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August 24, 2015 / carlispina

Review Your Writing Process With Draftback

One of the great features of Google Docs is that the fact it makes it easier to track your editing history and collaborate with other users. But, what if you want to get a full sense of the entire history of your revision process, Draftback is a great tool. This free Chrome extension tracks every edit you make in a document and replays them all for you with the click of a button.

Once you install the extension, it can be used with any document, regardless of whether you created it before or after you installed Draftback. The tool appears as a button at the top right of your document that shows the total number of edits you have made to the document. When you click the button, a box will pop up showing the rate at which your Draftback is rendering. Once that process is complete, you can click “View” to open a new tab with the playback. While Draftback will automatically start replaying your edits at a fairly brisk pace, you can slow this down, fast forward or rewind, pause, or move the slider through the history using the control panel at the top.

In addition to this playback feature, Draftback also includes an option to see some statistics about your project, including information about each of the editing sessions by each user and graphs visualizing the edits. This tool is a nice way of learning about the portions of your editing or collaborating process that might be invisible to you as you work and it is a nice tool to show to students who need to learn more about the editing process. It is definitely worth a try.

August 17, 2015 / carlispina

Find Icons For All Your Projects On The Noun Project

Whether you are designing a website or a sign, icons are a common design feature and one that can be difficult to find or design on your own. The Noun Project is an excellent source for finding practically any need. This site collects icons from any designer who wishes to participate and offers them for free use, as long as you are willing to credit the creator. All of the icons I have looked at are offered under a Creative Commons license, which is clearly indicated on the page where you download the icon. If you aren’t able to credit the creator in your project, you can also opt to pay $1.99 per icon or $9.99 per month to use the icons without credit. The icons, which are simple black and white images, are available for download as both PNG and SVG files. Each icon is also tagged, which means that in addition to searching for icons you can use the tags to find similar options. Even if you don’t download an icon, you can share a link to it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest with just a couple of clicks. If you want to think about an icon for a while, you can also add it to one of your “kits,” or collections, with a click. Mac users can install The Noun Project’s Mac app to use this tool directly from their desktop.

If you are a designer, you can also upload your own icons to The Noun Project to share them with a wider audience and potentially earn royalties. The process of uploading your icons is very simple and The Noun Project provides a detailed Creator’s Handbook that answers almost any question designers could have. Overall, whether you are an icon creator or you just need icons as design elements for other projects, The Noun Project is a great resource. You can watch a video about The Noun Project below.

Special thanks to @kimtairi whose tweet introduced me to this resource!

August 10, 2015 / carlispina

Create Diagrams and Mind Maps with Coggle

Coggle is an interesting new option for those who frequently create diagrams and mind maps. This tool, which integrates with Google Drive, comes with a lot of great features that allow users to make multicolor diagrams or mind maps that can incorporate text and images. Coggle offers three different types of accounts. With a free account, you can create unlimited diagrams and upload unlimited images simply by dragging them from your desktop onto your diagram. Diagrams can even incorporate LaTeX for mathematical functions. Diagrams all start with a central hub and adding additional nodes is as easy as clicking the plus sign. Nodes can be moved by clicking and dragging them to the desired location and each node can have sub-nodes added as well. You can delete nodes by clicking either alt (or on a Mac Command) and the node. Power users will appreciate the fact that Coggle has a number of short cuts built in and displays a guide to these commands on the left side of the screen. Though each node and line on your diagram will be assigned a color when it is created, you can change this color by clicking on the line and selecting a color from the wheel that pops up. If you change your mind about any of your decisions along the way, another feature allows you to review the entire history of your edits and revert back if you would like. You can also invite other users to collaborate with you on a diagram. Once you are finished with your diagram, it can be exported as an image, PDF, .txt, or .mm file. You can also share your diagram online by sharing the link or embedding it on an existing website.

For $5 a month, you can also upgrade your account so that you can use the Coggle presentation mode or make your diagrams private. Private diagrams will remain private even if you cancel your subscription and they won’t be indexed by search engines. Organizations that want to make use of Coggle as a team can pay $8 per month per user to get additional enterprise features, such as an administrative interface, the ability to customize the branding on diagrams, and the ability to do bulk data back ups. If you or your organization frequently create diagrams or mind maps, Coggle is worth a look, especially if you also use Google Drive.

