image and add it to the left menu listing. You can give the link text any title you like.

This lists the email links in the left menu bar with the titles you chose. This is a very useful way to avoid the need to dig for those emails that have important information like someone’s phone number that they’ve emailed you. When it’s time to call them, all you have to do is click on the link – no need to sift through all of your other emails to find that important information.

Notice that there are “x” options next to each Quick Link. This is because this feature is meant for quickly saving information that you’re going to need in short order. Once you’ve used the information, it’s a very good idea to delete the quick link so that you can keep your list of Quick Links as short as possible. It’s basically a quick scratch pad to keep track of those critical emails that you know you’ll need to go back to again soon.

Do you know of any other useful tips to help organize and streamline your Inbox? Share your own ideas and tips in the comments section below.

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Create A Font From Your Own Handwriting and Use It To Send Emails

Posted: 25 Jun 2010 08:30 AM PDT

create a fontThere is a new website called PilotHandwriting that allows you to create a font out of your own handwriting and send emails (or letters as they call them) with it.

I will show you how it works and how to capture the text for use in your own images using a little bit of a workaround. We have to use that workaround because as of now, PilotHandwriting does not allow you to download your font. If you are looking to be able to download the font for use in your word processing application then check out 2 Free Tools To Make Your Own Text Font.

Upon arriving at their website, you will be greeted by a little flash animation which surprisingly is not over the top and compliments the site.

create a font

You will then be shown a YouTube video about how it works. When it is complete, you will see a printable chart for you to fill in. That chart is shown below:

create a font

Go ahead and hit the Print button, print out the chart and then hit the right arrow on the screen to continue on to the next step. You will then fill in each letter or number in their respective spaces on the chart. Then when you are finished, you will have a few options to get the template back to the website. You can use a webcam, a scanner or a digital camera (cell phones work fine).

how to create a font

Hit the button for the option you want to use and get ready to upload. If you are using the scanner or camera options, you will need to upload your image in JPG form. I chose to snap the picture with my camera phone and upload that JPG.

Here is what my template looked like when I finished it:

how to create a font

Note that where I was not centered or wrote over the black lines, those letters were not recognized. So like they taught you in pre-school – stay in the lines, kiddies! Then get ready to upload your image:

how to create a font

Follow the on screen instructions for your particular method of upload and continue on. The web application will suck in your template and you will see each letter flash across the screen as it is processed like this:

make your own font

When it is complete, you will see something that looks like this:

make your own font

Hmm looks like some of my letters were not recognized. The best thing to do is rewrite the template and re-upload. But they do give you options to fix them onscreen. The problematic letters are marked with pictures of a pencil.

Then when you are complete, they will hit you up to log in. If you do not have an account, you can create one here:

make your own font

When you are finished you will be taken to a text editor where you can compose your message like this:

Type away and when you are finished, use a screen capture application to copy the text as an image and you will be able to paste it anywhere you want using your favorite graphic application like GIMP or Photoshop. When you are finished, you can also email the picture above to any email recipient by filling in the following form:

Hit that check box and they will give you a snarky message telling you to send snail mail. Does anyone really use a paper and pen anymore?

Then the message will come through with the image in the body. It will also come through with a link to view the image on their website if it did not come through properly.

Personally, I think this is great and hopefully this tool to create a font will remain free and they will add an option to download your font. Any chance of getting that application updated, PilotHandwriting guys?

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Cool Websites and Tools [June 24th]

Posted: 24 Jun 2010 08:31 PM PDT

Check out some of the latest MakeUseOf discoveries. All listed websites are FREE (or come with a decent free account option). No trials or buy-to-use craplets. For more cool websites and web app reviews subscribe to MakeUseOf Directory.

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Plugin Check – finds out all the Firefox plugins that are installed on your browser, tells you the ones that are outdated and also includes a helpful button that takes you to a page where you can downoad the latest version. Read more: PluginCheck: Check & Upgrade Your Browser Plugins.


Google SSL Search – Google has often been hit with privacy issues for the past couple of years. And there are a lot of people who are demanding protection even for the things that they search or do online. Google SSL search is a web search feature that provides its users the privacy and protection from any 3rd-party that might intercept their web searches. Read more: Google SSL Search: Search Google Privately.



ActiveMap – is a great resource to find sports activities in your area; the only problem is that results displayed are too texty. AvtiveMap is a great tool that takes the data and places local sports activities onto an interactive map. Read more: ActiveMap: Maps Local Sports Activities.



