7 Essential Back to College Applications

Well, at the University of Wyoming, courses are in full session. With that in mind, here are my recommendations for applications that I believe all students should have close at hand. These applications were chosen based on versatility and accessibility. All of these applications and Web programs can be reached from desktop computers as well as mobile devices. Personally, I would recommend loading the applications on all your devices so you can reach them from home, work, school, and on the road. Read more

How to Share a PDF to Facebook

The other day, one of the Extension educators asked me how to save a PDF to Facebook. She was planning to convert the PDF to JPG files and upload those. However, there are many other ways to get a PDF to Facebook. Most importantly, the PDF must be located on the Web. Here are the methods I am going to demonstrate:

Each of the sites listed above allows you to upload and share a file to the public. Read more

Tool Review: Handy Scanner

Handy Scanner
Handy Scanner

This is another tool review that is part of Jane Hart’s 10 Tool Challenge. While I do not use this tool on a daily basis, it is an important tool in my effort to go paperless. This tool is called Handy Scanner. This program simply lets me scan a document to PDF or JPG using my smartphone. The document can be multipage and the results can be forwarded to Dropbox, Evernote, Gmail, or any other program that you wish.

Handy Scanner is an Android application that costs approximately $4. For what it can do, I am pleased with the price.

With Handy Scanner, I have been able to capture receipts while on the road, scan documents at meetings and file them in Dropbox, and scan meeting notes and send them to Evernote.

Here are the steps for using Handy Scanner.

1. Start the program.

2. Select the camera button in the lower left corner.

Click on camera button.
Click on camera button.

3. Press the center blue button (1) for each page of your document, and then click on the check mark (2)  in the lower left corner.

Take picture for each page and then click done button.
Take picture for each page and then click done button.

4. Crop image (1) as appropriate, then click on the arrow (2) to move to next step.

Crop photo and move to next step.
Crop photo and move to next step.

5. Give the document a name and select OK.

Give document a name.
Give document a name.

6. Select the share icon when document is done processing.

Share document to other applications.
Share document to other applications.

I personally use Andmade Share Pro to get my document to all the places I need it to go. I can send a document to Dropbox, Evernote, and Gmail all at the same time.

Andmade Share Pro
Andmade Share Pro

Once I have a document in Evernote, I can then search through the document using Evernote‘s search feature.

Handy Scanner is a great little program that helps me be more productive. There are many other smartphone scanner  programs available. The most important concept to walk away with is the fact that you can scan with your phone and send it to the programs you want. It is a great marriage of technologies.

Adapting a new communication strategy in an established organization.

Last month, I took on the role of Chief of Staff for the Rocky Mountain Region (RMR) of the Civil Air Patrol. It has been busy while I get my feet under me in this new role. One of the areas, I felt we could immediately improve was in the area of communications and document handling.  With all organizational change, it will take time to make some of these changes. There are a number of people who have served in their roles for a long time and may be reluctant to adopt new methods. A couple of days ago, I sent a message to the entire staff recommending some methods for communication both internally and externally.  Here are those methods and my justifications:

Email – This will often be the primary means of communication especially when a record of the conversation is important. Unfortunately, the problem with email is that it is restricted between parties and some essential members may be left out of the loop of important conversations due to oversight or political intent. In an effort to ensure all members are at least accessible, members were asked to ensure that their correct email address is recorded on the RMR Roster.  This is important because there is not one central email domain for the staff; each member uses a personal email address or creates one specifically for their role. The roster is shared through Google Docs and requires permission to access it, so that we can control private information to a need to know basis.

Staff members are encouraged to contact their functional areas both above and below them. They should use at a minimum email to help address issues as well as pass on information.

Skype – Skype is a powerful tool for synchronous communications. With Skype, the unit and members can conduct conference calls for 24 people at no cost. With a paid subscription, the conference call can also include non-Skype users. I have been encouraging members to create a Skype account because of added functionality.  Skype also has an instant messaging capability that can be used one-on-one or in groups. During recent search missions, we have used Skype, specifically the chat feature to support mission staff operations. By creating a call group, members of the group text input into a common area that can archived as historical transcripts.

We are also including the Skype account as part of our RMR roster. Skype can be accessed at http://beta.skype.com/en/ Note: Skype is free. You do not need to pay for the premium version.

DropboxDropbox is a great tool for sharing large documents. It also helps with version control. Ideally, it is installed as a program on your computer, but it can also be accessed through the Web. With Dropbox, we are able to share documents across a team. Because the document is updated automatically, each member has access to the most current version. Presently, documents are typically shared through email, and it is difficult to maintain version control.

During a recent search mission that spanned two states, the mission staff was able to share Google Earth KMZ files rapidly between mission bases and staff members. This made it easy to keep everyone abreast of changes to the mission and search status.

Again, Dropbox accounts are noted on the RMR roster. Dropbox can be accessed at https://www.dropbox.com/ Note: Dropbox is free. You do not need to pay for the premium version.

Google Docs (AKA Google Drive) – Google Docs is a great tool for collaborating on documents as well as sharing final results on the Web. It also helps with version control. Google Docs is accessed through the Web, and you can control access to documents; this access can be from a public setting to only specific people. Google Drive is where you can access all the documents shared with you.

