Categories
Reviews Software Tutorials Workflow

Review: ART TEXT v2.2.2 by Belight Software

Editor’s Note:  Wouldn’t you know? Just as we released this article, a newer 2.3 version with a vector editor has been released. Dr. Roach will review it at a later date.

Back in April, 2009 I last reviewed BeLight’s ART TEXT and found it a useful headline and logo designing tool, but time passes and the new 2.2.2 version appeared as a review copy (from BeLightsoft. Com)on my desk with a new, revamped look and a greater ease of usage.

Categories
Graphics Photoshop Reviews Software Workflow

Review: Pixelmator 1.6

About a year and a half ago (January 7, 2009 to be exact) I wrote a review of Pixelmator as a potential light-weight image-editing software. At that time I found it a very useful and inexpensive image-editing software that was well worth its $59.00 cost. (Download from Pixelmator.com)

A new version of Pixelmator (1.6) is available as a free upgrade to current Pixelmator owners, but a word of caution goes along with it. Pixelmator has been rewritten for Snow Leopard 10.6 and the new version will not run on 10.5 Leopard. Much of its underpinnings have been rewritten for 64 bit support and tuned to take advantage of the multi-core CPUs that Mac has been utilizing for some time.

The results are increases in speed, with Pixelmator claiming starting up twice as fast as previously, and opening images two times faster than Adobe’sPhotoshop©. It’s new painting engine claims to run four times faster than the previous version, and claims that filters are applied faster than those in Photoshop©.

Categories
Featured Gadgets Software

Evernote for your iPad

Okay Mac addicts, if you’re still debating the necessity of Apple’s new iPad, I know how you feel. Heart telling you “GO GET IT”, head asking “DO YOU REALLY NEED THIS?”

Well, playing for the heart team, Evernote, has given you just one more reason the iPad can be handy for just about everyone. Here is what the iPad and Evernote, together, can to do keep your life organized on the go…

Evernote for the iPad

Categories
Featured Photoshop Software

Tablet Draw By MooSoftware.com

I just found a Shareware program that had me reaching for my credit card within fifteen minutes of first downloading it to try out. From mooSoftware.com is TABLETDRAW® a simple drawing program that uses the pressure sensitivity of the various Wacom tablets to allow you to draw freely. It’s a sketching and drawing program with the look of pencil, pen, or felt marker. It runs on Intel-based or PowerPC Macs and requires Mac OS X version 10.4 or later. Sorry, PC users, this one is Mac only.

What makes it different than some other pressure-sensitive drawing programs is

  1. cost—it’s only $35.00 US
  2. given most modern computers, it will have no trouble staying up with the freely-drawn variations in curving lines.

The MENU BAR has most of the things that you would normally expect, but there are a couple that should be noted. Under the FILE MENU is an EXPORT FOR PHOTOSHOP function that exports an image as a .psd file. Under the MODE menu the increase and decrease pen size do not require a modifier key and are simply “[ “(decrease) and “]” (increase). The VIEW menu allows you to access a COLOR PICKER to pick intermediate colors rather than simply BLACK, RED, BLUE and YELLOW, and the HELP menu has the SHOW KEYS function that brings up a complete listing of the key combinations available. I include the SHOW KEYS listing further along in the tutorial.

“Finally, a drawing program for artists,” that’s what mooSoftware calls their program. Here’s the TOOLBAR outlined in red below. The first row has the pencil tool that allows you to select a Pencil, Pen, or Marker from the TOOL PRESETS column. New is the Eraser which allows selection of the Small Soft Eraser or Big Firm Eraser.

The second row gives us a Lasso to select a portion of an image, and next to it is the Move tool that allows you to move the selection.

The tird row gives us a Marquee Rectangle or Oval to select an area in an image, and there’s also a Hand tool that, like in ADOBE PHOTOSHOP® allows us to move the whole image within its frame.

Last row is a bit different in zooming in and out of an image. Select the mangifying glass and then while holding shift and spacebar use your pen and draw a line upward on your image. This will zoom in an image view. Holding the shift and spacebar and drawing the line downward will zoom out the image view. Finally, that circle with the arrows allows you to rotate the image to allow you to work on the image as though it were a sheet of paper that you rotated to allow your pen to make strokes that are natural to your hand.

I’ll insert all the keyboard shortcuts here to get you thinking about your shortcut keys.

If you are drawing a freehand image then the screen size can be chosen beforehand and is a matter of choice. Obviously, if you are opening another image it will determine the screen size because the image will try to open at the native size of the image which may be much too large for the computer screen and it may be necessary to zoom out on the image to bring the size down to a workable view. I’ll explain how to zoom a bit later.

If you are drawing a feehand image the height and width of your image can be set in Inches…

…or Centimeters, Millimeters, Picas, or Points.