Lyreach – You got a few words from a song stuck in your mind but can't seem to remember what song it is? Lyreach is an excellent tool to use for this. Just enter a few words from any part of the song and Lyreach will identify a song by the lyrics. The only restriction is that the words should be in sequence. Read more: Lyreach: Identify a Song By The Lyrics You Remember.



GrabThatFile – MySpace has one of the largest collection of songs but one that you can only listen to. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to save songs from MySpace, GrabThatFile is a nice tool to use. Just enter the URL of any MySpace song and download it to your computer. Read more: GrabThatFile: Save Songs From MySpace as MP3.


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These are just half of the websites that we discovered in the last couple of days. If you want us to send you daily round-ups of all cool websites we come across, leave your email here. Or follow us via RSS feed.

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9 Bookmarklets To Instantly View Your To-Do Tasks on Remember The Milk

Posted: 24 Jun 2010 06:31 PM PDT

Remember The Milk is a universal task manager that boosts productivity with its multiple platform-centric apps. You can access RTM from a number of places such as email, your cell phone or iPhone, Twitter, iGoogle, etc. There’s also a few Adobe AIR applications that you can use in any operating system (great for Mac and Linux users).

There’s also an officially supported bookmarklet (that loads what you see in the screenshot) that lets you add tasks with one-click, but there’s currently no bookmarklet to just load your task list quickly.

Sure, you can open a new tab and head to the RTM website, but a mini-app such as a bookmarklet could easily help you get to your tasks a lot faster. Firefox users can open up the RTM iGoogle gadget in the sidebar, but Google Chrome users don’t have that much luck with a sidebar.

There’s probably a lot of desktop applications and even extensions that could let you open up your task list. Instead of browsing, downloading and testing all of these to find one that works for me though, I decided to try editing some of my favorite bookmarklets (such as GmailThis!) like Steve Rubel does here so these aren’t all that new. I’m not a Javascript expert though so I consulted a few Javascript tutorials to hand-roll these.

I tested the bookmarklets in Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Flock, IE (just for fun since I have the portable versions). In Opera and IE, I’m afraid, the bookmarklets will all open in new tabs because of the way these browsers handle new windows so if you use either Opera or IE, you would only need to read the first section. Since the bookmarklets will reside in your browser, they’re available on any platform (Windows, Mac, Linux).

To get the bookmarklets, just drag to your Bookmarks Bar (Chrome), Bookmarks toolbar (Firefox) or Personal Bar (Opera), Favorites toolbar (Flock). For Internet Explorer, right-click on the bookmarklets and select Add to Favorites.

To Open In New Tab

Drag RTM in new tab (this is the iGoogle gadget which for its bigger size, I’d recommend for a new tab)

Drag RTM in new tab (this is the Gmail gadget which is smaller)

Drag RTM iPhone in new tab (for RTM pro users)

To Load  A Popup

Drag RTM (smaller Gmail gadget popup that loads on the right so it’s less obstrusive)

Drag RTM (smaller Gmail gadget popup that loads on the left)

Drag RTM (bigger iGoogle gadget that loads on the right so it’s less obstrusive)

Drag RTM (bigger iGoogle gadget that loads on the left)

Drag RTM iPhone (for RTM pro users; loads on the right)

Drag RTM iPhone (for RTM pro users; loads on the left)

To Get A ‘Sidebar’ In Google Chrome

This bookmarklet (taken from this thread) enables dual view in Chrome in case you want a workaround to emulate Firefox’s ‘Load this bookmark in sidebar’ option.

Copy this code (works in Chrome; reload the tab to revert back to single-view):


Then right-click anywhere on the Bookmarks Bar, select Add page. Now type a name, such as RTM dual-view and paste the code in the URL field. Clicking on the bookmarklet should work on most websites.

Related Extensions & Keyboard Shortcuts

If you prefer to skip all the dragging, you can download the amazing ChromeMilk extension for Google Chrome.

To load a bookmarklet with the keyboard, you can use assign a keyword to RTM’s iGoogle module by right-clicking on the Chrome Omnibar, selecting Edit search engines and pasting the javascript code or just the URL into the URL text box.

You can also create a shortcut to the iGoogle module URL in your Desktop and assign it a keyboard combination.

