Google Translate to the rescue

Screencap of Google Translate in action (speech recognition from English to Italian)

Screencap of Google Translate in action (speech recognition from English to Italian)

This spring, when my cousin asked me to quickly translate my uncle’s eulogy into Italian, I agreed without hesitation. Italian school every Saturday morning for twelve years should have made it easy for me to get the job done but when you don’t have the opportunity to practice a language, you can get a little rusty. With emotions running high and wanting to do a good job in a short period of time, I enlisted my brother-in-law’s assistance. He suggested we use the Google Translate app (available on Google Play and the iTunes App store). With my cousin’s English text in hand, I dictated the words into the mobile phone and the app instantaneously verbalized and displayed those same words back to me in Italian. At first, the translated text was not perfect. I had to start over several times because I had not articulated properly and some English expressions did not have Italian equivalents, but overall, the app did an exceptional job of capturing key pieces of text. Once we had the correct wording in hand, we then took the time to properly add or modify text where appropriate without feeling worried that we wouldn’t get the entire eulogy done in time. Google Translate saved us lots of time so we could focus our energy on making this hard time a little easier for my family members.

Since then, I have had the chance to play around with Google Translate a little more. Things to note:

  1. You can download language packs to work offline.
  2. Speech recognition, pronunciation guidance, and the option to have the device read translations aloud will not work if you don’t have access to the internet.
  3. The app is not perfect so a little experimentation goes a long way.

Mobile users can choose to do what I did and translate “speech to text” or users can also choose “text to text” or “text to speech” translation. Users working with text also have the option to choose between working with a keyboard or going “old school” (i.e. handwriting the words to be translated). Probably the coolest functionality of this app is that it can translate the text from your camera’s images into the language of your choice. This app could come in pretty handy in happier moments like when you are traveling and aren’t sure what the waiter is asking you or that street sign is trying to communicate.

Interesting stats from Google Translate:

“A collaboration between Google News Lab and Visual Cinnamon, called Beautiful in English, has analysed Google Translate data from 2012 to 2016. It collected all the single word translations of nouns and adjectives into English before assessing them to discover 10 of the most popular languages on Google. In the course of finding these languages, the collaboration discovered the most common words translated into English across the world – with surprisingly heartwarming results.” – from Translations from across the world prove we are united by goodness and beauty (Wired)

The similarities between the top 10 words※ per language (courtesy of the Beautiful in English Project)

The similarities between the top 10 words※ per language (courtesy of the Beautiful in English Project)

RxTx formerly known as e-CPS (Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties)

Instruction on how to set it up on your mobile app:

To get started, go to, enter the Organization Code: 0090201 and complete your registration.

Once your registration is completed, you can go to the Apple/Google Play App Store from your smartphone/tablet and search for RxTx Mobile. Once installed, enter your email address and the password created during registration. This step is only required the first time the app is opened.

Installing initial content will take approximately 5-10 minutes and it must be perform over a WiFi connection.

Video from:

Can you speak Inuktitut? Do you want to learn?

Inuktitut is the language of the Inuit. It is one of the official languages for Nunavut, a part of Quebec, as well as for the Northwest Territories.

If you are interested, try these free apps (available for iphones and/or ipads through itunes), and get started in understanding and speaking Inuktitut:

AiPai Chart app iconAiPai Chart
will help you learn the sounds of the Inuktitut alphabet. The interactive chart allows you to touch a syllabic and then hear the sound.

Singuistics app iconSinguistics is a great app for anyone who wants to learn a few traditional songs from the Gwich’in, Anishinaabemowin, Cree, Chipewyan, and Inuktitut languages.  By singing the songs yourself, the app promises to help you improve your pronunciation of Inuktitut words and phrases. Once you are ready, impress your friends by using the app to record your performance and sharing it with them.

Makittagait app iconMakittagait is a game that will help you to learn and read Inuktitut.  Developed by the Kativik school board, the app is meant for a younger audience, but this one is light and fun. Learner can build up their language skills as they move from easy to difficult levels.


Inuit Unikkausiliurusingit app iconInuit Unikkausiliurusingit is another fun app for someone who already has a basic understanding of Inuktitut. It includes challenges and games such as helping to repair a broken igloo or steer a dog team through ice blocks while learning to read Inuktitut. The app was created by and beautifully illustrated and narrated by Thomassie Mangiok. The app includes original music by Montreal artist Nicolas Pirti Duplessis and throat singing by Evie Mark. This app is available for iphone and android devices.

BlueFire Reader: 6 smart reasons to use this app

  1. Store all your e-books and PDFs in one location and easily manage them regardless of the e-book platform. This app makes reading e-books very convenient as e-books accessible via McGill Library are protected by an embedded Adobe Digital Rights Management (DRM) component (i.e. depending on the content providers).
  2. Tab and hold on the text, to highlight, add a note, or more.
  3. Create a bookmark or customized your reader.
  4. The e-book will be returned automatically to the library when the e-book is due.
  5. Syn your e-book library on various mobile devices (up to 6 reading devices including computers).
  6. There are apps for both Android and iOS devices.

