Learning CSS with Cats and a Dinner Table

CSS, short for Cascading Style Sheets, are rules (or “styles”) that define how content should look on a web page. To give you an example, if your web page contains a table, you can use CSS to specify the thickness of the border and the color of text inside that table.

Learning CSS is easy. There are a plethora of good online tutorials or, if you prefer the traditional route, get a book. My favorites CSS books include HTML & CSS by John Duckett and CSS Secrets by Lea Verou.

You should also watch the YouTube series by Travis Neilson and Guy Routledge, probably the best free video resources for learning everything about CSS.

I recently stumbled upon a couple of web resources that take the help of cats and post-it notes and make learning CSS even more interesting and entertaining.

CSS Basics with Post-It Notes (link)

Designer Kaylan takes the help of colorful post-it notes for visualizing the the basic concepts of CSS.

CSS Box Model

CSS Selectors Explained with CSS (link)

If you have figured out how to write selectors in CSS, half the battle is one. Mike Borsare uses #cats to help you learn the basic CSS selector syntax.

CSS Selectors

CSS Dinner Table (link)

If you know the basic of CSS selectors, use the Dinner table to practice your CSS skills. Here you have plates and fruits placed on a dinner table and your task is to select the various elements using selectors.

CSS Dinner Plate

Related: Learn to Code Online


The story, Learning CSS with Cats and a Dinner Table, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 15/04/2016 under Code, Internet.

How to Create Multiple Copies of an Email Draft inside Gmail

You have composed a draft inside Gmail and would like to send the same email message to multiple people, separately. The subject, the email body, the attachments remain unchanged and the only thing that differs in each message is the recipient’s email address. Maybe you are sending your résumé to multiple companies. How can you do this without having to copy-paste the subject and body of the draft message multiple times?

When you compose a draft email in Gmail and hit the Send button, the email is automatically removed from the Drafts folder and moved to the Sent Items folder of Gmail. Unlike Microsoft Outlook, Gmail doesn’t offer an option to create multiple copies of an existing email message.

Gmail Draft Emails Copy

Create Duplicate Email Messages in Gmail

There are two easy ways to create duplicate draft emails inside Gmail. You can either use Mail Merge for Gmail or, if you are looking for a more simple one-click option, use my new Duplicate Gmail web app written with Google Scripts.

Here’s how to get started.

  1. Open your Gmail mailbox, compose a new email message and save it as a draft.
  2. Go to labnol.org/duplicate and authorize the app to access your Gmail account. This is necessary since the app will read your Gmail drafts and create copies inside your Gmail account.

The Gmail clone tool works on both desktop and mobile phone so you can copy email messages on a mobile phone as well.

To quickly clone a message to send separately to someone else, select the source draft from the drop-down, then select the number of copies you wish to have and click the Create Drafts button. The copied drafts will include the complete contents of the original message, including file attachments and inline images.

If you would like to create more copies of the draft, reload the page and repeat the steps. Internally, the app uses the Gmail API to create drafts.


The story, How to Create Multiple Copies of an Email Draft inside Gmail, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 15/04/2016 under GMail, Internet.

How to Track Google Spreadsheet Views with Google Analytics

You have been using Google Analytics to track visitors (or page views) on your website but did you know that the same analytics service can also be used for tracking views inside Google Spreadsheets. You insert a little snippet of tracking code inside your spreadsheet and when someone opens the sheet, that visit will be recorded permanently in your Google Analytics account.

track-google-spreadsheets.png

Google Analytics provides a JavaScript snippet that can be inserted into web templates for tracking visits. You cannot insert JavaScript inside the cells of a Google Spreadsheet but we can use the IMAGE function combined with some Apps Script to enable tracking inside spreadsheet. The visit is recorded as an “event” and not a “page view” and thus your spreadsheet opens will not artificially inflate your Google Analytics reports.