Alternatively, you can use the Bookmarks Launcher extension (which enables you to access your Bookmarks Bar by pressing Alt+1 for the first bookmark, Alt+2 for the second bookmark, etc) or the Shortcut Manager extension (which gives you customizable keyboard combinations).

What applications do you use to remember your tasks?

Image credit: goosmurf

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How To Turn Your Wordpress Blog Into A Blog Network With Wordpress 3.0

Posted: 24 Jun 2010 04:31 PM PDT

Have you ever wanted to take blogging to the next level and start a blog network?  A blog network is basically a group of blogs.  OK, I guess that part was obvious, but why would someone want that?

Organizations use them.  For instance, Harvard Law uses a blog network to offer blogs to professors and students, and Best Buy uses a blog network to run its local store blogs. You can also have a network of blogs in the same or similar niche and host them in one location (check out Animation Blogspot).

If you are interested in starting a blog network, it used to be that you needed to use Wordpress MU as one of your options.  This project is similar to Wordpress but it is different because of the multi-site features. Now that Wordpress 3.0 is here, the two projects are now merged.  Now you can turn your Wordpress site into a network of sites.

Step One:  Upgrade Your Site To Wordpress 3.0

Upgrading your Wordpress site should be as easy as usual.  You do need to make sure you make a backup of your files and databases (check out this article for a few Wordpress backup tips).  If you use the Wordpress Automatic Upgrade plugin, it actually allows you to download both the files and the databases in the upgrade process.  Either way, before you make any kind of upgrade to your Wordpress site, you really ought to have it backed up in case something goes awry.

Step Two:  Modify A Little Bit Of Code

For some reason, the networking abilities of Wordpress 3.0 are hidden behind a small edit to the wp-config.php file.  Don’t worry because if you know how to use FileZilla (or some other FTP program) you can easily download the file, edit it, and re-upload it to replace the original file.

What I actually did was download the file, rename it a little bit, and then download the file again.  This way I kept a backup file in case I messed something up.

Open the file in a text editor like NotePad or gedit and add this code:

define(‘WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE’, true);

directly before this:

/* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */:

Once you have made the necessary changes, save the file and upload it replacing the original file.

Step 3: Preliminary Settings To Set

There are a few things we need to set before going ahead with the installation process.  First you will need to make sure the site URL is not set to show “www” in the name.  To change this, simply visit the “General Settings” section and delete the “www.” from both the “WordPress address (URL)” and the “Site address (URL)” boxes.

Once that is done, head to Tools–>Network to begin the installation process.  Since my Wordpress installation is not new, my permalink structure is already in use only leaving the sub-domain option for me to use for the blog network (ie.  If your installation is brand new, you’ll probably get to choose to either use the sub-domain option or the sub-directory option (ie.

Then you are free to click “install.”

Note: if you choose to use the subdomain installation option, you must add a wildcard subdomain in your DNS records.  In cpanel you need to go to Domains –> Subdomains

From there create a subdomain called “*” (keyboard character for wildcard).  Point this to the directory holding the main installation of Wordpress and Wordpress will know what subdomain visitors are coming from and take care of the rest.  I understand that you may not be using cpanel but the idea should be similar.

Step 4: Create A New Directory & Play With More Code

When you click “install” you will be faced with some more chores to do.  First thing you need to do is add a sub-directory into your wp-content folder called “blogs.dir” which will hold files uploaded to your other sites.

Now for more code!  You are going to want to backup both the current wp-config.php file and .htaccess files.  Once done, add the code where the page tells you to.

Once you’re done with all of that, the network functions should be enabled.  You’ll only be asked to sign back in and you’re all set.

You will now notice that there is another option in the left-hand sidebar menu called “Super Admin.”  Don’t you feel special?  You’re now super!  Anyway, that is where you go to handle the network.  You can add sites and users and even handle which themes are enabled for the network.

There you have it.  Isn’t it nice that they finally brought the functionality of MU into Wordpress?  Now, I wonder if they will ever cut out the annoying modifications enabling the features.  Maybe they can put some sort of switch in the dashboard converting it so we don’t have to modify core PHP files?  Maybe even a plugin?

What are your thoughts?  Do you like how Wordpress 3.0 has blended MU’s networking abilities into its functionality?

