Getting Started With Paperpile

Did the Paperpile Review leave you interested in learning more?

To use Paperpile you need an Internet connection, Google Chrome, and a Google account. Since student/personal use accounts do not require a dot edu email, I recommend using your Google Apps @ Illinois account  for this because you can fully use and enjoy unlimited free storage from Google to store your PDFs. Paperpile offers one month free; afterwards, it’s $36 for the year. You can download the extension for Chrome here. If you already use Mendeley or Zotero you can import all of your files and information from these programs to Paperpile. In order to use Paperpile, you will need the app on each version of Chrome you use. It should sync as part of your Chrome extensions, and you can install it on Chrome on University Library computers as well.

You can import PDFs and metadata by clicking on the Paperpile logo on Chrome.

Paperpile import tool located just right of the search bar in Chrome

On your main page you can create folders, tag items, and more! You can also search for new articles in the app itself.

Paperpile Main Menu

If you didn’t import enough information about a source or it didn’t import the correct information you can easily add more details by clicking the check mark next to the document in the menu and clicking edit on the top menu next to the search box for your papers.

Paperpile

Plus, from the main page, when you click “View PDF” you can also use the beta annotations feature by clicking the pen icon. This feature lets you highlight and comment on your PDF and it saves the highlighted text and comments in order by page in notes. It can then be exported as plain text or as very pretty printouts. It is rectangle-based highlighting and can be a little bit annoying, especially when highlighting doesn’t always covered the text that was copied. Like a highlighter in real life you cannot continue to highlight onto the next page.

Highlighted and copied sentence split by page boundary

When you leave the app, the highlighting is saved on the PDF in your Google Drive and you can your highlights on the PDF wherever you use Google Drive. The copied text and comments can be exported into a very pretty printout or a variety of plaintext file formats.

Print screen of exported annotated notes on Paperpile

Not the prettiest example but you get the idea.

Once you get to actually writing your paper you can add citations to your paper in Google docs by clicking the Paperpile tab on your Google doc. You can search your library or the web for a specific article. Click format citations and follow the instructions for how to download the add-on for Google docs.

Paperpile cite while you write in Google Docs

I didn’t try it but there’s a Google Docs sidebar so that anyone can add references, regardless of whether or not they are a Paperpile user, to a Google Doc. I imagine this is great for those group projects where the “group” is not just the person who cares the most.


Troubleshooting

Paperpile includes a support chat box, which is located on your main page, and is very useful for troubleshooting. For example, one problem I ran into with Paperpile is that you cannot change the page number to match what it actually is in the article and page number is based on the PDF file in the notes feature. I messaged and  I got a response with a professional tone within twenty-four hours. Turns out, they are working on this problem and eventually PDFs will be numbered by actual page number, but they can’t say when they will have it fixed.

For other problems, there is an official help page  with a lot of instructions about using the software and answers to frequently asked questions. There is also a blog and a  forum which is particularly nice because you can see if other people are experiencing the same problem and what the company plans to do about it.

Scholarly Commons runs a variety of Savvy Researcher workshops throughout the year including personal information management and citation managers. And let us know in the comments about your favorite citation/reference management software and your way of keeping your research organized!

And for the curious, the examples in this post are based from the undergraduate research collection in IDEALS. Specifically:

Kountz, Erik. 2013. “Cascades of Cacophony.” Equinox Literary and Arts Magazine. http://hdl.handle.net/2142/89474.

Liao, Ethel. 2013. “Nutella, Dear Nutella.” Equinox Literary and Arts Magazine. http://hdl.handle.net/2142/89476.

Montesinos, Gary. 2015. “The Invisible (S)elf: Identity in House Elves and Harry Potter.” Re:Search: The Undergraduate Literary Criticism Journal 2 (1). http://hdl.handle.net/2142/78004.

