Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Online or off, Zoho Writer helps you get it done

Last week I was working on a learning contract for an intern due here next year.  I'm in Kosovo and he's in the US.  So I needed to use an online document collaboration tool so that we could work on the document together. Since our team has uses Google Apps on our domain, I naturally reached for Google Docs.  I uploaded my doc and took a quick look prior to sending the invites.  It looked horrible.

I was really surprised.  The document wasn't particularly complex. There were no any tables or complex formatting.  There were only a few things formatted with tabs.  The document just wasn't usable the way it appeared.  So I moved to what I thought was the second string...Zoho.  The document uploaded in a snap and looked fine.

About the same time I learned that Zoho now offers the ability to work with your documents both online and offline.  Thanks to their integration with Google Gears, you can now take your online documents with you. 

This video explains it well.

If you want to read more check out:




Digital Inspiration


Zoho is no longer second string in my book.  It's a first class tool that eclipses Google Docs on a number of levels.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Free SnagIt and Camtasia Studio

SnagIt is a great screen capture utility that I've long wanted to buy.  The problem was, it's just too expensive.  TechSmith, the developer, is now offering free, back versions of both SnagIt and Camtasia Studio (their screencasting software).  The hope is that, having used the apps, you'll want to upgrade to the current version for half price.  It's a great bargain.

How to you get them?


  • Step One: Download it here.
  • Step Two: Visit the TechSmith website here and request a registration key.

Camtasia Studio

  • Step One: Download it here
  • Step Two: Request your registration key here.

Both of these are great applications.  The retail value for the current version of Camtasia Studio is $300.

via Digital Inspiration

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Story telling: VuVox rolling out powerful tools

Missionaries have been taking photographs to tell their stories as long as there have been cameras.  The advent of digital photography and the Internet brings those images into people's homes almost instantly.  And yet, in many ways, they are just an extension of the classic rotary-magazine, Kodak slide projector.

One company that is offering to change that is VuVox.  VuVox brings some great tools to the table, one of which is still in private beta.  Their goal is to expand and extend the content that you may have already gathered.  That content might be photos, videos, music, text or whatever. VuVox helps you create and publish interesting, interactive presentations of that content.

Their simplest tool makes creating interesting slide shows a snap.  In fact, I made the below show in about 5 minutes with their Express option. 

First, VuVox allows you to tap into your existing content either online or on your desktop.  You can tap into your Flickr, Picasa, Facebook or any RSS photostream for images.  I went to one of my Flickr tags and copied its RSS feed.  Then I pasted that into the VuVox express input box and selected a style.  It generated a slide show based on the feed and the options I selected.  Once you've created your slide show you're given the options of emailing it, embedding it or getting a permanent HTML link.  I was having so much fun that I created a slightly different style and embedded it on the front page of my website.

But VuVox also has more powerful tools to offer. Another tool is called "Collage," still in private Beta.  Collage was developed with photojournalists in mind to help tell their stories.  I could explain it, but Dane Howard, CEO of VuVox does it much better.  Check out the below interview with Robert Scoble.

If you don't have time for the interview, at least look at this collage from the San Jose Mercury News.  It was created to tell the story of small-town Willow Glen.  Within the collage you notice embedded audio, video, HTML links and text on various hotspots created. If you want to see how Mercury News photojournalist Richard Hernandez did it, look here.

Imagine telling your ministry story with a tool like that!  Since it's all created with Flash, you could embed it in your blog or web site, or even use it in a table-top kiosk on a speaking tour.  With tools like this you can create powerful presentations that can be taken almost anywhere.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Can people listen to your Skype call: Skype Encryption

Our organization, at least on a field level, really depends a great deal on Skype for cheap communication.  But occasionally people ask,  "how secure are our conversations."  Of course, none of us are chatting about nuclear launch codes, but we do transmit information that's not for public consumption.

I long ago read that Skype data is encrypted, but I never really knew how well.  Now German Federal Police are complaining that it's too good:

“The encryption with Skype telephone software … creates grave difficulties for us,” said Joerg Ziercke, president of Germany’s Federal Police Office (BKA)

Sorry about the grave difficulties, but I'd prefer that no one listen over my shoulder.  Can people listen in on your Skype call?  Nope. 

via Mashable

Monday, November 12, 2007

Arrange your labels in Gmail as a hierarchy of folders.

