Faculty software presentation

This is a duplicate of the wiki page that I used for the presentation.
I'm not linking to the actual page to make wikispam less likely.


Firefox & Plugins

First, make sure you have the latest version of Firefox, currently or depending on whether you want the old or the new. Firefox has many advantages over IE6, notably speed and tabbed browsing, although IE7 catches up somewhat. (Also, news reports suggest that Internet Explorer 6 was "unsafe" (that is, vulnerable to known security holes, with no available patches) for 284 days in 2006 -- more than 75 percent of the time. By contrast, Firefox experienced a total of nine days' worth of insecurity last year.)

But the biggest advantage of Firefox is the ability to customize the browser with extensions.

Then, customize your search engine list (If the search box is not visible, right click on the Navigation toolbar (the one that shows the URL) and drag the search box onto it). Note that there's also an expanded list of search engines if the basic list isn't enough.

Browsing to the LII Search Plug-in page will allow you to install any of the following:

One additional note: if you are in an environment in which you don't have complete control of your machine, or if you are worried about someone trying to intercept your browsing sessions, you should implement these firefox-only privacy-enhancing techniques.


Note that if you are using 2.0 and don't need the 1.5x external spellchecker, you might still want to customize your spelling dictionary by following the instructions in the Firefox 2 Spelling Dictionary Hacks

Useful or Fun


Content Enhancement


Do Things Better

Do New Things


Not yet compatible with Firefox 2.0

If you are feeling very courageous, see Consolidate Firefox's Chrome which describes how to re-order the toolbars and tabs to take less space.

Additional Firefox 2.0x Information

Firefox 2.0 has some new extensions with new functions. One to keep an eye on is Zotero which promises most of the functionality of Scrapbook plus two new feature: tags and saved search folders.

Other useful information:

Tweaking Firefox (100-item search)

How to tweak 2.0's internal spelling dictionary

How to fix the problem if the search function is triggered when you don't want it to be (e.g. when you type a "/")

The following extensions are not officially compatible with Firefox 2.0

Firefox 1.5x

Although 1.5 is now out of date, plenty of people still use it. Here's some legacy information if you are one of them

Firefox 1.5.x only (not needed or not compatabile with 2.0)


Clipmate is a very handy utility which will be part of the new faculty desktop. I would imagine you could ask for one to be installed now if you don't want to wait.

I can't live without it. Read Why You Need Clipmate for more info.

I'm going to demo it at the talk. The best part is storing and editing clips. Just to show off some more esoteric functions, This text provides a nice example on which to use the "sentence case" feature.


A very good tool for searching your hard drive for that missing piece of text is Copernic desktop search. Unlike Google, it doesn't phone home and tell on you.


According to the Wikipedia,

A weblog (usually shortened to blog, but occasionally spelled web log or weblog) is a web-based publication consisting primarily of periodic articles, most often in reverse chronological order. Early weblogs were simply manually updated components of common websites. However, the evolution of tools to facilitate the production and maintenance of web articles posted in said chronological fashion made the publishing process feasible to a much larger, less technical, population. Ultimately, this resulted in the distinct class of online publishing that produces blogs we recognize today. For instance, the use of some sort of browser-based software is now a typical aspect of "blogging". Blogs can be hosted by dedicated blog hosting services, or they can be run using blog software on regular web hosting services.

Getting a Blog of Your Own

If you follow the instructions at umlaw.net I'm happy to install a blog for you.


This is a wiki. It's a great tool for cooperative drafting. Or even for files you want to be able to access and edit from anywhere. The editing syntax is a tiny bit odd, but you can get used to the important parts in well less than half an hour.

The most interesting wiki may be the Wikipedia, which has articles on wikis and on UM Law School (that one needs some work!).

There are many different kinds of wiki, but I like to use the most common one, MediaWiki, which is the one used by the Wikipedia.

Features Common to Wikis

Every page in a mediaWiki installation have an "edit page" tab that takes you to the editor.

And they also have a "diff" tab. Note that you can usually tell who made an edit!

There's also a "discussion" tab if the editors feel a need to talk. Often there's no discussion, but sometimes it's quite long.

Local Wikis

I also use a wiki on the UM machine to organize my research assistants. On my personal server I use it for lists of chores, shopping lists and other household stuff.

A wiki is an excellent tool for a committee-sized group (or larger) that wants to draft a document or plan collaboratively. A particularly powerful feature is the ability to structure a document into parts, each of which will be its own wiki page.

Getting a Wiki of Your Own

If you follow the instructions at umlaw.net I'm happy to install a Wiki for you.

Making Your Own Web Page

Step One: Content

There are three basic ways you can create your own web page, in increasing order of difficulty and sophistication.

Easiest: Use Your Word processor

Nothing could be easier: Both Word and Worperfect allow you to take a regular file, composed of text, headings, illustrations or whatever, and export it to "html" which is the format used by web pages (alternately, if it's a document with precise formatting and/or footnotes, you can in wordperfect export it to .pdf; if you use Word, you can create a .pdf via Adobe, available from IT).

In word you "save as" and choose "html". In wordperfect you "publish to" and choose "html" (or "pdf).

Either one saves the file locally on your computer -- you still have to transfer it to the server in order to have the world read it. (That's step two below.) But before doing that, it pays to do a reality check and point your browser at the saved file to ensure that it came out OK; for while this method is by far the simplest way to create a web page, it's also the one that carries the largest chance of unpredictable results, which might require a little tweaking before saving a final version.

