Fagan Finder Gets a Stack of Updates

Michael Fagan’s Fagan Finder (http://www.faganfinder.com), a search tool which has been around for ages and ages, has gotten several updates recently. You can read all about it at the Fagan Finder blog. Some highlights:

The video and movie search engine now has specialized categories. You can search large sites like YouTube, but also an array of sites with educational video, how-to, and news. Hey, how about the content from the Internet Archive?

The news search engine also includes some options for blog search, and unfortunately just brings home how limited the options for blog search are to start with. There are a couple of video and semantic search engines too.

The academic search is really nice. Categories of resources to search here include scholarly papers, online courses and video, flashcards and quizzes, and books. I was a little surprised to not see the Haithi Trust as one of the book search options — did I miss it?

Finally, the search engine page includes several choices for real-time as well as alternative search engines like Wolfram|Alpha and DuckDuckGo.

I was surprised to not see a social search category or a code search category, but what’s here is extensive. Fagan Finder has a basic design that’s not AJAXy and slick, but I’ll take useful and informative over AJAXy any time.

Create and Launch Advanced Search to Several Places at One Time

My main complaint about metasearches is that advanced searching with them isn’t easy — you tend to end up doing basic keyword searches, which is fine sometimes. But sometimes you want to do something a little more complex. I was very happy to get an e-mail about a site called Searchzooka ( http://searchzooka.com/ ) which allows you to create a complex search and then run it on several different sites.

The front page looks like a cutdown advanced search page. You can include keywords, exclude keywords, sort results by date, limit your search to certain date spans, limit search results to domains or top-level domains, etc. Once you’ve entered a search, you’ll get a second screen that summaries your search and gives you links to launch your search on several different engines, including Google, Bing, Digg, Technorati, and Ask. (There’s also a “Recovery key” so you can restore a search without having to be registered with the site.)

Click on a search engine name and you’ll get the search results open in a new window. Not all search engines can encompass all the search parameters you want to do, though, so sometimes your results will not be quite what you want.

You can organize your searchings into folders, clone your search as the basis for a new search, and add notations (the recovery key makes it possible to do this kind of customizing without registration — the string in the recovery key that I saw was nine characters long but bear in mind that you are using a key to save this data, and not a password-protected account.)

If you’re looking for a quick way to create and launch searches across a variety of resources this fits the bill. My only concern is the choice of search engines — it seems a little basic. How about Twitter, or Facebook’s public search? Worth a look.

New Tool for Diagrams and That

Around two weeks ago, nulab Inc. announced the launch of Cacoo, a new service for making wireframes, sitemaps, and other diagrammish things. It’s available at http://cacoo.com/. It’s in beta and is currently free, though a premium plan is expected in the “middle of 2010”. For making diagrams and charts online I like Lovely Charts, but I decided to review Cacoo because it allows multiple people to edit charts together in real time. I’m glad I did; this is a great tool!

You have to register, of course. Once you’ve done that, you get a Flash application that allows you to build charts/diagrams using drag and drop images from a variety of libraries, including people, flowcharts, networks, office equipment, etc. Dotted blue lines appear and disappear as Cacoo shows you how your new images line up with other images that you already have in your chart area.

Once you have an image in the chart window, you can resize it, rotate it, add text, etc. There are also tools for rotation, arranging, layers, etc. A line tool makes connecting images very quick and easy. Once the Flash was loaded I experienced very little lag in using it. Here’s a screenshot of some different elements from the libraries connected together randomly.

Cacoo in Action

Once you’ve created your masterpiece, you can save it to the service (a simple checkbox allows you to indicate whether you want your item to be public and gives you the public URL) or you can export it to the PNG format. There’s also a Share window that lets you invite other people to use and work on your diagram; you can either search Cacoo IDs or send invites to specified e-mail addresses.

Between the easy-to-use text and connection tools, and the lines show you how your new elements are lining up with everything else, I am extremely impressed with Cacoo. I am not at my best with these kinds of tools but Cacoo was intuitive and when I got stuck, a right-click or closer look at the menu usually set me on the right track. The only tiny little thing is that sometimes the English on the menu isn’t quite perfect (nulab is based in Japan) but who cares? It was never enough to make using the service confusing. Highly recommended.

Aviary Adds Audio, Is Officially on My Radar

In my job I’ve been spending a lot of time looking up this or that application, figuring out if it would be best to do something with a Web-based or a desktop app, trying to balance out functionality and convenience. And periodically I’ve come across a site called Aviary, at http://aviary.com/.

Aviary had lots of mentions in a variety of places because it offers several different image editors. The tools available include an image editor (also a vector editor) as well as a color editor and even a screen capture tool.

I didn’t look deeply into Aviary because for my image editing needs, I use GIMP. And I love GIMP. But my attention was taken back to Aviary today when I read on its blog that it had released an audio editor. So I looked a little closer, and — helloooooo, Aviary.

All of the Aviary tools have bird names, so the audio editor’s called Myna. The audio editor allows you to import music in a variety of formats, or record your own music. If you’re creating music for noncommercial purposes, you can also use materials from APM’s Quantum Tracks library in your music creations.

Aviary's New Tool, Myna

Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like. If you’re using clips from Quantum Tracks (these clips covered a lot of ground, though I missed world fusion and international beats) you can just drag them and drop them in to place. Importing audio is slightly more complicated but not much. Myna’s home page has a demo but this app is not very complicated and I found I could figure out a lot just by playing with it.

Want to see what other people are using Myna for? You can take a listen at this Myna gallery. Here you’ll find lots of tunes by your fellow Aviary creators.

Aviary is free but of course there’s a paid option available if you want more stuff. Features for premium accounts include more tutorial options, private collaborating, and more private files. The premium accounts run you an extremely-reasonable $24.99 a year.

I have never found a audio app I really like — it seems like they’re either way too complicated or don’t have enough features. I am surprised to see that one I DO like might be Web-based. And discovering that, I’m going to have to take a closer look at the rest of Aviary.

Flickr Now Has Galleries

Flickr announced on its blog last week that the site now has a feature called “Galleries.” This new tool allows you to bring together up to 18 publicly-available Flickr images into a single spot, along with a title, introductions, and descriptions of each photograph.

You can get an overview of how it works at http://www.flickr.com/help/galleries/ but after looking at that I decided it’d be easier to jump right in. In honor of the upcoming North Carolina State Fair, I decided to do a “Fried Fair Food” gallery, because it’s always — ALWAYS — weirder than I remember.

Accumulating the images was easy. I just started doing searches. As I found items I liked, I just clicked on the Add to Button gallery above each photo. The first time I was prompted to add a gallery because I didn’t have any yet, but after that it was just a matter of adding them to each gallery.

After I had a reasonable number of photos, I clicked on the “You” at the top of my nav section and got a link to Your Galleries. I was presented with the page of pictures I’d saved. Reordering them was as easy as dragging and dropping, and at the same time I also had the option to write a short caption by each image. You can see the resulting small gallery at http://www.flickr.com/photos/researchbuzz/galleries/72157622287057199/. (Want to see lots of galleries? Check out http://www.flickr.com/galleries/.

On the one hand I really like this, on the other hand I’m worried that I’m going to spend a lot of free time now going through the Commons and organizing photos into galleries. Nice feature, and very easy to use.