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Virginia Libraries
Volume 45, Number 4

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Electronic Notebooks for Internet Study and Research:

Making RAISENs, Research and Internet Study Electronic Notebooks

by Tony Krug

Why Make RAISENs?

In the age of paper documentation, library research meant use of print books, references, and journals. Notebooks (often spiral bound or three-ring binders), legal pads, or index cards absorbed such voluminous annotations writer's cramp was the researcher's nemesis.

In this digital age references, journals, even some books, are on the internet. The keyboard takes the space a notebook, legal pad or index cards want. We have learned to word process instead of type, but who can predict if there will be a word processor on a research computer? If so, will it be one "I" know how to use - or will read my file from the last computer I used? And, if so, will the computer be sufficiently robust to operate both a word processor and a browser - without crashing?

What about tracking my internet research? Browser bookmarks don't move, but people do. How do I get back to where I was to check or follow up on my earlier research?

Consider making RAISENs.

RAISENs (Research And Internet Study Electronic Notebooks) essentially are very basic web pages. RAISENs do not require a web editing or authoring package. RAISENs take advantage of text editors found on all Windows and Macintosh computers.

Text editors are basic software the computer and operating system vendors use to communicate their notes to the new owners of their software and equipment, so they are ubiquitous. WordPad is found on Windows machines (Start/Programs/Accessories). WordPad is on the C drive as Write and copied to a floppy for convenience and for use in lab situations where the Start menu may be locked out. NotePad has been used by some for text editing, but others have reported difficulty. Similar problems have not been an issue for WordPad, though one must remember to save the file as a text document.

For the Macintosh, SimpleText is the current text editor; TeachText was an earlier version. While these programs are larger than Write's 5K, they still fit easily on a disk allowing space for many electronic notebook pages. Note that a PC formatted disk will also be recognized by nearly all Macintosh machines. The text files can be read across platforms by WordPad and SimpleText -- possibly with a little minor editing for the comfort of the notetaker when going from WordPad to SimpleText, or vice versa.

Text editors have very few features (compared to a word processor, for example), so they are easy to use and very similar (if not the same) from one machine to the next. The few features also mean text editors take little computing resource, so they can operate easily along with a browser and create small files (no features overhead in the file). Text editors save in basic text file format - the essence of web pages. (With WordPad, one must be careful to be sure to select the option to save as a text document.)

RAISENs use text editors to build simple web pages which can show notes, links and graphics through the use of a few basic HTML tags. HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the tagging system which tells the internet browser (Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator) how to display text, links and graphics. The instructions are given with "tags" inserted into otherwise normal, basic text. A tag is set apart with "less than" and "greater than" symbols (shift-comma and shift-period, respectively, on the keyboard). For example, the tag "<p>" indicates a new paragraph is needed.

The browser knows to look for HTML tags in files which have been given a special suffix ".htm," as in filename.htm. (Sometimes you will see variants of these suffixes as ".html" or ".shtml.") These suffixes indicate a file is a web page.

So, RAISENs are simple web page files (ending in ".htm"), made with text editors, using a few basic HTML tags. With this information, one can start making RAISENs with only six essential steps.

Six Essential Steps

Step 1 - Launch Text Editor Windows - Start/Programs/Accessories/WordPad Macintosh - File/Find/SimpleText

Enhancement - Go ahead and start a browser. Find good page to start an electronic notebook. In Windows, one can switch between the text editor and browser using the task bar. While one can use the applications menu that way on the Macintosh, it may be easier to overlap the text editor and brower slightly on each side so one can "flip" back and forth on the screen.

Step 2 - Set a link A primary point to the electronic notebook is recording links. The link tagging has three components: the opening tag and address, the link name, and the closing tag.

The opening tag starts with a tag name ("a," as in "anchor"), a space, tag function ("href=," as in "hypertext reference") and the address for the link inside quotation marks. So, an opening tag to go to the ACL homepage would be <a href="http://www.acl.org"> Note: The only space allowed in this tag is between the tag name and tag function, <a href...>. Also, tag elements may be capitalized or not, as desired - except the URL in the address must be exact.