The tool presets give us a PENCIL (very light in tone) a THIN BLACK LINE or a THICK BLACK LINE or the effect of a MARKER. Remember changing the size of the selected tool is simply a matter of using the “[“and “] “keys for decreasing on increasing the tool size by 1 pixel. Adding the shift key decreases or increases by 5 pixels.

BLACK is the default color of the PEN tools while the MARKER can be BLUE, RED, or YELLOW. The ERASERS can be decreased or enlarged in size as well. If BLACK is not your choice to draw with, go to the VIEW MENU of TABLETDRAW® and choose COLOR PICKER; it will appear above your working image and will allow you to point and click on a new color choice.

Notice that in the TOOL PRESETS that there is a small arrow to the left of each tool. If you check that arrow you will find that there is an adjustment set that allows you to adjust the minimum and maximum size of the tool, the color of the tool, opaciy and an ink mode.

The LAYERS menu can create an infinite number of LAYERS which can be manipulated in all the customary forms for anyone familiar with ADOBE PHOTOSHOP®. NEW layer, COPY, MERGE, FLATTEN and DELETE are possible…

…and the LAYER BLEND MODE allows BLEND MODES similar to other programs which use LAYERS.

Here’s a picture of myself sitting in a coffee shop. This image was made with the camera in my 17″ MacBook Pro notebook computer. Let’s take it through the drawing process so we can get a look at the way the tools work in TABLETDRAW®. Remember, we have a WACOM® TABLET attached to our computer.

Here’s the same image processed with Akvis SKETCH®. Remember Akvis SKETCH®? I wrote a review and brief tutorial for it only a few weeks ago. For my purposes there is too much background visible in the image and the lines tend to be the same in weight in too many places. There is not enough variety to the lines to give the image the kind of “life” that is commonly associated with a hand-drawn image. But, it’s somewhere we can start.

In the image below, which I have opened in mooSoftware’s TABLETDRAW® I have begun to erase the background with the BIG FIRM ERASER chosen from TABLETDRAW®’S tool presets.

Now I continue to erase the background of the image. Like a real eraser, the BIG FIRM ERASER does not erase everthing in one pass; it takes several passes to erase the majority of the background, and we don’t have all of it yet. We’ll get all the rest as we clean up later. Right now, we’ll just lighten up the overall background so we can concentrate on my head and shoulders.

OK, I didn’t quite stop erasing above; I decided to remove the figure who was behind my shoulder on the right.

Now I’ve added a blank layer above the image and selected the MEDIUM BLACK PEN from the tool presets and using the presure-sensitive quality of my pen with my WACOM® tablet, I have begun to draw on the blank layer on top of the image, and by varying the pressure with which I push down with the pen I begin to try to add character to the lines that represent the most dynamic parts of the image.

Now I start to pick out the most important parts of the image that I want to emphasize. I’m trying to find parts of the image that represent stresses in the fabric of the shirt and vest and places that represent bumps and creases in my skull, mouth, neck and ears. The glasses get some work as well.

More bumps and creases in the skull follow; and then some defining of the beard line. Finally a touch or two in the shirt will give it a bit more form.

Look closely at the diagonal strokes done in the beard using the light touch and pressure sensitivity of the WACOM® pen.; there are a few strokes on the neck and in the shirt collar starting to show up now. We’re closed to finished; there are only a few more things to do.

To finish up our transition from a stylized and somewhat artificial shetch-looking image to something closer to a hand-drawn one, I went back with a smaller eraser–the SMALL SOFT ERASER from the tool presets–and lightened places in the vest and shirt on the lower layer, and I also finished erasing the background. I had to lighten the area seen through the eyeglasses on the left where the background had produced a dark area, and a few diagonal swipes were made through the face and beard to increase the hand-drawn look. Oh, and I lightened the bump in the top of the skull.

If desired there are still two things I could have done. One, would have been to “turn off” or make invisible the original image. REMEMBER, we are working with two layers at the moment. Turning off the original image layer would have left a black-lined image with very little of the gray tones showing through. That was not what I wanted, but it could have been done. Secondly, I can export this image to ADOBE PHOTOSHOP® if I wanted to. That is an option that can be selected from the FILE MENU in TABLETDRAW)r). I haven’t chosen to do that either, so we’ll simply stop here with a drawing that looks much more hand-drawn and natural than we had where we started. You can’t do this with a mouse; only with the pressure-sensitivity of a pen and tablet can you achieve this effect.

Granted, you could have done this same effect using the LAYERS in ADOBE PHOTOSHOP® with a pressure-sensitive WACOM® TABLET and PEN.

But, and here’s the “Big But…”.TABLETDRAW® only cost $35.00 US and ADOBE PHOTOSHOP® costs hundreds. Take a look at mooSoftware.com and download the trial version; it works completely correctly except LAYERS are limited to two instead of unlimited, and undo’s are limited to five instead of unlimited.

How’s that for a chance to see what you could do with it? I could have done this image with the trial version, but at $35.00 Shareware, it is too good to pass up, so in the interest of the new Federal Regulations about disclosure I BOUGHT IT for myself; so go try it out for yourself; I suspect you’ll have to buy yourself a copy.

Categories
ArtWorks Featured Profiles

Profile: Kristen Stein on Roots and Inspiration

What mediums have you worked in and which is your favorite?

I am a contemporary artist working primarily with acrylics on canvas.  I occasionally dabble in pastels and oils. I love working in mixed media and often add gritty, grainy textures to my paint. I’ve also created paintings using layers of newspaper, paper towels, tissues, string, dried flowers, leaves and more to add extra texture and dimension to the painting. I sometimes work on wood, but generally use stretched canvas.  I’m in the process of learning silk-screening and hope to ‘pull’ my own prints.  I have also worked in digital painting and creating images as scalable vector graphics.

 

How did you get started?

I have been creating art for friends and as gifts for several decades, but I started selling my artwork as a business about 10 years. It began as a part-time passion while I was working on my dissertation in Economics at the University of Virginia. I still use a lot of my economics background on the business side of my art career, but my creative side won out and I starting selling my artwork full-time in early 2000. I am not formally trained in art. I took one class in high-school and one elective class in college. I recall several of the projects that I made in these two classes and I know that they have fueled my passion to continue to learn and grow as an artist.

Who has influenced/inspired your art work?

Friends, family and other artists have all played an integral role in influencing my artistic visions and enthusiasm for ‘all things art’. My parents are both incredibly talented and I know that they have directly influenced my love for the arts.  More recently, I’ve met several new artists online through various social networks and I’m enjoying learning how to use the new venues to expand the reach of my art to new audiences. I’ve also recently approached other artists and photographers to work on collaborative projects. It’s a fun way for artists to share their talents and create an image that embodies their various interests or styles. That’s how the “Spirit of Autumn Fire” image (with Lyse Marion) came about.  As for master artists, I love the works of Picasso, Gris, Matisse, Frank Lloyd Wright, Rothko, Dali among many others.

 

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  3. Artsyfartsy Biz Inspiration: Featured Artists A few weeks ago we launched our Artsyfartsy Biz Award…

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Categories
ArtWorks Featured

Worried about losing your creative mojo?

Are you afraid to commit to really incorporate business skills and tools because you might lose your creative mojo? Do you have trouble adding up 2+2 to get 4?  Have you shied away from thinking about business because it hurts your brain? Do you think in images and can never quite get things going in a strait line like figuring out what and where you want to go with your business? Are you resigned to being a starving artist?

You are not alone…creatives through out history have struggled with such questions, even more so since the time Descartes when linear left brain thinking became the accepted lens for viewing the world. The industrial revolution and the past century intensified the primacy of linear thought even more by holding science, math and other “hard” skills up as the standard for determining intelligence and cultural acceptability.

The result has been a heavy reliance on linear vision  produced generations of unimaginative people at the expense of those who were less linear. Consequently, little attention has been paid to discovering a more holistic integrated way of seeing and learning. In many ways this neural split has been a major factor of the general devaluation of creativity and art in particular. Leaving us, has with few exceptions,  left brain focused people who have difficulty “seeing” the world and right brain folks  who have problems adding.

Such are the issues that Lisa Sonora Bean takes on in her blog The Creative Entrepreneur and her book The Creative Entrepreneur: A DIY Visual Guidebook for Making Business Ideas Real. Lisa’s book and research serve as an example of how whole brain thinking can produce a sum greater than its parts.Her MBA focus was on finding ways to teach both creatives and linear types to fully develop their brain functions and in the process she turned the business development process on its head by giving us a way to approach the left brain world of business using the visual tools we are familiar with. But she didn’t stop there, she acknowledged the importance of spiritual development as the first step in building a business especially one based on creative processes so the first part of her book is devoted to to helping us uncover our hidden gifts.

mandala2 Worried about losing your creative mojo?

The four paths

The generally accepted way of starting to build any business is to have some idea as to where you want that business to go. Lisa has taken some of the current some of the current thinking in conscious business theories and added her own visual tools. Using the mandala, an archetypal symbol of unity and wholeness, as a model she combines left and right brain functions. Using graphics and multimedia graphic tools she shows us    the “sweet spot of unity” formed by the intersection of four paths:

Heart & meaning
This path helps us discover to follow our heart and creative dreams giving us a framework to examine if we are seeing “what we enjoy” at the expense other points of view.

Gifts & flow
We have been trained to suffer, that value is always determined by the amount of “hard work” and “sweat” involved in achieving what we set out to do. This pair shows us how suffering has no relationship to achievement and that “coming easy” is a true metric of being in the flow with our gifts.

