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Could Texter make your data entry quicker and easier?

29 Oct

Last night as I entered the phrase “agricultural labourer” for the umpteenth time I decided I need to find a short-cut to save having to keep entering it over and over. The majority of my relations were agricultural labourers, and I don’t like using the phrase “ag lab” preferring to spell it out in full.

I turned to a little application, that I had played with briefly before, called Texter. There is nothing new or revolutionary about this program, but it is quite powerful, and I have only used it at its most basic level.

What it does is watch what you type for “hotstrings”, which are certain combinations of letters, and when you type the correct combination, it converts them into something else. A bit like using find and replace, but it happens as you go along.

In my case I set it up so that when I type the word “aglab” it replaces it with the phrase “agricultural labourer”. It is pretty simple to install and set-up. All it takes is a little bit of thought in selecting the hotstrings and a few minutes to set it up. I set up two hotstrings, “aglab” and “Aglab”, for the second one the word agricultural is capitalised.

The great thing is that it appears to work in almost any Windows program, such as Family Historian, my family history software. The best thing of all is that it is free, so if it doesn’t work you haven’t lost anything.

I have previously used it to speed up the entry of several family surnames, but there is probably no limit to what you could set it up to do, such as surnames, place names, addresses, occupations, in fact anything that you find yourself have to type repeatedly.

There are a couple of videos on the Lifehacker page, showing the basic use of Texter, plus some of the more advanced techniques.

I think this is going to save me a serious amount of typing in the future, I don’t know why I didn’t start using it sooner. Make sure you have a look and see if it could make your life easier, whether it is for family history, blogging or elsewhere.

Is Twitter just the modern version of the picture postcard?

12 Oct

The latest edition (October 2009) of Picture Postcard Monthly includes a reference to a piece in the Daily Telegraph about a study which suggests that Tweeting is just the modern equivalent of sending a picture postcard.

The study by Julia Gillen of Lancaster University and Nigel Hall of Manchester Metropolitan University highlighted some of the similarities between the postcard and tweets, such as the limited amount of space, the use of abbreviations and text speak, the speed at which the messages are delivered and the sheer volume of messages sent (calculated at around 6 billion postcards sent between 1901 and 1910).

More details can be found on the Manchester Metropolitan University website, including details of how to read some of the postcard messages that are being sent again, but this time on Twitter.

Interestingly as I was checking out the story on the website I noticed another story, which shows that postcards aren’t always the quickest way of sending messages. This particular postcard took forty years to reach its destination, unfortunately the intended recipients had since moved on (if not passed on).

I seldom send postcards these days (but I do collect modern ones as well as old ones) but then I have never tweeted yet either. I wonder if Twitter will still be around 100 years on, if not what will have taken its place as an instant messaging system?

The attics of future generations

29 Aug

I was idly browsing the BBC News website yesterday and happened upon an article about social networking entitled Status update: Who cares? I have to say that the title pretty much sums up my attitude towards much social networking.

The final part of the article concerns what we are leaving behind for future historians (and genealogists). It raises the issues of whether digital data will survive as long as paper, and whether we are leaving behind an edited version of our lives for future researchers. However, it wasn’t the article itself which I wanted to share with you, but one of the comments.

The comment in question is from someone calling themselves Binx from London, and I think it is a wonderful analogy for the digital generation:

All sorts of material (flattering and unflattering) leave traces on various disks, hard drives, web sites, etc. These are the attics future generations will find our unguarded moments in. I am sure what’s worth remembering will be remembered and the rest will be dear only to a close circle of friends.

All that is missing are the words “and genealogists” at the end.

Why I love my netbook

20 Aug

My new netbook is proving it’s worth already. It’s an Asus Eee PC 1005HA and I love it. It has taken a while to get everything set up the way I want it, and remove the stuff I don’t want, but I think I am there now.

Apart from being able to blog (almost) anywhere and any when, it has enabled me to work on my family history in all sorts of places, but most notably before work in the morning when I have nothing better to do. The best thing however has been the ability to carry my research with me and take it to my parents and show them my latest discoveries.

Take tonight for example. I was able to show my mother the photo I took on Wednesday of the house where her mother was born in High Hurstwood (I don’t think she has ever seen the house before), along with all the other photos I took. Now I know there are many ways I could have done this, but this was just so convenient and cheap. I was then able to tell her the story of her great uncle Ambrose DRIVER and the events surrounding his death in the First World War, and show her the photo of his gravestone in France.

At last my family history research is starting to emerge from my database. I can show people charts, documents and photos which bring the story of our ancestors to life, at the touch of a few buttons. I still need to be there to explain how it all fits together, but it is a great way to make the stories more real.

I can already see a shift in my way of thinking, partly to do with trying to cut down on the amount of paper I use (which reminds me, I need to see if my local library will let me use my digital camera instead of the photocopier), but mostly because I am thinking about how I am going to share this information with other people, having it on the netbook in digital format makes it so much easier.

So my netbook is already proving it’s worth, and that is before I actually take it to an archive and have all the information I need at my fingertips. Gone will be the panic of the night before when I try and work out which reports I need to print out and which documents I should be taking with me.

And now on the big screen…

31 Jul

Size really does matter when it comes to my family history research, so today I have upgraded my PC monitor from a 15″ to 19″.

I knew when I upgraded my copy of Family Historian earlier in the year that I was going to need a bigger screen, my tiny 15″ screen was really cramped when I tried to use the focus window and other parts of the program. It was something I lived with, saving the money for other things.

Last night on I was looking at an 1861 census image for one of the FAIRS family in the new enhanced image viewer. It was then I realised that I really needed to get that bigger screen to really take advantage of all the facilities it offers.

So today, courtesy of my employers I came home with a second-hand 19″ screen, and before you ask, no I didn’t sneak it out under my jacket, it was all above board and legal.

This evening everything has been a lot more spacious on screen, everything seems to have a lot more white space and I am beginning to wonder how I put up with that small screen for so long!


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