To get started, go to your Google Analytics dashboard and make a note of the Google Analytics tracking ID which is a string like UA-12345-67. This web tutorial explains how you can locate the ID inside your Analytics dashboard.

Now open any Google Spreadsheet that you wish to track and go to Tools, Script Editor and copy-paste the following code. This is a custom Google Spreadsheet function that will embed the 1×1 tracking GIF image in our spreadsheets.

/**
 * Track Spreadsheet views with Google Analytics
 *
 * @param {string} gaaccount Google Analytics Account like UA-1234-56.
 * @param {string} spreadsheet Name of the Google Spreadsheet.
 * @param {string} sheetname Name of individual Google Sheet.
 * @return The 1x1 tracking GIF image
 * @customfunction
 */

function GOOGLEANALYTICS(gaaccount, spreadsheet, sheetname) {
  
  /** 
  * Written by Amit Agarwal 
  * Web: www.ctrlq.org 
  * Email: amit@labnol.org 
  */
  
  var imageURL = [
    "https://ssl.google-analytics.com/collect?v=1&t=event",
    "&tid=" + gaaccount,
    "&cid=" + Utilities.getUuid(),
    "&z="   + Math.round(Date.now() / 1000).toString(),
    "&ec="  + encodeURIComponent("Google Spreadsheets"),
    "&ea="  + encodeURIComponent(spreadsheet || "Spreadsheet"),
    "&el="  + encodeURIComponent(sheetname || "Sheet")
  ].join("");
  
  return imageURL;

}

Save the code, close the Apps Script editor window and return to the spreadsheet.

Click an empty cell and insert the following formula. The cell will be blank but it contains an embedded image. You may want to change the background color so it is easy to figure out which cell in the spreadsheet contains the tracking formula.

Google Formula

The GOOGLEANALYTICS() formula takes 3 parameters – the analytics ID, the spreadsheet name and the sheet name. This helps if you would like to separately track individual sheets inside a spreadsheet.

Now open the spreadsheet in a new browser window and go to Google Analytics, Real Time, Overview to test if the tracking is working. It may sometimes take a minute to record the visit. If you would like to see all the visits, go to Behavior – Events – Overview and click on the Google Spreadsheets category.

google-analytics-report.png

Also see: Track Gmail Messages with Google Analytics

The tracking would work even if the user has enabled ad blocking and that’s because Google Spreadsheets, like Gmail, serves images through a proxy server. The downside is that you will never know the location of the visitor since all visits will be show up as United States (the location of Google servers).


The story, How to Track Google Spreadsheet Views with Google Analytics, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 09/03/2016 under Google Analytics, Google Docs, Internet.

How to Make eBooks with Google Docs

Adobe PDF may be the most popular document format on the web but there’s a reason why eBook lovers prefer the ePub format over PDF. PDF documents have a static layout with fixed page breaks but the layout of an ePUB document is “responsive” meaning it will automatically adjust for different screen sizes.

You can read an ePub book on your desktop or inside the Google Play Books app on your Android phone and they’ll look good. Also, since ePub files are essentially HTML5 documents under the hood, the text size and font family can be easily adjusted for an improved reading experience.

Download ePUB ebooks

How to Create your ePUB eBooks

Adobe Stanza and Calibre are popular desktop software for  creating ePub ebooks but now can now easily make one in the browser using Google Docs itself. Just write a document in Google Document, or upload an existing Microsoft Word file to your Google Drive, go to File menu and choose download as EPUB publication.

Here’s an ePUB version of this article, generated with Google Docs.

You get an ePub file that you can copy to your mobile phone or, better still, upload the ePub to the Google Books website and access the ebook from anywhere. You can even read it in the browser. To upload an eBook to Google Books, go here and click the Upload Files button. The files are only visible to you.

ePub files are readable on iPad, Nook and Google Play books. Amazon Kindle doesn’t support the ePub format but there’s an easy way to convert ePub into MOBI format that is supported by Kindle.