One word of warning: the HTML output from word, and to a vastly lesser degree wordperfect, is very very "wordy"--it has lots of garbage codes and formatting instructions which make it hard for many browsers to process the document, do not comply with web standards, and bloat your file. But it's still much better than nothing.

Easy: Use NVU

Personally, while I like to using my wordprocessor to export to .pdf for papers with footnotes -- it almost always comes out perfectly -- I am less happy with the results of export to HTML which while they are fine for plain text and simple links don't always come out as well if there are graphics or anything complicated going on.

For that web page with more zest, I like to use NVU ("nu-view", get it?) a cross-platform (Windows, Mac, Unix) WSIWYG html editor. Download NVU here. There's a tutorial for beginners. The nicest thing about NVU is that you can work entirely in a word-like mode, with occasional previews, or you can tweak the code directly if you know a little about HTML.

If your document has no footnotes, you can cut it from your wordprocessor and past it right it right into NVU (If it comes out funny, use "paste without formatting" to make sure there are no weird codes lurking....)

NVU is easy to use, although I find it is a tiny bit slow.

An alternative, much more full-featured (and fully CSS compliant) tool is HTML-Kit

Hard: Use a Fancy Tool

If you have a fancy tool handy, you don't need this guide.

Step Two: Uploading

Once it is ready, in order to get your file online you have to upload it to the law school's servers.

If you are a current user of Contribute you have to upload with it, because you are on a windows server. (But you might want to check with IT just to be sure.) In that case the rest of Step Two doesn't apply to you -- read the Contribute documentation (and good luck).

If you have never used Contribute, you can either ask IT to install it (which I personally do NOT recommend), or you can take control yourself.

Unfortunately, in order to do that, you have to send an email dsilvera@law.miami.edu, with a cc to help@law.miami.edu, saying you would like to have your directory set up for downloads on osaka, which is our web server.

Damien promises a quick turnaround, and will give you your password. Once things are ready on the server side, you will need an SHH program (a fancy version of FTP) in order to copy your files from your computer to the web server.

I recommend using a friendly and simple program called WinSCP3. Accept all the default options and you are good to go. When it runs you will be presented with two panes: the left is your PC, the right is the server. You want to be sure that you upload all your documents in the directory called public_html on the server, for that is the only directory that will be visible on the World Wide Web. Point your browser to the public address for files in that directory to check that your file uploaded OK: http://www.law.miami.edu/~{yourusername}/filename (Note: the path may be slightly different depending upon which machine Computer Resources selects.)

If you are trying to create a homepage for that directory, call it index.html, that way, anyone who browses to http://www.law.miami.edu/~{yourusername} will see that index file automagically.

Be sure to check that your file is properly readable with your web browser before you declare victory. In the old days, we had some trouble with file permissions, and used to take a call or two to the help desk the first time to sort things out. Maybe things are better now.

PDF Editing Tip

Wordperfect X13 (with the latest patch) imports most PDF files and converts them into text files. This can be very useful sometimes....

Some thoughts on client-server

In this context, "Client-server" refers to the distinction between stuff on your PC or Mac (the "client") and stuff on web server.

Your browser, clipmate, NVU, WinSCP3 are all client programs. But blogs and wikis, along with a very large host of other fun and cutting-edge stuff, are server-based. Generally, you access server-based programs through your browser. There is a clearly discernible trend towards having interesting things run on the server -- and this is especially true of so-called 'social software', i.e. anything collaborative, communicative or about relationships (think "Facebook").

There are some areas resisting the trend. The browser, obviously, has to stay on the desktop. (Technically, it could reside on a USB key rather then the computer itself; that sorts any synchronization issues, but it's still on the client, just a mobile appendage to various clients.) And despite the best efforts of a certain software company, there seems little enthusiasm for moving the wordprocessor off the desktop either.

Client and server software have different advantages and demerits. Among them:

Client Server
Access One machine only Any browser anywhere
Installation, Who Self, at will Depends on permissions, may require sysop
Installation, Complexity Files usually self-install Very variable (depends on OS & software)
Sharing Local only (but can be imaged) Varies; some are sharable by all users
Speed Depends primarily on machine Depends primarily on internet connection, secondarily on server
Software variety High (much for pay; some free) High (mostly free)
Stability Varies Varies
Instability consequences May have to reinstall Windows Single application stops working; in worst case all apps hosted on that machine down until problem is resolved; client unaffected
Skill set required to repair Windows/applications Unix/Linux
Help model For pay & aftermarket manuals User community, limited for pay, aftermarket manuals
Updating Each user on her own (in practice, whatever the theory) Centralied (which may be slower or faster...). Updates matter more as server is more visible to hackers.

The move towards server based software has a number of implications which we should take seriously.

Client vs. Server: RSS Readers

Most blogs offer their postings as a "news feed" also known as "RSS" or "Atom" or even "XML" feeds. Installing a news reader allows one to read the postings without going to the site.

Discourse.net, for example, publishes its feed via a free service called feedburner; the feed itself looks like this.

Feed readers can be client or server based, most commonly via a third-party service. Popular client (stand-alone) feed readers include:

Popular server-based services include

There are many other feed readers for every platform (even Mac) listed at News on Feeds.

The advantages of a client-based RSS feed reader include

The biggest advantage of a server-based RSS feed reader (and it's big) is this:

Using your own server instead of a commercial one solves the privacy and fee/add problems, but at the cost of potentially substantial load on the server.

See also

See also What Belongs on the Faculty Desktop.