Skip to Content
Palomar College Learning For Success

Academic Technology Resources Centers

Enhancing teaching and learning for students and faculty of Palomar College

Menu

Generating Boilerplate Content within Word

Perhaps you’ve been in this situation: Need to work on the formatting of a document, but the author hasn’t provided the text yet. What you really need is some sample text in your Word document, but you don’t want to go out and find some text online, possibly for fear of getting interested in some new topic. (Or is that just me?)

Microsoft Word actually has a function just for this purpose. Actually, I lie, it has two functions just for this purpose.

To see this in action, fire up Word, open up a new document and type (without the quote marks, of course) “=lorem(5,8)” and then hit Enter. You should be looking at five paragraphs of eight sentences each, filled with that psuedo-Latin “Lorem ipsum” text. Naturally you can change the numbers in that, with the first controlling number of paragraphs and the second controlling number of sentences, so “=lorem(71,3)” would result in many short paragraphs.

But what if you want some boilerplate text, but want something that will be readable English? In that case, type in “=rand(5,3)” (or whatever numbers of paragraphs and sentences you want), and hit Enter. Text will appear, drawn from Microsoft help files. (At one time it used to iterate “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” But this changed to somewhat meaningful text around Word 2007.)

So there you have it, two functions to generate some throw-away text. Now you can get to testing font styles, preparing the locations of images, anything else to beautify the document, all without waiting for the author to get the text to you.

Getting Loopy with PowerPoint 2013

If your classes go anything like my workshops do, then you seldom start right on time. I always hate “wasting time” out of my scheduled class time, and wish I could do something to make that time more useful.

I’d really like to have something like the pre-previews content that movie theaters run; you know, the stuff with trivia games, ads, and the like that play before the house lights dim. There’s always an array of things to tell my learners about, and having that showing on the classroom projector while I do other things until class starts seems ideal.

PowerPoint to the rescue!

If you prepare a series of informational slides (when the next exam is, when the drop deadline is, what sort of cookies you prefer, etc.) it is possible to configure your slides to automatically advance, and when the end of the presentation hits, to loop around and play them all again. The two key elements are “Transitions” and “Loop Continuously.”

  1. First, make sure you don’t have any animations that are set to run “On Click.” If you do, those animations will not trigger.
  2. Next, for each slide, decide how long you want it to display on the screen.
  3. Move to the first slide, and click the Transitions tab.
    Transitions AdvanceSlide
  4. At the right side of the ribbon, in the “Advance Slide” area, uncheck “On Mouse Click”, check “After:” and set the time. That is minutes, seconds, and fractions of a second, so if you want the slide there for 15 seconds it must be set to 00:15.00.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 on each slide of your presentation. Each may have a completely different time set.
  6. Next, go to the Slideshow tab, and click the “Set Up Slide Show” button near the left of the ribbon.
    Transitions Set Up Slide Show
  7. On the “Set Up Show” dialog, check the box for “Loop continuously until ‘Esc'”, and be sure the “Advance slides” control is set to “Using timings, if present.” That way, all those times you set will actually be used.
    Set Up Show Dialog
  8. Now you can save your show, as you normally would, in the PPTX format.

Technically you’re all done now (although you’ll want to test things BEFORE going into the classroom). But to trigger your presentation, all you need to do is right-click the PPTX file, and choose “Show” on the context menu. That should cause your presentation to open immediately into the slideshow mode, so all you would need to do then is sit back, and watch your presentation run itself.

PPTX Menu ShowNow, if you’re the type who wants to use animations, even in these slides, that can be done. The trick is to make sure all your animations are set to “With previous” or “After previous,” and that none use “On Click.” Of course, the more complex your animations, the more you’ll want to test and be sure everything works as expected.

So there you have it: Self presenting slides. My plan is to start such a presentation Showing a few minutes prior to my next in-person session, and see if anyone pays attention. When you give it a try, let me know how your experience goes!

What’s New in WordPress 3.5

Now that the Palomar College WordPress system has been updated to version 3.5, this would be a good time to write about some of the changes you can expect to see when managing your sites. Here’s a rundown of the most important new stuff:

All New Media Uploader

The biggest change in version 3.5 of WordPress is the new media manager. Adding images or documents to a post or page is now easier. The new Insert Media screen, seen below, is much more streamlined. This is very helpful when uploading multiple files or creating image galleries.

Insert Media screen in WordPress 3.5

The new Insert Media screen in WordPress 3.5

Embedding Media

A feature that many do not know about is the ability to easily embed content from some third-party sites such as YouTube, Twitter, or Flickr. With WordPress 3.5, it is now possible to easily embed content from additional sites such as SlideshareInstagram, and SoundCloud. What makes this feature so great is that it is simple to use. All you do is paste a URL to content on any of the supported sites and it will embed the content in your post or page. For example, to embed audio from Soundcloud just copy the URL from the clip you want to embed from your browser’s address bar and paste it into a WordPress post. It will embed a player right on the page like this:

 

New Default Theme: Twenty Twelve

There is a new default theme for WordPress called Twenty Twelve that sports an attractive, minimal design. It is also responsive, meaning that it adapts to different screen sizes. As more of our users are browsing our sites with phones and tablets, responsive web design is becoming very important.

Twenty Twelve WordPress theme

The new default WordPress theme, Twenty Twelve.

 

 

Other Changes

The changes listed above are the most prominent but there are many more that you may not even notice including:

  • Remote publishing option turned on by default
  • Privacy settings moved to the Settings -> Reading area
  • All new Welcome screen for new WordPress sites

WordPress keeps getting easier to use and more powerful at the same time. If you have any questions or comments about WordPress 3.5 please use the comment box below.

