What follows is offered in the spirit of helpfulness, but doesn't imply thatf I can provide technical support to each user. I would, nonetheless, appreciate receiving an email if you have technical problems using this site. I will try to correct any malfunctions, and compile some user hints to deal with challenges. Please, if you choose to follow the suggestions below, do so at your own risk. Every computer system is different, and these instructions are not fail-safe. If you change your system at all, take notes on everything you do, so you can reverse any changes you have made.

Web pages offer ideal technology for discussions of bird sounds. Spectrograms and oscillograms freeze time and allow us to examine and communicate about acoustic specifics with the same precision possible in discussions of plumage. "Slow-motion" playback unpacks acoustical details that we cannot hear at realtime speeds, and gives us the aural resolution to correlate the sound with its picture. The downside is that the programs ("applications") on individual computers that display web pages come in many varieties, and can be set up with many "looks." Some of these settings were probably modified by unrelated programs that you installed for another purpose. To get the most out of my presentations on bird sounds, you may need to deal with challenges on three fronts: (1) Page size, i.e., what you see, (2) Sound-player programs, i.e., what you hear, which includes what you see while you hear it, and (3) Excessive security. Below I share what I have learned about working around these challenges. Most people with Windows operating systems on their computers use Internet Explorer as their browser and the hints below refer to that program. Mozilla Firefox is the other browser that is in wide use today. This site "works" on Firefox, and it has all the functionality that IE has. You should be able to translate the IE terminology to Firefox terminology fairly easily.

Screen Size

Screen width.  This presentation was designed for large monitor screens (at least 1200 pixels wide). If you don't have one, you can still use the single column pages without a problem, but the side-by-side comparisons will be partially truncated. A small-screen version is in the works; meanwhile, my apologies for the lack of full functionality on your system.

Screen height.  Many systems may not have enough room vertically to display all the text associated with each sound. There are several ways to remedy this problem:

Any changes you make to browswer settings will be "remembered" by the browser. For example if you change to "Full Screen" and then quit IE, IE will open in Full Screen Mode next time.

Frames. Some pages use "frames," which are windows that operate semi-independently on the page. If you want to increase or decrease the width of one of them, you can RESIZE two frames by grabbing the border between them and dragging it left or right. This requires a light touch with the mouse. You should see a double-headed vertical arrow when you engage the border with your mouse. Some browsers don't support frames. If you have such a browser, you are even more old-fashioned than I am. Consider down-loading a free browser.

Sound Player Software (Plug-ins)

Media files on the web, such as the dozens of sound files available to you on this site, are played with the help of software on your computer. The web browser software that displays the text and graphics of this site thinks of these helper software programs as "Plug-ins," "Add-ons," or "Add-ins." My sounds are in Windows ".wav" format, so they will be played on your computer by the sound player software that you have chosen to play wav files. Many players can do this. The rub is, most of them want to take up most of your screen while playing. And they want to show you some animation while you are listening. That animation gets in the way of studying the spectrogram while you are listening.

In general, you want to "resize" the player and "drag" it to the corner of your screen so you can still see the page. If you merely "minimize" the player by clicking the "_" icon at top-right on the player, it will pop up and take its previous form next time you click a spectrogram. (Note: Real Player can be minimized, and it will stay on the Task Bar until you click on it again.)

Resizing the Player

To bring up the sound player your browser uses, click here. If, after reading the comments below, you want to change the sound player your computer uses to play all wav sounds on your computer, go to Changing the Default Player. I can tell you a bit about four brands of sound player. Bear in mind, though, that each brand has many versions, and that the options available on these versions vary. They have many features that are not relevant to just clicking a link and hearing a sound. Moreover, they are all trying to sell you something. You don't need to buy anything to use those players with this site. Here are the four I've used (although I'm not familiar with the latest version in every case):

