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March 26, 2015 / carlispina

Trying Out Instagram’s New Layout App

Layout logoEarlier this week, Instagram debuted their latest app, Layout. With this app, Instagram aims to enter the collage app market. As with virtually every collage app on the market, Layout makes it easy to pull images into the app from your device. As a nice added feature, users can opt to limit the images they are searching through to only those with faces in them or those that were taken recently. I found that this feature worked pretty well, though it did pull in some additional images that had faces in the background, such as book covers.

Once you have selected your images, you can choose a layout from the options displayed at the top of the app. The app accommodates a lot of different types of layouts depending on the number of images you add to your collage. And, even if you don’t think that any of the layouts match your exact needs, you can edit the layout before finalizing your collage by resizing individual images, dragging the images into a different order, or changing the portion of the image that appears in the collage. At this point, you can also replace images with others from your device or flip the images either horizontally or vertically. Finished collages can be saved to your device and they can also be shared on Instagram, Facebook, or with the text message, email, or cloud apps on your device.

Overall, Layout has an easy learning curve and allows users to create nice collages, but it doesn’t have any features that set it apart from other collages. However, this free app is another nice option if you like to create and share photo collages.

March 23, 2015 / carlispina

Peak Behind The Scenes of Websites with Wappalyzer

Wappalyzer LogoWhether you are just learning computer programming or you are an experienced developer, it is often useful to be able to look at the code for a website to determine how they have structured their code and achieved key parts of their functionality. While this can be done by simply viewing the code on virtually any webpage, sometimes what you really want to know is what platforms are being used or which frameworks did the developers employ to create their look and feel? This can be harder to figure out from a page of code, but Wappalyzer is a tool that solves this problem.

Wappalyzer is available as a browser extension for Firefox and Chrome or a bookmarklet for other browsers. Once the extension is installed or you click on the bookmarklet, you can access information about all sorts of tools that are used as part of a website, including content management systems, frameworks, eCommerce platforms, web analytics tools, APIs, and, in some cases, programming languages. Clicking on any of the listed tools will take you to a Wappalyzer page that provides market data about who uses those same tools. In addition to the browser extension and bookmarklet, Wappalyzer is also open-source, so users can download their code from GitHub to customize it for their own needs.

WappalyzerScreenShot

I only recently found out about Wappalyzer from a friend when I was talking about doing research on some websites, but I have found it to be not only interesting for that project but also just a fun tool to click on when using random websites to get a peak behind the scenes without doing any in-depth analysis of their code. I think Wappalyzer can be a valuable tool for anyone who is interested in learning more about how a range of websites are created or how functionality can be added to websites. It is a particularly nice tool for those who are just learning how these various tools, languages, and frameworks can work together. I would highly recommend it.

March 19, 2015 / carlispina

Make Accents In Google Docs Easy With Easy Accents

Easy Accents LogoAs I use Google Docs for more and more projects one limitation that has frustrated me is the difficult of adding accents to my work. Whether it is something as simple as correctly spelling an author’s name or a more complex project like writing a paper in a foreign language, this has proven to be a significant limitation with Google Docs. With the Easy Accents Add-On it is simple to add the correct accent mark in a wide number of languages.

Easy Accents Menu

Adding the add-on to your Google Docs is as simple as one click. Once it is installed, you can access it from your Add-ons menu as seen in the screen shot above. Each time you use Easy Accents, you have to select which language you want to use. The add-on currently offers accents for 15 different languages: Ancient Latin, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Maori, Portuguese, Sami, and Spanish. They have also added new languages over time, so hopefully more will be added in the future.

Easy Accents Icelandic

Once you have selected a language, a menu with the accent marks for that language pops out on the right side of the screen. Using one of the accents is as simple as clicking on it in that menu. If you frequently use one of these language, it is well worth installing this free add-on.

March 16, 2015 / carlispina

Keep Track Of How Much Water You Drink With Plant Nanny

Plant Nanny LogoIt is easy to know that it is important to drink enough water every day. But it can still be hard to actually remember to drink throughout the day. Plant Nanny (available for iOS and Android) is an app with the singular aim of solving this problem.