August 3, 2015 / carlispina

Communicate With Ease With Firefox Hello

Last week I wrote about Firefox Hello for the LLNE Blog. This interesting new tool allows users to initiate video or audio chats with users of a wide range of browsers without having to install anything beyond the latest version of Firefox. It also allows users to share their screens during their conversations. Particularly because it does not require a separate account or separate installation, this is an interesting option for chatting with anyone whether it is a coworker or a library patron. You can read my full thoughts over at the LLNE Blog. Special thanks to my officemate for introducing me to this!

July 27, 2015 / carlispina

Have Some Fun With Let’s Go Rocket

Let's Go Rocket LogoLast week at the YALSA Blog, I wrote about Let’s Go Rocket. This free game for iOS devices gives you control over a rocket ship. All you have to do is control its speed to avoid obstacles while staying on the screen. While this might sound easy, Let’s Go Rocket manages to take this simple sounding set up and make it difficult and engaging. If you enjoy gaming on your iPhone or iPad, this app is well worth a try. You can see my full thoughts over at the YALSA Blog.

July 20, 2015 / carlispina

Try Out An Interesting Example of Interactive Fiction With Lifeline

Lifeline LogoLifeline is a new example of interactive fiction for your mobile device. In this game you are the only person a stranded astronaut name Taylor can contact after his spacecraft crashes on a distant moon. After the trauma of the crash, he is understandably distraught to be left alone in space, particularly since he is a student who has only minimal training. As Taylor slowly tells you about his experiences, you are prompted to choose his next actions by selecting between two options at set points. Each time you make a selection, it will take you on a new branch of the story.

To take advantage of the interactivity that is possible with modern mobile devices, the story unfolds in real time with Taylor sometimes cutting communications to go off and complete a task and then returning after he has finished his task or when he needs some human interaction. The game will display his next communication on your device’s lock screen or it will pop up if you are using your device, but updates can also wait until you have time to resume playing. The app was made with the new Apple Watch in mind and, if you have one, you can set the app up to notify you on either or both device so that you can have a more immediate interaction with the story. Overall this is an interesting app. I would recommend it for fans of interactive storytelling and those who enjoyed The Martian by Andy Weir. Note: the app does include occasional use of mild adult language.

You can see the app in action in the video below:

July 13, 2015 / carlispina

Create An Animated Video Presentation With Adobe Voice

AdobeVoiceAdobe Voice is an interesting new tool for creating dynamic, engaging, and animated videos for practically any purpose. This free iOS app walks you through the process of recording audio, adding imagery, selecting a theme and publishing your video. The entire process can be done in a matter of minutes, making this one of the fastest tools I have found for creating videos, particularly if you like to use your iPad for your media projects. Getting started with the app requires an Adobe ID, but once you have this set up, the app quickly gets you started with video creation via a detailed tutorial that helps you through your first project.

The opening screen of the app shows a variety of videos as examples of what you can do with it, but it also has a button at the top of the screen to create a new story. When you tap that button, you are given nine story “structures” to choose from, including an option to make up your own. If you opt to use one of their pre-created structures, you will get additional support in creating a video for a set purpose. However, with Adobe Voice it is easy to make up your own structure as you go along. After you have selected a structure, you can immediately start recording. The app is set up so that each snippet of audio you record is a “page.” You can have a single page for your entire project or you can add multiple pages, which will likely be needed for most projects. After you record the audio for each page, you are offered the option to add an icon, image, or text to show on the screen while that audio is playing. You can search for both icons and images in the app, but also have the option to use content you find elsewhere or have created yourself. Adobe Voice also offers the ability to customize the layout of these assets so that you can get exactly the look you want for your project. You can preview each page or the entire project with the tap of a button and once you are happy with the state of your project, you can select from one of the 32 themes that are included in the app or you can customize your own theme. You can also choose from over 30 different songs that can be played over your video or you can upload a song from your own device. Once you are happy with your project, you can share it on Facebook, on Twitter, via email or messages, or save it to your device for use elsewhere. At this point, you can also add any credits or author information you would like the project to have and decide whether you would like it to be viewable by the public or only by those with the link. Adobe Voice is a very impressive app that has a lot of potential applications, particularly in libraries and other educational settings. It is well worth a try. You can learn more about Adobe Voice in the video below.

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