Monday, October 29, 2007

The Internet - Not Just for Goofing Off Anymore

According to our web server logs, about 15% of the people visiting the Vol State web site are using Firefox. I won't go into all the details but as the web master here at Volunteer State Community College, that's good news for me.

One thing I really like about Firefox is all the extensions available. Some of them just look cool while others add stuff like instant messaging to your browser. Just remember, the more stuff you add to Firefox, the more resources it will need from your computer and the more sluggish it will get. So try to keep your extensions paired down to what you really need and from time to time clean out anything you notice yourself not using any more.

Some extensions can boost your productivity as a college student. I've personally been happy with Zotero, an extension for managing notes and citations when writing papers for class. Most teachers frown on citing online sources, and for good reasons. Most of the time citing a web page is a bad idea (with a few notable exceptions). Luckily, Zotero can handle dead tree based media as well as it can digital sources. Just pull up the book you want to cite on a site like Amazon.com or The Library of Congress Catalog Online and add it to your virtual library.

When you're done with your paper, you can publish a bibliography/works cited page directly from Zotero. Just keep in mind you'll still want to double check and edit the page before you turn it in. Saving time is great, losing a full letter grade on a paper because Zotero defaults to MLA style and your teacher wants APA style is not so great. And yes, I'm speaking from experience.

If you're already using Firefox, you can download the Zotero extension from their website. If you think you might want to try out both Firefox and Zotero, Firefox Campus Edition has it already built in.

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