Value & profitability
Shows us that creating a costumer centric business that creates and delivers value is crucial opening the door for getting paid for that value.

Skills & tools
Helps us see and use the business tools appropriate to our business and vital to our achieving success in the first two paths.

These four paths represent the ever spiraling journey of clarity we all seek when we are in creative flow with ourselves and our work. The “sweet spot” is simply the starting point which when refined starts us on a greater journey of healing and discovery. To help us along the way Lori includes “prompts” or questions throughout each part level of the spiral.

Beginning brain integration 

One of the overriding causes of artists failure in business is letting the fear of losing their creativity to left brain business mastery. Lisa debunks this argument with skill and her grasp of graphic tools, quite simply she  leads us through what she calls the “four Modes of Functioning” or more precisely “how we get things done. Becoming aware of the  functions of sensing, thinking, feeling and acting we can become aware of the presence of the constructive and destructive elements of each through graphically expressing their effect on us.

Joining the two sides
The tools Lisa set us up with are now ready and available for us to tackle the seemingly and frequently avoided challenge of strategic planning, branding, marketing and communicating our value. Once again she coaxes us to look at these left brain tasks using our right brain tools.

Magical results
The real value of this book is its magically imaginative way of giving users a way to move into whole brain living and eventually a more integrated view of the world.

Interestingly enough I can’t imagine a similar book written from the left brain view that could be even a smidgen as effective or close to providing as much fun!

Recommendation:

Don’t just buy it …use it!!! And better yet buy the book and attend one of her workshops, it will be time and money well spent…you deserve it!!

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Visit TheArtistsCenter.com

 

Categories
Parallel Desktops

10 little known Mac utilities

When I blog about applications that I’ve found I generally wrap up my posts with an open invitation to readers: Got any you like? Many folks have been generous and shared links and applications that I’ve used to expand my virtual toolbox and make my Mac experience more fun and productive.

This time I turned that process around a bit and used Twitter up front. I put out this question: Looking for cool little Mac utilities that nobody knows about… I promptly received replies from a number of people with some cool applications that I had never heard of or tried using. After culling through the list I’ve pulled out 10 that I felt looked pretty cool. I’ve included the Twitter name for the person that made the suggestion in case you want to start following them.

EasyEnvelopes


Need to quickly print out an envelope for someone in your address book? EasyEnvelopes from Ambrosia Software has a free Dashboard widget that does just that. When you want to print out an envelope you activate the Dashboard, start typing the name of someone in your address book, select them and then click on the stamp and you’re printing your envelope. Simple, easy and free. Suggested by Jonathan Bernstein.


SoundSource


Do you have multiple input and output devices for sound? Need to quickly alternate between a plug-in microphone like the Blue Snowball (my favorite) and a MacBook’s internal microphone? If that’s a common task for you then Rogue Amoeba has a free menu utility called SoundSource that lets you switch inputs and control input volume without having to load System Preferences. Suggested by JT and Marieboyer.

Jumpcut


I’m a copy and paste fiend, grabbing text from various sources and blasting them into my documents and blog posts. Having a clipboard buffer means I can selectively go back through my “copies” and paste in what I want and that’s just what Jumpcut does. Small, very efficient and available as open source (MIT license), this was also suggested by Marieboyer.

Pacifist


If you want to inspect the contents of Package files, disk images or ZIP files you have downloaded to see the contents then Pacifist is a slick way to quickly see what’s going on under the hood. Pacifist can also inspect a damaged application—especially one installed by OS X—so that it can be repaired without reinstalling everything. It’s available for $20 in shareware form from CharlesSoft. Suggested by Ast A. Moore.

TimeMachineEditor


I’m a huge fan of Time Machine, even though the dorky Time Machine Errors still haunt me. That said, sometimes you don’t want Time Machine to wake up and back up your machine every single hour. Maybe you’re doing some massive file moves and you want Time Machine to take the afternoons off. TimeMachineEditor, a free utility, is a simple application that merely updates configuration settings. Open it, set it, quit it. Suggested by Doug Smart.

OmniDiskSweeper


I like Disk Inventory X, an application I wrote about last year, and several people suggested that again. While I like that tool and the visual display is helpful, sometimes you just want to see a list of files and folders by how much space they take up. Enter OmniDiskSweeper, now a free utility from The Omni Group. It provides a drill down view that’s similar to the Finder’s column view. The key difference is that it’s sorted by the size of the files and folders. Great for quickly finding and pruning out large files that you don’t need any longer. Suggested by Marieboyer (yes, she had several excellent suggestions).

MacLoc


If you work in a corporate environment (or have kids that like to play with your keyboard at home) and want to quickly walk away from your Mac without logging out and shutting down your applications, MacLoc can help. It’s a free utility that leverages the fast user switching feature of OS X so that you can secure your Mac by activating it and walking away. When you come back you will be presented with the system login screen. Once logged in everything will appear like it did when you left. Suggested by Nicholas Leask.