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Nautilus Elementary Simplifies File Browsing [Linux]

Posted: 24 Jun 2010 02:31 PM PDT

Nautilus, the default file manager in Gnome-based Linux operating systems such as Ubuntu and Fedora, isn’t exactly pretty to look at. In fact at times it’s downright confusing. Windows recently overhauled its file browser to simplify things, and Mac’s Finder is constantly being refined, but Nautilus seems pretty much identical to how it was when I started using Linux in 2006 (I know: I’m a newb).

You change Nautilus using plugins, of course; Varun highlighted various ways to add custom functionality to Nautilus and Damien told you all about 6 useful extensions to improve Nautilus’ functionality.

But if you want to simplify the interface, extensions are not enough. This is why a group of coders have taken Nautilus’ lack of an overhaul into their own hands. The project, called Nautilus Elementary, greatly simplifies the file browser without sacrificing stability.

What’s Improved?

The interface, mostly. Here is the old Nautilus:

And here is Nautilus Elementary:

Okay, I’ll admit the font change is mine (it’s the Droid font, if you’re wondering) but all other changes belong to the Elementary project. Gone is the cluttered left panel, which seemed to serve as a series of random folder shortcuts. In its place is a logically organized panel which seperates shortcuts into three folders: Personal, Devices and Network.

If this sounds familar you’ve probably owned a Mac at some point. The organizational structure is similar to that of the Finder in OSX.

Not that this is not a bad thing; Finder is a very easy to use file browser. Making Nautilus more like Finder in this way is logical. Behind the interface changes, however, it’s still the same Nautilus, which I also love: Nautilus is a very powerful file browser; it just needed an interface cleanup.

What else is new? Well, the top panel’s been cleaned up. The stop and refresh button are merged, and various redundant buttons have been removed. Additionally, the “view” dialogue has been replaced with three icons that represent how you view your files.

Add all these changes up and Nautilus is much more fun to use than before, in my opinion.

Okay, Let’s Install It!

Convinced by the screenshots? Then let’s get started!

Installing Nautilus elementary in Ubuntu requires some command-line usage, but don’t worry: it’s painless. Open up the Terminal (Click “Applications,” then “Acccessories,” then “Terminal“) and type the following commands in order:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:am-monkeyd/nautilus-elementary-ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

The first command adds the Nautilus Elementary repository to your system; the second updates your package information; the third updates your system with the new information. The net result is that you have Elementary installed, but you’re not quite done: you still have the old Nautilus running. To kill it simply type

killall nautilus

into your still-open command prompt. This will restart your file browser, leaving you with the shiny new Nautilus Elementary. If it doesn’t show up immediately simply open a folder from your “Places” menu and it will come up right as rain.

If you’re using a non-Ubuntu Linux distribution, such as Fedora, I’m afraid I can’t find a package for you at the moment. This makes some sense; the project is Ubuntu oriented, but that’s no comfort to Fedora users looking to use this version of Nautilus. Can anyone point to a package or Fedora and other Linux distros? Please share in the comments below!


I’ve got three key words for the Nautilus team: merge this upstream. These fantastic changes make your solid file browser even better, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be the default. A cleaner interface is a better interface, and leaves us much closer to finally patching Bug #1.

For now, though, I’m going to continue using Elementary despite it not being the default. What about you guys? Do you think you’ll install Elementary, or stick with the default? Do you think the changes look good, or am I just delusional? Let me know in the comments below!

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4 Ways To Find Out The Name Of That Elusive Song

Posted: 24 Jun 2010 01:31 PM PDT

It isn’t always evident to find out the name of a song. Whether you hear it playing on the radio, at a party, or simply have had it stuck in your head for the past few days.

With the help of a computer or cellphone, you can usually determine the song title, be it via the lyrics, melody, or even a characteristic beat.

Below are five very different ways to find out the name of that song. These can be used on any OS, and most popular smart phones.

Search For The Lyrics On Google

If you managed to catch the lyrics, finding the song title is an easy chore. Just head over to Google (or your preferred search engine), and enter part of the text, suffixed with ‘lyrics’. If you’re not entirely sure of a sentence, try it without quotation marks. As you can see in the screenshot below, although I’ve mixed up two of the sentences, it’s still able to find the song!

If you’re confident of a lyric, or part of it, encapsule it in quotation marks ( ). Google will then look for that exact word combination.

This is where you head over to YouTube and check if you’ve got the right song. If you scroll down the page, you should also be able to spot any covers of the song by different performers.

