Timothy Pasch, Department of English, Assistant Professor of Communications, University of North Dakota
Welcome to this first post for “the MacLab” on Teaching Thursdays. My name is Timothy (Tim) Pasch, an Assistant Professor in the Communication Program/English Department here at UND. It is a pleasure to be writing this column and I hope that it may be of help to some. I am additionally available to assist faculty with any Mac-related questions at email@example.com or at my website at www.timpasch.org.
I would like to begin this first post with a list of applications that I find to be the most useful for my teaching and research. I have come to discover my ideal configuration of scholarly utilities after long experimentation. Your requirements will certainly be different than my own, however I hope that this list may offer a starting point to begin your own exploration.
10. Backup: SuperDuper and Time Machine
These programs ensure that your data is safe. Time Machine is easy to use: simply enable it from your system preferences. You will need to connect an external hard drive in order for this to work (eSATA is fastest, followed by Firewire). SuperDuper clones your drive, which is different from TimeMachine’s approach (called incremental). I have set up schedules so that both of these take place each day: your approach may vary. I was part of the beta-testers that helped with this version of SuperDuper and it has saved my data on numerous occasions. It can also help you move all of your data from one Mac to another. (Shameless plug: click the “about” window in this program and scroll to the end to see the screen below.)
9. Image Capture and Archive: Skitch Pro, TextExpander and Dropbox
I use Skitch constantly throughout each day. This program lets a user take screenshots and annotate them. This is helpful for research and teaching, and in bringing web content to students while creating course content and when writing. I cannot express how useful this program is to my workflow. I highly recommend it.
TextExpander is another utility that I cannot do without: it expands abbreviations into your most frequently used text-strings. This may sound complicated but it’s not. As an example, let’s say that you set up the letters “sigg” to expand into your full name with address, email, fax numbers, and an image of your signature, to be pasted onto any document. I find myself doing research using abbreviations and it saves a lot of time. Definitely consider checking out TextExpander!
Dropbox is a free utility that integrates seamlessly with your Finder, and allows you to save files off-site in the cloud. You can also collaborate with other users. It is amazing and free for 2GB of storage. The other nice thing about Dropbox is that it works with Windows and Linux, making it easy to move between operating systems on different machines, or among virtual guests (more on this in a bit).
8. Communication: Skype Beta and Wimba Pronto
The latest beta of Skype for the Mac (version 5) allows conference calls using video. Skype, if you are not familiar with it, is beautifully-implemented VOIP communication using video for your computer. Advanced users can make it work on their cellphones and even landlines (Skypeout, for example). Indispensable!
Wimba Pronto for Mac (download from your Blackboard page) is very nicely coded. I have been using it on campus a great deal recently to communicate with some fellow faculty members. The integrated writeboard is an excellent tool for jotting down quick graphical notes when planning your next collaborative grant! Highly recommended and please watch for me on Pronto (Click Actions/Add Contact/timothypasch).
7. Security: 1Password and Orbicule
I have been using 1Password since it was first released and it keeps getting better and better. It manages your passwords so that you (heaven forbid!) do not use the same password for multiple sites anymore. It creates extremely complex passwords for you and keeps them encrypted. 1Password is now available for Windows and a variety of mobile devices as well.
Orbicule offers security for your system if it ever gets stolen. They have an excellent recovery rate. This product offers peace of mind for your investment and your research data.
6. Clipboard and Input: PTH Pasteboard Pro, Better TouchTool
Many years of testing different clipboard managers have resulted in my finding a real gem: PTH Pasteboard. This pasteboard keeps a record of all of your “copy” commands, and gives you a very flexible way of pasting them again. I use this constantly for copying and pasting citations. You can also synchronize your pasteboard and paste to multiple computers. You can edit your pasteboard using flexible filters and paste as plain text or in any number of flexible formats. I cannot express how powerful this utility can be for a researcher copying and pasting in a variety of formats.
