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6Apr/110

4 useful bookmarklets to improve your research

A "bookmarklet" is a small script stored in a bookmark. When you click the bookmark, it does something nifty. Here are four useful bookmarklets for researchers:

1. Retrieve Google's cached version of the current page

Google's bots save basic text copies of webpages they visit. If a website is temporarily down, you can often read it anyway by loading Google's cached copy. (Unless Google itself is down. But - let's face it - if Google is down, you probably need to be in a fallout shelter, not researching.) With the button below, you can instantly access Google's copy of any page.Cached VersionTo "install" this bookmarklet in your browser, just drag-and-drop it onto your bookmarks toolbar (or menu). Then, whenever you need to get the cached version of a page, just click on the little "Cached Version" shortcut and it will take you right there.

2. Retrieve Archive.org's backup of the current page

Google's cache works well for pages which are temporarily unavailable, but what about pages that have been offline since 2006? Amazingly, there is a way to retrieve them: the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive is a nonprofit digital library with a stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge", which basically means "a complete public backup of everything ever put on the internet." If you find a really amazing link to an article that no longer exists, you can often plug it into the Internet Archive's WayBack Machine and get a copy of it.WayBack VersionThis bookmarklet works the same way as the Google Cache one; just drag it onto your bookmarks toolbar and click it when you need it.

3. Translate the current page into English

If you run across a useful article in Russian, it's not hard to get an English version. Google supplies some excellent translation software, which you can access on demand with this bookmarklet.TranslateGoogle Chrome will do translations automatically, but this bookmarklet is still useful for Chrome users, since it gives you a static URL. If you want to cite a translated page, it's helpful to have a URL that gets you directly to the translated version.

A note: There are a few sticky ethical considerations in citing a machine-translated article, since it's harder to be sure of the author's original intent. Just be careful.

4. Information on demand

This one's a little more complicated. If you need to look up a bit of information frequently, you can create a button that will display it in a popup box. (For example, I use a button like this to store my library card number, which I use to access EBSCO, JSTOR, and a few other databases. When I need it, I can just click the button and copy the number out of the popup.)

To make an info-button, create a new bookmark and use the following as the URL:

javascript:alert('yourtexthere')

Replace yourtexthere with whatever your text is. There's a catch, though: The text must be URL-encoded. To save yourself some time, you can use this online tool to do this automatically. Save the bookmark, and you're done!

Of course, you could always just memorize the information, but where's the fun in that?

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