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Spotlight: Postach.io Blogging Platform

Many people use Evernote to keep their research (and life) organized. This notebook-based note-taking platform has grown in popularity so much, that the creators of Evernote created Postach.io, a blogging platform that connects with Evernote, and uses Evernote notes as the content of blog posts. Basically, you can take the notes you’ve created in Evernote and directly publish them for anyone to see!

If you’re someone who is already familiar with, and using Evernote, Postach.io may be a great, free platform for you to get your research out there. While it doesn’t have the same kind of customization options that you can have on WordPress or Tumblr, nor the built-in audiences of those sites, its simplified style and integration with Evernote makes it a useful tool, especially since Postach.io is free, and only requires that you have/create an Evernote account.

To start, you must link up your Evernote account with Postach.io. After submitting your contact information, the site will automatically transfer you to Evernote.

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The first step to creating a Postach.io site is to give your name, email address, and password.

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The Evernote page that Postach.io links you to.

Evernote will then ask whether you’d like to create a new notebook for your Postach.io site, or link to a notebook already in use. Note that linking to an already-created notebook does not automatically make your notes public. Each note on the site must have a ‘published’ tag attached to it to in order to be public. I’ll have more on that in a little bit.

You can also choose the length of time Postach.io will have access to your notebook. Lengths range from a minimum of one day to a maximum of one year. After that period, Postach.io will either lose access to that notebook, or you will have to reauthorize it.

After you authorize your account, you will have the opportunity to create an Evernote note that will serve as your initial Postach.io post. The most important part of this process is tagging the post as “Published.” A note that lacks this tag will not be put on your Postach.io site, even if it’s in your authorized notebook.

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Me adding my “published” tag to ensure that my post is added to my Postach.io site.

Once you finish and tag your post, your Postach.io account is officially up and running.

As far as the site itself, your options are somewhat limited. This is what your site will look like immediately after you publish your first post:

A very generic theme.

A very generic theme.

You do have the option to change your avatar and background image, as well as choose from a little over a dozen themes to work with. These themes, however, are all incredibly basic, with few customization options outside of the basic appearance. In order to access the source code for your site or to create a custom theme, you will need to upgrade your account to a paid account.

A paid account will let you access that source code, as stated above, as well as create multiple sites. With a free account, you can only have one site at a time. $5/month gets you five sites, $15/month will get you twenty sites, and $25/month will give you fifty. If you pay for an entire year in advance, you’ll get two months out of the year free. In my opinion, you’re better off using a free platform like Tumblr or WordPress and transferring your Evernote data than opting for a paid account.

Overall, Postach.io is a simple way to get work that you’ve already started in Evernote published and readable by the world.

Do you think you’ll use Postach.io? What blogging platforms do you use? Let us know in the comments, or Tweet us at @scholcommons!

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Annotating Images with Thinglink

Thinglink is a web-based interface that allows users to annotate photos with words, links, and other media in order to create interactive experiences. It can be used in a variety of ways, but here we’ll showcase how you can use Thinglink to make static images come alive. These techniques can be used for classes or assignments, and can help students and participants contextualize images with links and information provided by their teacher. Including everything from fun facts to links to academic articles can make an image come alive, and brighten up your lesson plans.

For Thinglink’s basic package, you don’t have to pay, but you do have to create an account. Once you do, you can either go through their tutorials, or get started with your own image. I’ve chosen Diego Velázquez‘s 1656 painting Las Meninas to use as my example. Adding content is simple — just click on the area you’d like to tag and adding your content in the left side bar.

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The initial set-up with no tags.

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Adding my caption for the Infant Margaret Theresa of Spain.

Unfortunately, the free package doesn’t allow you much customization as far as styling goes, so you will have the big white dots as tags. That being said, in the final image, the dots will not appear unless the user has their cursor on the actual image. However, you still want to be careful not to entirely cover up the important part of your image that you’re talking about, because you won’t be able to see them when the tag appears.

