Archive for technology

Fall round-up: events + groups

leavesHello, everyone! It’s been a while, but Editfish is back in action.

I’m kicking off October with a round-up of resources and events, since I keep hearing how much you like these. If you’ve come across something that may be handy to other editors and writers, please share in the comments.

Steven Pinker at the Toronto Reference Library

On the evening of Oct. 24, bestselling author Steven Pinker is talking about his new book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, at the Toronto Reference Library’s Bram and Bluma Appel Salon. The event is free, but you’ll need to reserve a ticket. (Can’t make it? The library often shoots videos – check the website later.)

INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair

Toronto is getting a brand-new book fair, coming up Nov. 13 to 16 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The schedule is jam-packed with author appearances, workshops and cultural showcases. Tickets cost a very reasonable $15, with free re-entry; writers’ workshops start at $45 and include admission to the fair.

PWAC Twitter chats

All writers are welcome to take part in a new series of Twitter chats hosted by the Professional Writers Association of Canada. The free chats are planned for the first Thursday of each month at 11 a.m. (starting Oct. 2; follow hashtag #PWACchat). A short podcast or video serves as a starting point for the discussion – this week’s focus is a video by Steve Slaunwhite about copywriting techniques. (Disclosure: I’m the president of PWAC Toronto Chapter.)

Ladies Learning Code

Not just for ladies, this not-for-profit group makes learning to code fun and accessible. Courses are available in several cities across Canada. If you’re looking to build your computer skills (for example, learning HTML or CSS, or how to use Photoshop), check out the schedule.


I just learned about this from another freelancer, writer/photographer Corbin Smith, at PWAC’s recent Culture Days event about freelancing. Hacks/Hackers is an international grassroots journalism organization with a mission to create a network of hacks (journos) and hackers (technologists) to reboot journalism. It hosts meetups, workshops, demo days and more. Canadian chapters include Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.


Research Cheat Sheet: Tips From a Librarian

Photo of Mimi SzetoThis week, we’re lucky to have a guest post by Mimi Szeto, who’s both a journalist and a librarian (so, basically, she’s a research ninja). Check out Mimi’s tips for smarter online searching and free resources.  

Online research is easy or daunting depending on how well you can weave through all the information out there on the web. Here are a few librarian-approved sources and easy-to-do tricks—most of which you can try at home in your pajamas—to save time while digging deep into the virtual stacks.

1. Find out what you have access to

Though not often publicized, and sometimes veiled as “e-resources” or “digital collections,” libraries have growing selections of online goodies that you can access with your library card. Download magazines you want to pitch to, research new story angles and find niche publications for your work by signing up for a Zinio account through your public library (for example, the Toronto Public Library). You get free, unlimited access to the current digital editions of hundreds of magazines, and in some cases, back issues. Need to reference works by Alice Munro or Malcolm Gladwell? Download their ebooks through OverDrive 

2. Tap into databases, high-quality web resources and guides

Maybe your first instinct was to Google your topic. Now you have to back up your research with factual information from authoritative sources. Try searching paid databases and web portals via your library for newspaper articles, journals, consumer reports, statistics, encyclopedias and more. If you’re new to a subject, guides are one of the best starting points—search for “guides to [topic].”

3. Access hard-to-get (for free) research

Science, health and medical journals usually aren’t freely available to the public. Nonetheless, it’s worth a shot to search Google Scholar for full-text articles. If you study or teach at a university, there’s a good chance you have an all-access pass via the library website to subject-specific databases containing journal articles, abstracts and other types of documents. Start with the topic and then dive into the suggested resources to gather what you need.

4. Use social media as a research tool

Even if Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn aren’t your thing, they’re a gold mine when it comes to discovering new businesses and interview sources, and listening in on both expert and non-expert commentary. One neat trick you can do on Facebook is pull up posts, discussions and any other mentions of a particular topic by adding a hashtag to your search term. For instance, typing “#snow” into the search box will bring up public posts and comments from people on your friends list that mention snow. This is particularly useful for newsworthy events.

5. Back up documents you may need later

Web links break all the time. Content is taken down or revised. In some cases, entire websites disappear. Documenting webpages for research purposes is as easy as clicking File>Print>Save as PDF, if you’re using a Mac, or taking a screenshot. Skitch is a free app for Macs, Windows and mobile devices that allows you to annotate screenshots, maps and pictures. Do a web search for screenshot apps and plug-ins that create full-page records, and try a few out to find one that suits your needs. (Worried about copyright infringement? Read about fair dealing in the Copyright Act. In Canada, research, private study, criticism and news reporting are exceptions to copyright infringement.)

Mimi Szeto (@mimiszeto) is a freelance researcher and editor from Toronto who holds a Master of Information Studies degree in Library and Information Science. Formerly an online listings editor at St. Joseph Media for and, she has coordinated fact-checking projects for and worked in various public, academic and non-traditional libraries in the city. 

Holiday gifts for writers and editors

Setting aside, for the moment, the debate over whether “gifting” is a legit verb, here are a few sweet gifts for the writers, editors and other word lovers in your life.

Out of Print Clothing The classics never go out of style. Give your favourite book lovers (including kids!) one of the soft, distressed tees and sweatshirts by Out of Print Clothing. Titles include Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre, Siddhartha, 1984, Charlotte’s Web and many more, from $28 US. Also available: journals, tote bags, note cards, coasters, e-book jackets and phone cases.