Inserting Links Into WordPress Pages and Posts

Links to webpages and files are a basic part of the web. In fact, without them it wouldn’t be much of a ‘web’. The WordPress content editor makes it easy to insert new links and edit existing ones. There are three types of links that will commonly be inserted:

  • Internal pages or posts – These are links to pages or posts within your own WordPress site. WordPress makes it really easy to choose which existing page or post to link to.
  • External websites or files – Anything that is outside of your WordPress site is an an external link. WordPress allows you to specify a URL for any external content.
  • Internal files – The WordPress content editor makes it really easy to upload a file and link to it, all in one simple interface.
The following video demonstrates how to insert all three types of links:

How to Disable Comments in WordPress

One of the most frequently asked questions about using WordPress for managing a website is:

How do I disable the comments on a page or post?

While the comment system in WordPress works really well and can be a great way to get feedback, there are many instances when comments from site visitors are not necessary or appropriate. By default, the option for a site visitor to leave a comment is on. It is not obvious how to turn comments off when creating or editing a page because the option is initially hidden.

The following short video shows how to disable comments on a page or post and how to change the default setting so that comments are off when creating new content.

Customizing Menus in WordPress

Managing navigation menus on a website is usually a difficult task. WordPress takes way most of the difficulty of creating menus and, some would say, even makes it fun. In fact, on many WordPress sites the menu will automatically be configured as you create each new page. Page settings such as the ‘Parent Page’ and ‘Order’ allow you to control where in the menu the page will be listed.

There are, however, many cases where the menu needs to be customized. For example, if you need to add a link to a third-party webpage or add a post category.

The following video, part of the “Getting Started with WordPress” series, demonstrates how to create and manage a custom menu:

httpvh://youtu.be/RTn8iQRYbRU

Creating a New Page in WordPress

If you intend to use WordPress  as more than just a blog, and in my opinion you should at least consider it, it is necessary to understand how to create pages. While there are many similarities between creating a post and a page, there are some significant differences.

The following video gives an overview of creating a page and the various options available:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyUizX5j0RE

For more video tutorials on how to use WordPress check out the How-To page at the Palomar College WordPress Central site.

Creating New Posts in WordPress

After obtaining a new WordPress site, one of the most important tasks to learn is how to create new posts. Posts can be used in many different ways within WordPress, but their primary use is as discrete entries in a blog. The home page of a new WordPress site is what is referred to as the posts page. Any page in a WordPress site can be designated as the posts page, but the home page is the default.

Posts are a great way to get fresh information online, keeping your site from appearing stale. The beauty of WordPress is that posts are quick and easy to create.

The following video demonstrates how to create a new post and talks about many of the options when doing so:

Easy Websites with WordPress

Managing a website may not ever truly be easy, but WordPress can certainly make it easier. For those unfamiliar with WordPress, it is a web content management system that allows you to use a web browser for creating and editing a website. It can be accessed with any modern web browser from almost any internet connected computer. No special software or skills are needed.

The Palomar College Academic Technology Resource Center offers workshops on using WordPress. In particular, I would like to point out a new series of workshops called “Website in a Month”. Here’s the workshop description:

Don’t have a website? Is your existing website in need of a renovation? Whatever your needs are, this series of workshops is meant to get your website project started and finished in just 4 weeks. Using WordPress, you will learn how easy it can be to setup and manage a website. Whether you’re on your own or you have a team of people to work with, you will have a site that you can be proud of. The first meeting will cover how to get your site started and explain how the 4 week program will work.

The goal of the workshop series is to give as much hands on assistance with either creating a new site in WordPress or converting an existing site. The workshop dates/times are:

  • Tuesday, September 25, 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, October 2, 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, October 9, 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, October 16, 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

If you don’t yet have a WordPress site and would like a staff/faculty site to begin working with, these simple instructions will get you started: How to Create a WordPress Site [pdf]

If you are interested in creating a WordPress site for a department, discipline, or program submit a request through the ATRC Help Desk.

5 Reasons You Should Be Using Evernote

For many, Evernote is an indispensable tool. If you are not yet an Evernote user, here are five reasons that you should consider becoming one:

Capture Anything

Evernote allows you to capture almost anything and store it for later use. Notes can be text that you type in directly, a voice recording you make with a mobile device, or a photo from your smartphone. If you come across a webpage that you want to save the Evernote Web Clipper makes it as easy as clicking one button. Evernote is also a great place to store important files that you may need quick access to such as user manuals or research articles.

Access Notes Anywhere

Be it a computer, tablet, or smartphone, you will be able to access and update Evernote. There are clients for Windows and Mac OS X if you want to use it on desktop and laptop computers. For mobile access, apps are available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone 7. If all else fails, there is a web based app that can be accessed from almost any modern browser.

Find Things Fast

The search and filtering capabilities in Evernote are incredible. Searches can be based on keywords, tags, dates,  or note types (such as images, audio, PDF, etc.). With a small amount of planning in how you use notebooks and tags it is possible to find exactly what you are looking for, whether it was created yesterday or 4 years ago. If you subscribe to Evernote premium ($5/month or $45/year), any PDF documents that you attach will be searchable as well.

Share with Friends and Colleagues

Evernote lets you share your notebooks with whoever you want. Notebooks can be made public via a link that can be posted on a webpage or included in an email. If security is important a notebook can be shared with only specific Evernote accounts. The premium version of Evernote lets you give others permission to edit shared notes for true collaboration.

Go Paperless

All of the combined features of Evernote make it possible to go almost completely paperless. Instead of printing an article from a webpage, just send it to Evernote and read it on your mobile device. The built in PDF functionality make it easy to scan a document, save it to Evernote, and find it whenever or wherever you need it.