These tags can include links, text — even videos and videos! In my photo, I’m including the link to an influential article about Las Meninas, and explaining why a certain part of the picture corresponds to that article.

Including links to articles with ideas from their authors allows the user to showcase a number of different views in one image.

Including links to articles with ideas from their authors allows the user to showcase a number of different views in one image.

In this section, I’m adding a YouTube video that can be played through the annotation, simply by adding the URL to the video. If you’re having trouble finding multimedia that you’d like to share, you can search in the upper right search box and Thinglink will provide you with suggestions ranging from YouTube Videos to Amazon books and everything in between.

Adding multimedia can add depth to your analysis.

Adding multimedia can add depth to your analysis.

My search for Las Meninas content.

My search for Las Meninas content.

When you’re done, simply press ‘Save Image’ and it will direct you to a permalink for your new, tagged image!

Have questions about images and how you can incorporate them into your work? Email Visual Resources and Outreach Specialist Sarah Christensen or visit the Scholarly Commons, open Monday through Friday, 9am-6pm.

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Introduction to Web-Based Word Cloud Generators

A word cloud created with Tagul using the words from this blog post!

A word cloud created with Tagul using the words from this blog post!

If you’re in a pinch and need some kind of visualization to go along with a presentation or project, a word cloud can be an easy fix. Word clouds take the most frequently used words in a block of text and create a visual where the most frequently-occurring words appear larger, and smaller words are smaller. There are thousands of ways to create a word cloud, but these are a few simple generators that can help you out when you need a word cloud in a hurry.

TagCrowd

TagCrowd is, perhaps, the simplest of all these generators to use, and one of the few generators that can create a word cloud from a URL. Simply paste the text or URL, or upload a file to TagCrowd and it will create a blue word cloud for you. There aren’t many options as far as styling goes — unlike some of the other generators we’ll be looking at — but it could not be simpler. The options that TagCrowd does give you are: language, maximum number of words, minimum frequency of words, show frequencies, group similar words, convert to lowercase, and exclusion of certain words.

That being said, be careful when you use a URL with TagCrowd. Below are two examples: the first, I copy-pasted the text of David Sedaris’ essay “Stepping Out” from The New Yorker. The second, I used the URL for the story, rather than the text. The two clouds were entirely different, and the URL didn’t give me the actual words from the story.

The TagCrowd cloud from the copy-pasted text.

The TagCrowd cloud from the copy-pasted text.

The TagCrowd cloud from the URL.

The TagCrowd cloud from the URL.

WordClouds.com

WordClouds.com provides more options than TagCrowd, and produces more aesthetically pleasing — though, perhaps, less simple to read and understand — word clouds. You can input text through copy-pasting, through a text or PDF file, as well as through a URL. Notably, the URL option works better at WordClouds.com. WordClouds.com also lets you customize your image, by fitting the word cloud into particular shapes, as well as offering different color schemes and fonts. It is also easier to get data about the frequency of word usage on WordClouds.com, and it allows you to save/share your word cloud in a variety of formats. Overall, WordClouds.com is a whimsical alternative for generating a word cloud. Below are two word clouds I created using the Sedaris essay from its URL. I chose a checkmark shape for the first cloud, and the second is an automatically-generated rainbow.

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I chose to shape my word cloud as a check mark with WordClouds.com.

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The rainbow option is fun and easy to use, though maybe not the most easily readable option on WordClouds.com.

Tagul

And finally, we have Tagul. Tagul is the most complicated of these three options, but also allows you to the most customization and options for your word cloud. Tagul allows you to add/subtract words easily from your word cloud, as well as give you a number of shapes, fonts, color and animation options for your word cloud. You can make something as simple as a circle in one color, or an emoji smiley face that has the word pop up when you hover over it. You will probably spend more time creating your word cloud on Tagul, but you can really make sure you’re getting what you want. Below are two word clouds — one simple, one more complicated — created with copy-pasted text from Sedaris’ essay.

wc5

Our more dramatic word cloud made with Tagul.

wc6

A simpler and easy to read word cloud created with Tagul.

