Archives For Nerding It Up

Two weeks ago you wrote some beautiful notes/an assignment.  A week ago you learned to reference beautifully.  Today your hard-drive exploded and its all gone.  There was a freak petrol-fight accident that killed your homework.  Lost your thumb-drive, whatever: it’s gone.

Backup

There are two totally different ways this could pan out.  The first person loses everything, loses 10 percent because it was due that day, loses sleep and hands in a crappy shade of the assignment that could have been.  The second person used Dropbox.

Dropbox?

The main reasons (I believe, this is on no way based on anything but my opinion) people don’t back up are (1) laziness, (2) lack of ability, (3) not knowing the risk.  The last one is the only stupid one.  Everyone loses files.  No matter how computer-illiterate you are, there’s a chance your computer will die, even if you don’t do anything crazy with it.

A little (free, I might add [here]) application axe-murders (1) and (2). It’s called Dropbox.  It is godly.

It’s two gigs of free online safety net.  And it’s all automated.

You select a folder, you tell Dropbox about it.  That’s it.  Whenever you save anything in the folder, it backs it up online.  It saves versions so you can track the progression of your writing/editing process.  It lets you share documents when needed.

I guess laziness is dead because it is automated, and it is so simple to use that my bejewelled blitz obsessed mum even uses it.

Organising your documents and setting up Dropbox

To make best use of Dropbox, you’ll need an organised in-computer filing-system.  For this part, I’m going to assume that you use Windows 7; most of the techniques are transferable to other OS’s.  The long and short of it-make use of folders and libraries.

A folder is a location on your hard-drive (e.g. ComputerD:My DropboxUniversityCurrent).

A library is a collection of folders synthesised into one virtual location (e.g. LibrariesDocuments)

Since we’re going to have to keep all of our important documents in one “Dropbox” folder, we’ll use libraries to allow quick access to specific folders that are in common use.

On my computer, I separate my system files (which are on “drive” [actually partition] c:\) and my documents (which are at d:\).  This helps me keep my folders organised since I start with a blank slate (there are other benefits in partitioning a hard-drive, but I’ll talk about them another day).

Folders

My d:\ drive is organised simply: 4 folders.  (1) Music, which I leave iTunes to organise for me. (2) My Dropbox: I set Dropbox to save to this location when I installed.  (3) Pictures and (3) Videos, which auto-import and sort from my iPhone and my camera.

Simple filing

Wait! Why does the “My Dropbox” icon have a different icon from the rest of the folders?  The green tick shows that the folder is synchronised with my online Dropbox account.

Everything in this folder is backed up.  I have a folder here for the items I want to share and for my uni work — though you can easily add more folders if you please.

My university folder has four folders in it a) my current work, b) my archive, c) miscellaneous (this can be a bad habit, since you can throw anything you want into a folder like this, but I limit mine to LSS, AUJS and OatsAndSugar files) and d) my EndNote library (need to back this up!).

Each semester, I create a folder for each subject ##### – Subject Name.  When the subject is active, it’s in current, when I’ve finished it, it goes to archive.  I don’t like deleting things.

This is a bit of a schlep — it would make it annoying to save documents in the correct folder: at least 5 double clicks down a file tree.

I can't be bothered, you shouldn't have to be bothered. Lets not be bothered. Together.

This is where windows 7 shines to life.  We have Libraries!

Libraries

What libraries do is collect several locations under a single easily accessible shortcut.

I’ll walk you through setting up your Documents library, you can organise the Music, Pictures and Film libraries to your own specification.  The folders that are attached to the library by default in Windows 7 aren’t that helpful to our task, but it can be edited to allow for a streamlining of our filing system.  The first step is going to your Libraries page.

We are interested in the Library "Documents"

In the Documents library, hit the button that says 3 locations at the top of the screen, this will allow you to edit which folders are shown in your Documents Library.

The further into the file tree you go, the less clicks it takes to save a file into a specific folder.

As you can see, I added my Current, Archive and Misc. files to my library.  I added the Current folder first because I wanted it to display first in the library, since it will be most used.  Again, you can set this up to your own preferences.  The result is, when you want to save something in Word, it will open directly to this library, and it takes one click to select a subject folder.  If you didn’t customise your libraries, it would have taken you 6+ clicks.

Setting up Dropbox

To simply set up Dropbox, just select your My Dropbox or University file to back-up when you install the program.  If you’ve installed Dropbox already and you want to change the location of your Dropbox folder, just right-click on the blue box icon in the taskbar, select preferences, and change the Dropbox folder location to where you want it to be.

It's that easy

Now, your computer is organised, and your backup is set up.  Lets learn a few more advanced Dropbox techniques.

A few Dropbox use-cases

So now that you’ve set it up, what can you do with Dropbox?

I want to edit my files from another computer.

