Finding images that can be used for presentations, websites or other projects can be difficult. There are a lot of options for Creative Commons images, but these images typically have restrictions on them, such as attribution requirements. For some projects, you may prefer images that can be freely used without concerns about attribution. In these cases, Pixabay is a great resource. It collects public domain images that can be used without the need to provide attribution.
When you sign up for the service, you will be prompted to share your own images as well. Uploaded images can be JPG, PNG, or SVG files of up to 12 MB. They must have a minimum width of 1920 pixels and their width can be up to twice their height. The fairly detailed guidelines are intended to improve the quality of the items shared on the site and based on the images I found on Pixabay, they seem to be working. Users can earn an ad-free experience by uploading ten of their own images to the service, but even if you choose to never upload a single image, you have full access to all of the public domain images that Pixabay has collected. If you’re a photographer, you may also want to check out the photo contest that Pixabay is running between now and June 1st for a chance to win money for your photographs.
For those who are simply looking for images that they can use, Pixabay is a great option. I conducted a number of searches on Pixabay using different terms and found numerous relevant and aesthetically pleasing images for each search term. Results included a mix of pictures and graphics in most cases, which makes it a good tool regardless of the type of image you would like. Search results include pictures from Shutterstock that are not free, but they are clearly marked and each of the searches I tried also came up with public domain images, so I found this to be a minor complaint. Results can be sorted by image orientation, image type (photo, clipart, or vector), popularity or by most recent additions. You can also identify the most popular images (by number of downloads) or photographers on the leaderboard or find the editor’s picks on a separate page. One interesting feature that the service also offers is the ability to sort images by the type of camera used to take the pictures. This is a nice option both for serious photographers and for those who are simply interested in seeing some examples to help them choose a camera. This service is well worth a try by both photographers and those who need images for use in their own projects.
Sharing slides online can be a great way of keeping an archive of your presentations and of expanding their reach beyond those who can attend the live event. There are a few different options available for this, including Slideshare, which I have used for quite some time. But another alternative, particularly for those who will be embedding their slides on a website, is Speaker Deck from GitHub. With Speaker Deck, users can upload any PDF and it will automatically be broken into slides and appear in a slideshow format similar to the format seen on Slideshare. Once a slide deck has been uploaded, it can be shared via a link, on Twitter or Facebook, or by using the provided embed code to put it on a website or blog. As a nice touch, when you prepare to share your slides you can opt to start at the beginning of the slide show or go directly to a specified slide. Presentations can be public or private and if they are public, they can be viewed or downloaded by anyone. Slides can also be expanded to full screen, which makes it possible to present your slides directly from Speaker Deck. Simple statistics about the number of times a presentation has been viewed or starred are displayed to the right of the slide deck along with links to edit, share and download the presentation.
Users can browse through presentations that have already been shared on the site, which are divided up by topic. Speaker Deck also highlights certain slide decks in their Featured Presentations section, which can bring additional attention to these slides. Uploading new presentations is quick and easy. While you do have to have your presentations in PDF format, Speaker Deck provides information about how to export from PowerPoint or Keynote to PDF. Each file can be up to 50 megabytes and the FAQ also includes information on compressing larger files. Perhaps best of all from a user’s perspective, when presentations are embedded via Speaker Deck, they automatically resize to fit the available space without any need to modify the code. Overall, Speaker Deck is a great alternative for posting and sharing slides, especially if you will be embedding the slides on a website.
Interested in finding more tools for creating or sharing presentations? Take a look at my guide to presentation tools.
I’ve previously written on this blog about RubyMonk, a series of tutorials for learning Ruby, and now that group has released a new tool in the same vein for learning Python. Called PythonMonk, the website offers a series of exercises and problems that teach users the basics of the Python programming language.
Taking the same form as the RubyMonk tutorials, these lessons are designed for those with no programming experience and start with the very basics. They walk users through the learning process with a combination of text, examples of code and exercises for users to complete themselves. The exercises advance slowly enough to give students a chance to really learn the concepts without being so slow that they lose interest. For those who get stuck on any given exercise, there is the option to get a hint for most exercises or, if truly confused, to see the answer in its entirety. The pacing and content are good for those who are hoping to learn the basics of Python relatively quickly.
In addition to these lessons and exercises, PythonMonk also offers problems so that users can apply what they are learning. In a nice touch, the elements of the problems are listed on the image for each problem and turn from red to green once the lessons for that problem have been completed and a note at the top of the problem indicates the lessons related to the problem have not yet been completed. While users can attempt any problem they would like, it is nice to have a visual cue to indicate whether they have learned the concepts necessary for the problem.
Overall, PythonMonk is a nice collection of exercises for those hoping to teach themselves Python. Right now there are only a few lessons and problems available, but as the list develops over time it will become an even more useful tool.
With new apps being created daily, if not hourly, there is always new functionality coming to the iPad. At this point, there are few functions that you can’t do with an app. One impressive example of this is the Phoster app, which allows you to create great posters directly on your iPad.
