Looking for Your Next Read? Check out NoveList!

It’s happened to all readers at some point. You’ve finished a book you loved, but you aren’t sure what to read next. NoveList can help. NoveList is a unique database that allows you to search or browse various criteria to find your next read.

NoveList can be accessed at home by East Greenbush and Schodack residents, and it can be accessed by anyone at the library by connecting to our network.

If you like a particular title, NoveList allows you to search for that title. You’ll get information about the book, including its genre, tone, and writing style. To the column on right, you can see similar titles.

Screenshot of a book's summary page in NoveList

From the NoveList homepage, you can access their appeal mixer if you’re in the mood for reading books written in a particular style.

You can mix and match, and limit by age. If the pre-made appeal factors aren’t your style, you can make your own combo with the appeal mixer.

For an overview of all the neat ways you can use NoveList to find your next read, check out our YouTube video:

Have you used NoveList? Let us know in the comments!

Autofill and Flash Fill: The Best Excel Features You Didn’t Know About

I have long been a fan of using autofill shortcuts to save time in Excel. I recently learned about a smart feature in Excel that takes autofill to the next level. The Flash Fill feature appears to be able to read the mind of the user, allowing them to make bulk changes in an instant.

Auto-filling Cells

Flash fill is part of a larger set of autofill features that allow a user to click and drag a “fill handle” across a number of cells and choose how the selected cells fill. To find the fill handle on a cell, click the cell once so it is outlined, but make sure the cursor does not appear in the cell. Then look at the lower-right corner of the cell. There is a tiny box there that is your target to click and drag.

Screenshot of a selected cell with a small green box in the lower-right corner

If I click and drag down on the fill handle, cells in the column below will highlight. When I release the mouse, the highlighted cells will fill with copies of the first cell.

Cells selected with fill handle dragged over them. The first cell contains "Dave"
Formerly selected cells now all show the word Dave. A menu icon shows below the fill handle.

If you just drag and let go, it copies the first cell by default, but you can see in the second image above that an icon has appeared just below the fill handle. This icon leads to the fill menu, which will allow you to select a different way to autofill the cells besides copying.

Fill menu activated

For the text example “Dave” we are given the option to copy only the formatting without the text, fill the text without formatting, or flash fill. If you are performing the same option on a cell with a number, you are presented with an option to fill series, which allows you to fill with consecutive numbers.

Fill menu showing added option to fill series
Screenshot showing the selected cells displaying consecutive numbers.

Both of these menus include the flash fill option, but we will need a new example to show how flash fill can shine.

Flash Fill

Flash fill is like autofill on steroids, and it is most helpful if you are working with a batch of raw data that needs to be reformatted. Some examples would include turning 10-digit numbers into phone numbers or splitting a full name column into first name and last name columns. Just show Excel the pattern you are looking for, and it will learn how to fill in the area the way you want.

For an in-depth look at flash fill, check out this Tech-Talk article. Tech-Talk is a technology training service provided to patrons by the library. Learn more about Tech-Talk in our Tech Tips article about finding answers to common tech questions. If you would prefer to watch a video demonstrating flash fill, this video from My Online Training Hub is quick and easy to follow.

Summary

Autofill and flash fill are two features that save Excel users valuable time in creating and formatting spreadsheets. Do you use autofill or flash fill? Do you have a different time-saving Excel feature that you’d like to share? Tell us about it in the comments.

Summer Reading with a Technology Twist

If you haven’t participated in the library’s seasonal reading challenges in the last couple of years, you may be surprised to learn that you can now use an app to track your progress. Paper trackers are still available upon request, but we hope you will enjoy the convenience of being able to enter your progress on your device of choice.

The free app we use to configure and track seasonal reading programs is called Beanstack. We also use it to track the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten for preschool-aged children. Here is a brief video demonstrating how to sign up for Beanstack. This video only covers setting up Beanstack for the first use, not how to use the tracking features. We did it that way because each reading program has different rules and activities, and we didn’t want to confuse folks by creating a video that shows the activities from previous years.

If there is only one reading challenge running that you qualify for when you sign up, you will automatically be added to that challenge. When you click on the challenge, you will be presented with a list of activities you can perform to earn raffle tickets used to win prizes at the end of the program. In some cases, logging reading time or titles may be part of the program. Return to the app each time you have something to log.