There are many other options for creating word clouds, but these are three easy websites that you can use when you need a word cloud and you need one quick. How do you like to generate word clouds? What sort of projects have you used word clouds for? Let us know in the comments!

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Review: Paperpile Citation Manager

Are you addicted to Google Docs and are looking for a citation manager, PDF reader, or research workflow system? Do you wish you could just cite while you write in Google docs like you do with Zotero or Mendeley in Word? Do you have an extra $36 a year to spare?

Then you might want to try Paperpile!

Paperpile App Main Menu

Paperpile is a simplified reference management system and research workflow program for Google Chrome created by three computational biologists based in Vienna.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Can organize your sources when you’re trying to write a paper or doing readings
  • A lot of explanatory text in the app
  • Allows you to import metadata and PDFs from your browser (similar to Zotero’s one click import) and asks you if you want to add the item (PDF and details) to Paperpile
  • The annotations feature makes readings and notes for classes a lot of fun with very pretty colors
  • When the PDF is not encrypted, if you highlight the text it will copy the highlighted text into notes with your annotations that you can then copy and paste when writing a paper
  • Wide range of document types and citation styles
  • You can cite while you write in Google Docs
  • Provides look up to find similar journal articles to what you are researching, which allows you to do research through the app, especially if you’re doing research from science databases
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • 15 GB of free space through Google
  • Good customer service
  • Thorough explanatory material
Highlighted text with annotations in the Paperpile app

Excerpt from Montesinos, Gary. 2015. “The Invisible (S)elf: Identity in House Elves and Harry Potter.” Re:Search: The Undergraduate Literary Criticism Journal 2 (1). https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/78004.
And check out Re:Search: The Undergraduate Literary Criticism Journal and more great undergraduate research in IDEALS!

Cons:

  • High cost ($36), especially compared to solid free options like Mendeley and Zotero
  • Requires Internet access
  • Although the company is in the process of developing a plugin for MS Word, currently, Paperpile is heavily reliant on Google and Google Drive
  • Paperpile is a proprietary software and a startup so there are risks that they will go out of business or be bought by a larger company
    • Though, should the worst happen Paperpile uses open standards that will allow you to get your PDFs, citations out — even if they are in an ugly format — as well as the highlighted text saved in your PDFs, which can be downloaded through Google Drive
  • Paperpile is a very new product and there are still a lot of features to be worked out
    • I will say however that it is a lot less buggy than a lot of comparable reference management / PDF annotation software that have been around longer and aren’t classified as in beta, like Readcube and Highlights

Paperpile is comparable to: Mendeley, iLibrarian, colwiz, Highlights.

Learn more about personal information management through our PIM Libguide, various Savvy Researcher workshops and more! Let us know about your strategies for keeping everything organized in the comments!

 

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Book Review: Visual Explanations by Edward R. Tufte

tufte-booksI recently read Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative by Edward R. Tufte. This is one of the books available for perusal in our Scholarly Commons non-circulating library. Books from our non-circulating library can be read in the Scholarly Commons, but not taken out of the room. There are four other copies of this book in the University of Illinois library system; though, at the time of writing, all other copies are checked out. So, while you cannot check our book out, you’ll always know that it’s there!

A bit about the author: Edward Tufte received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University and taught at Princeton and then Yale, where he is currently a Professor Emeritus. He taught courses on statistical graphics, information design, and research methods among others.[i] In 2010 President Obama appointed Tufte to the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel “to advise stimulus board officials on how to better explain the complexities of the economic stimulus to the general public.”[ii] Tufte is also an artist and has a tree farm and sculpture garden in Connecticut.

