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New Tools on the Web (July 01, 2006)


July 1, 2006
By Pulp & Paper Canada

As soon as you discover a useful website or tool on the web, it changes, moves or disappears altogether. However, some tools are more persistent than others. Here are a few new tools that you might ge…

As soon as you discover a useful website or tool on the web, it changes, moves or disappears altogether. However, some tools are more persistent than others. Here are a few new tools that you might get some use from before they disappear.

The biggest mover and innovator on the web currently is Google. Originally just a search engine, they have become far more, providing a host of services and tools. A quick look at their ‘More’ page shows a total of 25 services and tools. Many of these are free — just remember ‘tanstaafl’ (there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch) which translates as somehow, somebody pays. One example: the ads that appear whenever you do a search on Google. They are from companies that pay Google to place them on a results page when the user looks for something relevant to their product.

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Google Earth

One of the most amazing tools is Google Earth, a truly impressive depiction of the globe as seen from space. It permits you to view (almost) any area in the world from any height ranging from orbit down to a few hundred metres, allowing you to pick out small details such as cars. In popular areas, the view is clear even below 100m, allowing you to identify people. Besides the ‘wow’ factor, what can this be used for? I have used it to find directions, allowing me actually to see the areas through which I will be travelling. I viewed a mill at which I will be working to see the layout of buildings and effluent ponds, affording me a better concept of their positioning. One limitation is that the information is old, by varying degrees – one area might be fairly recent, while a nearby area might be up to three years old.

Language tools

Translation tools are available from several sites, though my favourite is, again, Google’s. Some of the information that I find on the web is in another language. Google will offer to translate this for you automatically, if you do your search with them, with a link labelled “Translate this page” after the main link. Also, you can cut and paste text into their language translator. As it is a computer-generated translation, there will be some inaccuracies but it will provide the sense of the text for you. A weakness is the translation of technical terms specific to our industry – for this I recommend (shameless plug) the PAPTAC Bleaching Committee’s French language “Glossary of Bleaching Terms.” It has a truly excellent table of terms in French with their English equivalents, and is available from PAPTAC.

Tailored for you

One more Google tool: Alerts. This is a tool that will continuously search for news articles or web postings on a particular topic chosen by you. It is an automated web search that sends a summary of the results to your email address according to keywords you specify. According to the schedule you set, you will receive emails on your alert topics. The email will give a relevant excerpt for your keywords, with a link to the main article. So if you wish to keep track of news on customers, suppliers, markets or any other topic that might appear in the news or on the web, it is easy to set up an alert.

Another useful tool is online file storage. Although there may be a concern with security of the data in long-term storage, it is still a useful tool. Imagine you have a presentation with several detailed photos, graphs and diagrams. Such a file can easily ‘blossom’ into 10, 20 or even 30Mb. This might be too large to email, too slow to burn a CD and send via conventional mail. However, if you post it in your online storage and allow the recipient temporary access, the only delay is the length of time required for you to upload and him to download; an easy work-around for the 5Mb limit on most email accounts. Of course, the same is true in reverse, allowing you to receive oversize files. These storage accounts are available for free in small sizes – generally up to about 50Mb. However, for larger needs, accounts in the tens of gigabytes are available.

Setting up an Office

If you need clipart, a special format or a template for Word, Excel or PowerPoint, check out Microsoft Office Online. This site has a host of templates for almost any conceivable use: project management, accounting, scheduling, calendars, organization charts, planning diagrams and hundreds more. Why try to plan and lay out a form when there are professionally designed forms readily available for the download? The website is well organized into classifications denoting their use (business, legal, planners, etc), or by program (Word, Excel, PowerPoint). Navigation is fast and easy.

There are dictionaries (Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster Online), encyclopaedias (Wikipedia for free, several others on a subscription basis), atlases (Natural Resources Canada’s site is amazing), converters and references for any conceivable use.

As for myself, I am a great supporter of libraries for their reference resources, but I have to admit that my use of any hard-copy reference books has become almost non-existent. The web is becoming the one stop for all reference materials, with even the major reference works available online.

If you have anything to add or would like to suggest another topic, please contact the author. Dan Davies is the application manager at Degussa Canada in bleaching and water chemicals. He can be reached at dan.davies@shaw.com


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