Monday, October 20, 2008

Research Tools - Didn't You Know?

"How'd you do that?" 

I probably hear that question ten times a week and am a little surprised that folks don't already use the same tools themselves. 

You may not be using these tools in your own ancestral research, documentation and presentations but you should give them a try.  I think you'll like them.

  • Irfanview.  Other than Legacy, I use this tool more than any other.  Crop, resize, resample, tweak, massage and save your images in 22 formats with Irfanview.  Get it.  Get the plugin's too.  It's fast to load, easy to use and its free.
  • FastStone Image Viewer.  Whenever I'm working on my large collections of images, I launch FastStone.  A catalog of thumbnails is created for each directory as soon as I click on it.  The interface is a little different in that you point to each of the four edges of your screen to see the popup controls.  It is amazingly powerful.  After a day of taking photos of headstones, I immediately download them and get busy cropping and tweaking them with FastStone to post on my websites or on Find-a-grave.   Try it.  You'll love it and you won't believe it is free.
  • Skype.  Whenever I want to actually talk, text and even see my cousins and friends around the world, I launch Skype.  "Hey John.  Remember that Will we were trying to find?  I found it!.  (The expression on his face is real time.  You have to love seeing it and hearing his Ozzy "Hey mate!").  Get ready, I'll transfer it to you now."  Yep, that all happened inside of Skype.  Free.
  • Transcript.  If you go crazy transcribing all the wills, land records, letters, census records and other images like I did, you need Transcript.  Open the image in the top frame and use the word processor in the bottom frame and type what you see.  Zoom in, grayscale, inverse, rotate and otherwise tweak the image so you can see the writing better.  You never have to rotate through windows and try to remember what you've just seen.  Just move your eyes up and down a little and keep typing.  Free
  • Print What You See.  Do you ever want to print excerpts from web pages but end up having to copy, paste, reformat, etc., to do it?  There is no need with Print What You See.  Just go to the Print What You See web site, type in the URL of the page that has the information you want and click on Go.  Select one paragraph, two, ten.  With photos, without. You choose.  Forget the ads.  Forget the stuff you don't want.  Use the buttons on the left side to control the output.  Click on "Isolate Selected" and then on "Print".  Nice.  Free.
  • Evernote.  Do you constantly find information on web sites that you want to save and remember?  Do you want it available to you on any computer connected to the web?  Create a free account on Evernote.   Create a snapshot, clip whatever you want, drag and drop it, email it if you want.  Do you have receipts, seminar handouts and documents that you also want at your fingertips?  Just scan them and drag them to your Evernote account.  Now your file cabinet goes with you even on your web enabled phone.  If you want to see them on your desktop, just click on your Evernote icon and search away.  Everything stays synchronized.
  • Footnote.  Want to store and share your family photos, documents, stories and histories with others?  Create a free account or subscribe to Footnote and post, annotate, create Story and Footnote pages and spotlight away.

Do you have favorite utilities and tools that you use in your research?  Post a comment or drop me a note so they can be shared with others.