Ultra-Cool Cyber Tools

By Schneider, Karen G. | American Libraries, August 1998 | Go to article overview

Ultra-Cool Cyber Tools


Schneider, Karen G., American Libraries


You may think catalog cards are a thing of the past. However, when I put out an online call for favorite digital tools, no fewer than three people wrote to tell me the wonderful ways these anachronisms can be put to use. Christine Drew, coordinator of library user services at St. Norbert College Library in De Pere, Wisconsin, says that a catalog card is her "favorite tool for getting those itty-bitty jammed bits of paper out of the laser printer!"

Judy E. Myers, assistant to the dean of libraries at the University of Houston, told me that two catalog cards can be used to retrieve CDs from 5.25-inch drives: "Slip one above the disc and one below, and bend the two cards a bit to grip the disc while you ease it out." I guess that's one anachronism bailing out another....

Web-writing wonders

Beyond the joys of ancient technologies, HTML editors were the next-most-popular tool among my respondees.

Web-writing aficionados fall into two camps: the ardent minority who prefer tagging editors, where they can see the code they are editing, and the vast majority who like the totally "WYSIWYG" (What You See Is What You Get) editors.

If you remember Wordperfect 5.1, which allowed you to turn on "reveal codes" to peek under the hood at the invisible commands formatting the wordprocessing document, you know what a tagging editor is like. (Most of these editors also allow you to display the code through a browser.) Even more important from an accessibility perspective, tagging editors give writers a lot of control over how the page is constructed -- an issue cited by several librarians.

Anne Prestamo, reference librarian at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, says HotDog "lets the user specify what version of the HTML standard they wish to conform to" -- a point echoed by Amy Helfman, Judaica librarian at Hebrew Union College in New York City, who cited the need to write her pages from a ". conservative" perspective so the vast majority of browsers could display what she writes. (The World Wide Web Consortium has written accessibility guidelines, and online tools such as Bobby can help you check your code.)

Arachnophilia and Brooklyn North's HTML Assistant (the demoware version) are two favorite free tagging editors, while Hot Dog Pro and Homesite received votes as low-cost, high-quality tools. Walter Minkel of Multnomah County Library in Portland, Oregon, loves Arachnophilia's ease of use (great for training staff), while fans of HTML Assistant appreciate how it speeds up the tagging process.

Both Hot Dog and Homesite support style sheets, the tools in HTML 4.0 that allow application of consistent style across Web sites. I like the way Homesite completes tags that I've started (great for librarians doing six things at once out on a public desk with a jangling phone) and includes a built-in validation tool for checking the accuracy of the code. …

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