Sing Or Hum The Tune On Midomi

Can’t remember the lyrics? Or, even worse, does your song not have any? Time to move on to the next step. Midomi is an online tool that allows you to sing or hum a song in your microphone. If you’re quick enough, you might even be able to capture a radio fragment with your computer.

Based on your vocal performance, Midomi will try to guess the title of your song and show all the possible performers.

Although the technology works most of the time, there might still be a few songs that Midomi doesn’t recognize. Don’t worry, you’ve got a few options left.

For more information and a complete walkthrough, Ryan did a full-fledged review of Midomi last year.

Search For Written Music, Rhythms & Contours with Musipedia

Musipedia is an Open Music Encyclopedia; in short, the Wikipedia of music. It offers a bunch of advanced tools that’ll help you identify a song. Save the microphone input, these tools require a bit of musical knowledge to work.

Keyboard search allows you to ‘play’ part of your song on a virtual piano, shown in the screenshot above. My timing was a bit off, but Musipedia still managed to recognize the 9th symphony of Beethoven, albeit not among the first results. Other tools allow you to define the partiture’s contours, draw out notes, click to the beat, or find a specific rythm. Musipedia also allows you to use your microphone, similar to Midomi.

Use Your Mobile Phone To Recognize Songs With Shazam

The free version of Shazam is available on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Nokia Ovi.

Shazam allows you to instantly tag a song, by keeping your phone’s microphone close to the speaker and catching song fragments. On the other hand, song recognition is incredibly accurate, recognizing the most obscure foreign songs, and determining the correct artist, even among countless covers. Shazam doesn’t recognize songs you’ve sung or hummed yourself, though.

Once recognized, you’ll see an overview of song, artist, album, and a number of extra tag options, like the artist’s MySpace, Amazon MP3 and an instant YouTube search. Shazam also manages to keep track of all the songs you’ve tagged in the past, so you just have to look back at the application once you’re in the music store.

Do you know any other tips that might come in handy for recognizing a song? What do you usually do? Let us know in the comments below!

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5 Useful Greasemonkey Scripts To Enhance Google Calendar

Posted: 24 Jun 2010 12:31 PM PDT

greasemonkey scriptsGreasemonkey is a Firefox extension that allows you to install custom Javascripts. These scripts manipulate selected websites, without needing to access and change the site’s code. Hence, Greasemonkey scripts can be used to enhance the appearance of a website that is not your own, correct mistakes, or add functionality.

In this article I’m introducing 5 Greasemonkey scripts that enhance the use of Google Calendar.

Before you can use any of the scripts below, you need to install the Greasemonkey Firefox addon. After rebooting Firefox, you can go ahead and install scripts. They will work instantly, although you may have to reload the respective website.

For a general introduction to Greasemonkey, check out Aibek’s article Greasemonkey Makes Firefox Unbeatable.

Google Calendar – Today’s Color

This may not be extremely useful, but a little change is always fun. All it does is change the highlight color for the present day. The default color is a light blue. to change it you must manually edit the script. This is very simple.

In Firefox’ bottom right corner you will see the Greasemonkey logo, a monkey’s head. A left-click will deactivate Greasemonkey. In this case, right-click and select > Manage User Scripts… and the Greasemonkey window will open. Select the > Google Calendar – Today’s Color script from the list, then click the > Edit button in the bottom left.

The first time you do this you need to select an application in which to open the script. Open > C:\Windows\notepad.exe and the script will load. Detailed instructions are in the script itself. Don’t forget to save your changes.

Google Calendar Today Color

Persistent Max Google Calendar

With this simple script you can maximize the calendar upon clicking F12. The header and sidebar will disappear. Clicking F12 again returns to the previous view.

maximize google calendar

Google Calendar – Weekend coloration

What the script does is add a slightly different color to the weekend days, i.e. Saturday and Sunday. If your week starts with a Sunday, rather than a Monday, then please use this script.

color weekends

Facebook Events With Google Calendar Integration

Technically, this script does not enhance Google Calendar, but Facebook. It adds a Google Calendar button to Facebook events. Clicking the button will copy the event details and take you straight to your Google Calendar, where you can edit and save them as an appointment.

facebook button for google calendar

A similar script is Facebook to Google Calendar.


Here we have a Google Calendar related improvement to Gmail. The script adds selected Google Calendars to your GMail account. They will appear in an agenda view in a sidebar to the right. Using two little buttons in the top right you can select which calendars to view and collapse the agenda.