The most powerful aspect of this tool, in my opinion, is the collaboration feature. By using a Google document, a team can edit a document all at the same time. For example, instead of distributing a meeting agenda, the meeting agenda is created in Google Docs, and participants can add to it prior to the meeting and as the meeting is in progress. The agenda then easily moves from agenda status to minute status.

As with other tools preferred Google Docs accounts are added to the RMR roster. Google Docs can be accessed at https://drive.google.com/ Note: Google Docs is free.

Calendar – The calendar will note events and deadlines as we are aware of them. We are using a Google Calendar to record events. Not only is the calendar available to the public, but it can be embedded into our Web pages as needed. Also, individuals can subscribe to the calendar and can display this calendar along with their personal calendar. Staff members and the wing commanders are encouraged to submit events to be placed on the calendar. The calendar can be accessed at the following URL in the event you wish to subscribe to it. https://www.google.com/calendar/embed?src=3jk96su67rb51lidmlckj40o2c%40group.calendar.google.com&ctz=America/Los_Angeles

Operations Bulletin – The Ops Bulletin is designed to be a communication tool to help remind unit commanders of upcoming requirements or scheduled events. I will be asking staff members for input on the 20th of each month, with a deadline of the 25th of the month. The input can be upcoming events, tips for the specific functional area, alerts to reg changes, trends in CIs and Air Force Evals, etc. Here is an example of the recent Ops Bulletin, November 2012.

Facebook – Facebook is a tool to highlight the good things that are happening across the region. It also can be used to generate buzz about upcoming events, as well as post topical items for extra emphasis. Our Facebook fan page can be found at http://www.facebook.com/RMRCAP.

Ideally, I would like functional areas to be able to post appropriate content to this page; however, I realize that not everyone is comfortable with Facebook. If individuals are not comfortable posting to Facebook, they are encourages to submit input through Major Nash, the Director of Public Affairs or send it directly to me.

Website – The Website is primarily for static or infrequent updated information to be shared with the public. I am working to bring it up to date. Ideally, it will be a place where we can share beneficial tools, documents, checklists, etc for region wide use. Our current site can be found at http://rmrcap.org/

Within the first month of taking on this role, these are the methods of communication that we will be using as a start. I am interested to hear about other methods or strategies to run an organization dispersed over a large geographical area with varying degrees of technology and technology literacy.

How to scan docs as a PDF to Dropbox or Evernote with your Smartphone

Earlier today, I encountered a problem, and my smartphone (Android) came to the rescue. I needed to send out an application but I failed to scan it and file it before I left home. As I mentioned, my smartphone helped me solve this problem.

Basically, I used Handy Scanner to scan the application to a PDF document. Handy Scanner is a free application that converts documents to PDF. Handy Scanner allows you to scan multiple pages to a single document. With this application, you can also scan documents to a JPEG files.

Once I finished scanning the document, I then sent it to Dropbox. To send the document to DropBox, I use Andmade Share Pro. Andmade Share Pro allows you to send a document to multiple applications at the same time. I have personally been very pleased with this program. In Dropbox, I was able to select the exact folder where I wished to place the file.

The simple fact I could do this without going back to my home scanner saved me a considerable amount of time. The convenience of being able to do this anywhere has made my life easier.

I would like to add that if you send the PDF to Evernote, you will be able to search the text of the PDF. Evernote does a fantastic job of making text searchable on images and PDFs. Imagine going to the library for research and taking PDF scans of books and articles with the ability to search through them at a later date.

Setting up a couple of Dropbox folders to do your bidding

GearsI just wanted to put a shout out for the two new features I incorporated on my Dropbox: automatic printing and automatic upload to Evernote. In other blog posts, I talked about these upgrades to my operations. In this post, I want to let you know how great it has been.

A couple of weeks back, I set up remote printing with Dropbox. Basically, I created a folder in Dropbox called print queue and installed a script to check this folder for new updates and print them. It has worked like a champ. By simply copying documents to this folder, they are waiting for me on my printer when I get home. This has been especially useful when I am on the road, and I need to print something for my wife. All she has to do is pick it up off the printer. I also use it when I am doing research for my dissertation. I drop a journal article in the folder, and it is ready for my review when I get home.

If you were working on a team or through a central office, you could set up a shared Dropbox folder just for printing. When you dropped something in the folder, it would print at the office computer that was set up to run the script.

The other feature I installed was the capability to send documents to Evernote. When I drop a file into this folder, it is automatically uploaded to Evernote where I can squirrel it away. These are typically for files I want to be able to do referral to on a regular basis.  Here are the steps for connecting your Dropbox folder to Evernote:

  1. Create a folder in Dropbox. I personally call mine, Evernote.
  2. In Evernote, access the Tools menu and then click on Import Folders.
  3. Add the folder that you wish to watch, and decide upon the setting. I personally delete the files once they have been uploaded.

While working my way to a “Zero Inbox,” I uploaded 40 PDF documents with no problems. If I had to do this one file at a time, it would have taken a lot more time and effort. This was time I could devote to other tasks.

Right now I am exploring the Wappwolf Dropbox Automator. This will allow you to do the following:

  • Convert document to PDF
  • Convert PDF to TXT
  • Upload document to Google Drive
  • Print via Google Cloud Print
  • Send document to Kindle
  • Upload document to Slideshare
  • Electronically sign PDF
  • Convert document to ebook.

I am excited about the possibilities. How are you using Dropbox for more efficiency?