The story, How to Make eBooks with Google Docs, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 08/03/2016 under Convert, Epub, Google Docs, Internet.

How to Use Github for Hosting Files

Github, in simple English, is a website for hosting source code. The site is built for programmers and, if you are not one, it is highly unlikely that you have ever used Github. Repositories and Forks, the basic building blocks of Github, may seem like second-nature to developers but, for everyone else, Github continues to be a complicated beast.

Github isn’t just a place for developers though. The site can be used a writing platform. It can host HTML websites. You can use Github to visually compare the content of two text files. The site’s Gist service can used for anonymous publishing and as a tasklist. There’re so many things do on Github already and you can how use it as a free file hosting service as well.

How to Host Files on Github

It takes few easy steps to turn your Github into a file repository. You can upload files from the browser and you can add collaborators so they can also upload files to a common repository (similar to shared folders in Google Drive). The files are public so anyone can download them with a direct link. The one limitation is that the individual files cannot be larger than 25 MB each. There are no known bandwidth limits though.

Step 1: Go to github.com and sign-up for a free account, if you don’t have one. Choose the free plan as that’s all we need for hosting our files.

Step 2: Click the “New Repository” button, or go to github.com/new, to create a new repository for hosting your files. You can think of a repository as a folder on your computer.

Github for File Hosting
Step 3: Give your repository a name and a description and click the Create button. It helps to have a description as it will help others discover your files on the web. You can have Private repositories too but that requires a monthly subscription.

Step 4: Your repository will initially be empty. click the Import Code button on the next screen to initialize the repository.

Import code into Github
Step 5: Paste the URL https://github.com/labnol/files.git into the repository field and click Begin Import to create your Github repository for hosting files.

Upload Files to Github

Your Github repository is now ready. Click the Upload Files files button and begin uploading files. You can drag one or more files from the desktop and then click Commit Changes to publish the files on the web. Github will accept any file as long as the size is within the 25 MB limit.

Github has a built-in previewer for PDF, text and image files (including animated GIFs) so anyone can view them without downloading the actual file. Else there’s a simple URL hack to get the raw (downloadable) version of any file hosted on Github.

Upload Files to Github

Direct URLs for Github Files

After the file has been uploaded to Github, click the filename in the list and you’ll get the file’s URL in the browser’s address. Append ?raw=true to the URL and you get a downloadable / embeddable version.

For instance, if the file URL is github.com/labnol/files/hello.pdf, the direct link to the same file would be github.com/labnol/files/hello.pdf?raw=true. If the uploaded file is an image, you can even embed it in your website using the standard img tag.

Here’s a sample file repository on Github. The T-Rex image is here and the direct link is here. You can go to the Repository settings and add one or more collaborators. They’ll get write access to your repository and can then add or delete files.


The story, How to Use Github for Hosting Files, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 22/02/2016 under Embed, Upload, Internet.

How to Make Org Charts with Google Sheets

Do you need a quick organization chart to show the hierarchy of employees in your business? Well, just open a blank Google Spreadsheet, put the employee names in a column and your org charge should be ready in minutes. Here’s a sample org chart created with nothing but Google Sheets.

Org Charts with Google Sheets

Create Organizational Charts with Google Spreadsheets

Here’s how you can put together an org chart in Google Sheets. It will be a live chart meaning as you update the employee names or hierarchy in the spreadsheet, the org chart would update itself. Let’s get started.

Step 1. Open a Google Sheet and put the employee names in column A and the names of the immediate managers in Column B.

Step 2. Select the cells that you’ve just entered and choose Chart from the Insert menu in the spreadsheet.

Step 3. The Chart Editor will open inside Google Sheets. Switch to the Chart Types tab and uncheck the option that says “Aggregate Column A.” Then scroll down the list of available chart types, choose “Organizational Chart” and click Insert to add the chart into your spreadsheet.