I was fascinated by Visual Explanations right away. At the beginning Tufte spotlights two instances of displaying and analyzing quantitative evidence with real-world, life-or-death consequences. The first is the successful mapping of an 1854 cholera epidemic in London by Dr. John Snow that led to the discovery that cholera spread through contaminated water. The second is the weak, unconvincing presentation of data that failed to convince NASA to postpone the Challenger Space Shuttle launch in 1986 and led to deaths of 7 astronauts when the shuttle exploded. I have no background in data visualization and so had never even thought about how the arrangement of a chart can misrepresent information, and in some cases have such dire consequences. The examples that he chose to illustrate his points were gripping, and the book is extremely well-written and easy to understand.

One of the reasons this book was so pleasant to read is that the author has a personality, strong opinions, and a sense of humor! I actually laughed out loud while reading this book. One of my favorite parts was from the chapter on visual confections, which Tufte describes as a reassembling of many visual components, both real and imagined, to tell a story or illustrate an argument. Here is one of Tufte’s examples of a failed confection:

visual-explanations-photo

Tufte, Edward R. Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 1997.

Visual Explanations is also just a plain beautiful book. Tufte self-published all his books because he wanted control over their design. He states in the introduction to Visual Explanations, “These books are meant to be self-exemplifying: the objects themselves embody the ideas written about. Enchanted by the elegant and precise beauty of the best displays of information, and also inspired by the idea of self-exemplification, I have come to write, design, and publish the three books myself.” I didn’t know when I started reading it that this is the third in a series of books about data visualization that Tufte has written. We have all (now four) of his books here at the Scholarly Commons and I am definitely looking forward to reading the rest of them.

[i] Tufte, Edward. (2014, December). Edward R. Tufte Resume. Retrieved from http://www.edwardtufte.com/files/ETresume.pdf.

[ii] O’Keefe, Ed. “Obama Taps Infographics Guru for Stimulus Board.” Washington Post. March 9, 2010. Accessed November 18, 2016. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2010/03/obama_taps_designer_for_stimul.html.

 

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Learning to Make Documents Accessible with OCR Software

Photo via pexels.com.

Accessibility in the digital age can be difficult for people to understand, especially given the sheer amount of ways to present information on the computer. However, creating content that is accessible to all individuals should be a priority for researchers. Creating accessible documents is an easy process, and the Scholarly Commons has the software you need to make that happen.

Optical character recognition software (otherwise known as OCR) has the ability to convert scanned documents, PDF documents, and image documents into editable and searchable documents. Documents that have gone through OCR software can then be recognized by, and read through screen reader software. Screen readers are tools oftentimes used by those with visual impairments; they convert textual content into ‘synthesized’ speech, which is then read aloud to the user.

One trick to see whether or not a digital document is accessible is to try to highlight a line of text and then copy-paste it into another document. If you can successfully do that, your document is ready to be read by a screen reader. If you cannot highlight a single line of text and/or copy-paste it, you may want to consider putting your document through OCR software. However, if you have a “protected” PDF, you will not be able to reformat the document for accessibility.

OCR readers can read more than just digital documents – they are powerful tools that can also perform their function on scanned documents, either typed or handwritten. That is not to say that they are infallible, however. OCR software may have difficulties reading documents created before 1850, and may not always be 100% accurate. The user must be vigilant to make sure that mistakes don’t creep their way into the final product.

The Scholarly Commons is outfitted with two OCR programs: ABBY FineReader, and Adobe Acrobat. To read more on the specifics of each software, see the ABBY FineReader LibGuide or Adobe Acrobat’s Guide to OCR. There are also numerous options online for PDF readers online — look around and find the option that works best for you. Just a little time with this user-friendly software can make not only your research accessible, but to make the world a little more accessible as a whole.

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Meet Harriett Green, English and Digital Humanities Librarian

Picture of Harriett Green

This latest installment in our series of interviews with Scholarly Commons experts and affiliates features Harriett Green, the Library’s English and Digital Humanities Librarian.