With over 200 templates to choose from in portrait, square and landscape dimensions, one of the best features of this app is the fact that is gives you a stylish starting place for all sorts of different posters. Elements of the template can also be recolored and edited to personalize the look and feel of the poster to fit your needs. There is also a blank template available if you prefer to completely customize your project. Even better, if you find yourself using the same templates over and over, you can favorite them so that you can find them more quickly. Once you have selected a template, all text is editable and you can also add images to your poster from your iPad’s library with just a couple of clicks. Images can be moved around on your poster and enlarged or shrunk by pinching them on your screen. Once you have finalized the basic content on the poster, the next step is selecting from the 20 different filters that Phoster includes to add additional visual interest to your final product. After this final step, all that is left is exporting your poster. You can opt to save it to your Gallery within the app or share it by printing it, emailing it, or sharing it on Instagram, Flickr, Facebook or Twitter. The app also includes a feature to directly share your final poster with other image editing apps on your iPad. If you frequently create posters for events, activities or groups, this app is well worth its $1.99 price tag.
For those who learn visually or prefer to take notes using a pen and paper, Inkflow is a great option for bringing this same work style to your iOS device. The app, which is available in both free and paid versions for iPads, iPhones and iPod touches, allows users to write on their device using their finger or a stylus in a manner that is very similar to writing on a piece of paper. This, of course, means that you can choose to include both text and drawings, making this a great option for those who like to include diagrams, doodles, or mind mapping in their notes. As the app’s website puts it, “Inkflow works like a Word Processor for Visual Thinking.”
Writing on the page is very comfortable, though with the free version of the app, you are somewhat limited in the ways that you can write since you only have access to a black pen. You can, however, still achieve some nice effects, such as bold or stretched text, by manipulating your writing with the zooming feature. This feature is actually one of the more impressive aspects of Inkflow since it lets you select a specific portion of the page and then zoom in on it or move it around on the page. You can also add typed text or images to a page using the select functionality. Each book in the free version of the app can be up to 20 pages long and you can create an unlimited number of books. The app offers blank pages by default but also includes several types of stationery, including grid lines, ruled paper and musical staffs (in the paid version of the app, you can also create customized stationery). You can also change the type of stationery on a page retroactively. Pages or books of pages can be exported as PDFs or JPEGs, emailed, tweeted as an image, saved as a snapshot or locked to prevent future edits.
If you opt to upgrade to the paid version of the app for $7.99, will also have access to a pencil and paint brush in addition to the basic pen and each will be available in a full palette of colors. The paid version of the app also offers access to more than 50 fonts (as compared to only 4 in the free version) for any text you want to add to your books and the ability to cut, paste and rotate any section of your page. With the paid app, your books also won’t have a page limit any more. For those who have been looking for a way to replicate the paper and pen sensation on their iPad, Inkflow is well worth a try.
I’ve previously written about the Scratch programming language, which is a great way to introduce people, particularly children, to computer programming topics and now with Hopscotch, this same type of computer programming is now available on the iPad. As in Scratch, programs are created by dragging elements around on the screen. You can pick from one of 10 characters or a text object of your creation and then, once you have made this selection, you write scripts to control your characters’ movement across the screen. While there aren’t as many programming components as there are in Scratch, you can pick your character’s location on the screen, move and rotate the character, change its costume, or leave a “trail” behind the character. You can introduce more than one character or you can write multiple scripts for the same character if you would prefer. Scripts can start to run as soon as you hit play, or they can be tied to specific conditions, such as tapping on the character, shaking the iPad, or tilting the iPad.
The app includes the option to save projects for later use or share projects with friends, which makes it good for repeat use or use with a group of people. It also has a help feature that is really more of a glossary for all of the types of blocks that the app offers, which is helpful for those who are just getting started. Hopscotch is a nice alternative to Scratch for those who want to be able to write scripts on the go or for schools where students have iPads. The company is particularly interested in working with educators who want to use the app and there is a form on their website for educators who want to connect with them for additional support in using the app.
I love finding new places around me whether I am at home or on vacation, so I was immediately intrigued when I saw a tweet from @ostephens about ici, a new application from Ed Summers. With ici, you will see a list of Wikipedia entries that are relevant to your location no matter where you are. After you give the tool access to your location information, the list refreshes every minute, so if you are on the move, you will always see the most relevant information. To encourage contributions to Wikipedia, ici also highlights in pink any Wikipedia entries that don’t have images associated with them so that users can quickly identify these entries, take a photo with their device and upload it to Wikipedia. To further streamline that process, ici has a direct link to instructions about how to upload images to Wikipedia from mobile devices. Ici is fully responsive, so that it is equally usable on a desk top and a smart phone, though on a larger screen each entry includes the first several words of the Wikipedia entry for the location, which is omitted on the smart phone display.
I really enjoyed using ici. I found that some of the 26 locations included in my list were somewhat far away from my location, but I definitely learned about my surroundings from it and I think it will encourage users to add images to Wikipedia, which is a great benefit. The code to ici is available on GitHub and is in the public domain, so anyone is welcome to use it as the basis of their own application. I would definitely recommend checking out ici, particularly if you have a trip coming up. It is a lot of fun.