Free Friday: Canva: Online Graphic Design Platform

If you find yourself needing to create a visually appealing presentation, social media graphic, or infographic; try using Canva.  It is a free online platform that offers a wide assortment of design tools and options, as well as premium options for paying customers.

To get started, you just need to create an account using your email account.  You also have the option to log-in with your Facebook or Google Plus account; if you don’t want to create a new account.

canva_templates

Once you are logged in – Canva offers many (free & fee-based) templates for you to canva_project_typesget started with your project.  Just select your project type: presentation, infographic, social media, banner, resume, and more. Canva provides the layout, and you just use the drag & drop feature to add images, shapes, text, etc. or even upload your own images/photos to customize the graphic to fit your marketing needs.

Canva_photo_editing.png

Canva also includes photo editing features, as well as other cool tools:

  • Photo straightener: Keep your photos in line with our photo straightener tool
  • Image cropper: Crop your photos for great framing and masterful composition
  • Add text to photos: Create a narrative for any photo
  •  Speech bubble maker: Give your photos a voice with speech bubbles!
  • Give your photos a delicate fade with our transparency tool
  • Photo enhancer: Enhance your photos to save any “off” shots
  • Photo blur: Add artistry to your images with the blur slider
  • Photo vignette: Grant your pictures vintage flair with our photo vignette tool
  • Design grids: Looking for layout inspiration? Try a design grid
  • Free icons: Complement your designs with the crisp lines of our icons
  • Photo frames: Add photo frames to adorn your memories
  • Web wireframe: Begin with the basics and create a web wireframe
  • Stickers: Amp up your images with some surprise stickers
  • Badges: Build a better badge with Canva
  • Add texture: Give your designs texture and feeling from our image library

To learn more about these features, visit their web site: https://www.canva.com/features/

I like this tool, as it allows you to create professional looking graphics, without any prior experience.  Once you have completed your design project, you will have the option to save, email, or upload your graphic to your web site.  Canva also has a shared option, which allows you to be able to collaboratively work projects with your team members.

Free Friday: GIMP.COM: The Free and Open Source Image Editor

If you find yourself in the position of needing god quality screen shots for library handouts and tutorials, this is a great tool.

Like most image editing tools, there are a wide array of functions available for the more advanced user, but I like this tool because it isn’t intimidating to the beginner—they even have a set of tutorials just for beginners on their website: https://www.gimp.org/tutorials/

gimp-1

I also like this tool because it produces some very professional results. It also allows you to focus in on a specific detail on a screen so that you can focus your tutorial on individual steps more easily.

So, to give you a sense of how easy this is to use, I’ll review the steps I use to manipulate screen shots for use in tutorial-type handouts.

First, download the program from the Gimp.com website. Once the program is downloaded, open it up.

On your computer, go to the page you need and click Ctrl-Print Screen to get the screen shot (I’m using a Windows PC and I’ll use the Gimp program for my example).

Once there, open the Gimp program and choose File, Create, From Clipboard. A new window opens with the screen shot.

gimp-2

Next, if the Toolbox column is open click the Rectangle Select option, or choose from Tools, Selection Tools in the toolbar at the top of the page.

gimp-3

Click and drag the selection tool over the portion of the page that you want to use. Sometimes using the “zoom” function is useful in this step (From toolbar choose View, Zoom, 200%). If you aren’t happy with what you selected, click away from that part of the page and try again.

Once you’re happy choose Image from the top toolbar and click Crop to Selection.

gimp-4       gimp-5

Then you can choose to copy the image into your document (File, Copy, Paste) or you can save it for later use (File, Save As). If you save it, I suggest you save it as a .jpeg file (more compatible with websites and social media). At the bottom of the File, Save As box, click the “+” beside Select File Type (By Extension), choose JPEG image from the list, then click Save. It will ask you to confirm this file type, so just choose Yes.

Once it’s saved, go up to File, then Copy and follow the usual steps for copying an image into a document.

That’s all there is to it. If you want to try out the more advanced features, there are plenty of them. I believe you will find this to be a very useful tool for producing thorough, readable, and very professional handouts.

-Julie Raynor, Vice-Chair, TNT Roundtable

Come back Friday, September 16 for our next installment of Free Fridays!

Free Friday: Getting Organized with Zotero

I’m teaching an undergraduate IS course for this first time this semester that essentially boils down to a semester long version of a library one-shot course. It’s a librarian’s dream come true!

In amongst the information literacy skills that I’m trying to impart to these growing minds, I’ve included a class focused on managing all of this information that they’ll soon be finding through the library’s website. Cut to Zotero, a free citation management tool that also happens to be open source.

Example of Zotero Standalone on a Mac

The first step to setup Zotero is twofold: download the Standalone client and install the browser extension. Visit the download page for all of the pertinent links and information about getting started. The Zotero site even adjusts the download buttons to your specific operating system and browser for ease of use.

