22 posts categorized "The TGB Elder Geek"

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Making Links

EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

It's easy to make a link in a blog post on your own blog. You just click the little chain link icon and put the URL in the box that opens up for the link information. The question of the day is, how do you do make a link in a comment on someone else's blog?

When you comment, there's no little chain link icon to guide you through making a link. You can still do it using an HTML tag. Most blog comment forms, such as the comments form on Time Goes By, will accept a few HTML tags. One of those commonly acceptable tags makes a link.

First let's define a couple of terms. The HTML tag that creates a link is the A tag. In HTML, A means anchor. A link tag is actually an anchor tag. Bad nomenclature choice, in my opinion, but I didn't make the rules. That's why most people call it a link, even though it's really an anchor!

The A tag needs an attribute that tells what the link connects to. That attribute is HREF. In HTML, HREF stands for Hypertext REFerence. In other words, the place you end up when you click the link.

You probably guessed already what information goes in the HREF part of a link, because you do it in blog posts when you put the URL for a link into a link box. That's right, the HREF gives the URL.

A few more preliminary geeky details.

  • HTML tags are enclosed in brackets like these: < >. Those brackets are above the comma and period keys on your keyboard.

  • An HTML tag needs to be opened and closed. It has to be started and stopped. In the case of links, it tells where the link starts and where the link stops.

  • The actual information about an attribute (remember our link attribute is HREF) goes in quotation marks after an equals sign.

  • Put a space between the tag name and the attribute.

Example Time
I'll make a link to my blog. If I left a comment here and I wanted you to click a link to some article on my blog, here's how I'd do it. For my example link, I want the part you click to say the name of my blog: Web Teacher. The URL of my blog is http://www.webteacher.ws.

First, I type the opening part, the start of the link. It looks like this:

<a href="http://www.webteacher.ws">

That gives the A tag and the HREF attribute with the equals sign and the URL in quotation marks. Notice that there is a space between the A and the HREF attribute. That's the only blank space. Everything is inside brackets.

But wait, I'm not finished. Next I need to type the words that will be clicked.

<a href="http://www.webteacher.ws">Web Teacher

Now I have the start of the tag and the words to click. But wait, I'm not finished. I still need to close the tag. Kind of like turning it off. That's done using the name of the tag again, but with a slash ( / ) in front of it. The slash on your keyboard is on the same key as the question mark. Since the opening tag was A, the closing tag is A with a slash in front of it. Like this: </a>.

Here's the whole thing:

<a href="http://www.webteacher.ws">Web Teacher</a>

Whew, I'm finished.

Computers are stupid. They only do what you tell them to do. So if you forget to tell them any tiny little part of that link, they can't do it right. If you leave out a quotation mark, or a bracket, or a slash, the computer is too stupid to know what you want. If you put in a space where it doesn't belong, the computer is too stupid to figure out what you meant. HTML isn't hard, but it is detail-oriented. Every detail of the link has to be right.

Some Fine Points
I hope you picked up on the fact that although I used capital letters to make A and HREF stand out in a sentence, when I typed the actual tags, I used lowercase. HTML is written in lowercase.

You do want spaces around the words you click so it doesn't run together with other words in the sentence. You do this with spaces before the beginning of the tag and after the end of the tag. As in this sentence:

Visit my blog at <a href="http://www.webteacher.ws">Web Teacher</a> to read the full story.

Notice I left a space after "at" and after the "</a>" to make the words Web Teacher remain separate from the other words in the sentence?

You're Ready to Link, But Not Too Much
You're ready to show your great comment netiquette by putting in real links to the other articles or blogs you want to mention in a comment. Just one warning. A characteristic of a spam comment (and don't you simply hate spam) is that it contains more than two links. Many blogs have a spam filter than puts comments with more than two links into a spam folder. Nobody ever sees them.

Yes, nice clean and tidy links in comments are welcome, but just one or two.

Have fun making links.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place, William Weatherstone recalls a certain year from his childhood in Flashback to Corunna (Film Clips from My Memory.]



THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Select, Cut, Paste and Copy

[EDITORIAL NOTE: I am pleased and delighted today to announce that Virginia DeBolt is joining the Time Goes By family of contributors with a new, regular column, Elder Geek. It will appear twice a month and as she explains below, Virginia is here to clear up the mysteries of computers and the web and give you some tips and tricks to make it all easier. Sometimes these will be the basics and sometimes it will be more complex information.

Virginia has written two how-to books on technology, contributes tech articles around the web and on her own tech blog, WebTeacher. She also keeps a writing blog, First 50 Words. You can find out more about Virginia in her TGB bio here.

Although Virginia cannot answer individually, your questions and suggestions for possible inclusion in future Elder Geek columns are welcome. You will find a link to email them at the bottom of this, Virginia’s first Elder Geek column.


Greetings to the readers of Time Goes By. Ronni asked me to join the fray here and contribute some geeky tips for her readers. I'm happy to do that and hope you learn something new and useful from my columns.

Very few elders are what we call the kids today: digital natives. Digital natives are those people growing up now who use a computer every day as an indispensable part of normal life. They absorb its intricacies through osmosis.