Google Calendar in GMail

Initially I wanted to introduce a script that allows to assign different colors to events within the same calendar. However, I couldn’t get GCal Event Color Codes to work properly. Maybe it’s incompatible with another extension I’m using, so you may still want to give it a try.

Since the beginning of this year, Greasemonkey has also been available for Chrome and some of the above scripts are compatible. Justin has written an article on 5 Awesome Greasemonkey Scripts That Work In Chrome.

Here are a few more Greasemonkey articles you should check out:

Which Greasemonkey scripts would you recommend?

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Use Google Maps Navigation For Turn-By-Turn GPS [Android]

Posted: 24 Jun 2010 11:31 AM PDT

Upon returning from a trip to Washington DC yesterday, I realized how much I’ve come to depend on my GPS navigation unit. Not only did it prevent me from succumbing to the twists and turns of the DC city streets, but it helped us navigate to all of the museums and monuments while we were walking through the Capital area.

For years I wanted to buy one of those expensive car GPS units, but never got around to buying one. In the end, my procrastination turned out to be a very good thing, because eventually the Android phone that I received for Christmas covered that base. This is because Google Maps for the Android now includes Google Maps Navigation, an awesome turn-by-turn navigation system that performs as good or better than some of the best GPS units out there.

This works a little bit like the previous version of Google Maps with GPS, which I wrote about previously using my Windows Mobile phone. Ellie also previously mentioned similar mobile navigation systems when she wrote about 6 subway map tools you can use with your mobile phone.

However, Google Maps Navigation for the Android overlays your GPS location information onto GPS maps in a real time turn-by-turn display. When you enter “navigation mode” the map zooms into the sort of real time mapping mode that you expect to see on a GPS device. As you approach turns or intersections, the unit lists what route you need to take next and the distance to the next turn. The system is even voice-enabled (with either a male or female voice) turn on that option.

From Google Maps To Google Navigation

On your GPS-enabled Android phone, you’ve always had the ability to go to “My Location” for a blinking blue dot that identifies where you are. This ability integrates the mobile Internet data stream with the GPS location coordinates. Google Maps uses your mobile Internet connection to draw out the underlying map, complete with streets and locations. It then turns to your phone’s GPS coordinates to integrate your position on top of that map.

Within Google Maps, you can always see that little blue location dot, based on either your GPS location or the cell tower triangulated “best guess” (if GPS isn’t enabled) by pressing on the “My Location” button within Google Maps. However, what if you have a dashboard mount for your mobile Android PDA and you want to use it for turn-by-turn directions? Well, now that Google has integrated Navigation into Google Maps, all you have to do is press the “Directions” button.

Typically, you’ll want to know how to get from where you are to some other location. For this reason, the first field usually defaults to “My Location.” You can type in the exact address where you want to go, or you can conduct an Internet-based search for the location by pressing the little “search” button to the right of the field. Select whether you want the best driving, metro or walking route, and then press “Go.”

Using the information you’ve provided, Google Maps puts together the fastest driving, metro or walking route given your current location. Each of the items under the “Directions” header is a single step within your entire set of turn-by-turn directions for the entire trip. At the top, you’ll find the total distance of the trip and the estimated travel time for both standard driving as well as estimated time it should take with average traffic delays. By the way – I’ve found that the driving time estimates are eerily accurate, almost down to the exact minute in some cases when there are no significant delays along the way.

Your navigational window appears as shown above while you’re driving. Currently, I have my phone undocked, so the display is vertical, but when you mount your phone in a dashboard docking station, it will appear exactly as above but in the horizontal view. A blue dot identifies your current position, and changes to an arrow when you are in motion, showing your current direction of travel. The navigational screen highlights your route in blue. At the top of the window you’ll find the next intersection or turn in your route plan, as well as the distance to that turning point. At the bottom of the window you’ll find the estimated travel time remaining until you reach your destination.

See the little black dot next to the “9 hr” estimate? That updates based on any traffic information that’s available. In other words, good traffic flow means you get a green light. When you’re in a slow or stopped traffic area, this indicator changes color to reflect that you’ve entered a traffic zone that may alter your estimated arrival time. If you touch the indicator, the display switches to the “traffic” view.

