Weava: best tool for online research (and offline pdfs)?

I just discovered this tool called Weava that helps you annotate websites and pdfs and collect the snippets that you highlighted on various pages. I have hardly tried it yet but thought I’d briefly mention it here because what I have seen so far looks really exciting. It’s pretty much what I’ve been looking for since years.

As you know, it is easy to discover ever new things or snippets of information on the web (including on the websites of academic journals where you went for one article but end up finding three others). What happens is that I end up having about 356 open tabs in my browser because I don’t want to loose whatever I just found but I don’t have time to look at it more closely now. Yes, that’s what bookmarks are for. But bookmarks only save the link to the whole page. With Weava, you save the snippet of information that is relevant on that page.

Anyway, I don’t want to convince anyone. That bookmarking use case is not even the primary use case for which the app was designed. They started off wanting to help students do research online as well as – perhaps more importantly – systematically read and annotate pdfs, perhaps even collaboratively. And then they noticed that not only students are using it…

To really answer the question in the title, some more research needs to be done, because, of course, Weava is not alone. Here is a list of Weava alternatives that probably should be part of a comparison:

I’ll stop here because the list could be continued almost indefinitely. So what do you do when there is such a large number of similar services to compare? I don’t have time to look at them all (but see here for a previous little review I did). So in those situations I try to find open source or at least non-profit projects that seem to be active and promising. And in this case, these would be Zotero with Zotfile and hypothes.is.

If you have some experience with any of these, please share it, even if it’s only a brief “why I like it” or “why I don’t like it”.


Problems importing Facebook posts with NCapture into NVivo10?

I just want to mention this quickly, since I found it rather difficult to find this information on the web: if you are having trouble importing posts from facebook  into NVivo10, this is probably because you are trying to capture your newsstream. In that case you will only get the option to import the webpage as a pdf, but not as a dataset.

What’s the solution? Well, the “solution” is simply that  “NCapture does not capture posts from your News Feed—you need to navigate to wall posts for a User, Page or Group.” This is what it says in the NVivo help. There you go.

NVivo 10 is out!

In case you haven’t noticed yet: the latest version of NVivo is out. And guess what? It’s version 10! According to QSRInternational, we can expect some significant progress from this version, both in terms of usability and features: According to their announcement, NVivo now…

  • … captures and works with web pages and online PDFs [That’s what I’ve long been waiting for!]
  • … imports Facebook posts, LinkedIn discussions and tweets from Twitter [not so relevant for my work, but interesting feature, for people doing “netnograpgy”]
  • … automatically codes social media data quickly and easily visualizes the results
  • … works with content like memos, photos and web clips from Evernote [Now that is… wow!]
  • … is even more user-friendly and efficient to use [Blah. OK, could have left that one out…]
  • Handles 150% more data than NVivo 9 [That refers to the larger File Size that your NVivo project can have, something for people with many interview recordings or videos]
  • Performs 50% faster than NVivo 9 [Now if it’s true this one should be listed first! So considering just how slooooow NVivo 9 was, let’s see how much less slow “50% faster” is…]

I have not had the time to look into the new version so I have to leave it at that for today. But please  comment below if you have tried it and let us know what you think!

Problems with Winedt 7 and Adobe Acrobat?

I just spent a while trying to solve this problem: the latest version of WinEdt (v7) seems to be unable to close the pdf document that it is working on and therefore can’t compile a new version of it (because Adobe Acrobat is blocking access to the file). I keep getting an error message saying “Cannot Open DDE Link to: “C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Acrobat9.0\Acrobat\Acrobat.exe” Service: AcroviewA10 …” (see screenshot below).

Some posts (can’t find it anymore) suggest that this is not so much a problem of WinEdt but of Adobe constantly changing the interface of their pdf software. Whoever is to blame: I could not find a solution that works with WinEdt 7. Regardless of some people stating that the solution is the same for any version of WinEdt, the idea of  replacing DDE Service Acroview with AcroviewR10 (Acrobat Reader) or AcroviewA10 (Adobe Acrobat) in “PDFCloseDoc.edt” (that’s what the file is called in WinEdt 7) does not work (for me).

So what’s the solution? It’s more a workaround than a solution: don’t use an Adobe product as your pdf viewer when working with WinEdt. You can keep Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader and use it as you like, but don’t have it as your pdf Viewer in WinEdt. Use Sumatra pdf instead. WinEdt works fine with it and you no longer need to close your pdf-document manually everytime you compile your LaTeX text.

How do you change the settings in WinEdt? – Go to

Options -> Execution Modes -> PDF Viewer

and change the path to the “PDF Viewer Executable” to wherever you installed SumatraPDF (in my case, it is “C:\Program Files (x86)\SumatraPDF\SumatraPDF.exe” because I have a 64bit version of Windows). Voilà!

