Author Archives: Belinda Perkinson

About Belinda Perkinson

Belinda works with the ITCS Training and Communications team at East Carolina University.

Firefox NOT working? Here’s a Fix


Some users, myself included, have noticed that if we allow Firefox 10 esr browser to update, it no longer works well when updating CommonSpot pages.  One major symptom is the inability to save updates within a formatted textbox element. A version check usually reveals that Firefox has been updated to 10.0. 8 or 9.

By reverting back to the original Firefox 10.0.1 version, you should again be able to update your website using Firefox.

The “Do-Over” Instructions

1. First, Click the appropriate link below and save the file to your computer.

2. Double-click the file to install.  This will take just a minute.

Once the installation completes, you can check your version by opening Firefox, clicking “Help” and choosing “About Firefox.”

Form Permissions are Different in Winter 2012


So, you are going to update your CommonSpot simple form, but there is no Edit Fields option. 


No worries, this is a new security feature in CommonSpot Winter 2012, and permissions are easily updated by the owner of the form or ITCS.

The default form security now allows only the owner (creator) of the form to administer (edit fields, delete, etc.), the form.  Therefore, other groups or users must be given that permission.  Here’s how this is done:

1.  From the Simple Form options menu, choose Form Security.  The Simple Form Security dialog box opens.

 Form Security

2.  This dialog box allows changing the form’s owner or adding individual contributors or contributor groups. 

3.  The permission level will be set to Administer.

4.  If the owner of the form no longer edits your site, enter an IT service request ticket, and ITCS will update the permissions for your form.

NOTE:  We suggest that a group be added rather than an individual unless there are special circumstances that require an individual be added to the form permissions.

Simple Form Security

Simple Image Editors on the Web


Because of a conflict with the progressive design stylesheet we’re using, which adjusts the size of your web page to the visitor’s screen size, the ability to scale a photo within the CommonSpot image dialog box has been turned off.  This means that, while you can add a border or space around an image through CommonSpot image tools, you can no longer resize (scale) from this feature.  Images and graphics need to be sized correctly before being placed on your web page.

For those of you who don’t use PhotoShop, Becky has created a great tutorial introducing two FREE online photo editors that are super easy to use–even for beginners!

iPiccy requires no registration and is easy to use for cropping a picture or resizing.  fotoflexer doesn’t require you to join or register, either, and has many fun special effects. For a great explanation, see this Simple Image Editing

For those Mac or Windows users who decide to try either of these editors, please Yam your experiences using either eidtor on the CommonSpot User Yammer Group.

Only a Few Pages Showing in a Search


While in the Winter 2012 intro session this morning, I finally figured out the difference between “My Pages” and “Page Finder” in Winder 2012.  Remember that “My Pages” is a listing of all the pages you’ve created–pages for which you are the owner–while “Page Finder” generates the entire list of pages, documents, etc., in your web folder.

Both features are found in the “My CommonSpot” site menu at the top of the page (the gray one), but they are each under a different category.

My Pages

For a list of the pages you created, click the “My Content” menu and choose, “My Pages…”

List of pages you created

All Items Report

Generate a list of the pages, templates, uploaded documents and registered URLs in your web folder from the “Reports” menu. This includes any item, no matter the owner. From the report, click an item to open.

List of web folder items

Resolution Determines the Quality of your Website’s Photos


Understanding the proper resolution for an image greatly improves the quality of the photos in your website and also the load time, both important considerations for web developers.  This is the first in a series of discussions on image resolution, image size and how to edit the photos for your website using both.  Today’s post explains image resolution.

What is image resolution?

Digital images are composed of tiny dots called, pixels.  Each pixel is a different color, so all the pixels put together form the details of the image.

Pixels create image detail

The inset above is magnified to 1600% to show how the colored dots make up the details of the boy’s hair.

Resolution is the density of pixels as measured by “pixels per inch (ppi).”  The more tightly-packed the pixels into each inch of space, the more detail (quality) there is in the image.

For example, the 10 ppi image below left is blurry because there are only 10 pixels per inch in the photo.  The middle image is an improvement at 20 ppi, but is still not a very good quality.  The image on the right gives the greatest detail of the three at 72 ppi.

72ppi is standard

Is there a standard resolution for web images?

While print materials most often use a very high resolution for the most detail, the standard resolution for web images is 72 ppi.  This give the most detail we humans can see on a digital screen while allowing the image to open (load) quickly.  The next post will discuss image size.

Download the Appropriate Firefox for CommonSpot (ESR)


In the last post listing the supported authoring browsers for the CommonSpot upgrade, I mentioned that the appropriate Firefox version is called, “ESR.”  So, what is the ESR version and where do users download this version? 

What is “Extended Support Release”?

First a definition.  “ESR” stands for “Extended Support Release.”  This version is appropriate for CommonSpot users as it has limited updates (security updates are an exception to this) for at least a year.  Downloads are available for Windows, Mac and Linux.  Various add-ons are also available for the ESR version.

PaperThin, the vendor for CommonSpot, endorses and supports the Firefox ESR version as working with the Winter 2012 version of CommonSpot (our new upgrade version).

How do Users Download?

Visit the Extended Support Release download page and choose your language (scroll down for “English (US)”).  Click the “Download” button for your OS and install on your computer.  Any existing version of Firefox will be overwritten.  Bookmarks will transfer over to the ESR version.  The update also checks your current add-ons for incompatibilities.

 Note that the version number for Firefox ESR is 10.0.6esr. 

 Why Should Users Switch to this Version?

