Screen Snapshots

There are many times and reasons for wanting to take a snapshot – called a screenshot – of something on your computer screen. Maybe you want to show a pulldown menu during a training. Maybe you want to show your full desktop to someone as an e-mail attachment. Maybe you want a photo to insert into your blog. The Mac offers several options for doing this.

The most basic is pressing Command-Shift-4. Your cursor will turn into crosshairs and you can select the portion of your screen you want for your screenshot. When you release the mouse, the graphic is captured.

You can refine that process by adding one additional keyboard touch. Dragging is a fine way to do things…but not always as precise as you might like. By pressing Command-Shift-4 and then hitting the space bar, your cursor will turn into a camera. Now you’ll see areas of your screen highlighted as you move your cursor. You can take photos of menus, windows, or the entire screen. And it will be precise, no worries about trying to drag to capture just what you want.


And if you want even more control, go to your Utilities folder and open up Grab. Grab will give you the options for capturing a window, the entire screen, or a selection of your choosing. It also gives you the option of a timed capture….so you can manipulate things with your mouse for the screenshot.

There are a lot of other programs out there for screenshots…with more options…for a small fee. But with these free options, you can probably meet almost all of your needs.

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Empty Your Trash…For Real!

We delete tons of documents and folders from our computers throughout the week, but they aren’t really gone. When we put a document in the trash and then select “Empty Trash”, the document remains on our computer. The only thing that happens is that the space occupied by those files is now available to be overwritten with a new file. And eventually that will probably happen. But in the meantime, the old file remains. And anyone with even a basic data recovery piece of software would be able to restore that file and view it. And that isn’t a good thing for information that you want to remain confidential.

So what should you do?

Starting with OS X 10.5, known as Leopard, the Mac offers a secure option for deleting documents. When you use this secure method, your computer overwrites the document with gibberish, making it extremely difficult for anyone to recover the data. This process takes a few moments longer, but it is worth it when it comes to protecting sensitive documents.

So how do you do this?

Toss your items in the trash can, just like you always do. But instead of emptying the trash in your usual manner, move your cursor up and pull down the Finder menu. Select “Secure Empty Trash”.

Secure Empty TrashA pop-up menu will ask you to confirm that this is what you want. Click “OKAY” and your files will be securely deleted from your computer.

Museums Online

We’ve been known to take a virtual field trip or two in our school. We ceratinly can’t afford to go on all the real field trips we want and some are prohibitively far away. But the virtual kind are free and very close at hand. However, it isn’t always easy to find just the right one.

Well, this one web site might be the answer when it comes to museums. The Museum of Online Museums is a one-stop site to find links to some of the best art museums and galleries in the world. The links and collections are updated on a regular basis. And the site has been featured on NPR, in Time magazine, and in the New York Times. I didn’t stop to count just how many museums and galleries are listed…but I don’t think you’ll run out of places to visit anytime soon.

When possible, I love to give a shout out to people who share these great resources with me. In this case, this link was shared by Kathy Schrock, who never fails to have great resources.

Online Backups

We’ve all spent money on external hard drives, DVD’s, and various other storage devices in an attempt to backup our important information. (You DO back up, don’t you???) And we’ve all spent cash on various software applications that will automatically back up our data, preserve full and partial archives, alert us to errors when backing up, etc. And we’ve all spent those boring hours dragging and dropping files from one location to another and watching them copy to a duplicate location.

Time consuming. And not really inexpensive.

And now, with the price of online backup options become more prevalent, many of those older methods start to seem a bit dated. I admit, I get a bit nervous about relying soley on an online site for storing my important documents and the thousands of digital photos I’ve collected over the years. But I have slowly begun to use online services for bits and pieces of my data…even if I’m also backing up to an external drive on my desk.

So how do you choose? The options are growing quickly and the prices are dropping. There really seems to be no excuse for not incorporating online services as at least a part of your security plan. And the best simple chart I’ve seen that compares the features of many of the online backup services can be found on Wikipedia. There is also a nice listing of storage locations with their free options and their paid storage options at

Quick Fun with Math

Not everyone thinks of math as “fun” or “quick”…but it can be. Practicing doesn’t have to be long and boring. And is a web site geared to just that fact. From “easy” to “very hard”, pops up the questions for kids to type in the answer. Nothing tricky about it. No setup, no downloads, just go to their site and get in a little bit of practice.

One more great flashcard option…

Last week I shared five online flashcard sites that I really like. Mike, from The Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness blog, left a comment about Quizlet as one more great option. And he is right!

Quizlet’s motto – “Quizlet eats flashcards for breakfast!” – sums up the power of this site. Nearly 6,000 new sets of cards have been created just today! You can create your own sets. You can use sets created by others. You can share your sets. Quizlet offers five different modes for learning – familiarize mode, learning mode, test mode, scatter and space race. Each presents your cards in different ways to help you master the material. And it keeps track of your progress.

For your next test, give Quizlet a try!

Improve Learning with Flashcards

We all remember those lovely math flashcards our teachers used when we were kids. Maybe they still use them! However, my kids think about something completely different when I mention flashcards. Their experience at school and at home has been with online flashcards. And I have to agree, they are superior. You can create and modify a set of flashcards quickly and easily. You can share your deck of cards with others….and use their decks so you don’t even have to make your own. And often the software has other tools to help you learn what you need to know.

I’ve taken a look at some of the flashcard sites out there…and here are my five favorites….

Study Stack has a library of almost a million flashcards on hundreds of topics. You can find a stack and start studying. Or, you can find a stack and change it for your own needs…or create your own from scratch. And you have more than just flashcards. Study Stack will use each deck and allow you to review them as flash cards, play Hangman with them, do a crossword, an unscramble, and more.

Next up is cramberry. Again, you’ll find thousands of sets already made or you can create your own. And cramberry will create a study schedule for you by tracking your correct answers and guiding you toward the things you need to study more. You can also take the cards with you – either by printing and cutting them out, or by using the new iPhone app to work with your cards on your iPhone or your iPod Touch.

Third on the list is Flashcard Machine. With over 18 million cards on their site, you’ve got plenty to work with. Of course, you can always create your own. And Flashcard Machine has the option to use your cards in your iPod. But this site has a special enhancement for teachers. You can create pages for each of your classes so you can easily sort and manage cards appropriate for each of your classes.

Memorize is a somewhat unique site. It offers flashcards in their custom memorize format. You can choose between flashcard mode, matching mode, or multiple choice mode. You guess the answer in your head and then tell the site if you were right or wrong when given the correct answer. You also have options to memorize graphics such as maps and to memorize in paragraph format. When you finish, the site will send you an e-mail when you specify to prompt you to return and practice again.

Last up is CoboCards. This site allows you to create flashcards, just like the others. But it gives you more flexibility to upload graphics to your cards, use a formula writer, and to compare your current cards with previous versions of the same card. CoboCards is also unique in that you can create a deck of cards with a friend…you working from your computer and your friend working from theirs. This shared deck is created by both and studied by both. And CoboCards tracks your progress and your friend’s progress.

So whether you are a teacher making cards for your students, a student studying for a test, a professional preparing for an exam or licensing test, or just someone who really wants to learn more….these flashcard sites offer plenty of options for you!