Organization Charts

Unlike flowcharting tools like Visio, you don’t have enough formatting options for org charts in Google Sheets except for changing the background and fill colors of various nodes in the chart. And if you hit the little drop-down arrow in the chart box, you’ll see an option to download the charge as a PNG image for embedding on other websites.


The story, How to Make Org Charts with Google Sheets, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 22/02/2016 under Charts, Google Docs, Internet.

How to Add Speech Recognition to your Website

Open the Google website on your desktop computer and you’ll find a little microphone icon embedded inside the search box. Click the icon, say something and your voice is quickly transcribed into words. Unlike earlier speech recognition products, you no longer have to train the browser to understand your speech and, for those who don’t know touch typing, speech is often a faster mode of input than the keyboard.

Sounds like magic, right? Well, did you know that you can also include similar speech recognition capabilities to your own website with a few lines of code. Visitors can search your website, or even fill forms, using just their voice. Both Google Chrome and Firefox browsers support the speech recognition API.

Web Speech Recognition

Before we dive into the actual implementation, let’s play with a working demo. If you are viewing this page inside Google Chrome (desktop or mobile), click the voice icon inside the search box and say a search query. You may have allow the browser to access your microphone. When you are done speaking, the search results page will open automatically.

Add Voice Recognition to your Website

The HTML5 Web Speech API has been around for few years now but it takes slightly more work now to include it in your website.

Earlier, you could add the attribute x-webkit-speech to any form input field and it would become voice capable. The x-webkit-speech attribute has however been deprecated and you are now required to use the JavaScript API to include speech recognition. Here’s the updated code:

<!-- CSS Styles -->
<style>
  .speech {border: 1px solid #DDD; width: 300px; padding: 0; margin: 0}
  .speech input {border: 0; width: 240px; display: inline-block; height: 30px;}
  .speech img {float: right; width: 40px }
</style>

<!-- Search Form -->
<form id="labnol" method="get" action="https://www.google.com/search">
  <div class="speech">
    <input type="text" name="q" id="transcript" placeholder="Speak" />
    <img onclick="startDictation()" src="//i.imgur.com/cHidSVu.gif" />
  </div>
</form>

<!-- HTML5 Speech Recognition API -->
<script>
  function startDictation() {

    if (window.hasOwnProperty('webkitSpeechRecognition')) {

      var recognition = new webkitSpeechRecognition();

      recognition.continuous = false;
      recognition.interimResults = false;

      recognition.lang = "en-US";
      recognition.start();

      recognition.onresult = function(e) {
        document.getElementById('transcript').value
                                 = e.results[0][0].transcript;
        recognition.stop();
        document.getElementById('labnol').submit();
      };

      recognition.onerror = function(e) {
        recognition.stop();
      }

    }
  }
</script>

We have the CSS to place the microphone image inside the input box, the form code containing the input button and the JavaScript that does all the heavy work.

When the user click the mic image inside the search box, the JavaScript checks if the user’s browser supports speech recognition. If so, it waits for the transcribed text to arrive from Google servers and then submits the form.

The Dictation App also uses the speech recognition API though it writes the transcribed text to textarea field instead of an input box.

Some notes:

  1. If the HTML form / search box is embedded inside an HTTPS website, the browser will not repeatedly ask for permission to use the microphone.
  2. You can change the value of the recognition.lang property from ‘en-US’ to another language (like hi-In for Hindi or fr-FR for Français). See the complete list of supported languages.

The story, How to Add Speech Recognition to your Website, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 19/02/2016 under Speech Recognition, Software.

Wow, It’s Been a Long Time: Where Am I Now?

oliverIt’s pretty amazing how quickly time flies. It’s been nearly a year since my last blog post, where I had all of these grand ideas of where I was heading next.

Sure enough, not much has happened with my online business.  I’m still focused on my day job and other offline obligations in my life, but I continue to keep on eye on my return to blogging and building a business online.

It’s not really fair to say I’ve been working at this for years, because the truth is, it’s been a few years since I’ve really put in any effort here.