Steps involve in using this app:

a) Install BlueFire Reader from Mobile App guide.
b) Create an Adobe ID. You will be prompted to log in using your Adobe ID or sign up for one.
c) Download e-books from the McGill Library collection.

Digital Rights Management (DRM)

What is a Digital Rights Management (DRM) System? In the library context, Adobe DRM can enforce the following elements:

  1. Restrict the lending period. When your e-book is due, the DRM component discontinues access and will automatically “return” it to the digital Library. The files remain physically on the your computer or device, but content is inaccessible and need to be deleted.
  2. Protect the copyrighted materials by preventing the user from copying, printing or altering the content.
  3. Restrict the number of reading devices the book can be shared with.
  4. for more information visit here.


OverDrive – an App for Reading, Audio Books, and Streaming Video

(This review was based on the iPhone 5 app)

It’s Stardate 20170222. As reading week approaches at warp-speed you might be planning some recreational reading as a welcome break from your course-work. Perhaps you are aiming to beat the winter blues and looking for an audio book to listen to while working out? OverDrive is an ebook, audio book and streaming video platform for McGill users and alumni containing thousands of titles from which to choose. Although items you borrow can be read on a laptop or desktop computer, the OverDrive app offers a user-friendly experience once installed and authenticated, and is available for Android, Apple, and Windows platforms. The app also has the added benefit of not requiring Adobe Digital Editions software as is necessary for desktop use.

Getting the app up-and-running is a bit tricky. Once the app is installed you need to authenticate your device with McGill’s account using either your regular username (easiest) or library card number (if you do not have a McGill email). We have posted instructions on how to do this here. Once your device is authenticated the experience is seamless and very user-friendly.

Open “McGill University Library” from the app top left menu to browse and search titles.

Access your “Bookshelf” just underneath in the menu to display thumbnails of borrowed titles (whether book, audio or video) that helpfully show the expiry date which differs according to format (14 days for books and audio books, 5 days for videos) for a total of 30 checkouts. For each format you have a choice of reading/listening/watching in your browser or adding to the app, but the experience is so seamless with the app that unless storage is an issue, this is the best way to go to read or listen to content.

To return a title before it expires, simply press and hold on a title in your Bookshelf and a “Return to Library” option appears. Press on “Return to Library” and agree to the “Return title early” option and the title will disappear from your title list.

Happy reading!

Out of space? Mobile-responsive sites won’t take up storage on your device!

We’ve been seeing a growing trend for providers of e-resources (ejournals, ebooks, videos, and the like) to adapt the display of their content to mobile devices rather than create a whole separate app. Many of the platforms to which McGill Library has subscriptions use these mobile-adapted web interfaces.

Responsive websites have the benefit of seamless access–either you’re on the McGill network or you can use EZproxy or VPN, but the result is the same. A second benefit is the reduction in storage space requirements. Is your 16GB device just a little too full for comfort? No space? No worries! Mobile websites do not download data onto the device so will not affect storage. Some websites will offer you the option to add an icon to your home-screen but this is simply a web link to the website, rather than an app in itself. If you do use these web icons from your home-screen and you are not physically on campus, you will need to use the Cisco Anyconnect VPN client to make sure the resources knows you are a McGill Library patron.

Here are some platform websites that are adapted for all kinds of mobile devices and won’t eat into your storage quota:

The mobile landscape in general is adapting to user behaviour with some vendors changing focus from apps towards responsive websites, and sometimes a website is all you need. If you’re online, you’re good to go!

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Quick pick – Quartz


There are a lot of different ways to get your news but here is something…well…different.

Quartz is an app that sends news teasers as friendly texts. It will ask if you want to know more or move on to something else. If you want to know more it texts again with info, images, video, etc. It is basically heavily digested news snippets but you can also click through to the source.

It is pretty chatty and if it runs out of news it will give you a quiz or something else to do – try it out.

App of the Month – ACS Mobile

Do you want to stay up-to-date on your favourite journals from the American Chemical Society (ACS)? The ACS Mobile app might be just the thing you need.

ACS Mobile ACS Mobile

The Library has a full electronic subscription to ACS and you can take advantage of this all-access pass with this app. The first step is to select the journals that you would like to follow from their list. The latest content will be loaded, with easy viewing of article titles, authors, and colour images. An interesting article can be saved to the My ASAPs area for a later date, or you can click on a title to read the abstract. Selecting the full text option brings you to the published version of the article. Reading is a breeze with the pinch to expand gesture.

Be sure to download the AnyConnect app to be able to turn on the McGill virtual private network (VPN) and gain access to these journals on your mobile device (VPN info here).

I had the habit of following C&EN in a browser and I’ve since moved to the app, although it does allow me to open articles in Safari. I find it much more comfortable to read the latest news headers on my phone now and I feel more up-to-date. I hope you will too!