  • Real Player. Ideal for use with this site because it will stay on the task bar (at the bottom of the screen), if you want it to. (Some other players, notably Windows Media Player, will pop up on top of your active window every time you call them, so you might as well find a place you can tolerate the player console and leave it there.) In other words, if you minimize the RP console, it will not pop up the next time you click a sound link. For more information, go here.
  • Winamp Media Player. This is also a well-behaved player. The console that floats over the content on your screen can be very small. It will stay on the Task Bar if you minimize it.
  • Windows Media Player. If you have a Windows computer, this program will have been installed on it at the factory; the previous two have to be downloaded. Its console can be placed in Skins Mode, resized, and positioned in a convenient place on the screen, like Winamp, but it doesn't get as small as Winamp's. Go here for instructions on resizing and relocating the console.
  • QuickTime. QuickTime has been a real headache. When I tested these pages on several recent-vintage computers, I found that clicking the spectrogram to play the sound replaced the spectrogram with a QuickTime console. It could not be moved or resized. On top of this, QuickTime had become the "default" browser plug-in, without my knowing it. (They all try to do this, QuickTime seems to be very effective at it.) QuickTime can, with some effort, be trained to appear as a floating console, without taking over the spectrogram's space, but it still has liabilities: mainly, it opens a new console every time you click a sound link. My presentations on sound are designed for rapid comparison of sounds, and it is important that each succeeding sound be loaded in a single console. So, to use this site effectively, select a sound player other than QuickTime as Default Player for wav sounds. If QuickTime continues to load every time you try to play a sound from these pages, you will need to take more drastic action.
Real Player. Click the "Minimize" button (it's a box with an underline in it) to send the player console to the "Task Bar" (at the very bottom of your screen). It should stay there.

RP uses "compression" when it is "streaming" real-time media content from the web to your computer. Compression reduces the quality of a sound recording. I don't know if Real Player compresses these wav files before playing, probably not. I've tried it and the results sound okay.

If you don't have RealPlayer, you can find their website and download it, or get it through the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics. If you do download it, or any other player, they will try to sell you something, many things. The free, barebones player is all you need to play sounds on this site. You may be presented with a registration screen that you have to fill in before you can actually use RP to listen to sound. When you fill this in, notice that you can opt out of receiving all the reminders and notices they offer to send you. You will have to install the player on your computer before you can choose it as the default player. If you have never done this, consider asking a more experienced person for help.

Windows Media Player. Presumably it is already on your computer. Do the following to resize and relocate it on the screen.

Changing the Default Player

If you choose to do this, do so at your own risk. It is a straightforward procedure, though, and any changes you make should be easily reversible. Here's how, for Windows operating systems prior to Vista:

As soon as you have changed the default player, it should work from the web page. If it does not come up when you click a sound link, e.g., a spectrogram, close the browser, then open it again and open the web page anew. If you see a QuickTime console where the spectrogram had been, go to the next paragraph below.
If the player you selected does not come up, it is probably because the web browser (IE) is over-riding your default selection. If you experience this problem, please drop me an email, I need to know how pervasive it is. If you know how to deal with this problem, please drop me an email and I will share it.

The QuickTime problem. QuickTime is a popular and widespread movie player that is often automatically installed as the default media player in your browser, without your realizing it. At least in IE (Internet Explorer), it even overrides the selection you have made in Windows for your default wav-file player. I have not discovered a way to keep it from occupying the browser window when it is invoked, but I have figured out how to deselect it altogether as the browser's media plug-in. If you do this, any sound file you play through your browser will not be played by QuickTime. You do NOT need to deselect QuickTime as your default movie player to get it to stop playing wav files. Here's what you do (remember, it's at your own risk):

Excessive Security

Pop-up Blockers. If you select the "Open spectrogram in new window" link below each spectrogram, the new window will be a "pop-up." Pop-up windows on commercial sites are often obnoxious, so software has been produced to block pop-ups. If you have a pop-up blocker and it blocks these pop-ups, it may give you a chance to exempt them. Or, you may have to turn it off temporarily to use the pop-ups on this site. Another option is not to use my pop-up windows. All the content on the site is available without using pop-ups.

Active-X Problems. A recent version of IE on a computer with a Windows Vista operating system has annoyingly asked for permission every time I've clicked a spectrogram. I was able to stop this by disabling some of the Active-X protections at Tools|Internet Options|Advanced. If you disable any of these protections on your computer, please take notes on the previous settings so you can restore the former level of security.

I welcome your feedback on these tips as well as the presentation on bird sounds. Email me. Replies are likely to be in the form of a mass email, but I will also revise this page as new information comes in.