That’s not to say there haven’t been some exciting things going on, so if you’re still with me here, I’ll explain.

So, What’s New?

Although I haven’t been blogging or working on my online business in general, here are some of things that have happened in the past year:

1) Celebrated my first anniversary with my wife.

Married since November 2014, my wife and I recently celebrated our one year anniversary.

Married life has been great so far! I can’t really say a ton has changed, because we’ve lived together for quite awhile and, all in all, have been together for about 12 years now.  😀

2) Got a new puppy (pictured above).

About 6 months ago, my wife and I adopted a puppy! His name is Oliver, he’s a beagle/lab mix, and is definitely a handful.

Even though I grew up with dogs most of my childhood, I never realized how much work they could be.  Gone are my mornings before heading work, sipping coffee and playing around (sometimes working) online.  Now I’m feeding Oliver, walking him, and playing with him a bit while I rush to get ready to go to work.

I guess the time management challenge is good practice for having a child…

3) Sold TheDailyInterview.com!

As some of you may remember, I spent nearly a year (a few years ago) building a site, The Daily Interview.  I put a ton of work into it, ultimately completing and publishing over 100 interviews with some incredibly interesting and inspiring internet entrepreneurs.

While I never got to the point of monetizing the site before stopping my work on it, it remained a great collection of valuable content.

Late last year, I was approached by someone who was interested in purchasing the site and bringing it back to life.  I’m happy to say, I successfully sold the site for a mid-4 figure amount.

As of this writing, they haven’t yet begun work on it, but all of the content I created is still live. Considering all the work I put into it, and the fact that I never made much money from it before, I was thrilled to be able to reap at least a little bit of a financial reward.

I’m confident that the team who purchased the site will be able to turn it into a great success if they are able to dedicate a bit more time and attention to it than I was able to.

4) Continued to earn $300-500/month passively.

Even though it’s been years since I’ve done any real work online, I still continue to earn up to $500/month from sites and content created a long time ago.  It’s amazing that the work from a long time ago is still paying off today.

If you’re on the fence about starting a blog or building up some passive income streams, now is the time start.  Even if you’re barely successful (like me), there’s still plenty of long term benefits for putting in hard work now.

What’s Next?

I’m not going to make any specific “promises” about what’s coming next, because I have a tendency to announce projects before I’ve actually committed to working on them.

However, I am working on a new “authority” site in a very competitive niche that I think has a lot of potential if I’m able to put the time into it.  I’ve got an initial plan to publish 100 pieces of content by the end of 2016.

It’s ambitious, but I’ve already made some progress:

  • Mapped out 60 article titles
  • Created 20 article outlines
  • Began actually writing 5 of those articles
  • Completed 2 articles, and published one.

It’s a long road, and I know my track record isn’t great when it comes to ambitious goals for my online business, but if I can achieve even 50% of my goal, it’ll be a great start.

If you still read this blog, what are you up to these days?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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Wow, It’s Been a Long Time: Where Am I Now?

How to Use Animated GIF Images as your Mac Wallpaper

You may have seen web pages with video backgrounds but did you know that it is also possible to use videos and animated GIF images as backgrounds for your Mac desktop. OS X natively supports only static wallpaper images but there’s a little Mac utility called GIFPaper that adds support for animated live backgrounds to your desktop.

Animated GIF as Mac Desktop Background

Animated GIFs as Mac Background

It takes a few easy steps to inject some life in your Mac background.

Step 1. Download a GIF image. You can use Giphy for readymade GIFs, or create your own cinemagraphs with Photoshop or, if you are trying to use a video, convert to GIF using FFMpeg.

Step 2. Download the GIFPaper app from Dropbox (link found via Reddit) and extract the content to a local folder.

Step 3. Double-click the GIFPaperPrefs.prefPane file inside the extracted folder to install the preferences pane. Go to your Mac’s System Preferences and double-click GIFPaperPref to launch the actual app.