Caffeine


You fire up Hulu or YouTube and settle in to watching something interesting when after 10 minutes your machine’s screen saver kicks in. Frustrating. What you need is something that will keep your Mac awake for a predetermined amount of time. Caffeine, a free utility from Lighthead Software, does exactly that. I’ll admit, I had heard about Caffeine before but never bothered to check it out until now.

Add it to your menu bar and activate it when you need to keep your machine from falling asleep for 5m, 10m, 15m, 30m, 1H, 2H, 5H or until your turn it off. All the benefits of a strong cup of coffee without the shaking. Suggested by Paul Thompson.

Paparazzi!


If you have ever needed to capture a screen shot of a web page you know how difficult it can be if the page is taller than your screen. Paparazzi! is a handy little utility for grabbing the entire contents of a web page. Want to capture that forum thread or blog comments into a single image? Paparazzi! can take the shot for you. While it doesn’t work with Flash based graphics it can handle most other types of page elements. Suggested by Alo Lopez.

TubeTV


Even though my iPhone supports YouTube, there are lots of times that a video I want to watch is on another service (blip.tv, among many others, is becoming popular). What I would like is the ability to download a really long keynote address from a conference, plant it on my iPhone and watch it while I’m flying or in poor 3G areas. TubeTV is a free application—donations requested—from Chimoosoft that can open a web page and convert Flash based video to a local copy, then further convert it into a rendering option that can be dropped on an iPhone. The conversion can be slow for long videos but if you want to take that video with you this is a nice option. Suggested by Rahil Dowlath.


There were lots of other suggestions, some that I’ve written about before like Disk Inventory X. Others—like SuperDuper—I’ve seen discussed quite a bit so I didn’t include them in the list. There is also one that I didn’t include that I downloaded and found quite amusing on my MacBook Pro: Oriol Ferrer’s Liquid Mac. Thanks to Alo Lopez for making that suggestion!


Got an “unknown” application that didn’t get included in my list above? An undiscovered gem waiting for people to find? Let us all know by dropping a note in the comments below.

Visit DavidAlison.com

Categories
Parallel Desktops

4 Mac Apps that speed YOU up

Many people are obsessed with speed and I happily include myself in that category, at least with respect to the performance I get from my computer. Whether it’s a faster processor, more memory, a quicker graphics card or a new high-speed hard drive, upgrading to the latest and greatest translates into getting things done more quickly.

It’s not enough to just throw hardware at a problem, sometimes you have to optimize yourself. Of course I can do this by inhaling a rather large quantity of coffee first thing in the morning but what I’m talking about is finding applications that can improve how you use your computer. Though Macs have incredibly high usability right out of the box, over the last year I’ve found 4 applications that have really helped me improve my efficiency on my Mac. I’ve tried quite a few but these are the applications I’ve stuck with and found most valuable to me.

1Password
Like many people I spend a lot of time in a web browser (actually both Safari and Firefox). It seems that each site has a different cookie policy and password standard and each browser has different reliability when it comes to remembering my login credentials. You want to lose time during the day doing something that doesn’t add any value other than challenging the Grey Matter to a memory exercise? Try remembering the username and password for every site that requires it. Think about the amount of time you waste when you try to log in and try every variation of a password you can think of, or waiting for a password reminder to come back to you in e-mail.

Then think about the repetitive forms with your contact information that need to be filled out and the purchase sites where you have to enter in your credit card details. Finally toss in those times when you need your frequent flyer number or child’s social security number or application’s license code.

1Password does a fantastic job of handling all of this for me. It plants itself in the toolbar of my browser and makes logging in to a site a one or two click affair. It will offer to remember my login credentials the first time I use it and then it retains it after that. Now when I hit nearly any form I can just tell 1Password to fill it out for me and it usually completes most of the common fields without any typing on my part.

Now that I have it synchronizing my 1Password data automatically through DropBox (which is a free service), both the Macs I use on a regular basis are current all the time. It is seamless and completely wonderful.

I realize I sound like I’m gushing about this application but it’s one of those “you have to try it to appreciate it” types of things. It’s also one of the few applications I immediately bought a family license for and put on my wife and kid’s Macs. At $39.95 (single user) and $69.95 (family 5-pack) it’s not the cheapest utility you can buy but well worth the money.

LaunchBar
I have a confession: I am a keyboard junkie. I’ll use an easily remembered keystroke combination over a mouse movement every time. It was for this reason that one of the first features in OS X I became enamored with was Spotlight. The ability to hit Command-Space and just type in the name of something and launch it by hitting Return was excellent.