With this app, users plant and maintain a cartoon plant of their choice. The first time a user sets up their plant they also put in their weight and whether they lead a sedentary, regular or active lifestyle. At this point, users can also customize the size and type of cup or bottle they would like to use for their water, which then determines how much water they will give their plant each time they log into the app. Every time users drink during the day, they can open the app and record this activity. As the plant gets more water, it continues to grow and develop. Since the app aims to help users consume a healthy amount of water, it will not only tell users if they aren’t drinking enough, but will also warn users when they are drinking too much. To prevent users from having an incentive to drink to0 much, the app also has a maximum amount of water that users can give their plant at any given time.

While the app doesn’t require that users do anything other than enter their water intake, it also offers additional options for customization, including background scenery for the plant and different planters, for those who would like to further personalize their experience. I found it to be a cute app and it definitely made me think more about the amount of water I was drinking on any given day. Plant Nanny is worth checking out if you are interested in tracking your water intake. Special thanks to Coral for sharing a picture of her plant on Twitter, which is how I found the app.

March 12, 2015 / carlispina

Challenge Friends to Trivia Competitions With Trivia Crack

Trivia Crack LogoThis week on the YALSA Blog, I write about Trivia Crack, a trivia competition app that is available for several mobile platforms. With cute graphics and an option to submit your own questions for use in the game, Trivia Crack is a fun game option for all ages. Check out my full thoughts on the YALSA Blog.

March 9, 2015 / carlispina

Create Diagrams and Drawings with Draw.io

Whether you want to create diagrams, drawings, or mindmaps, Draw.io is a nice tool that makes it simple to create this content on the web and save it directly to your Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive account. Best of all, it offers the option to start from scratch but also offers an array of templates from mindmaps to engineering diagrams and almost everything in between to help you get started.

Getting started with Draw.io is as simple as authorizing the application to access your choice of online storage account.Though Draw.io also allows you to save your finished drawings to your computer or other device, its integration with cloud-based storage applications is really one of its nicest features, so I would recommend trying that option to gain the full benefit of the tool. Once you have connected it to Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive or opted to save your diagram to your device, you will have the choice to start with a blank document or with any one of over 60 templates that include common options such as mindmaps and website wireframes and more unusual options such as network diagrams. If none of these templates work for you, there is also an option to import a template from a URL.

Draw.io Chart Templates Screenshot

Regardless of which approach you take to getting started with your diagram, you will then have access to an impressive number of options and tools to customize your final project. Adding an element to your diagram is as easy as dragging it from the menu on the left to its desired location on the diagram. While each diagram element is selected it can be styled by adding text, alignment, or colors, which can be selected from the provided options or customized with a hex value. Draw.io makes it particularly easy to ensure that your design elements are properly placed in relation to one another with helpful automatic guides that will help you to space the elements on the page and align them with one another. In addition to the design elements that are provided, you can also create your own shape if you would like. And, you can add text anywhere on the diagram and add other elements such as hyperlinks and imported images.

Draw.io Screenshot

Finished diagrams can be downloaded as a wide range of file types or you can instead get the code needed to embed the diagram elsewhere on the web. You can also share your diagram with other users under the same terms as any other document in the application you chose to connect Draw.io with. Draw.io is a very nice option for creating, sharing, and collaborating on diagrams.

March 5, 2015 / carlispina

Make Your Pictures Retro With Retromatic 2.0

Retromatic 2.0 LogoIf you enjoy retro style graphics and images, you will definitely enjoy the Retromatic 2.0 app. It is a nice tool for turning your photos into retro posters and pictures with a combination of filters and effects. From the makers of the Path On app, the app allows you to choose to edit existing images from your device or take a photo with the built-in camera from within the app. Once you have an image, the first step in editing it is to highlight the portion of the photo that you want to include in the resulting graphic by tracing over it with your finger. Because you can zoom in on the image, it is easy to select a small portion of the photo or a larger segment. After you have finalized your selection, you can move on to the next step which puts the selected section of the image on your choice of more than 15 backgrounds that are included with the app. Each of these backgrounds is available in multiple colors resulting in a wide range of customization options. The next step in the process is selecting the effects you would like to apply to the segment you selected from your original photo. Similar to Instagram filters, these effects can help to integrate your photo with the background and age it to help achieve the overall retro look. The app also offers the option to add stickers or text to your photos, which means that the resulting graphic can be completely customized, for example to look like an advertisement or poster. Finalized graphics can be saved to your device, imported directly into Path On for further editing, or shared directly to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, or your email. Whether you design graphics for fun or for work, Retromatic 2.0 is a good option for creating retro looks from your own photos.

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