What is your background education and work experience?

I have a bachelor of arts in History and Literature, a master’s degree in humanities/creative writing, and I earned my MSLIS from Illinois.  My position here at Illinois as English and Digital Humanities Librarian is my first library position, and before that, I worked in scholarly publishing.

What led you to this field?

I saw libraries as an opportunity to remain engaged with academia, scholarly research, and intriguing discoveries, but from the opposite end of publishing: I saw how the cake was made, and now I get to sell delectable treats to others!  And when I learned more about digital humanities and digital libraries, I became really interested in how libraries are at the intersection of technology and society, and the impact we can have in helping people navigate the digital culture we live in today.

What is your research agenda?

My research focuses on several areas related to digital humanities: In one thread, I’m interested in the information behaviors and research practices of humanities scholars, and how they use digital tools increasingly in their work. I also examine digital humanities in the classroom, and have written on digital pedagogy and how librarians can collaborate with faculty in courses. I am also interested in exploring humanities data curation, and the nature of humanities data, and the unique digital curation needs for humanities research.

Do you have any favorite work-related duties?

I enjoy working with students in the classroom and on their research: there’s nothing like seeing a student make a new connection thanks to finding that one resource!

What are some of your favorite underutilized resources that you would recommend to researchers?

The Karlsruhe catalog is the not-so-known World Cat: The portal connects you to a global network of library catalogs and digs up the stuff you can’t find elsewhere!

If you could recommend only one book to beginning researchers in your field, what would you recommend?

It would be Parker Palmer’s The Courage To Teach because the book is more than simply a guidebook on teaching, but a thoughtful discussion on what it means to bring our true, “authentic” selves into our work.


Need assistance with a Digital Humanities project? E-mail Harriett Green or the Scholarly Commons.

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Using Microsoft Publisher for Easy and Attractive Documents

The ability to create quick and attractive layouts for posters, research presentations, and other published materials. While many will head to Photoshop, if you need something on-the-go, Microsoft Publisher is a great option for basic, yet impressive, layouts that will make you stand out. The best part is that you can make these with tools you probably already know from using other products in the Microsoft Suite.

In this post, I’ll walk you through how to make a professional-looking poster for “My Digital Humanities Project” in less than fifteen minutes.

The first thing I’ll do after opening Publisher is select a new blank document. While there are great choices for templates on Publisher, I want to design my poster by myself. From there, I’ll go to the “Page Design” tab on the top ribbon. From there, I’ll choose my color scheme and background color.

Tutorial 1

What the “Page Design” layout looks like.

The color scheme option on Publisher is great. It saves you the hassle of having to find complementary colors or and allows you to make more than boring black and white poster. Of course, you can create your own scheme, as well, but for now I’ll pick “Solstice” to use for my colors. You also have the option to choose a scheme for your fonts, but I stuck with the default.

The color scheme option saves time and energy by giving you eye-catching colors without having to find them yourself.

The color scheme option saves time and energy by giving you eye-catching colors without having to find them yourself.

Now, there are two ways to go about using Publisher. The first is to create your own layout and design using Publisher’s tools, which is what I’m doing in this tutorial. Creating your own layout and design allows you more control over what is and is not included in your final product. That being said, Publisher has a number of editable built-in templates that you can use for your project, if they fit your needs.

Tutorial 7

You can find the “Change Template” option on the left side of the the “Page Design” ribbon. From there you can choose from a number of editable designs, as well as color and font schemes.

After picking my scheme, I decide to do a plain fill for my background with the yellow from my color scheme. You also have choices to do a gradient background, a pattern background, or to upload your own image to use as your background.

The background button on the ribbon gives a drop-down menu with background options.

The background button on the ribbon gives a drop-down menu with background options.

My project's background.

My project’s background.