Better Touch Tool transforms your multitouch trackpad into a highly flexible control surface. You can specify what a pinch, zoom, or swipe will do in any program on your computer. This is truly empowering technology for the controllability of computers (think, Minority Report). I am currently conducting research in this area. Please let me know if you have any questions.
5. Blackboard: VMware Fusion with Respondus
Although this is a Mac tutorial, please believe me when I mention that I value Windows and Linux as well. I run both of these operating systems (Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux) in virtualization using Vmware Fusion. I prefer Fusion to Parallels however Parallels is also a viable solution.
When using Fusion for Blackboard management, Respondus is an excellent program and we have a site license here at UND. It enables course instructors to generate exams and quizzes to be deployed in Blackboard. I used it last semester to create auto-grading final examinations and I was very pleased with how seamlessly it worked. Running multiple operating systems at the same time comes with its own series of challenges, however being able to run platform-specific applications is very valuable.
4. Keeping updated: Macupdate
The release of the new Mac App Store may eventually supplant this service, however for now, (and for all those apps not purchased on the app store), Macupdate Desktop is a wonderful program. It lets you know when an update is available for any program on your Mac, and can install it for you in the background. This is a very nice application.
3. Video Display and Editing: VLC and Handbrake
If you use video in your courses at all, I cannot express how handy VideoLan VLC can be. It is free and will play almost any type of video: many more types than Quicktime can (even when you have the Perian codecs installed). VLC is open source and runs on Windows and Linux as well. Handbrake is a free program that can transform video from one video-type to another (.avi to MPEG H.264 for example). This can be very helpful if you want to embed video into your Blackboard posts or transmit to YouTube. It is open source and runs on Windows, Ubuntu and Fedora as well as Mac.
2. Access, Search and Task Management: Lauchbar, OmniFocus and Grand Perspective
These three programs really help me with my workflow. Launchbar is a very rapid way of opening the programs that you are looking for, and more. A replacement of the wonderful Quicksilver application, Launchbar helps me move quickly through my files without needing to use the mouse. You can open certain files using certain programs quickly and intuitively.
Omnifocus is what I use to stay on task. It is a powerful GTD program (Getting Things Done) and has been helpful in allocating my scholarly time. It integrates directly with the Mail application in OSX and I send my important messages to Omnifocus so that I do not miss responding to those.
Grand Perspective is a free application that represents graphically and in color where your hard disk space is being used. This utility is a boon to those of us continually wrestling with data allocation.
1. My Triumvirate of Research: Bookends, Papers and Scrivener
I spent years trying to make friends with Endnote. Although I wrote my dissertation using it, it has always been buggy on the Mac and its integration with Word, especially when working with larger (book-length) files, has been erratic. I have used the excellent Zotero (a firefox plugin) with great success and some of my graduate students are now converts to that reference system developed by George Mason University.
As for me, I use Bookends, which I am generally very pleased with. It integrates very nicely with Apple Pages as well as Mellel, Word, and a variety of other word processors. Bookends additionally integrates with Google Scholar, PubMed, the Web of Science, JSTOR, the Library of Congress, and any of a variety of scholarly libraries directly. It can also import metadata and full references from any book on Amazon, which has come in handy many, many times.
Papers is the second program in this trio that integrates into my research and teaching workflow. Papers is what I use for searching and archiving scholarly PDFs. It integrates directly with Scopus here at UND and allows me to pull in any papers from that database. it does the same with all of the IEEE journals, PubMed, the Web of Science and Knowledge, MathSciNet and many more. It can export into Bookends for the final bibliographic generation for your papers. Papers is an amazing tool for creating your literature reviews. Its integration with the leading databases is excellent and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Scrivener is a writing tool for larger writing projects. I love the way that it organizes my writing into sections (chapters or major headings). It incorporates a corkboard where writers can organize their PDFs, images, ideas, sketches and other concepts related to the writing project (or course design, or grant, etc). Scrivener is a more intuitive framework for the development of multi-sectioned research, in my personal experience.
I hope that this list may be useful to you in your own research of scholarly applications and utilities for your computer. Please do let me know if you have any additional questions, as I am happy to help.