A Cool Tool Alert: snap shots
A cool tool finds that sweet spot between doing something novel and something really practical and helpful--that meets a real need, not a manufactured need to just play with technology for its own sake. Cool tools enhance our ability to create and contribute.
For me, snap shots from snap.com is such a tool. It provides readers some additional functionality when reading your blog.
I just installed this free, cool little tool on Practical Practice. Oh, yes, I said the magic word, didn't I: "free." snap shots enhances links with visual previews of the destination site, interactive excerpts of Wikipedia articles, MySpace profiles, IMDb profiles and Amazon products, displays inline videos, RSS, MP3s, photos, stock charts and more. Try the previous links to see how this can be useful for your own links on your blogs as well as when reading Practical Practice.
Often snap shots brings you a preview that gives you the information you need, without your ever having to leave the site. At other times it allows you to "look ahead," before deciding if you want to follow a link or not--a feature I especially appreciate.
I've set up snap shots on Practical Practice to activate only when you hover (don't click unless you want to visit the link) your mouse over the little bubble icon that now appears next to most of my links. So if you don't want the preview to appear, just avoid the little bubble next to the link.
On your own site you can choose not to turn the bubbles on if you don't like them. Instead, if you want, you can set up snap shots to show the preview when the user hovers over any part of the entire link. And you can turn the previews on or off for individual links and even whole sections of your site. For example: none of the links in the banner or sidebar of my blog use it.
Should you decide the previews on my site annoy you, you as the reader can always turn them off. (That element of choice is so important in life, isn't it!) Just hover over one of the bubbles so the preview appears and click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the preview window and select to opt-out.
A couple of other settings and options: I've set up my preview window to default to the large size. Advantage: my old eyes can read it better; disadvantage: it loads the preview slower. Change it if you wish. When a preview appears, you can select to view the page or the RSS feed summary if one exists. The icons to control this feature appear in the top left of the preview window. In the example pictured below the RSS icon is selected. The preview window would display the RSS feed summaries. To switch to the site view, simply click on the icon to the extreme left.
Of course, as with anything cool, there's always more. Check out the snap.com site for lots more information. You will want to know a little bit about html in order to install it on your site (or have someone with you who does), but it's not hard!
As the students are fond of saying: Sweet. Very sweet!