50 Web Apps for Designers

November 3rd, 2009 No comments

In this post I just want to direct you to an article I found on WebAppStorm.net It’s a great resource of tools you could use as graphic designer from invoicing tools to time tracking, to project management. I thought it would be useful to you so I’m passing it along.

Dropbox, Mint, Twitter, Skype and Facebook are my favorites of the list, but there are tons of great apps there. Action Method looks really great, but as I mentioned in a previous post I use Things for my GTD system. Most of them are in groups such as “invoicing tools” and I can’t imagine you needing more than one, but this is a great starting place for you to make your choice. So check them out and see what fits your needs best. It’s good to stay plugged in and know what is out there, especially in today’s market. Who knows you might even win a job because you gained trust and established yourself as an expert because you are able to recommend one of these tools to a client or potential employer.

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Adobe Kuler

October 27th, 2009 No comments


There are certain brands that I find myself being loyal to – most often because they are consistently producing superior products, and second because they have successfully convinced me that they are good. Adobe is one of those brands I love because they keep putting out awesome products. True, I have a complaint here and there (I know memory is cheap but does Adobe CS really have to fill a dual layer DVD? come on) but on the whole I’m very happy when they come out with new stuff and it tends to inspire me. I’ve been a champion of InDesign since the beginning (mainly because I hate Quark Xpress and any designer who prefers it is clearly thinking WAY inside the box) and spearheaded the change over at every place I’ve worked over the past 10 years since it’s debut. Clearly I backed the right horse because who uses Quark anymore? Dinosaurs.

Anyway, I digress…
What I wanted to tell you about was a very cool new online tool from adobe called Kuler. It is a really great color palette and color scheme picking tool. You can download other peoples palettes that they have saved, or make your own. You can get every color value you could possibly need for print or web, then download your scheme and import it directly into Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator to use in your design. It’s really fantastic. If you do anything that involves picking color I’d advise checking out Kuler.

oh, and did I mention that it’s free? Yeah, it is. Cool huh?

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The Printliminator

October 20th, 2009 No comments

The Printliminator.

I found this really cool bookmarklet for Firefox that allows you to print websites without all the junk you wouldn’t want to print. Of course just saving a pdf is better than wasting paper, but this will work for that purpose as well. You can eliminate all the junk from the page and still save a pdf that will be cleaner and easier to read later. Great for articles that you want to save or research you’ve done that you’ll need to refer to again. Websites aren’t guaranteed to be there forever you know.

So go to the link for The Printliminator bookmarklet and see how it works by watching the video by Chris Coyier.

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WordPress Blogging Tips

October 13th, 2009 No comments

Here are a few things to consider beyond what you want to say on your blog – I could stand to pay attention to these things as well :-)

1. Posting Regularly

It’s a good idea to post on a regular basis and even schedule your posts so they go up at the same time each day or each week. This will inspire loyalty amoung your readers because they will get used to seeing your posts and even look forward to them. Another plus to this is that Google will start to recognize that you post at a certain time and you will get indexed faster if you post regularly.

2. Post length

I’d say you’d be doing yourself a favor by being brief, but keeping to a minimum word count of around 250 would be a good target as well. That’s enough for you to get your point across but not so much that it’ll only get skimmed.

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase
3. SEO

Try and think about your keywords and imbed them into your content. This is just good communication skill as well as good SEO – you want your posts to come up high on Google if someone searches for what you are talking about.

4. Promotion

It’s a good idea to promote your blog via facebook, twitter, social bookmarking sites etc etc. Don’t spam people, but it’s perfectly reasonable to post in your status on facebook every once in a while that you have a new blog post and provide a link.

I’ll talk more about promotion and building an audience in a future post, but that should give you something to think about for a few days. Thanks for reading!

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Top Plugins for WordPress

October 6th, 2009 No comments

When I first started with WordPress it was inspiring because there is such a rich community surrounding the platform, with support forums and plugins galore, but it was also a little overwhelming. There are SO many plugins I had no idea where to start. Here are a few that I found that I liked for various things, but really I suggest you just start blogging and whenever you need some functionality go search for a plugin to help – I bet there will be a few to choose from.

1. Add to Any: Subscribe Button

Great subscription button with options for all major subscription and bookmarking sites, services and programs. Also customizable to match your theme.

2. Clean Archives Reloaded

I like the way this cleans up your archive lists with a bit of Javascript code. Very easy to use.

3. DashBar

Great for working on your blog. allows you access to most admin panel functions from a menu bar added to the top of your page when you are logged in.

4. G4B Photo Gallery

Great little gallery option for sets of photos. If you’re not into the lightbox type gallery then this is a great plugin for you.

5. Google Analyticator

Adds Google Analytics capabilities to your wordpress blog. It’s good to check your stats and see how you’re doing from time to time.

6. Google XML Sitemaps

Helps google index your page and boosts your site ranking.

7. Plugin Central

This plugin helps you manage your plugins and keep them up to date. When you have updates you can install them all with one click from the dashboard instead of having to update each individually which can be time consuming.

8. Podcasting

If you’re blog is the host of a podcast, I recommend this plugin over all the rest. It has the best features and is the easiest to use from what I could see.

9. Donate Plus

If you are trying to raise money with your blog this is a great plugin that links to your paypal account and keeps track of donations and has a recognition wall to thank the people in support of you.

10. WPtouch iPhone Theme

This is a great plugin that automatically formats your wordpress blog into a very pleasing format when viewed on an iPhone. very cool for showing people your blog when away from your computer, or reading posts on the go.

bonus: Firefox Plugin for WordPress – Zemanta

Zemanta is a firefox plugin that works along with wordpress and suggests tags and images culled from the internet based on the words you type in your posts. It allows you to add tags with and images without having to manually search for them. Great tool!

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First Steps for WordPress

September 29th, 2009 No comments

I’ve been meaning to write down the steps I use to start a wordpress blog because I seem to be doing that a lot lately, and thought it might be useful to others as well as to myself. Then I came across a great article on the subject by Chris Coyier. He’s got a great method, but I’m going to go through my steps as well and we can see what’s different and maybe discuss why. So here goes…

1. User Management

The first thing I do after installing the latest version of wordpress is add a new user with my own naming convention and password. I usually leave the admin account even though it is default because some of the blogs I set up will have more than one user and I like the idea of having a universal admin.
If there are going to be other users I set up accounts and passwords for them right away if I know who they are. You can add more later as well.
Now all my blogs are self hosted (using dreamhost) and wordpress is installed with one click, but I also setup a new database with a new user on my host for each one. Then I setup email addresses that I want associated with the account.

2. Deleting Defaults

The next thing I do is delete the default category of “uncategorized” and the links category of “blogroll” from the Writing Settings. In order to delete these in both cases you have to make a new category and set that as the default – then you can delete the old ones. I do this because I don’t want any post to be “uncategorized” and I don’t like the way “blogroll” sounds. Plus I think “links” is clearer.

permalinks example

permalinks example

3. Settings

Then I go through each of the settings panels and adjust things to my liking. Most of this information is pretty clear and easy to understand in wordpress, but if you don’t know what something means or why you would want to change it I’d suggest doing a little research before making the change. Generally the defaults are fine, but some things I just prefer to have set up differently.
One example of something I change is the Permalinks – these determine what the url will be for your posts. You’ll want to make a decision about how you want these displayed and stick with it. I personally like to have the date and the post title in the permalinks but it is up to you.

4. Theme

Next I set the theme. There are a few installed automatically, but I have found a ton online and you can generally find a theme that will serve whatever your needs are. You can change your theme at any time, but you’ll need to be careful and make sure it supports the things you need like having enough sidebars or widget support. I also like having access to the image files and CSS so I can adjust the theme to the look of the brand the blog is for.

5. Plugins

Next I install the plugins I like to use and are relevant to the blog. There are also a million plugins online that you can sort through and there is generally a plugin that will do whatever it is you need to do. If you don’t know what you need just start blogging and you’ll find your needs popping up in the form of thoughts like “Boy I sure wish my blog could…” – the answer is probably yes it can…so off to the internet to track down the right plugin. In a future post I will go through a few of the Plugins I’ve found that I like and find useful which might help you with a starting point.
Once the plugins are installed then it is time to adjust their settings. Now this can start to get confusing because plugins can put their settings in different places, or sometime be unclear as to how to use them once they are installed. Usually there is a web page devoted to the plugin on the creators website and often they are very clear and informative. Sometimes though, they are not. If a plugin has really poor documentation or is really unclear what the settings do I’ll often go look for another plugin that treats it’s users better, and I usually find one.

6. Widgets

Next I set up my sidebars and widgets, if the theme supports them. This is another thing I try to think through and not really change too much once I’ve set them up because these will become part of the user experience and you want people to be able to find what they are looking for and they won’t be able to if you keep changing them. I only change them when I really find that it will be an improvement for the user.

Okay, I hope that is helpful. I’ll post more on the subject soon regarding widgets and plugins. If you have any questions feel free to post a comment. Thanks for reading!

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Getting Things Done

September 21st, 2009 No comments

I was introduced to the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by the guys at the Internet Business Mastery Podcast a couple of years ago, and I gotta say it really improved my personal project managment. It gave me a system that was well thought out and really worked. I’ve always been a list maker, as well as a person with a million projects going at once, so managing my time has been a concern for a long time. At the end of the day I was usually frustrated by how little I had accomplished from the days list too, so I have been honing my methods over time. Implementing Getting Things Done has been the most significant leap forward on this path of improving my system ever – it was a huge leap forward.

One of the main ideas is getting all the things you have to do out of your head and into a system that you trust so you can stop stressing about what you have to do and simply get it done as you have the time, energy and opportunity to do it.

I highly recommend David Allen’s book Getting Things Done as well as Making It All Work (once you’ve really had a chance to digest the ideas from the first book and are ready to think it all through a little deaper) but one of the things that has made it all work the best for me are a pair of companion computer programs by Cultured Code called, aptly enough, Things. One is for the iPhone and one is for the desktop computer, and they stay in sync, so I always have my to do list in hand and it’s easier than ever to keep it from slipping out of hand.

See when I first got the book I got it from Audible as an audio book so I could listen to it in the car, but then I found I needed to take notes, so I bought the paperback. Then I realized I wanted an outline of the whole process so I went to Google to search for one – I found that a whole community has formed around the ideas in GTD (as it is referred to by the faithful) and there were blogs and computer programs galore. I checked out several of the programs and decided on one called iGTD. then later Things came around and had iPhone integration so I switched. Now the guy who made iGTD works for Cultured Code on Things! So I guess I chose well.

Anyway, Over time I’ll write more posts about GTD ideas and principles as it is a system that I use everyday to manage the 30 or 40 projects (no I’m not exaggerating) I have going at any one time. I hope you enjoy the posts, I hope they help you, and if you have any questions please feel free to email me.

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June 7th, 2009 No comments

Technorati Profile

This post is simply to verify my Technorati account, but you can feel free to click the link above and check out my profile there. Thanks!

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June 7th, 2009 No comments
Image representing Evernote as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Hello Folks. I want to tell you about a cool new service I recently stumbled upon. It’s called EverNote. Basically what it allows you to do is clip things of interest for you to review later or simply remember. I think that is why their logo is an elephant.

You can also tag pictures you take with your iphone. This is a really useful way to make little reminders to yourself. I used this feature recently when I was in Ameoba looking at new cd’s that I was interested in checking out. I wanted to remember what was of interest and find samples somewhere (probably on itunes) before buying any of them.

There is a desktop application and an ipod/iphone app and everything you clip into EverNote stays synced on the web and is available for you from your computer, your iphone or anywhere else connected to the internet. One of the coolest features is that it automatically detects words in everything you clip (including photos!) and you can search them. You could end up with hundreds of clippings and notes but you’ll be able to find the one you are looking for very easily. Pretty cool huh?

So go check out their site – they have some videos that explain how it works and what you can do with it. If it looks cool to you then the best part is that it is free!
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Great Article: 20+ Photoshop Actions

May 14th, 2009 No comments

I found this great article with links to more than 20 really great Photoshop plugins for editing photographs. If you are a photographer or just a hobbyist you’ll see that these actions will be a big help in making your images look great. At the very least you can have a lot of creative fun playing around with them and seeing the different results you can get.

If you’re not familiar with Photoshop actions and how they work, why don’t you make a comment about it and if enough people request it we’ll do a tutorial on how these actions are used.

here is the link: http://designm.ag/resources/photoshop-actions-photo-editing/

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