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Top 10 Greasemonkey scripts to improve your productivity

Top 10 Greasemonkey scripts to improve your productivity
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    Two weeks ago we covered the top 10 Firefox extensions to improve your productivity. Similarly, the powerful Greasemonkey extension (with the help of Stylish) can do wonders for your productivity, as well. You can accomplish many of the tasks that the Greasemonkey scripts below can do with various Firefox extensions. However, if you prefer to keep your list of extensions short (and to help conserve your computer memory) then give these scripts a try and watch your productivity soar! The following are 10 Greasemonkey scripts that are bound to improve your productivity and web browsing experience.

    If you’re unfamiliar with the Greasemonkey Firefox extension, here is the somewhat techy definition from Wikipedia:

    Greasemonkey is a Mozilla Firefox extension that allows users to install scripts that make on-the-fly changes to specific web pages. As the Greasemonkey scripts are persistent, the changes made to the web pages are executed every time the page is opened, making them effectively permanent for the user running the script.

    The first step is to install Greasemonkey like any other extension. For the purpose of this tutorial, also install Stylish exactly the same way you installed Greasemonkey. I have directly linked to the 10 Greasemonkey scripts below, so after you install Greasemonkey, all you need to do is click the links and the script will be installed.

    1. Gmail Conversation Preview

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      Gmail Conversation Preview lets you right click on your messages in Gmail and see a preview of the message. Furthermore, Gmail Conversation Preview allows you to mark your email message as unread, archive, or delete exactly as if you had the email message open. Using this script will reduce the amount of time it takes to get through your email tremendously.

      2. Stylish + Adblocking per Gozer
      This script was introduced two weeks ago in my list of Firefox extensions. Adblocker is extremely accurate and will block all Google Adsense and many other various advertisements on any site throughout the web. With the amount of distractions cut out, your can get some serious work done.

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      3. Google Reader + Gmail

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        If you use both the Gmail and the Google Reader suite of applications, you can integrate Google Reader into Gmail so that you can read your feeds right in your Gmail window. Google Reader + Gmail tucks your Google Reader feeds right into Gmail allowing you to read your favorite feeds without leaving your email.

        4. Invisibility cloak
        When you really need to hunker down and get some work done, the best alternative is to completely block those time wasting sites. To explain, you can create a list of the sites you find yourself sucked to, and schedule them to be blocked until after a certain time. For example if you keep getting sucked to Lifehack.org, or Digg.com, you can ban these sites until after 5pm. Lifehacker’s Gina Trapani wrote the Invisibility Cloak script and it blocks flickr.com and metafilter.com by default. If you want to add your own favorite time-sucking sites, right click the Greasemonkey logo in the bottom right corner of Firefox, choose “Manage User Scripts…” and add your Web sites to the list. The script is totally customizable and great for your productivity if you don’t mind going cold turkey on some of your favorite sites.

        5. Gmail Macros

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          “This excellent script extends the built-in Gmail keyboard shortcuts to let you mark an email as read, star it, move it, send it to the trash and a host of other added functionality” all with a couple quick key strokes. In order to see a list of all the keyboard shortcuts added by this script, open up Gmail and type ‘?’ and you will get an expanded view of the window I have shown.

          6. Google Image Relinker
          The Google Image relinking script redirects your Google Image search results directly to the full sized image so that you no longer have to click through the originating site to get to the full-sized image.

          7. Gmail Persistent Searches.

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            If you find that you are consistently searching Gmail for the same type of content, a persistent search would be for you. With this Greasemonkey script, you can create one-click searches of all of your email.

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            8. Add a second inbox to your Gmail account.
            If you’re sick and tired of fighting with your significant other about whose Gmail account is signed in, or if you manage more than one email account, rather than forwarding all your email to one account, with this Greasemonkey script you can add a second button to your Gmail account and quickly flip between two accounts. In order to use this script, you have to edit the .js file to include your second email account.

            9. RSS Quick Subscribe

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              If you use Google Reader, RSS Quick subscribe will show you links to the RSS feeds in the top right corner. Give the links a quick click and you will seamlessly be subcribed via Google Reader

              10. Gmail Attachment Reminder

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                Ever use the line “I have attached so and so” and then forget to actually attach the document? Of course you have, everybody has! However, with the attachment reminder, you will never forget again. If you use the words “attach” or “attached” and there is no attachment, the script will ask if you forgot the attachment. This script has come in handy for me tons of times!

                I know I must have missed tons of productivity-enhancing Greasemonkey scripts. Which of the above mentioned scripts can’t you live without? Please share your favorite Greasemonkey scripts in the comments.

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                Last Updated on September 18, 2019

                How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

                How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

                Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

                I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

                One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

                Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

                The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

                And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

                What to Write Down

                Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

                Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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                Dates of Events

                Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

                For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

                Names of People

                Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

                Theories or Frameworks

                Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

                Definitions

                Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

                Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

                Arguments and Debates

                Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

                This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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                Images

                Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

                Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

                Other Stuff

                Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

                I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

                Your Own Questions

                Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

                3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

                You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

                1. Outlining

                Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

                Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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                For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

                2. Mind-Mapping

                For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

                Here’s the idea:

                In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

                The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

                If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

                You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

                3. The Cornell System

                The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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                About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

                You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

                In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

                You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

                The Bottom Line

                I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

                I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

                More About Note-Taking

                Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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