So open up your browser and go to dropbox.com.  Log in, choose a file and edit away! Just make sure to upload the file back on to the site when you are done!

My computer died! What do I do?

Get the files you need from another computer using the method above.  When your computer is fixed/daddy buys you a new one, just install Dropbox on the new computer, log-in with your old username.  Like magic, all the files that populated your old Dropbox folder will appear on your new computer.

I’m away from home but want to email someone a file.

Just install the iPhone (or Android) app (the Blackberry app is soon to come).  The mobile app lets you view all the files in your Dropbox folder (handy in its own right, since you can also export your PDF’s from the Dropbox mobile app to iBooks), it lets you email these to others on the go, and much more.

I want to go back to an old version of a file I saved.

Just find the file on the web-interface, click on the down arrow to the far right, and select previous versions.  Easy!

The Dropbox web interface is easy to use!

I want to synchronise the work I do on my home computer, my work computer and my laptop.

Just download Dropbox on to all three, and log-in with the same account.  Every time you save any file, it will be updated on all three machines!

If you have an organised computer, you’ll be able to find what you need.  Dropbox will keep “what you need” safe, and available from wherever you are!

UPDATED:

I know this article is relatively PC-centric, here‘s a link to a MacOsXTutorial tutorial I found via TUAW on Dropbox for Macs.

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My first piece of advice when writing an assignment: reference as you write.  When you quote, when you use a case as authority, whenever it is appropriate to reference, do it.  Don’t just write and leave referencing to the end, you’ll lose the cases, pages, paragraphs etc. that you need to properly pin-point reference. Do it as you go.

To keep on top of all of my references, I use EndNote: available for free for UTS students from the library website.

EndNote:

A lot of people can’t stand EndNote. I can’t do law without it!  It keeps the lecturers honest — they can’t deduct marks off you for referencing if you use the referencing program they prescribe, properly.

It is a little fiddly.  It is a bit hard to get used to.  Once you start to get used to it, once you figure out the ways to use it efficiently, once you start populating your reference library, it becomes essential and literally saves hours of bibliography writing, footnote editing, etc.

Installing EndNote for beginners:

I’m not going to write too much on installing EndNote; the UTS Library website does a brilliant job at walking you through the steps.  Just remember to follow all the steps:

  1. Download and install the program itself.  The library talks you through this process.
  2. Tweak it to output legal-style (AGLC) referencing.  This involves (a) installing the legal reference types, (b) downloading and installing the AGLC plug-in/style and (c) setting (AGLC-UTS) as the output type.  These steps are outlined on the library site but may be a bit fiddly.

Now you have EndNote!

So now I have EndNote, what do I do with it?

The basic premise of EndNote is that references are fiddly, and that they are meant to be informative, complementing your assignment, and not blocking creativity by taking up so much time.  So instead of writing and re-writing references, instead of wondering whether to “ibid.” you just fill out the requisite fields in the right reference type on EndNote, and then use the word plug-in to insert it without bother.

Creating a new reference:

Here’s a few tricks in filling out the reference fields:

  • A few legal databases and library sites can auto-magically export reference files, so you don’t need to type them up at all!
  • Always fill in the “reference type” field to allow EndNote to automatically order the bibliography: first by reference type and then alphabetically.
  • In the description field, I like to copy/paste the FirstPoint headnote, this jogs my memory of what the case is all about later in the semester when I’ve already forgotten.
  • If you can be bothered, attach a PDF file of the case, it will save some effort later in the semester.
  • Tags make cases easy to search for.
  • Organise your references in folders, by subject and assignment, for easy categorisation.

The more information you put into EndNote, the easier it will be to use.

Inserting references:

Wherever you need to insert a reference, first, select the reference in EndNote.

Here, I have selected Ryan v The Queen, notice that the preview shows you how the reference will look in Word.

Then, in Word, insert a footnote [References > Footnotes > Insert Footnote].

A footnote will now appear at the bottom of the page.  Now you need to insert the EndNote citation [EndNote X3 >Citations > Insert Citations > Insert Selected Citations].  This will insert the citation you have selected in EndNote.

You are done!  To add more than one reference in a single citation is easy: just select more than one reference in EndNote (using ctrl+click or shift+click): as below.

Pinpoint referencing:

Law requires pinpoint referencing, but the above method only refers to a case/article/book/etc.  To pinpoint reference properly, right-click on the footnote and select [edit citations > more].  This will pop up a window.  Fill in the “pages” field with “p#”, “s#”, “ss#A” or “[#]” depending on whether you are referencing a page, section, subsection or paragraph, respectively.  Then hit “OK” and you are good!

