The Many Uses of Shortening

by Jonathan Jacobsen Tuesday, September 20, 2016 9:42 AM

Shortening is a wonderful thing: in baking it makes pies and cakes light and fluffy, and on the web, it makes long, unwieldy URLs short and manageable. This blog post is all about the second usage, but we can think about the first as we read it.

You might wonder why you should care about short URLs. After all, isn't a long one like 

http://www.cjhn.ca/en/experience/image-galleries/gallery.aspx?q=dolls&name=&topic=&setName=&year_tis=&numbers=MA+15&onlineMediaType_facet=Image

a perfectly good URL?

Sure, your web browser will have no trouble with that and will access the web site and cause it to run the search specified by all those parameters.

But what if you want to share this URL via email or on Twitter, or post it to a blog or Facebook. That URL is 144 characters, so it's not going to fit in a tweet.

Long URLs are often wrapped to two or more lines in an email and sometimes this breaks the URL itself, resulting in a bad link.

And, as the Canadian Jewish Heritage Network discovered recently, posting long URLs with many parameters to Facebook is problematic. When posting the URL above, Facebook stripped out all the equals signs, leaving a non-functioning URL. Who knows why Facebook would do this, but happily, there’s an easy workaround for this, one that lends itself well to emailing and tweeting long URLs too: URL shortening services.

As Wikipedia tells us, "URL shortening is a technique on the World Wide Web in which a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) may be made substantially shorter and still direct to the required page. This is achieved by using a redirect, often on a domain name that is even shorter than the original one, which links to the web page that has a long URL."

In practice, this means that a long URL such as

http://www.cjhn.ca/en/experience/image-galleries/gallery.aspx?q=dolls&name=&topic=&setName=&year_tis=&numbers=MA+15&onlineMediaType_facet=Image

can be shortened to something like

These fit handily in Tweets, blog posts, emails and are not edited by Facebook when posting there.

You might now ask, is this the same as a permalink? Well, it is a link, and a short one, so it’s close, but there's no guarantee of permanence, as you're reliant on a third-party service to keep the redirect in place indefinitely. Although that may happen, it's probably better to think of these as short but disposable URLs, like a post-it note you stick on a desk or document pointing at something.

Some of the most common URL shortening services are: 

So when you next need to send or post a long URL, especially one with lots of parameters and query strings, give one of these a try.

How to open local files from DBTextWorks search results

by Jonathan Jacobsen Wednesday, September 02, 2015 2:26 PM

Suppose you have a field called FileLink in a database, and you have a collection of PDFs or similar documents on your network. And suppose you want to catalogue these, enter the name of the PDF in the FileLink field, and then in DB/TextWorks search results, have the file name appear as a link that you can click to open the file.

Here's how to do this:

1. Open your Display Form (the one used to show all records) or a Report Form (usually used for brief results) in the Form Designer.

2. Right click on the FileLink field (or add it first if it's not there) and select Box Properties.

3. Select the Format tab, then the Added Text subtab.

4. In the 'Beginning Text' field, enter '<file://' (without quotes) and just a closing angle bracket > in Ending Text, like this:

5. Apply your changes, save the form, and return to your database.

6. Create a new record and in the FileLink field, right click and choose Browse Files. Browse to the location of the file. For example, if the file is on a network server called DOCUMENTS, in a folder called Reports, browse to \\DOCUMENTS\Reports and select the document (e.g. \\DOCUMENTS\Reports\Report123.pdf).

7. When you now search the database and view the full record, the above data will appear with <file:// in front and a closing >, like this:

<file://\\DOCUMENTS\Reports\Report123.pdf>

as shown in the image below.

8. You should be able to click this and open the file (assuming you have a PDF reader app in this case).

As always, contact us for help doing this or making other changes to your DB/TextWorks databases.

Utilities to Simplify Common Tasks

by Denise Bonin Friday, October 07, 2011 11:35 AM

Do you find yourself in a rut – using the same old tools or even the same old hardware - over and over again and wondering if there is a better way to do that multi-step task?  Here is a list of a few utilties that we use regularly and that IMHO will change the way you work. 

Sending large files:

g_logo_trans_110x63We often ask our clients to send us large files. We can accept very large files via email attachment or if they are very, very large, we ask our clients to drop them onto our FTP site. However, the limitation for sending large files as email attachments is often at the client end. Have you ever noticed how those emails with largish file attachments (maybe only 2MB) never go out? YouSendIt provides an easy way to send files to us or to your friends or colleagues. Again, it is a web-based solution, which has some limitations in the no charge version, but even with that you can send one file – up to 50MB - at a time. No need to send that file via CD in the mail, any more. As soon as it is sent via YouSendIt, your intended recipient receives an email and clicks on a link to download it.

FTP Client:

FileZillaDo you have to need to access documents or upload documents to remote servers and are you finding that the security on those systems is tightening up more and more?  For most folks, you probably have a familiar old FTP program that have used for years, but these just don’t cut it anymore.  And if you use your Windows Explorer, you may find yourself locked out of certain systems too.  We recommend that you upgrade to one of the newer FTP clients that can handle these new secure systems.  There is certainly no need to purchase a package; there are plenty of open source packages that are excellent.  We recommend FileZilla.

Faxing:

FaxZeroLogoPerhaps you have created a document electronically and need to fax it to someone else, yes fax... I know, so yesterday, right? So you print it and locate the only fax machine in your building left and you dial the number, load the document, the right way up without it being slanted, press the Send button and hope that at the other end they get it without a long black strip through the middle. Well, I’m here to tell you that there is a better way, without leaving your desk. Well, some of you probably have this technology already in place, but for those who do not, here is a great site, that allows you to send the document over the web to a fax machine. The site is FaxZero.

More ideas…

Of course there are other alternatives to those mentioned above and you might want to check out sites like LifeHacker for reviews and recommendations. Send us some of your suggestions and we’ll test them.  We are always trying new stuff and we might even include them in our next newsletter or in a blog post.

Keyboard shortcut goodness: instantly size all columns in Windows Explorer!

by Ted Jardine Thursday, May 01, 2008 12:45 AM

Is just one shortcut worth a whole blog post? Yes.

I love keyboard shortcuts. I especially love it when I come across one that removes regular angst-causing silly stuff. One great silly-stuff-zapper shortcut is described in a post I just stumbled upon by James Blackwell.

A horrible thing about Vista: goofy things that happen in Windows Explorer. One of these Windows Explorer things in all versions of Windows, including Vista, is the way the views never show properly. in Vista, if you're lucky enough to have your Explorer window actually list files without thinking you're always in media mode (if you use Vista Ultimate or Vista Premium, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about), you're still never really fortunate enough to immediately see entire file names etc. as shown here: 

image

Press  Ctrl-+ (that's the Ctrl key along with the "+" key on the number pad) and voila:

image

All column names are sized as applicable in one fell swoop! Amazing! No more fumble-finger double-clicking on each column, which in Vista is even more fumblefingery than before.

Thank you Mr. James Blackwell. I don't know you, but you're a fine fellow (and yes, it was nice to first see "What Application Pool does this W3WP.EXE belong to").

UPDATE: As per one of the comments, yes this is still possible for a laptop. You just need to switch into numpad mode by holding down one more key usually called "Fn". And it's usually blue. Unless it's Denise's new laptop in which case it's probably red...because she likes it that way. So Ctrl-Fn-Shift-= makes it work on a laptop.

Tags: shortcuts | tips

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