Turn a double-page pdf into single pages using briss

Wow! I just discovered a little tool that does exactly what I’ve been looking for since ages. I’m sure you’ve also wondered about this after having scanned a book or book chapter: how can I cut those scanned double pages down the middle and make two pages out of it (because it is two pages in the book)? And, of course, you want to do it automatically. If you’re using Adobe Acrobat, you might expect that this rather expensive software has that function built in, but you will find: it hasn’t.

But thanks to Gerhard Aigner, you wont have to worry about this any more because he created Briss, a  cross-platform (Linux, Windows, Mac) java-application for cropping .pdf-files. Oh, and did I mention that it is freeware? You just open your pdf file, position the rectangles according to the position of the pages in the book and select “crop pdf”.

My only criticism (or suggestion for improvement) would be the following: while the program allows you to copy cropping frames across different sections of the document, it does apparently not allow you to copy the frame for the odd pages and use it for the even pages. So if you want to have odd and even pages in the same size and format, you need to draw your even-pages-frame on top of your odd-pages-frame to make sure they are the same size (only visual judgement!) and then drag it over to the even page. It’s feasible but a bit cumbersome. Or well, actually, it can be almost infeasible at times, namely when your frame as exactly the height of the page, because the the size of a frame changes if you move it across the edges of the page and since you will hardly be able to move your mouse 100 percent horizontally, the frame will get smaller as you drag it.

Oh, and drag’n’drop would be nice: i.e. the possibility to drag your pdf into briss directly from Windows Explorer. And an option “First page last”. The latter would facilitate scanning of brochures and booklets because in those the first scanned page will contain the front cover and the back cover.

Another think to be aware of is that the briss (just like Adobe Acrobat) apparently does not delete the parts of the pdf that are “cut off” but just makes them invisible. At least that’s what I gather from a comment by user “Viking2ev” on sourceforge. But that’s only a problem if you want to get rid of confidential information.

Oh, and irrespective of briss, during scanning, you need to watch that your book in the same position on the scanner for every double page. Otherwise you might have to do several runs with briss and then merge the files back into one with Acrobat or so.

Having said all that, I still think that briss is an excellent tool for scholars to use. Just go and try it out.

[UPDATE: I just found a very similar program that seems to be more flexible to use: It’s called Scan Tailor, it’s also Freeware and it seems to be maintained better as the last update is from May 2012 while Briss hasn’t been updated since July 2011). The only (big!) problem is that it is apparently unable to read .pdf-files. So your scans have to be in supported files types are .tif, .tiff, .png, .jpg, .jpeg … So if that is okay for you, try both and tell us what you think about them in the comments below!]

Prezi now imports your old PowerPoint slides

Just wanted to mention that Prezi now lets you easily import powerpoint slides .ppt or .pptx-files). Look here.

Are you wondering what on earth is Prezi??? Well, its a website tool that helps you create animated presentations. And the good thing about “animated” is that there is no flying words or bouncing letters distracting your audience from what you are trying to say. None of that junk that we still have to bear in various PowerPoint presentations! The only thing that’s animanted in Prezi is the ‘camera’ that smoothely glides over your desktop as you move from one topic to the next and zooming in when you go into details.

The point is that you can convey a visual image of how the different parts of your presentation are related to each other. So you don’t need to actually say it. Well, I won’t go on explaining it more. Look at their website and you will understand. There is a free plan for everyone, but it doesn’t allow you to make your prezi private. If you are a student or teacher, you can get and edu account which gives you that privacy (and some extra space).

Oh, so what do I think about it? Well, it’s great, but although they improved the interface over the years, there are still some bugs and glitches. Or maybe I should say: by improving the interface with new features, they have also introduced new problems.For example, there is this strange behaviour that an element that you have moved from position A to B will suddenly show up back at A. Or you changed the size of a frame and it suddenly jumps back. Or: there seems to be no way of duplicating a view in your path to reuse it at a later point. These little things are annoying but hey: maybe they are all gone by the time you read this? [UPDATE: The issue of elements flipping back into their original size/paosition seems to happen only with the ones that you have not created yourself, i.e. the ones you find in templates. So if you chose to use one of the pre-designed templates (can make life easier), be prepared to delete some elements and add them again manually in order to be able to change them.]

My other warning is: in all the excitement over this great new way of doing presentations, don’t overdo it. Otherwise you end up with the same effect as with the flying words and swirling pictures in PowerPoint, i.e. people will be distracted and annoyed. Believe me, the very fact that you are using Prezi will will catch people’s attention more than it should. That’s why I decided not to use it for my test presentation when I applied for my current job. Sometimes some conservatism in the form of the presentation helps you get across the inovativeness of your ideas.