Registration for this summer’s reading challenge starts June 27th, with the theme Oceans of Possibilities. After the summer reading program is over, make sure you save your login credentials because you will need them again for the next reading challenge! If you have any questions, please contact library staff for assistance.

Descript Has Everything You Need to Edit Audio and Video Easily

Descript is an online service with several tools to help you edit audio and video files painlessly. There is a free version that is limited, but if you need more transcription time or a larger vocabulary for your voice clone, there are three different paid tiers.

Overview Video

If you would prefer to watch an intro video created by Descript, you can view it here:

Key Features

  • Use Descript to capture your screen and record your microphone or computer audio.
  • Transcribe your audio or video at the press of a button.
  • Record remotely
  • For podcasting: edit audio, remove silence, add crossfaces and effects.
  • Edit video, add titles, shapes, lines, arrows, and images.
  • Remove uh, um, and other filler words instantly.
  • Overdub: create a digital clone of your own voice to generate and edit audio tracks.

Overdub

The feature that really made me stand up and take notice of Descript is Overdub. It allows you to create a clone of your voice (free version limited to 1000 words). You can then create an audio track of your voice by just typing the words! It can also be used to make changes to an existing audio recording and blend the tone on each side to make it sound natural. You can also create voices in different tones and performance styles in order to apply Overdub in a variety of situations.

While this technology has been around for some time, consumer tools have left a lot to be desired. Overdub marks a giant step forward in quality, with its AI doing the heavy lifting.

To hear samples of Overdub voices, check out this page: https://www.descript.com/overdub. Even better – if you’d like to take it for a live test drive, there is a widget at the bottom of the page that invites you to choose a voice profile and type in any text you want. Click the “speak it” button to hear your text “read” by the AI voice profile. Just below the widget, there is an option to test it against other popular text-to-speech services.

Conclusion

Descript is a free, easy-to-use tool that is full of features and can help you create and edit audio and video tracks easily. Have you used Descript or Overdub? Do you have another AI tool you find indispensable? Let us know in the comments.

Enlarge Images Easily Without Quality Loss

Have you ever tried to use an image online that looked pixelated or otherwise low-quality when enlarged? Most of the buzz in using online images is how to make the file sizes of the images smaller, but that often results in a quality loss that can leave you disappointed. The good news is that there are several AI-backed tools available to assist you in enlarging your images without losing quality.

There are a number of tools that can accomplish this, such as:

They all work similarly, though their free plans have different limitations. For the purposes of this demo, we are going to use https://bigjpg.com.

Upscaling an Image

The main page contains a standard upload window that allows you to choose an image on your device to upscale.

Screen shot of the home page with a "select images" button in the center

When your image has finished uploading, select “start.”

Screenshot showing the uploaded image with buttons to start or delete

The configuration window will appear. First, select the type of image you are using. Then, pick a factor by which to increase the image. For this tool, the free version is capped at 4x.

Screen shot of the configuration window with options for image type (artwork or photo), upscaling (2x, 4x, 8x - paid, and 16x - paid), and noise reduction (none, low, medium, high, highest)

In testing, I tried a few different images. I found that photos best showed the power of the noise reduction aspect of the tool. For this, I used one of our stock photos of a young man at the library. Here is the original:

Man in his 20s sitting between bookshelves with a stack of books

First, I enlarged the image 4x, and didn’t apply any noise reduction. Click/tap on the image below to make it full size. Depending on the size of your screen, you may be able to see how fuzzy the image looks in his face and his shoulders. That’s the “noise.”

Same image, but larger and lower quality.

I started from the original image and enlarged it 4x again, this time also opting for the highest noise reduction. Click/tap on the image below to make it full size, and note that this image has all of the “noise” smoothed out to make the picture quality appear better.

Same image at 4x, but the rough edges from before are gone

You may wonder why they offer different levels of noise reduction. To see the answer, compare the last image with the original. Where the AI has reduced the noise, it has also “guessed” at how to edit the image and left it looking a bit like a soft filter has been applied. In some cases, you may want to balance that effect with the noise for a better outcome.

Summary

Now that AI technology has become available to the consumer market, free image editing tools have gotten much more sophisticated. There are several sites that will allow you to upscale and enhance your images without a pricey software product. Have you used any of the tools we listed? Do you have another image upscaling tool you love? Let us know about it in the comments.