Following that I moved to the “Insert” tab on the top ribbon to create the content of my poster. Most of what I did came from the “Page Parts” or “Borders & Accents” options in the “Building Blocks” section of that top ribbon. I began by selecting the diamond pattern from borders and accents, and copy pasting it until it went across the page. Next, I chose the title from the “Headings” section of “Page Parts,” and the border around my title from “Borders and Accents.”

Tutorial 8

The layout of the “Insert” tab. Many of the best aspects of Publisher are found in the “Building Blocks” section of this ribbon, including “Page Parts” and “Borders & Accents.”

The bottom part of my poster came from the “Page Parts” tabs. There you can choose the shapes you want your text in. One nice option that my shape on the lower left has is the option to include three pictures within the shape. I also created the rectangle on the bottom right using the “Illustrations” tab on the top ribbon. I filled it with blue on the “Page Design” tab so that the date would really stand out.

My finished product!

My finished product!

One of the best parts of Publisher is that it takes the difficult aspects of design and simplifies them. While you may not have as much personal control over the final project as you may in Photoshop, Publisher saves time and energy while still giving you a noticeable and vivacious end product. Publisher is useful not only for posters, but to create presentations, booklets, cards, and even eye-catching resumes!

If you want to give Publisher a try, head to the Scholarly Commons!

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Collaborative Annotation Tools

With these tools, there will be no need for your colleagues to hover over your shoulder while you annotate!

With these tools, there will be no need for your colleagues to hover over your shoulder while you annotate! (via pexels.com.)

Collaboration in the digital world can be awkward and confusing, especially when it comes to talking about sources. Emails with questions get lost or forgotten and Google Docs comments can be accidentally resolved before their time. Further, finding the right tool for you and your colleagues to communicate can be time-consuming, especially when deadlines loom. To help you get started in finding a tool that works for you, we have compiled a list of four free collaborative annotation tools that may help you get started!

  • A.nnotate
    • A.nnotate is probably the most straightforward of these platforms. You invite colleagues to an online document through an emailed link. From there, you and your colleagues write annotations that you can reply to and tag. Further, A.nnotate automatically creates an index listing the text selected in each document, along with comments and tags, allowing users to read what their colleagues are saying without necessarily having to scroll through specific documents. Users can also choose to receive email notifications when a change is made to a collaborative document.
  • DocumentCloud
    • Initially created for journalists, DocumentCloud is a great tool for annotating and finding primary source materials. Your annotations can be either public or private, and each has a unique URL that you can either share, or keep to yourself. DocumentCloud is open source, and already holds over one million public documents that you can use for your research or reporting. Because it is set up for journalists, DocumentCloud has a wide online reach, meaning that your primary sources and thoughts can be made available to the public at large.
  • eLaborate
    • Aimed towards academic scholars, eLaborate allows users to scan manuscripts or printed books, create annotations for them, edit them, and publish them online. Similarly to DocumentCloud, its primary purpose is to annotate primary documents, and to store them. Unlike DocumentCloud, eLaborate focuses on the digitization and preservation of these online documents, and creating a space where scholars can share them with one another. To see eLaborate in action, you can look at the Rembrandt Documents Project, which uses eLaborate as its platform.
  • NB
    • Created with teaching in mind, NB is a multi-dimensional platform that allows you to highlight text and make notes in a collaborative setting. However, the best part of NB comes from its additional capabilities. For example, you can create a question regarding a certain part of the text, which your colleagues can answer. Further, if members of your group mark certain spots with question marks, the program notes it, and allows you to focus on confusing aspects of the document. While it was created as a teaching tool, these capabilities can be easily transferred to academic research.

Have you used an annotation tool that you love? Let us know in the comments! Still looking for the perfect collaborative annotation tool, or have some cash to spend on some software? Check out DiRT Directory’s list of annotation tools.

If you have further questions about collaborative annotation tools, or any other technological tools that may aid you in your online research process, feel free to email us or stop by the Scholarly Commons, open 9am-6pm on weekdays.

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