Following the opening tag is the link name. One can capitalize and use spaces without restriction. The link name need not be tied to the address in any direct way. So, the link name for the ACL homepage could be added to the opening tag as: <a href="http://www.acl.org">Association of Christian Librarians. Note: This is the part one actually sees on the page, so be sure it is clear.

The link must have a closing tag. The closing tag is the tag name (a) preceded by a front slash(/), to be </a>. Adding the closing tag to the link for the ACL Homepage finishes the link. <a href="http://www.acl.org">Association of Christian Librarians</a>. Note: Without a closing tag, all the words from then on become part of the link name.

Step 3 - Save the page as a text file with a file name ending in ".htm." On Windows computers one will have to specify saving as a Text Document. Be sure to add the .htm suffix, or else a .txt suffix will be added and the file will not work as a web page. On Macintosh computers, SimpleText saves the file as a text file automatically, without specification, though one still must be careful to add the .htm suffix.

A good file name for a bible study on Acts might be "Acts.htm." Note: Good file names may use capital and lower case letters, numbers, and most punctuation marks. Avoid spaces, apostrophes, colons as these may be confusing when translated into an address. For example, space translates as "%20."

Note: Be sure to save to the notebook floppy disk (Drive A on Windows, Floppy disk icon on Macintosh)

After the electronic notebook is saved, the browser should open it. File/Open File (Internet Explorer) or File/Open/Page in Navigator (Netscape Navigator) should now be able to open the electronic notebook page. Test the link set in Step 2 to be sure it works. Go back and forth as you add to the notebook page.

Step 4 - Type notes. Separate with paragraph tags <p>.

The browser responds only to tags. It does not observe carriage returns or spaces. Paragraph tags are "singleton" tags, in that they may be used singly and need not be paired with a closing tag. The paragraph tag skips a line and starts a new line.

"First sentence. <p> Second sentence." prints as:
First sentence.
Second sentence.

Note: Often text can be copied and pasted directly from the web page into the notes in the electronic notebook.

Enhancement - Sometimes you might want a new line, without the "double spacing." A line break tag <br> will provide that.

Note: A text heavy screen is difficult to read, so the block paragraph layout is standard. One can indent a paragraph though by using the <dd> tag. (This is an appropriation of a tag for another purpose and not intended for indenting, but it should work.)

Step 5 - Snag an image. When a web page contains an image to add to the notebook, save it to your electronic notebook floppy by with a "right click" (Windows) or a "click and hold" (Macintosh). An action menu will pop up.

Nearly all web images will have a file name suffix of ".gif" or ".jpg" (sometimes ".jpeg"). Often the images will have an difficult name to remember. Feel free to change the name to the left of the period for the suffix. Always be sure to leave the ".gif" or ".jpg" in the name as it was.

Step 6 - Show the image in the notebook.

Be certain of the image saved. Sometimes the image saved may not be as initially expected. Generally, one can open a gif or jpeg image with the browser. However, to make notes in the electronic notebook having the image on the page should be very helpful. To show the image, use the 'img" tag, as follows: <img src="rose.gif">

Note the tag name is "img" (for "image"), while its function is to find the source, "src=." The source is the file name (or address) of the image. The image tag also is a singleton, with no closing tag.

Note 2: If the notebook is moved or copied to a different disk, be sure also to move all images "sourced" in the electronic notebook to the same floppy or file as houses the notebook file. The image file can be inserted as a file (Insert/File...) or as a picture from file (Insert/Picture/From File...) into Microsoft Word, and most other applications where images are used.

To conclude, electronic notebooks for internet research records are simple and easy to set up. Only 6 steps, incorporating 3 HTML tags are all that are required. Obviously, there are other HTML tags one might find useful in developing more complex ideas. Others may want to do the electronic equivalent of doodling to decorate their pages for rapid recognition (such as putting a color background in for each project or subject. The purpose of this article is to suggest the use of local, floppy disk based web pages to create an electronic notebook. To continue with notebook enhancements feel free to check the RAISEN web site, http://library.cn.edu/~RAISENS/*Index.html or email the author at krug@cncacc.cn.edu.

Tony Krug, Ph.D. Dean of Library Services Carson-Newman College Jefferson City, Tennessee

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