 I've been trying to learn the ins-and-outs of Gmail's IMAP service over the last week or so.  One of the things I really like is the ability to replicate the Outlook folder structure with Gmail's label structure.

I've learned that dragging an email to a folder within Outlook, for example, won't create the label in Gmail.  You have to create those by hand.  This isn't so great, but the ability to "nest" labels is pretty cool.  Arend v. Reinersdorff has a great description of the process, including links to greasemonkey scripts to bring it all together.

Narrowly escaping being stuck in my inbox

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned using OutTwit as a great way to simultaneously update status to both Twitter and Facebook from an application that's always open on my desk--Outlook.  But I saw danger coming as I started using it.  I should have mentioned the risks involved to you....but didn't.

image Here's the risk: spending more time in the "mail view" of Outlook than is necessary (view at right).  Here's the problem: email is not my just contains some of my work.  My work is on my to-do list, or next action list.  Looking at this view all the time prevents me from looking at my list of next actions.

image The most productive way to use Outlook is for this to be your default view.  In this view my calendar is displayed on the left (the "hard landscape" for you GTDers) while my list of next actions is on the right.  With this view I always know what is going to happen next or what I should be doing next.  I've configured Outlook to open in this view when it starts.

For many years the first view, the mail view, was my default view.  It's counter-productive.  By adding OutTwit to my mix, I was regularly going back to, or staying in, the mail view to check out the latest tweets.  Bad idea.  I got rid of NewsGator Inbox, a great program, for the same reason.  I wrote about that here.  So rather than using Twitter in Outlook, I've been using Snitter, a small Adobe AIR desktop client.  Moving Twitter outside my workflow keeps me from being distracted.

I find that I regularly have examine my whole set-up pretty ruthlessly.  I have to clean the cruft out of my system to keep on moving.  Have you looked at your "work-flow" recently and eliminated (or moved, in my case) the distractions that slow you down?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Windows Live Writer: Out of Beta

 Congrats to the Live Writer team.  Windows Live Writer is out of beta and has been released as Windows Live Writer 2008.  WLV is a great off-line blog post editor that I've written about it here, here and here

Writer Zone: Windows Live Writer: Out of Beta

Friday, November 02, 2007

OpenSocial is now live on Plaxo Pulse

Plaxo has just announced that OpenSocial is live at Plaxo Pulse.     They say it's still in version 0.5 and so bumps are expected.  Last week's announcement of the Plaxo lifes-tream widget was just a small component of this growing OpenSocial movement.

In addition, we've built OpenSocial gadget support into our new Dynamic Profiles feature, which means just as you can now show a separate profile (photo, bio, contact info, interests, etc.) to your business contacts and your friends, you can also add gadgets separately to your professional and personal profiles, and also control which sets of contacts see the activity streams from those gadgets. So if you just want to emote with your friends and not your business colleagues, now you can!

If Plaxo is already leveraging this API to allow the differentiation of contact information in its first iteration, we're going to see a lot of people moving into this space.  That is precisely the issue many have had with Facebook: you can't differentiate between your contacts.

This is going to be an interesting week.

Social Networking "standard" announced: OpenSocial

Google and MySpace announced yesterday the release of an "OpenSocial" architecture that allows developers to write social networking application once, and have them work across numerous SN sites, even your own blog.  From the press release:

“MySpace, the world’s largest social network, and Google, Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) today announced that they are joining forces to launch OpenSocial— a set of common APIs for building social applications across the web. The partnership spearheads an initiative to standardize and simplify the development of social applications. Today’s announcement underscores MySpace’s commitment to supporting standards that foster innovation in an increasingly social Web.”

OpenSocial partners include MySpace, Hi5, Orkut, LinkedIn, Plaxo and others representing hundreds of thousands of unique visitors per month.  This is a big deal for Facebook.  Look at this chart comparing the potential aggregate visits from the OpenSocial partnership versus Facebook:

What does this mean for you?  All the information about your favorite books and movie, photos, Zombies, friends lists, etc., will replicate through the OpenSocial network.  Enter it in LinkedIn and it will show up on your Orkut profile as well.  You'll apparently be able to drop widgets on your web page or blog to display the same information.

Interestingly, the first place I saw the news breaking of the official release was through Twitter, as Robert Scoble was live tweeting from the press conference.

via Techcrunch and again,  Mashable and a elsewhere