GIF Desktop for Mac

Step 4. Browse the computer, locate the GIF, set the Scaling to “Axes Independently” and the GIF will be set as the background of your Mac desktop. If you have a multiple virtual desktops, only the current screen will be changed.

You can place add GIFPaperAgent to your Mac login items to preserve your wallpaper preferences. Also, it might not be a good idea to use animated on older Macs since it does consume system resources.


The story, How to Use Animated GIF Images as your Mac Wallpaper, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 03/02/2016 under Apple Mac, GIF, Internet.

The Directory of Twitter News Feeds

Twitter is the best source of news on the Internet but there’s no denying the fact that Twitter is both complex and confusing for most people. Unlike a newspaper website where you just open the homepage and read the news, you need to follow the right set of people before understanding the true potential of Twitter.

Twitter realises this problem and they are now trying to capture the audience that stumble upon Twitter just for catching up with news but may not be inclined to traverse the complex universe of Likes and RTs. Now when you open the Twitter homepage, they will show you to the top tweets across various categories without requiring you to sign up. The tweets are grouped in categories like Sports, Music, Food, etc. so it is easier than ever before to follow your interests.

Twitter News Source

See the Top Tweets for any Category

The Twitter news feeds surface the top tweets for any category but, for some unknown reason, they have made these available only to users who are not logged into Twitter.

Not a problem as here are direct URLs (links) that will help you access all the Twitter category feeds without having to log out of your Twitter account. The list covers both US and India specific Twitter news categories. You can bookmark the pages that pique your interest and access them anytime, anywhere.

Also see: The Best Twitter Tools

Twitter News Feeds (US)

General news sources Business news Journalists & pundits
World news Weather news & meteorologists Financial news & analysts
Tech blogs & reporters Tech CEOs, investors & startups Space news, Nonprofits & foundations
Designers & architects Authors, critics & publishers Photographers & photo agencies
NFL players, teams & personalities NBA players, teams & personalities College basketball teams & fans
MLB players, teams & personalities Soccer players, teams & fans NHL players, teams & personalities
NASCAR drivers & teams WWE wrestlers & personalities MMA fighters & personalities
Golfers, tours & commentators College football teams & personalities Celebrity news
TV shows & stars Actors & actresses Reality TV shows & stars
TV talent shows & contestants Industry news, film critics & festivals Video games & gamers
Science news & journalists Celebrity chefs & personalities Parenting experts & opinion
Home design & decorators Food, drinks & entertainment guides Travel guides, airlines & hotels
Health & fitness Automakers & reviewers Wedding guides
Inspiration & motivation Pop artists Hip hop / rap artists
Country artists Latino artists R&B soul artists
Classic rock groups Dance electronic artists Metal groups
Comedians, writers & late-night hosts Cute animals Cool & interesting photos
Art museums & publications Beauty & cosmetics brands Clothing brands & retailers
High-end fashion labels Politicians, pundits & parties US federal agencies

Twitter News Feeds (India)

Entertainment Sports Government and Politics
Music News Cricketers and Commentators
Youth and Music Women Comedy and Humour
South Indian NGOs and Social Good CEOs
Bollywood and Celebrities Food Hindi Music
Fashion Breaking News Indian Athletes
Politicians and Pol Parties Business and Financial News Punjabi Music
Government & Public Utilities Books & Authors Entertainment Channels
TV Personalities Leagues and Teams Sports News, TV and Scores
Journalists Indie & Electronic Music Brands

These semi-curated Twitter News Feeds are probably the best thing to have happened to Twitter in recent times. Content discovery has always been an issue in the world of Twitter but now you can easily find the top tweets for your favourite category without the chaos.

If you are curious to know how I found these Twitter feeds, the answer is web scraping and some trial-n-error. Also, I think Twitter is using geo-location to tailor the news feeds so if you are, say, in UK, your news feed links will be different from mine.


The story, The Directory of Twitter News Feeds, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 03/02/2016 under Twitter, Internet.