Thoughtful, detailed coverage of the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, plus the best-selling Take Control ebooks.

 

 

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Shorten URLs in TextExpander

If your Twitter client doesn't automatically shorten URLs for you, you can use TextExpander to shrink those long links to tweetable lengths. First, add the Internet Productivity group by choosing File > Add Predefined Group > Internet Productivity Snippets. Then, to shorten a URL using a service like TinyURL, copy the destination URL to the clipboard, and type the abbreviation /tinyurl to insert the shortened URL at the insertion point.

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Display TidBITS Headlines on Your Site

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While taking a break from writing about iPhoto 7 the other day, I ran across the Widgetbox site, which helps people create and share widgets, mini applications that display headlines, show photos, run countdown timers, and more. The point of widgets is that they're easy to add to blogs and other Web sites to make pages more useful, more timely, more interesting, or just more fun.

So I created a TidBITS headline widget that pulls the latest headlines from our RSS feed and lets users click headlines to read the associated article on our site. The widget is somewhat configurable, so anyone who installs it can pick a wide or narrow view, a color scheme, and whether it displays just headlines or headlines plus a snippet from the top of each article. Take a look at it in the context of our Web site, where I was able to install it by merely creating a page with a tiny piece of JavaScript code provided by Widgetbox. As you can see at Peter Cohen's Tikkabik blog, it can have rather different looks based on user-specified settings.

What's particularly neat is that at the bottom of the widget is a Get Widget button that, when clicked, makes it easy for any reader to get the JavaScript code or add the widget to blogs hosted in TypePad and Blogger, Facebook and MySpace profiles, and other services like Netvibes, Pageflakes, iGoogle, and Google Reader. One tip: if you want to change the look of the widget, click the Customize Widget link and do so before adding it to a blog, profile or Web page.

Give it a try, and if you install it, let me know the link to your site so I can check it out and see what else you're doing there. The more people who install it, the more people will read TidBITS and the closer we'll be to world peace. Or something like that. And if you like the TidBITS headline widget, Widgetbox has 25,000 more free widgets you can try.

 

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