Whether it’s searching for documents, browsing forums, reading blogs or simply googling around, a large part of our genealogy work these days inevitably takes place online. This presents a great time-saving over traditional methods of research, yet at the same time many of us are failing to utilize this technology as effectively as we could.
In the spirit of boosting online productivity, then, we have here a set of suggestions for speeding up your online genealogy work, which – we hope – will enable you to pursue your hobby even quicker and with even less fuss than you do already. Even if these save you just a couple of moments every hour, the cumulative benefit over weeks and years of Internet browsing can really make a difference.
These tips should work on all commonly-used software, but if you’re having difficulties, do let us know.
So here’s the list. You may be familiar with some of these tips already, but there could still be a few surprises…
1) Get a new browser
If you’ve been using the same browsing software since you began your Internet life, you may be making a mistake. As is widely known, some browsers run faster than others. There is more than speed to take into consideration, though: some browsers have plug-ins and add-ons that others don’t, or unique features which certain users like.
The best thing you can do is read some reviews, see what you like the sound of, and try things out (you can install more than one browser if you want to). You may decide to stick with what you’ve got, but it’s at least worth checking out the competition. Since it’s your window onto the Internet, getting the right browser for you makes a lot of sense.
2) Keyboard Shortcuts
If you’re constantly using the mouse, you’re slowing yourself down. You can save a lot of time by using a few handy shortcuts.
Some of the most useful of these are:
--- Ctrl-L, which will take you to the address bar so you can immediately type in your url. (If you then hit ctrl-enter, the “www.” and “.com” are added automatically for you so ‘www.myheritage.com’ need only be typed as ‘myheritage’.)
--- Ctrl-K, which takes you immediately to the search bar, so you can look for what you want
--- Ctrl+ and Ctrl- will increase or decrease text size for you
--- Spacebar, which will scroll the window down a page for you (Shift-Spacebar will scroll it up)
--- Ctrl-F, which lets you search for a word or phrase in the page
Speed Dial allows you to assign numbers to your favourite sites. You may, for instance, assign 1 to your genealogy blog, 2 to Facebook, and 3 to MyHeritage.com. If you then want to visit any of those sites, you simply press Ctrl plus the relevant number to get to them instantly. Ctrl-1 will take you to your blog, Ctrl-3 to MyHeritage.com, and so on. It’s a great timesaver for sites you frequently visit.
4) Smart Keywords
Smart Keywords offer another way to access your favourite sites fast, and are available on many browsers now. For any site you’ve bookmarked, you can assign a keyword. For example, if I wanted to assign a keyword for http://www.british-genealogy.com/forums/ , I could simply right click on its entry in my bookmarks list and enter the letters ‘bgf’. Then, if I were to type this into the address bar (Ctrl-L to get there), I’d be at the site instantly. Much quicker than going through your bookmarks or typing out the full url.
(For Google Chrome, this feature can be accessed by going tools > options > basics > manage, and selecting a keyword for a particular website.)
5) RSS Readers
Most seasoned internet users are familiar with RSS already, but if you’re a relatively new user you may not be using it. If you haven’t tried RSS yet, it’s well worth getting started. RSS allows you to beam all your favourite genealogy blogs and news sites into one place, saving you the need to click through and read all of them separately.
6) Download Managers
If you download a lot of files, you may want to think about getting a Download manager. Many of these, such as Flashget and Free Download Manager allow you more options when downloading files and, perhaps more crucially, boost your actual download speeds. These could be worth taking a look at if you regularly download genealogy material.
7) Online Note Takers
There are a variety of programs, such as Notefish, which allow you to make notes online, organize your material, move it around, and more. You can do all of this on paper, of course, but these programs make things simpler, don’t clutter up your desk, and enable you to move from one machine to another and still access what you were working on. If you find yourself wanting to make notes as you go through your online research, a note taker could well come in handy.
Hopefully you found at least some of these useful. If you’ve got tips of your own to share, make sure you list them for everyone to see in the comments below.