The issue was that Spotlight had some issues about the time I was starting to really use it and I ended up trying out QuickSilver. While QuickSilver was great I started to see some minor issues with it and at the time the author of QuickSilver was indicating he was walking away from the project (that has since changed I believe). It was at this point that I started playing with LaunchBar and I’ve been hooked ever since.

LaunchBar makes it really fast to get to the application I want, whether it’s running or not. Command-Space (I moved Spotlight to Control-Space), type in a couple letters and hit Return. It’s much faster than Spotlight and allows me to do more than just launch an application. It also learns my personal shortcuts so that when I want to launch Pages I hit Command-Space, PG, Return and it’s up and running.

Since it can also use what I type to search my address book I can find a person by typing part of their name, then hit the right arrow button and select and e-mail address, press Return and I’ve got a new mail message addressed to that person and ready for writing.

I use Skype for my phone calls and have installed some LaunchBar scripts to control it, allowing me to just navigate to a person’s phone number through LaunchBar and hit Return; Skype dials them for me.

Though I can get by with Spotlight on a Mac that doesn’t have LaunchBar installed, my productivity takes a bit of a dip. LaunchBar is €24.00 for a single user version and €39.00 for a 5 user family license.

Spaces
I run lots of applications at the same time (right now I’ve got 16 running). Even with dual screens I like being able to arrange my application windows in a very structured way so I always know where to look for things. Spaces give me the ability to set up those work spaces and jump between them very quickly. The alternative is a bunch of windows that are either layered on top of one another or minimized down to the Dock Bar. I have found that jumping to a Space that contains the apps I need set up and ready for use saves me a lot of time throughout the day.

I’ve written quite a bit on how I’ve set up Spaces to optimize my daily routine. Though it’s included in OS X and could really just be considered a part of the Mac experience I’ve observed a number of Mac users that never bother to. If you haven’t already, give Spaces a try.

SteerMouse
Though I’m a keyboard first kind of person there are plenty of times that I switch into “mouse mode”. Usually this is when I’m browsing through information on a combination of web pages, links from Twitter, and from NetNewsWire. This is when I want my mouse to be more than just a 2 button hockey puck with a scroll wheel and go for heavier duty mice that have multiple programmable buttons.

Logitech is my mouse vendor of choice and while I love the hardware they produce the Mac mouse drivers they put out have been horrid. Fortunately SteerMouse has come to my rescue. It allows me to define custom actions on all of the buttons on my Logitech Mx510 mouse. While I would prefer that Logitech make serious efforts to improve their drivers I’ll happily pay the $20 for SteerMouse because it makes my mouse that much more functional.

So there you have it, the four applications I use constantly to optimize the way I use my Mac. How about you? Got an application that helps you perform at your peak? Drop a note in the comments and share.

Visit DavidAlison.com

Categories
ArtWorks

Tech Tips for the left brain challenged

 

tech tips4 400x394 Tech Tips for the left brain challenged

Starting today we will have another regularly scheduled series. This series will be focused on technology tips and short cuts that can help artists. We will include tips for beginners as well as experienced computer and internet users. The series will be called  Tech Tips ( pretty creative uhh?).

The idea for the series was one of those light bulb moments( actually more like a DUHHHHH! Moment) that occurred while helping a client. This client along with many who were not born with geek blood often don’t know enough to know what to ask and many seem consider their computers as a place where majikal little gremlins run around  making things difficult. Also many in the 45 + age cohort are intimidated by those youngsters who came out of the womb with a mouse as an appendage.  So…the main goal of this series is to make getting and asking geeky  information without being embarrassed, intimidated or turning yourself into a geek.

A little self disclosure here…I am well into the 45+ age cohort and everything I know I have taught myself. However, I did have an advantage I was born with Geek blood as the son of an engineer and an artist, I know what a mix. I started using computers in high school and no they weren’t hand cranked but they were huge and they did have to be fed with cards sometimes thousands just to get anything to come out. Later in another life I worked with the Forest Service as a graduate design student to develop ways to map visual corridors through forests as a way to control clear cutting. Anyway you get the idea it sort of came natural to me but I know it doesn’t with most….so this is a way for me to share what I’ve collected over the years.

And it is not my intention to hog the content either so this series is VERY open to readers and their tips, tricks and general hacks so please feel free to share using the comment form.

Also don’t be afraid to ask a question I am not guaranteeing an answer right away but sooner or later somebody here may have one. Oh….almost forgot if you are afraid of being embarrassed feel free to use an alias!!

