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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 August 20, 2019

                Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

                Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

                Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

                This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

                The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

                Curiosity

                Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

                People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

                Patience

                Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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                When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

                Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

                A Feeling for Connectedness

                This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

                A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

                The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

                With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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                1. Research

                Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

                Learning the Basics

                Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

                Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

                What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

                Hitting the Books

                Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

                Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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                Long-Term Reference

                While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

                My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

                2. Practice

                Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

                A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

                Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

                3. Network

                One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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                These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

                Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

                4. Schedule

                For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

                Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

                Final Thoughts

                In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

                If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

                At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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                Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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