This view is actually extremely useful. For the higher population centers like small and large cities, traffic information is usually available. For those areas, you’ll see current traffic status reflected on the traffic map with green, amber or red strips of road. If available, there’s also little indicators reflecting construction zones. If a strip of road on this display is red, you could save a lot of time on your trip by trying to locate an alternative route around that stopped/slow traffic zone.

Want even more information layered on top of your map? Just click the menu button and select “Layers.”  This is where you can add lots of important information to your map, or switch to a different view mode such as Satellite or Traffic view.

If you really hate worrying about where the next place to get gas or food is located, simply enable the “Gas Stations” and “Restaurants” layers, and those locations will show up on your navigational screen with their corresponding symbols.

Once I enabled the restaurants layer, you can see above that the map displays local places to with a fork/spoon symbol. In the map above, I have the choice of a place to eat right along the highway, or I can opt to travel a little bit off the beaten path to go to a restaurant on the water. Most travelers would have no idea that there’s an alternative place to eat, and like everyone else you’d have to fight the crowds. But with Google Maps Navigation, you get extra insight into those sort of hidden spots everywhere you travel.

If you’re the sort of person that is more textual, and you just like to know what route number to look for and which direction to turn, you can select “More” from the menu and click on “Directions List.”

This display mode shows you distance and time to destination, as well as all of the turn by turn directions with your upcoming turn highlighted in green. In this mode, there are no graphics or indicators to confuse you – just glance at the upcoming turn and route information and make the turns as needed. The window will update with your new status as you drive, so you’ll always know where to turn next.

I now use Google Maps navigation as my trusty guide no matter where we travel. It was running during the entire 10 hour drive during our recent trip, and it safely directed me through some of the most extreme and difficult traffic situations in places like Washington DC and New York City. It performs as well or better than many of the most expensive GPS navigational systems out there – and best of all, it’s free!

Have you ever used Google Maps Navigation? What do you think about it? Would you suggest any improvements? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Manage The Windows Firewall Better With Windows 7 Firewall Control

Posted: 24 Jun 2010 10:31 AM PDT

These days computers are interconnected to such a degree that a firewall is an essential component of any operating system. You don’t want anyone accessing your computer without your knowledge and using services that you don’t intend to provide.

However, having a firewall on your computer is one thing, using it to its fullest is quite another. You need to configure rules, allow certain applications and deny others. You might also want to forward some ports so that you can use the computer to serve a website or files.

Windows ships with the Windows firewall, which is good and up to the task in most cases, however the interface is not very intuitive to the beginner. Windows 7 Firewall Control attempts to change that and makes configuring and managing the Windows Firewall easier.

Although the name implies Windows 7, the software works on Windows Vista just as well. At a mere 2MB and the option of a portable version, it is definitely worth checking it out. The software doesn’t install any drivers of its own to filter network traffic. Instead it uses the Windows Filtering Platform (or the Windows Firewall) to achieve its objective.

You might ask why anyone might need Windows 7 Firewall Control if all it uses is the Windows Firewall and doesn’t have any fancy acronyms or advanced technology that might make it useful. The answer is because it makes managing firewall rules and zones so much easier that configuration is a snap and you can thus get more out of the Windows Firewall with rules finetuned to suit your requirements.

In addition, you do not require any third party firewall software in the first place if all you need to do is monitor or filter traffic and manage which software can make connections with the outside world. If on the other hand you are on a computer that needs to be protected from hackers than let me warn you, no firewall is safe enough, but in that case, it makes more sense to have a full blown firewall software in place.

Anyhow, it’s time to take a look at some of the features and functionality of Windows 7 Firewall Control. When you run the software for the first time you will get a couple of dialog boxes, asking you if you want to allow a particular network connection or not. Depending upon what it is that has popped up you can either approve or deny the connection, thereby creating a rule for the current session or permanently.

As you move along and approve or deny network connections you can view them in Windows 7 Firewall Control’s user interface accessible via the system tray. The interface looks a lot like the ever so familiar Windows Task Manager. The Programs tab lists the programs on which the rules have been configured for. If any application that is not listed here tries to set up a network connection you will receive a notification asking you if you want to allow or disallow the connection.

The last column in the Programs tab mentions the Zone which is assigned to the program. There is a list of pre-configured zones in the Zones tab and you can create your own if required. A Zone basically groups a set of rules that will be applied to all the programs that are configured to work with a particular Zone.

Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer for example can be configured to run in the WebBrowserZone, making them inherit a set of common rules that you might want to apply to all the web browsers.