Here are just a few of the categories the tips may fall into:

  • Hardware work arounds or secrets
  • Twitter techniques
  • Software recommendations
  • Web site recommendations
  • Creative uses of technology to market your work
  • Tips & tricks
  • Blog design reviews & tips

Today’s Tips

Three of my favorite Mac apps that can save time:

about 1password Tech Tips for the left brain challenged1 Password

If you have ever gotten tired of trying to remember all your online stuff  or worse yet you can’t find that super-secret note book where all your on-line stuff resides encoded by using your super coder/decoder ring well save your hair… 1Password is the answer. Here’s what you can do with this frustration savior…

Set up your own profile information ( as many variations s you want) and with one click on your browser select the right profile and 1Password will fill it in automatically AND you don’t have to worry about taking up space in your brain with such trivia. Because this little gem will generate a password for you and then store it. So next time you log into one of your password requiring sites you can save your hair along with the screaming and stomping and just click…1Password does the rest.

Guess what is even more cool…it works with both the iPhone and that other one that Obama likes to carry.

skitch3 Tech Tips for the left brain challengedSkitch

Ever wonder how I get all those super cool graphics of my desk top? Well there are hard ways and there are simple ways to get them. Until recently I was suffering through the agonizingly slow process of captureing and annotating screen captures. First the click then the save then to Photoshop to add the text and the arrows then flatten then…you get the picture.

One day during my morning wake up surfing routine I ran across this program that let me do everything ya everything without all the putzing. Now you may ask why do I need that? Well remember that friend’s photo you always wanted to add a mustache and goggles to quickly and then post it on your Facebook page or e-mail it to them…now you can very easily.

One More Tip

Help…my computer is broken it is sooo slowwww I could take a nap while the screen refreshes! Well don’t toss it out the window yet unless of course it runs by hand crank.

The problem may be just molasses in your tubes or a huge traffic jam! Ya see even if you have the most blazingly fast souped up modem thingy  it doesn’t mean didly if  you’ve been surfin’ all day and night along with everybody else in your living arrangement. So try to remember …If the phone company sent a brown box with another box inside and lots of wires with funny things on the ends of them you have DSL and at least the first step is easy peasy. Just reach around the back of that modem box find the power cord and yank that sucker out, count to 60 then plug’er back in, watch the light show and once the green light labeled “internet” is a steady green you’re good to go.

Now if the cable guy came by and hooked’er up that’s a different story cause besides having tubes filled with molasses youinstaller Tech Tips for the left brain challenged may be in the middle of a traffic jam! See, cable networks are all webby like a spider web and if you and everybody else on your block or  in your neighborhood are all surfin’ together…all I can say is ya gotta wait your turn ‘cause you and your neighbors are all fightn’ to get on that super highway. So first thing ya need to do is the same thing I said for the DSL folks…find that power cord give it a yank and count to 60 before ya plug it back in. If that doesn’t work well you could….

Go all nutcase and run up and down your street yell at your neighbors to get offf the party line ‘cause you got important business to tend to.

Or…

You could just get up and come back at 2 AM when all your neighbors are snoozin’

Or….

You could just decide your stuff isn’t that important anyway and go grab a beer and watch some of the other kinda tube.

 Tech Tips for the left brain challenged

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Featured Panels & Gutters & Zip Ribbons Software

Comic Life Magiq: My Troubleshooting Experiences

To be honest, I was not always happy with Magiq.  When I first downloaded the 1.0.2 version, it had a problem with displaying and exporting images. The results looked fuzzy and blurred in spots, and not up to par with Comic Life Deluxe.

Deluxe image export:

Magiq 1.0.2 image export:

My experience with Macintosh software taught me that, when in doubt, check the preferences. Deluxe used to have something similiar when WYSIWYG image filtering was turned on- so originally I thought it was a variation of that issue.

There were some toggles which appeared related, such as "New Comics Image Filter" under Preferences and the drop-down menu under Format>Comic. No such luck, even when testing high at 300 and low at ye old web-ready 72 dpi.

I investigated possible solutions with my source images. I thought perhaps they were too high or too low to properly internally display. Nada. I was miffed, to say the least. Magiq was written to utilize Quartz (the core graphics framework) that was already part of Leopard. My iMac  at the time was running 10.5.3.

The next logical step was to hit the plasq forums and see if anyone else was having the same or related problem. No luck there, either.
So I posted an initial query with a description of what was going on, and the links to the above images.

An important thing to remember about user forums is that participants come from a myriad of different skill levels and experiences. Most are civil. Some act like a schoolyard bully, and some just want to appear to be the most knowledgeable in the room. It’s best to ignore those and stay professional. I generally work under the assumption that if you are rude to your waiter, you  get the "special" sauce in your meal, no extra charge!

On the other hand, if a tech responds to their users in a disrespectful or unprofessional manner, it’s a good indication that you might want to look for an alternate software title. If I feel the need to report a problem, I stick to the facts. I find it usually gets me further than if I throw flames, insult the creators or technicians of the software, even if they’re acting huffy, oblivious to my specific problem, or could be moving a little faster thank you very much.