Elders, on the other hand, may have been presented with a computer late in life. Maybe someone taught them how to turn it on and how they could get email and photos. That may be where the lessons stopped.

For that reason, we're going to devote many of the Elder Geek columns to helping you learn the basics. The first is how to select, cut, paste and copy.

HOW TO SELECT SOMETHING
You can highlight (or select) text in anything you are typing: an email, a Word document, a web page or a blog post you're writing. In this image, you see some words I've selected highlighted with a blue background in a blog post. The highlighting isn't always blue, but it does show you exactly what you have selected.

Highlight3

To select something, position the cursor at the beginning. Click to position the cursor where you want it, then continue to hold down the left mouse button and drag with the mouse to highlight and select everything you want. Stop dragging and release the mouse button.

This can be tricky for various reasons. Sometimes you want to select so much that you scroll down the page and it's hard to stop scrolling where you want. Or you may have mobility problems controlling the mouse.

There's a different way to highlight that may be easier. Position the cursor at the beginning by clicking and releasing the mouse button. Next press the Shift key and hold it down. Now find the end of what you want to select and click to place the mouse cursor in that position. Everything from where you first clicked to where you last clicked will be selected. Release the Shift key. That's called shift-clicking.

WHAT HAPPENS TO SELECTED MATERIAL?
When something is highlighted, whatever you do next is applied to the selected material. If you press the space bar, everything that was highlighted turns into a space. If you press the delete key, everything that was highlighted is deleted. If you type “oops" on the keyboard, everything that was selected turns to the word oops.

If you do something to highlighted material that you didn't mean to do, you can undo it. Most software has an Undo command in the menu under Edit. Some software only lets you undo the last thing you did, some software will undo several times. Think of Undo as the oops key. To undo using the keyboard type Ctrl-Z (press both keys at the same time). On a Mac, undo is Cmd-Z. The image shows Undo in the software I'm using. Your software may not look exactly the same, but it will be in the Edit menu.

Undo3

HOW TO CUT SOMETHING
When something is selected, you can Cut it. Cut is under the Edit menu too. You can also cut using the keyboard commands Ctrl-X (Cmd-X on a Mac).

Cutting isn't the same thing as deleting. When you cut something it disappears, but it is not deleted. It is temporarily stored in a little memory bank on your computer called the clipboard. The clipboard only remembers one thing. So if you cut something, it will be on the clipboard until you use it or put something else on the clipboard in its place.

What's the purpose of storing things you've cut in the clipboard? It's because you may want to paste it somewhere else. Which brings us to pasting.

HOW TO PASTE SOMETHING
I do a lot of cutting and pasting. My first draft is always a mess. I have to move things around into better order. Moving sentences, paragraphs, even a whole lot of paragraphs, is just a matter of cutting and pasting.

You highlight the material to select it. You cut it. Then you move to the place in the document where you want to paste. Click once to insert the cursor in the position you want. Then paste. Paste using the Edit menu or by typing Ctrl-V (Cmd-V on a Mac) on the keyboard.

You don't have to paste within the same document. It's possible to cut something from one document and paste it into a completely different document.

HOW TO COPY SOMETHING
Select the material you want to copy. Choose Copy under the Edit menu. To copy with the keyboard, type Ctrl-C (Cmd-C on a Mac). You'll notice that the highlighted material stays put. But everything you just copied is now in the clipboard.

Move to the place where you want to paste the copied information. This can be just about anywhere. You can copy out of Word and paste it in an email. You can copy something off a web page and paste it in Word. You can copy from one place to another in the same document.

When you've found the place where you want to insert the copied material, you paste. Paste using the Edit menu or by typing Ctrl-V (Cmd-V on a Mac) on the keyboard. The original material is unchanged, but a copy is now pasted into the new location of your choice.

Copied material is saved on the clipboard. That means you can only copy one thing at a time. Copy and paste, then copy and paste the next thing. Whatever you last cut or copied is what is on the clipboard.

SELECT ALL
Another helpful item in the Edit menu is Select All. Use it to select everything in a whole document. The keyboard command is Ctrl-A (Cmd-A on a Mac). You can copy a whole Word document and paste it into an email or a blog post by selecting it this way.

EGselectall

ADVANCED
If you're steady with the mouse, there's an advanced technique that you may like. Once you have something selected, you can use the mouse to drag it into a new spot. This is faster than cutting and pasting.

Select the material you want to move. Click anywhere inside the highlighted area with the left mouse button and continue to hold the button down. Use the mouse to drag the selected material to the new location. Let go of the left mouse button. The material drops into the new spot. This is called drag-and-drop. This technique is used to drag and drop anything.

All the tips you just learned involve the Edit menu. Depending on the software you use, you may find other helpful menu commands in the Edit menu as well. Don't be afraid to explore them and find out what they do.

You can email your questions or suggestions here for future Elder Geek columns. Virginia cannot answer individually, but she may use them as topics for future posts.

[The story bin at The Elder Storytelling Place is empty so until some new ones arrive, let's revisit some from the archive. Today, You Show Me Yours and I'll Show You Mine from kenju. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]