Authoring with the Firefox ESR version will resolve several of the recent problems contributors have experienced when frequent browser updates—which is normally a good thing—take the web technology beyond what our CommonSpot version’s authoring can handle (CS is not updates as often).  Therefore, using a version where updates are further apart slows down this problem and CommonSpot/Firefox work together well for a longer period of time.

Add-Ons Link

To search for available add-ons for Firefox 10.0.6esr, navigate to the add-ons page, type the version into the search box.  The list of add-ons that work with the ESR version will be available.

Compatible Browsers for CommonSpot

  • Internet Explorer, 8 and 9 (Windows)
  • Firefox 10 ESR* version (Windows, Linux, Mac OS X)
  • Chrome 14 (Windows, Linux, Mac OS X) – limited copy, cut, paste**
  • Safari 5 (Mac OS X) – limited copy, cut, paste**

*ESR stands for Extender Support Release – more on this later

**From the CommonSpot Winter 2012 Contributor’s Reference, page 322:

Authoring Browser Considerations

Authoring and approval functionality is nearly identical across the browsers. There are differences that affect usage of the CommonSpot rich text editor (RTE).

For security reasons, both Mozilla-based browsers and Chrome disallow cut, copy, and paste operations unless you first configure the browser to explicitly grant access to the clipboard.

You can easily install add-ins to support clipboard functions in both browsers.

Chrome users are automatically prompted to download and install on the PaperThin helper on first use, and clipboard functions are active after browser restart. To avoid the interruption this may cause, contributors using Chrome should create a sample instance of cut-and-paste in the RTE to invoke the download in advance of using the clipboard for actual content creation and modification.

For Firefox, see the how-to article taken from the Paperthin Community website. Configure Firefox to allow copy/paste

Safari restricts cut-and-paste to right-click operations, affecting the RTE toolbar and keyboard shortcuts.”

CommonSpot Upgrade Scheduled for August


The web team is now in the testing phase for the latest version of CommonSpot.

So, here’s the plan–barring unforeseen circumstances–

July 1, 2012
The testing server opens to all contributors. We’ll be sending the URL so you can access your testing site. The testing server includes a copy of the ECU website plus the new version of CS. You’ll be able to play around with the new features, create pages, etc., without jeopardizing your current site.

August 1, 2012
The upgrade–the new CommonSpot version is loaded.

Please remember these are projected deadlines–sometimes project steps take longer than expected. However, we’ll announce delays and changes here.

Through the rest of June and July we’ll be posting “sneak peek” videos here and also on the CommonSpot Blog Upgrade 2012 page. The full introductory video will be posted June 29th.

Also, be sure to register for the hour-long, f2f upgrade overview sessions available on the ECU Training Calendar also scheduled throughout July.

In the Works – Responsive Design for ECU’s Website


Responsive design simply means that a web layout adjusts to the size of a device’s browser window (including the screen resolution).  So no matter if a user is viewing your page on a desktop, laptop, iPad, smart phone or TV, your important information is sized to the screen in a readable form.

Even better for designers, there’s only one layout to create, not one for regular screens and then another for a mobile version.

How does this Work?

Responsive design uses a “media query” to detect the height, width and resolution of the user’s browser and then adjusts the layout accordingly through the Cascading Style Sheet (CSS).  Properties such as display width, page orientation, pixel resolution and other device features determine which style sheet is used to render the page for a user.

As the browser window narrows, columns/containers stack one on top of the other so that the page narrows and lengthens to fit the screen.  Font size and images are reduced.  For larger devices, columns, fonts, images and other features expand to their fullest size into a more horizontal layout.

Rather than a “one-size-fits-all” solution for the size of a web page, a media query allows a designer to target styles based on device properties like screen size or layout orientation.

All of this resides in the default page code, so ECU’s department designers are no longer required to

  • Create separate mobile versions of their web pages
  • Manually update two sets of pages

What do ECU webmasters need to know?

  • Once this feature is live, a mobile version is automatically available for new pages created using the 960-pixel templates.
  • Pages based on the old 770-pixel layout cannot take advantage of the responsive style sheet.
  • Images  for new pages should be cropped and sized for the space—not scaled—so they load faster and display appropriately on any size device.

When will this happen?

Currently in the testing phase, the Web team intends to transition ECU departments and colleges to this new feature throughout the summer.  Web administrators will be contacted beforehand.  It’s important to note again that only new pages created from the 960-wide templates will use the responsive design style sheet.

Do It by the Book


Structure your CommonSpot content using headings and paragraphs

The next few posts outline for beginning webmasters how to structure a CommonSpot page using html codes. Today’s discussion is on chunks, paragraphs and headings.

Think of your favorite book.

This book has a title—only one main title—and the information in your book is divided into chapters with each chapter having its own title. This is also true for well-built web pages. There is a main heading—there’s only one—and the content is “chunked” into sections made up of paragraphs. Each section has its own heading.

Not only does using this basic hierarchical structure make your content easy to read, it’s also accessible to a screen reader which helps those users who might be listening to your page.

A very simple page’s code starts out like this:

<h1>This is my main title!</h1>
<h2>Section 1</h2>
<p>blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah</p>
<h2>Section 2</h2>
<p>blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah</p>
<h2>Section 3</h2>
<p>blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah</p>

This is my main title!

Section 1

blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah

Section 2

blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah


blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah

To see how this works, view this VIDEO DEMO [1:40] on formatting a CommonSpot text block.

But how does CommonSpot know what size and color to make the headings and paragraphs? It follows the instructions in a CSS style sheet, but you are free to change these styles using the toolbar formatting buttons. Future posts will discuss how to create and upload your own stylesheet to CommonSpot.

Want to learn more? Here is a link to the w3 schools website: or a YouTube search will uncover zillions of videos to help you get started.