Once you’ve installed the Zotero Standalone and the browser extension, you can begin importing citations right away. Using the browser extension, you can save websites, articles, videos, and more. The image below shows what the Zotero icon looks like when saving a web page. It changes depending on the content that it finds in your browser.

Example of the Zotero browser extension button

Importing content from the web will include PDF files and other related information as available. Free accounts have up to 300MB of storage, but there are premium options available if you need more that are quite affordable.

Zotero purchase storage prices

You have a few options regarding how to organize your Zotero library: collections (read: folders), tags, and saved searches. Any item can be added to as many collections as you like. It will also remain in your main Zotero library, in case need to remove it from a specific collection.

Zotero will automatically be added to Microsoft Word, if you use it as your word processor, making citing a breeze. It also integrates with other word processors like OpenOffice. Since it’s an open source tool, many different citation styles have been added including MLA’s 8th version.

In addition to these standard citation manager abilities, Zotero also works well for collaborative projects. You can set up groups and sync items to the Zotero servers. For more details and information about Zotero’s features, check out the Quick Start guide.

-Sarah Arnold, Director, TNT Roundtable

Come back Friday, September 16 for our next installment of Free Fridays!

Interactive learning with Pear Deck

Our tool this week is coming a bit late (apologies, I kind of forgot about Labor Day when I decided to write last week’s post!), but I hope to make up for it with how excellent Pear Deck is!

Pear Deck is, at its heart, a slide ware program, like Power Point or Google Slides.  It is much simpler in layout and has fewer design templates that something like Power Point, but it is clean and effective.  However, what Pear Deck offers that Power Point and Google Slides do not is audience interactivity.  Think of it as a more powerful and more intuitive poll anywhere.  I began using it in my classes last semester and had numerous professors  decide to try it out in their own classes.  I also felt that it increased the participation of students who might not want to raise their hand, but were willing to submit a short answer or check a box on a multiple choice question.

So, why does this work so well and what can it do?

Pear Deck sign in pag e

This is the page you first access when you go to Pear Deck.  It uses a gmail sign in to login and completely integrates with Google Drive.  To get started, you just need to choose a google account and log in.  You will then be taken to the Teacher page, where you can design new presentations.

pear_deck_main_teacher_page

This is the main teacher page.  Here you can create a new deck or open up any of the decks you previously have used.  Slides can do a lot of different things.  Basic options include embedding an image, YouTube video, or simply writing text.  However, as shown below, there are a lot more options available:

quiz_options_peardeck

Note that the options with stars are only available to paying customers, but freely available types include your basic multiple choice slide but also free response text and number questions, which allow students to answer a question and then have their answers appear anonymously on the projected slide.  You can also embed a website in the deck so that it opens up within the slide.  This is great because if students have Pear Deck open on their phone or computer,  projecting a website slide will automatically direct students to the chosen website.  This lets students directly follow along on their computers without worrying about navigating to the right spot.

Once you have completed your deck, it is time to share it with students in your class.   This is done through selecting the start presenting button (seen above).  Once you start presenting, this screen should appear:

Pear_deck_student_join

To join, students go to the website listed, log in with their Gmail accounts, and then enter the displayed code to make sure they are getting into the right session.  As a google school, where all students have Gmail accounts, I have found this an extremely easy way for students to get into an interactive presentation.  Students understood it quickly and it proved a much cleaner and more full featured process than other interactive slide wear tools I have used.  The one downside is that this does require a google account.  If you work for a library where you can’t assume this of your students, this might be a less attractive option.  But if you do, I would highly recommend checking it out and reading reviews of it here or here.

Kate Hill, Secretary/Treasure, TNT.

Come back this Friday, September 9th for our next installment of Free Fridays!

 

Free Friday: DIY Coloring Pages with Pixlr

IMG_1774I absolutely love Pixlr, a completely web-based image editing program that you can use anywhere that has many of the functions of Photoshop and other high-end editors. Recently, I used Pixlr to create coloring book style versions of historical images from UNCG’s Digital Collections, like this one. Students are back at UNCG this week, and apparently they love coloring! Luckily for me, fabulous staff members from UNCG’s Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives had already created coloring book versions of historical images, but I also wanted to figure out how to do it on my own.

After much Googling and testing out of different options, I came up with a good workflow using Pixlr. In the spirit of using Pixlr, get ready for lots of pictures below!

