22 July 2007

My NCBI Collections: bricks and bouquets

The NLM Technical Bulletin has announced a four-minute Quick Tour, Editing Collections in My NCBI. I am a compulsive consumer of this kind of thing, because every now and then you actually learn something new. Not this time. The little presentation was reliably humdrum. I don't know if it will inspire new users.

But I am a total convert. Since its introduction I have adored the Collections feature. When I am working on a complex literature search it may end up requiring several sessions over a period of a few days. In the old days I used to grumble about not being able to set up more than one Clipboard. Then came My NCBI Collections and my cramped and crabby little search world was transformed. I now use Collections to create multiple clipboards, which I merge for the final product.

I enjoy the ease of the PubMed interface, although I hope to see some interface improvements in the future. I still have a major outstanding complaint. How about keyboard commands for PubMed? Google Mail and Google Reader have them in spades. Bloglines has them too. I suffer from tenosynovitis in my right forearm. PubMed is a total clickarama, and I spend a great deal of time with it. It may be one of America's greatest gifts to humankind, but it is killing me.

For relief I have turned to various solutions but settled on a Firefox add-on called Mouseless Browsing. This little program adds small boxes with unique number IDs beside every link and/or form element on a web page. Simply type in the number and press enter (there is also an automatic mode available) to trigger the appropriate action such as following a link, pressing a button, etc. I have it configured to work only when I call it up with the Pause/Break key. I don't always want to see dozens of little boxes with numbers on a web page, but for PubMed and Google searching the program is invaluable.