In addition to this, Windows 7 Firewall Control allows you to forward ports easily and also syncs these settings with any external router you might be using. The software also displays network activity statistics for all the programs listed under the Program tab. If configuring rules and zones each time an application tries to use the network is too much for you, you can also configure a default zone and tell Firewall Control to disable the popup and put all newly detected applications in the default zone.

Overall, Windows 7 Firewall Control is an excellent piece of software that makes using the existing Windows Firewall features a whole lot easier. Have it running and in a day or two, chances are that you will be having well configured rules and making full use of the Windows Firewall.

How much do you use the Windows Firewall? Do you think Windows 7 Firewall Control would help you use it better?

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How To Blog Better With New Features In Wordpress 3.0

Posted: 24 Jun 2010 09:31 AM PDT

00 WP 3_0 Logo.pngWordpress is undeniably one of the most favorite blogging platforms available today. The broad possibilities of customization must be the biggest selling point of this platform and with the latest 3.0 update, Wordpress is mightier than ever.

There are several new great features that will make your blogging life easier and more comfortable such as bulk updates, custom menus, custom post type and global help. This new update also comes with new default theme and new theme UI.

So let’s upgrade our Wordpress blog, then take a peek at these new features and how they can help us to blog better.

Update To 3.0

If you are already using the previous version of Wordpress, you can easily upgrade your blog to version 3.0 just by clicking on the notification link.

01 Dashboard - Upgrade WP.png

But please remember to backup your database and files before you upgrade. You don’t want to lose years of hard work if something went wrong. After the backup, you can continue with the upgrade by clicking on the “Upgrade Automatically” button.

Editor’s note: Wordpress also suggests that you disable all of your plugins before the upgrade process.

01b Upgrade WordPress.png

If everything goes well, your Wordpress blog will be upgraded to the latest version automatically in a few seconds.

01c Upgrade WordPress - Upgraded.png

For those who don’t have any Wordpress blog, you can easily install one for free on your host (or on your local hard drive).

Now, after finishing the upgrade process, we can continue with the exploration of the new features of Wordpress version 3.0.

Bulk Upgrades

There’s a new item on the sidebar menu under the Dashboard called “Updates“.

02a Dashboard - Updates .png

The link will bring you to the bulk update center where you can update Wordpress itself whenever there’s a new version available. You can even re-install the current version if you need/want to.

02b WordPress Updates.png

Aside from the core update, the bulk install page also allows you to update plugins,

02c WordPress Updates - Plugins.png

And of course installed themes.

02d WordPress Updates - Themes.png

All you need to do is check the boxes in front of the items that you want to update (or select all), and click the update buttons.

Global Help, Custom Menu & Post Type

Two other new and noteworthy features are the custom menus and post types. Basically these are the features to add customized menus in your blog’s pages and in your sidebar.

To manage custom menus, use the new “Menus” sub menu under “Appearance“.

03a Custom Menu.jpg

You can create new navigation menus and sub-menus according to your needs. Each item could be custom links, pages or categories. To add these items, click on the “Create Menu” button.

03c Menus - Create Menu.jpg

Please note that some Wordpress themes don’t support custom menus. The workaround to this problem is to add the items via widgets. To know more about this, click on “Help” on the top right corner of the page. You can find Help everywhere about any topic related to the page that you are on.

04a Help.jpg

The next item on our list is Custom Post Types that will help you create specified post types according to your needs. For example, you can add a new post type about Product, Contacts, or about Newsletter.

But different to Custom Menu, creating Custom Post Types requires a little bit extra work in the coding department. Luckily, you can skip the hard labor using plugins. Search and install plugins that are specifically built for this. So far I managed to find two such plugins: Custom Post Type UI and WP Post Type UI. You can install either one of the two.

05a Install Plugins - Custom Post.jpg

After installation, activate the plugin.

05c Activating Plugin.jpg

If you use WP Post Type UI, you can find its interface as a sub menu under the “Settings” sidebar while the Custom Post Types plugin will create a new menu in the sidebar.

06d Custom Post Types.jpg

Next Stop: Twenty Ten

Since there are so many customization possibilities in Wordpress 3.0’s new default theme – Twenty Ten – I’ll save the discussion for another article.

Meanwhile, you can play around with your new WP 3.0 blog and share with us your first impressions, thoughts and opinions using the comments section below.

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