  1. Visit Pixlr.com and choose Pixlr Editor.
    pixlr1
  2. Select Open image from computer.
    pixlr2
  3. If you’ve used Photoshop or other similar products, the workspace will look familiar to you.
    pixlr3
  4. Once you’ve opened the image you want to work with, click on the adjustment menu and select “desaturate.”
    pixlr4
  5. Now, in your layers menu on the right side of the page, right click and duplicate this background layer.
    pixlr5
  6. Next, go back to the adjustments menu and select “invert.” Your image should now look like a photo negative.
    pixlr8
  7. We’re in the home stretch now! Back on the layers menu, select the icon in the bottom left (it should say “Toggle layer settings” when you hover over it). Once you’ve clicked that, change the mode from “Normal” to “Add.”
    pixlr10
  8. Your picture now looks like a blank white canvas. Don’t worry! It’s supposed to!
    pixlr11
  9. Now, click on the Filter menu and select “Gaussian Blur.” Adjust the slider so that you get the level of detail you want.
    pixlr12pixlr13
  10. And now, you’re done! You should have an image that looks something like:
    pixlr14

For our coloring station, we provided a table, a chair, some crayons, colored pencils, and markers, and we printed the images on 11×17 paper. It’s been a hit!

IMG_1776

They like it! They really like it!

-Jenny Dale, Chair, TNT RoundTable

Come back next Friday, September 2nd, for our next installment of Free Fridays!

 

Free Friday: Leveling up and staying organized!

At  University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the new semester is upon us.  For many academic librarians, this means running here and there, teaching classes, holding consultations, fixing electronic resources when they break, and just trying to keep one’s head above water.  In honor of this crazy time of the year, and also of our upcoming webinar on the 29th of August on the organizational tools of Trello and Evernote, I am going to use this post to tell you about a to-do list and habit reinforcement site that I have found to be highly useful.

The tool I am talking about is called Habitica.  Available both in browser and also as an App for iPhone and Android systems, this tool is at its heart a way to reinforce positive habits and keep track of to-dos.  What is really genius about it is the way it keeps you motivated to stay on track.  It takes completing tasks and turns them into a simple role playing/ questing game.

This is my avatar, a level 38 rogue (look at my adorable panda mount!):

Habitica_character.PNG

You level up, gain more equipment, and collect new pets and mounts by completing the tasks you have put in your lists.  You can make as many to-do lists or habits as you want.  The most important list though is the list of “Dailies”, which are simply enough tasks that you want to perform every day.  Not performing them all hurts your health and can eventually kill your character (don’t worry, you can come back easily but you lose some levels!).  This is a fantastic way to build a daily routine.  I use it to try and make myself remember to organize my email inbox, check UNCG’s electronic resource problems email, and write for one hour.  The main interface looks like this:

habitica_main_interface

For both habits and to-dos, the longer you ignore them, the brighter red they turn.  When you complete a to-do, it vanishes, but when you complete a habit, it turns from red to green.  Dailies turn gray once they are done for the day.  To-Dos can also be given due dates or have their own mini checklists of steps attached to them.  The more steps a task has, the more experience it is worth when finally completed.

Finally, on top of all the rewards and getting to make your avatar look cool and ride pandas, you can also join a party of friends and go on quests together.  When you are questing, every time you complete a habit, to-do or daily, you deal damage to the big monster you are all fighting.  But every time you miss a daily, the monster hurts everyone in your party.  The extra peer pressure of not wanting to hurt your friends has really motivated me to complete my dailies and being able to help your friends has pushed me to complete my to-dos.

Habitica is free to use, though you can get extra equipment and prettier backgrounds if you subscribe on a monthly basis.  While I have tried many other to-do list programs before, this tool, with is combination of working as a group and getting rewards for progress, is the first that has really clicked for me.  As you enter into a new semester, I would encourage anyone interested in a better way to keep organized to try it out.

 

 

 

 

 

Free Friday: Infographic Design is for Everyone

 

In this installment of Free Fridays, let’s take a look at Piktochart.  This tool makes it easy to quickly design professional looking banners, reports, infographics, and presentations.

Piktochart offers hundreds of templates that can be customizable with lots of icons, shapes, and designs that can be used.  The tool also allows you to change colors and fonts to match your theme.  So, anyone even those without a graphic design background will be able to create visually appealing content.

There are several versions of Piktochart – one at no cost and several that are fee-based. The free account does come with some limitations such as fewer templates and the Piktocchart logo at the bottom of all your creations. Piktochart also offers a purchase option for those that need to upgrade to the pro version for students and professionals.

While Piktochart is generally used as an infographic tool; however you can also use the tool to create dynamic presentations, providing  an alternative to power point slides and prezi presentations.  The tool is very user-friendly and easy to learn.  Within minutes you can be designing your own infographic and presentation slide using Piktochart.  I’ve often use this tool to create infographics; however just this week I used this tool to create a slide presentation for a student orientation. The audience loved the look of the presentation, and everyone wanted to know what platform I used to create it; as it provided a very different look from the traditional Power Point slides and Prezi presentations.

Some sample infographic templates:

infographic edu

 

Check out Piktochart — it’ll give you a new perspective to presenting information!

 

Suvanida Duangudom, Director, TNT RoundTable

Come back next Friday, August 19th for our next installment of Free Fridays!