Monday, April 11, 2005

Copy/Paste problems

Have you ever selected a bunch of text from a web page because you wanted to email it or add it to a document, or perhaps even add it as a quote to your own blog? What happened when you pasted it? Did you get pictures too, or tables and lines where you just wanted text? Did it take a long time to finally paste? If all of this sounds familiar, then you are probably a Windows user that copied text out of Internet Explorer.
A quick explanation of how the Windows operating system works first, then I'll tell you how to avoid this annoyance in the future. One of the early conventions in Windows was a Microsoft convention known as OLE - Object Linking & Embedding. This was a cross-application feature that allowed you to drag little Excel spreadsheets into your Word documents, or to put a graph you created in Visio into your Powerpoint presentation. During the process, a certain amount of data, and instructions about how to display that data is wrapped up into an "object" The final result is that "object" embedding into another "object", like your presentation in Powerpoint. The power of this technique was that if the data that was used to create the graph in Excel ever changed, the graph that you had already inserted (embedded) elsewhere would automatically "update" itself because it was "linked" to the original data. Hence, Object Linking and Embedding, (OLE).
Today, when you highlight a section of text on a web page in IE, this same process, which is now an inherent part of the Windows Operating System, creates an Object, along with the rules about how to display it, and copies it to your clipboard. When you paste that object into your listserve post, or your blog page, or your word document, the object, its HTML and its display instructions all go with. Its a lot of data, which is why it sometimes takes a little longer that when you simply copy and paste text.
If you do a lot of this, say you are an avid poster to list-serves or you are a frequent blogger, there is a simple solution. Get Firefox. Firefox is an alternative browser from the Mozilla foundation, an open source group that thinks you can do better than IE. And you can. There are many reasons to stop using Internet Explorer, which I won't list in this post. The reason you should switch if you fall into the category of web user that I described above, is because of an extension to Firefox that you can't get with IE.
What is an extension? It is an add-on. An enhancement. It is a little bit of code that adds itself into the Firefox program you initially downloaded and installed, and it makes it better. The extension I am talking about here is called the copy-plain-text extension. Once you have Firefox, you can download and install this extension, and here is what it gives you.
You want to use some text in a post you are writing, but the web page you found it on is cluttered with tables and lines and images. You select and highlight the text, but there is an image in the selection too - take a deep breath, right click on your selection. In the menu you will see an option called 'copy as plain text' - thanks to the browser extension you have. When you select this option, it removes the HTML, the image, and any display instructions associated with any objects and copies just the text to your clipboard, so you can paste just the text anywhere you want. I should mention that one additional thing it does can be kind of confusing. If you hold your mouse over some images, and a little box appears that has text in it, this text will also be included in what you copy and paste. Its not the image, its the text describing the image, and it is easily deleted if you don't want it.
This is a speedy way to get just the plain text off a page and into your post. Here are the tools you need to do it.

The Firefox browser can be obtained here.

After you have that installed, open this address and get the extension.

You'll have to close your browser and re-start it to see the option in your right click menu.

There are hundreds of extensions available at the site listed above. Some of them do things that I don't understand or have a need for - but there are some that add ease of use and additional functionality to the browser that will make you wonder how you got along without them. Check it out.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Media rich blogs at Lightning Speed

Check out, a free public beta of a media rich blog host. It's only free during the beta, mind you, after that it will cost $4.99 a month. What is media-rich? From what I gathered from their site, it means you can drag and drop pictures, movies, sounds, spreadsheets, Word documents, whatever you want onto your blog page and it gets published.

One of the biggest differences between this blog host and others is that bubbler requires you to download an executable program that runs on your computer. It looks to me like a Macromedia Flash based program (hence the ability to drag and drop items onto your blog page). If anyone decides to try this one out, I would love to hear some feedback on it. I may give it a shot from home this weekend. As long as its free, it works for me.

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