LiveScribe Sky Smartpen

Livescribe Sky Smartpen This new gadget has the same features as the much-loved Livescribe Echo—plus Wi-Fi! Your notes and audio recordings transfer wirelessly to Evernote (extra Evernote capacity included with purchase). Available in 2G, 4G and 8G models. Pen only from $165, bundles from $225 at SmartpenCentral.comSpecial offer for EditFish readers: enter EDITFISH at checkout for a 5% discount on all products except Bundles. Offer ends Dec. 31, 2012.

Bananagrams game

Bananagrams is like Scrabble—but without the board, the scoring, the four-player maximum or the long waits between turns. It’s even more fun when you add your own rules. $19.95 at Indigo. (For a fun brain-buster with symbols instead of letters, get the clever game Qwirkle, $29.95 at Indigo.)

Coffee cup

Stuff their stockings with loose-leaf teas from Majesteas and a gorgeous mug (I love the ones by Vancouver’s Heather Dahl). For coffee lovers: a two-cup French press. Buy beans from an indie café or, for an indulgence that lasts well beyond the holidays, subscribe to Alberta’s Transcend Coffee. For chocoholics: fair-trade bars and drink mixes from Canadian co-op Camino.

That old-book smell For those who love the heady aroma of bookstores, Demeter Fragrance Library (how fitting!) makes perfume, foam bath, shower gel and other products in “Paperback” scent. From $6 US.

Crafty e-reader cover If you’re good at DIY, make an e-reader cover with the help of this Canadian Living article. If not, consider the cozy felted covers by Etsy vendor PinsnNeedlesCases. I have one, and I’m impressed by the handiwork. From about $25.

Super-sized computer monitor For someone who’s been really good this year, order a monitor (big enough to view two documents side by side—at least 24”) so the lucky recipient can create a dual-monitor setup with an existing monitor or laptop. I use a Dell UltraSharp model—its colour accuracy and uniformity rival those of pricier Apple monitors. Check often for sales. From $369.

Art imitating books  Check out artist Jane Mount’s lovely (and lovingly rendered) paintings of book collections. Buy themed prints (such as “Writing,” “Fashion” or “Jane Austen”), the My Ideal Bookshelf hardcover or, if money is no object, a custom painting (from $250 US).

Stack of magazinesStack of magazines One of my favourite indulgences is to walk into a magazine store and drop $30 on publications I consider a treat (or guilty pleasure). On my wish list this year: DwellLucky Peach, WORN Fashion Journal, Granta and National Geographic Traveler. And, in case you missed it, Magazines Canada is offering a buy-two-get-one-free subscription deal.

Gifts that give back Make a heartwarming donation in a friend’s name to any of these fine organizations: Toronto Public Library Foundation, Frontier College Literacy Programs, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (disclosure: I’ve volunteered with CJFE for about five years), PEN Canada or World Literacy Canada


Do you have brilliant gift ideas for writers and editors? 

Tech tools for easier editing

I spend way too much time flipping through reference books, so I’m glad that the most popular ones for Canadian editors have all gone digital. Throw in a desk setup that’s conducive to multitasking, and my workdays suddenly seem a little bit shorter.

Canadian Oxford Dictionary

The Canadian Oxford, 2nd ed., is the dictionary of choice for pretty much every publication I’ve worked with, and it’s the one I recommend to clients who haven’t picked one. It also weighs six pounds and is as bulky as a phone book (remember those?), which matters when you’re dragging it to clients’ offices for copy editing gigs. But guess what? There’s an iPhone app. It’s $29.99, but the portability and search function are worth it. The text is nice and crisp, and it can be enlarged – great for tired eyes – and you can tap words in definitions to find out their meaning.

The Chicago Manual of Style Online

Recently I discovered that my copy of Chicago, the 14th edition, came out in 1993 – making it a year older than Justin Bieber. It’s also a decade older than the 15th edition, which I skipped because I figured that grammar and punctuation couldn’t have changed very much. But Chicago has evolved with the times, and so should we. The 16th edition came out in 2010, and an editor I work with recommended the online version. In the past, I hesitated at the annual $30 US fee (a print copy is about $45), but here’s why I’ve signed up for the free 30-day trial and why I’m going to subscribe: I’ve never liked navigating the book, and the online manual’s fully searchable; I can use it anywhere via my iPhone; it’ll always be up to date; and users have access to the Q&A archives, a discussion forum and tools to personalize the guide. Attention, managing editors: Group subscriptions are available.

Canadian Press Stylebook

Rounding out the trinity, there’s an online version of this reference book too, for $4 per month, or $6.25 if you want access to Caps and Spelling. (Licences are available for multiple users.) The Stylebook is on its 16th edition (released in 2010), with expanded chapters on writing for and about the Internet, writing and editing for broadcast, and PR. I’ll probably pick up the print editions, though; I think they’re updated often enough (every two years), and they’re a more economical – though not searchable – option.

photo of dual-monitor workstation

An extra monitor, keyboard and mouse make me more productive...and so do mochaccinos.

Dual monitors

For my first three years as a full-time freelancer, I worked on my 13-inch laptop, chosen for its portable size – I took it to coffee shops for a change of scenery. When my IT guy (my husband) suggested I get a 20-inch monitor, keyboard and mouse and use them together with my laptop, I refused, saying, “I don’t need them!” He convinced me to try it, and now I’d rather stay at my desk than go to Starbucks. The screens are oriented to behave like one monitor – I can drag my mouse across both in one swipe – and the extra space saves time and boosts productivity. It’s just so convenient, for example, to have a PDF or webpage open on one screen while I type notes into a Word document on the other…plus the setup makes me feel like an operator in The Matrix. (The laptop is nicely angled thanks to a stand.) Now I’ve got a bad case of size envy: Last week, another editor told me she has a 15-inch laptop next to a 26-inch monitor.

What online resources, apps and tech tools are making your editing life easier?