In this instance, plasq responded right away to my forum post and asked that I contact them directly, and upload the images via their submission form. Unfortunately that form did not work, so they were instead zipped and emailed directly. In all cases I got an automated confirmation of the receipt of my initial query as well as my follow-up queries.

A month later, Magiq version 1.0.3 came out and I was contacted by plasq and asked to give it a shot. The results were outstanding. The Magiq image is equivalent and arguably, slightly better than the Deluxe version.

Not all troubleshooting experiences with software and hardware will end this well.  Sometimes one will need to dig a little deeper via Google, or in third party forums to find another solution with a different product. One of my favorites is Mac OSX Hints.

Fortunately with plasq, they are enthusiastic about their software and very pleasant to deal with, often a good sign of a healthy product and company.

 

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ArtWorks Featured

Comics and the Warrior, the Healer, the Visionary and the Teacher

Themes and learnings

One of the things that helps me write is to find a theme that over time I can build on and use to tuck ideas into.  2008 was mostly about getting my feet wet, testing directions and getting acquainted with you and you with me. In 2009 I’m going to focus on giving you a foundation and then help you build on that foundation throughout the year.

twitter_page Comics and the Warrior, the Healer, the Visionary and the Teacher

Before I get into the details I want to tell about the graphic above, it’s my new Twitter background. Why is that important? I’ve been wanting to do one for quite sometime and as usual started out seriously designing, until this morning when I revisited what I had done yesterday. Looking at it I realized it was waaaay to serious, it didn’t really say much about me. So scrapped it and started over. This time I took a “I’m gonna have fun” attitude, and since  I love comic illustration or stories told graphically I used Comic Life together with some photos to design the background. The point is I had fun and more importantly I showed up in a way that put a part of me out there that many don’t see.

That brings us to themes…several years ago I became acquainted with the writings of cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien author of The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary. She spent many years collecting the wisdom of people all over the world and she found that when everything was put together a common theme surfaced that provided a fundamental base for living. She identified four archetypal paths or ways for helping us navigate change that are based on centuries old shamanic traditions practiced by indigenous people and how they managed change.  The masters of change among indigenous peoples were their medicine men, chiefs, shamans, and teachers, the recognized the constant nature of change and took on the role of supportively guiding their communities through life events instead of denying them. Arrien calls for a reconnection to the four archetypal paths  common to  all peoples they are,  The Way of the Warrior, The Way of the Healer, The Way of the Visionary and The Way of the Teacher. Expanded they boil down to:

  • Show up be visible and empower others through example and be present to your life invest in yourself
  • Pay attention to what has heart and meaning to your life
  • Tell the truth without blame or judgement be authentic in brining your life gifts to the world.
  • Be open by not being attached to outcomes so that we may have better access to our own wisdom.

The first step

The first and most important thing we as artists need to do to not only survive the current shifts but also emerge as leaders is to SHOW UP. Showing up means starting that blog by putting  the nurturing and empowering nature of your gifts out there for all to see. A strong part of this is self- investment because without it we are blind. When I designed the Twitter page above I decided to show up, by be authentically visible in a way I have exposed I also invested time in doing so because it reinforced my presence.

Showing up will also put you above the crowd of people who can’t seem to show up, it will place you in a position to lead and lead with authority. Because you will be one of the few who chooses to be present.

So in the coming weeks we will talk more about showing up with your blog will look, we will build the foundation using the “Four Fold Way” above together with practical and creative ways start building the structure of your house. We’ll also talk more about each element can help you overcome your fears and empower you to claim your spot.

How are you going to show up? What are your fears? Will you show up with me?

Please join the conversation and get our tips, techniques, news and support once a week.

 

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 Comics and the Warrior, the Healer, the Visionary and the Teacher

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Parallel Desktops

Skitch makes it easy to annotate pics

Though Skitch has apparently been around for a while now I didn’t hear about it until I saw a Merlin Mann’s video on how he has his Mac desktop set up. For those that don’t follow Merlin’s stuff you really should.

Since I tend to write about software that I find for my Mac quite a bit I drop in a lot of screen shots. Since Macs have an excellent built in screen capture capability I often just used that, pushing Command-Shift-4 to activate it and drop the resulting capture as a PNG on my desktop. I would then take the PNG and load it up into my graphics editor (usually GIMP), then crop or edit the image. If I wanted to annotate the image with highlights or callouts I would use the line drawing tools which were a bit of a challenge.

This is where Skitch really shines. You can capture an image just as easily as with the built in Mac capture tools but this give you an editable surface that allows you to quickly crop, resize and annotate the image with really simple tools.


I won’t go into too much more detail because Michael Warf created a really excellent little video a while back walking through the features of Skitch, including the picture sharing that’s included with the service:

Skitch Video Review from Michael Warf on Vimeo.

On top of all this Skitch is free. If you know of a better solution for screen capture than what I’m getting with Skitch please drop a note in the comments below.

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