This is how the reference will look:

Creating a bibliography:

You’ve noticed that as you’ve referenced in Word, using EndNote, a list of references is populating below.  This is your bibliography!  If you followed the steps above, it will automatically be organised according to reference type and alphabetically (just by the way, I like to add a page-break above the bibliography [shift+enter] to keep it neat and away from body-text).

When you have finished editing your work (it is important to only do this at the end, since the references will no longer be dynamic after this step) you’ll need to flatten your references so you can edit this bibliography [EndNote > Bibliography > Convert Citations and Bibliography > Convert to Plain Text].  It will then prompt you to save a new copy: do so.

Then you can start editing your references if required, and playing with your bibliography by inserting headings for reference types, etc.

After this step, your document is done!

The next step: EndNote intermediate

When you install EndNote, the process to add a reference to a word document is quite messy — you have to change to the reference screen, insert a footnote, go to the EndNote window, which is open separately, select or create the reference you need, and then insert it.  I propose that this is ridiculous and should be easier.

Here’s how I solved this problem.

You know that little strip of icons next to the office button at the top left of the screen in Word ’07?  Hmm, maybe I should just show you.

The quick-access tool-bar full of random useless buttons/shortcuts, until we finish with it!

When you buy word and run it for the first time, this tool-bar is relatively useless, filled with commonly known tools (copy [ctrl+c], paste [ctrl+v], undo [ctrl+z], redo [ctrl+y] and save [ctrl+s]).  This is a waste!  Every command that you put into the Quick Access Toolbar creates a shortcut: [alt+#], where # is the position of the shortcut.  In the image above, the “save” function would have been assigned the short-cut [alt+2].  Here’s an idea, let’s create shortcuts to make the process described above for using EndNote in Word a bit easier!

The first step will be to clear your current Quick Access Toolbar.  To do this, right-click on each icon displayed and delete it [right-click > Remove From Quick Access Toolbar].  To add an icon to your toolbar, right-click and select “Add to Quick Access Toolbar.

Mine is set up like so:

[alt+1] Insert Footnote

[alt+2] Insert Selected Citation(s)

[alt+3] Update Citations and Bibliography

[alt+4] Paste Special (this I use to paste unformatted text, etc.)

Now, instead of following the steps above, to insert a citation I (1) select it in EndNote, (2) hit [alt+1] to insert a footnote, [2] hit [alt+2] to insert the citation and I’m done!  If I edited the citations within EndNote and I need to update them in word, I just hit [alt+3].  It’s a really easy way to use EndNote, and if you add the item “Find Citation” instead of “Insert Selected Citation” you never have to leave Word at all.

You can use the Quick Access Toolbar to create easy custom shortcuts within word for whatever feature you want within reach, I find it really makes sailing through EndNote a breeze.

ProTip: use two screens!

If you have a spare monitor running around, use it! It really makes EndNote easy as pie to use.  Have EndNote open on the smaller screen and Word open on the main screen: instead of flipping between the two windows, you have your document and your references side-by-side.

If you only have one screen but its a big one, go half-and-half; same effect.

NB: if you are using EndNote for Business, change the output style to “Harvard Referencing” and not to “UTS_AGLC”, you can still use the program and all of its features and reference in-line, as required.

I am a neat freak.  There I said it.

I’m not talking about physical neatness, my room is an absolute mess most of the time, and my handwriting is absolutely horrid, I’m talking about keeping a neat computer.  To do this, you need to: (1) make good notes/pretty assignments, (2) use a proper referencing system, (3) organise your notes well, (4) set up a proper backup system and (5) organise mobile access.  This may sound like a bit much, but trust me, it’s not too hard, and the time it saves you will definately make up for it.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be going over the above.  This week, I’ll start with some MS Word basics.

Be a Microsoft Word Ninja

Word is giant and awesome and powerful, I don’t pretend to know even a quarter of what Word can do, but I know some basics that really make your life a bit easier.  For the purpose of this walk-through, I’ll assume that you are using Windows 7 and Word 2007, though I’m sure it will translate to the other versions as well.

Using Headings and Making a Table of Contents:

Don’t do your headings manually (i.e. don’t change your font to change text to headings), use the headings in the style-sheet.  Use Title for your title, Heading 1 for your first level of subheadings, etc.

Don't use the fonts bar and underline, etc. to make headings.

Use "Styles", in the "home" tab: this is the default Heading 1.

Outline numbering automatically numbers headings in different levels, in the "home" tab, "paragraph" box, hit the button that looks like "1ai", it will set you up with outline numbering.

This lets you insert a table of contents. In the "reference" tab, "table of contents" area, hit the "insert table of contents" button. Also, you can add non-heading text to the table of contents by selecting it and hitting the "add text" button and selecting which level you want it to appear.

So now you know how to use styles, outline numbering and create a table of contents.  Next week I’ll be going over some more advanced Word techniques, including EndNote integration and creating your own shortcuts.