Free customizable buttons and gradients

on Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dynamic Drive ( has many free and easy to use tools available for use. With them you can create custom web buttons, custom gradients (backgrounds that gradually shift form one color to another), and favicons, which are the little icons that appear to the left of the URL in the browser. You can optimize web images online, and change them from one type of image to another (e.g. a .png to a .gif). There is also an email encryption tool, but it doesn't appear to play well with Outlook.

Regardless of which tool you choose, the process is the same: you enter the variables (e.g. for gradients, you give the desired image size and the colors to use) and Dynamic Drive generates the image for you. In some cases it will generate code for you. The site always gives clear instructions as to where to cut and paste the code into your website.

Below is a custom gradient using Dynamic Drive tools.

And, finally, a screenshot of a "favicon" added to a blog URL.

Google Translate

on Friday, April 24, 2009

Yet another amazing tool from the folks at Google. You can, with three or four clicks of a mouse, translate your webpage into over 40 languages. Go to the Google Translate site (, enter the URL of your website, the language the site is in, and the language you wish to translate it to, and hit the "translate" button. It reutrns a URL that has your ENTIRE website transtated, not just the home page. You can use the returned URL to provide a translated version of your site.

Other cool features: look over to the right and you'll see the Google Translate button for this blog. Choose a language, and the blog will be instantly translated for you. Go ahead. Try it. I'll wait.

Cool, huh? All that was invloved was copying and pasting one line of embedded code, provided by the Google Translate site. It also has tools to translate plain text to any of 40-ish languages, and has drag and drop buttons for your browser toolbar, to allow you to tranlate any webpage you encounter to another language with just one click.

Here are before and after shots of my own website, first in English, then Spanish. Note that text incorporated into graphics will not be translated.

Notepad++ Source Code Editor

on Wednesday, April 22, 2009

In the past I've always tended to code HTML and CSS in Notepad or Dreamweaver; to make small changes I'd just pull up the no-frills Notepad, if the was a lot of code to wade through I'd use Dreamweaver, because it indents and color-codes the code automatically, to help me find my way around.

I've always wanted to find something between those two options, though. A source code editor that has indenting and color-coding, but without all the unnecessary bells and whistles of Dreamweaver. Darrin Goodman steered me to Notepad++, which seems to be the perfect solution. It's a free, lightweight source code editor that color-codes and indents the code so you can find your way around more easily. Ctrl+Space will allow you to bring up the auto-completion feature, and you can easily preview the code in either Internet Explorer or Firefox right from the menu.

I've only been using it for a few days, and I'm already a convert. It works in many languages other than HTML and CSS, and has an advanced find-and-replace feature. There are also many plug-ins available to fine-tune it to your own needs.

To learn more, or to download Notepad++, go to And thanks, Darrin, for the recommendation!

A screen shot is below.

Squared 5

on Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Squared 5 ( a free download of MPEG Streamclip, a free video converter, player, editor for Mac and Windows. It can play most movie files; cut, trim and edit MPEG files; and convert them to QuickTime, AVI, DV and MPEG formats. MPEG Streamclip can also download videos from YouTube and Google. All you need to do is provide the URL of the video.

The Windows version of MPEG Streamclip requires Windows XP or Vista to use.

The Mac version requires at least Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar).

More information, and the downloads, can be found at


on Friday, April 10, 2009

Doodle is a fast and easy way to schedule a meeting or ask a single question to a group of people on-line. I've covered this in Connect sessions and in-person trainings, but never on the blog, and thought I would because it's such a useful tool. You don't even need to register with Doodle, just go to their website ( which kind of poll you want to conduct - schedule a meeting time or ask a question - and then type in your question and answer options. Doodle returns a URL that you email out to the folks you want to poll. It records the results, and you make your decision accordingly.

Lots of options exist: single or multiple answers, hidden answers (so respondents can't see how others voted), and commenting.

Below is a screenshot of a sample poll. Looks like the consensus is fish.


on Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Here's a soothing, easy-to-use tech tool: iSenerity. Want to mask office noise, loud conversations from the office next door, get a baby to go to sleep, or just relieve a little stress? This is an on-line white noise machine, with all sorts of options. You can play ambient noise mimicking waterfalls, thunderstorms, crickets, typewriters, library sounds, birds, even (and this is my favorite) the old-fashioned sound of a number two pencil writing on a piece of paper. How ironically low tech.

All the sounds come with a visual component as well, in the form of a slideshow of still pictures relating to the sound, but it seems to me the best use of this is to have it on in the background on a minimized browser window as you work on other things.

18 Tips For Killer Presentations

on Friday, April 3, 2009

Trying to inject some life into your PowerPoint presentations? Lifehack has a good, short article about creating an effective PowerPoint presentations: 18 Tips For Killer Presentations.

Tips range from the 10-20-30 rule (PowerPoint presentations should have no more than 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes and have no text less than 30 point font) to simple common sense tips like "Come Early, Really Early," and, the most important tip of all, "Don't Read."

Thanks, once again, to Loretta Lohman for the link.


on Wednesday, April 1, 2009

You can record your computer screen, with narration and a webcam picture, using the free on-line Screentoaster ( It require no download or registration to use. You simply go to the website, click the "Start Recording" button, choose your webcam (if desired), your microphone input, and whether you want to record the entire screen or merely a region. Click Alt + S to start the recording, and Alt + S again to stop it. The result can be downloaded as a .mov or .swf file. If you register with Screentoaster, you can also upload your video to the Screentoaster site or to YouTube (albeit without webcam support), or embed it into a blog or a website, as I've done below.

You can use Screentoaster to record tutorials, Powerpoint presentations, slideshows, anything that can be shown on a computer monitor.

This short sample Screentoaster video shows how to upload a file in Dreamweaver: