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Archive for March, 2009

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Generic Website Design Template

Design First, Then HTML-ize

If you’re new to the web design game, developing a new website (or redesigning an old one) is much like starting a new job: there are a thousand small details competing for your attention and its difficult to know how to proceed in a relatively efficient fashion.

One typical workflow, especially for smaller sites that only have static HTML pages, is to design the appearance of the site first. Some folks sketch designs on a pad of paper, others use a graphics program like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Fireworks to lay out how the site will look. In fact, there’s been more than one great website design where the impetus came from cocktail napkin scratchings at a Friday night happy hour.

The Challenges of Translating Your Design into HTML

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Enhancing Sound in Soundbooth CS4

Recently, while working on a project, I had need of a creepy bit of music.  I didn’t have an orchestra at my disposal, and I’m not a composer, so I used what I had:  a couple of acoustic and electric guitars, a little bit of creativity and Soundbooth.  With that, I came up with my final sound:

creepy effected.mp3 – The final sound

Soundbooth is an audio editing and creation program that is available through the Adobe/IU licensing agreement.  It is part of the Production Premium suite.  It can record, edit, and add effects to sound files.

Starting out, I decided since I was very out of practice with guitar, I’d just record a simple three note phrase.  I practiced with some different arrangements and ended up with what I thought was a suitably creepy beginning.  To make sure I had a good amount to work with, I played it three times into the microphone. Here is the sound that resulted:

creepy.mp3 – Feel free to download and follow along in your own copy of Soundbooth CS4.

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Undo Send Now Available In Gmail

Ever hastily typed up an email, clicked the Send button, and, in the very next nanosecond, shouted, “Ohhhhh, nooooooo!”?

The mistakenly-sent email has happened to all of us – whether from distraction, anger, inebriation, or other happenstances out of our control – the end result is the same: a sinking feeling of self-reprobation (“How could I have been so stupid?”) or even just mild regret (“I just sent an email to a hundred people about my party, but I didn’t tell them what day or time.”)

Gmail’s recently added a feature that, if you catch your mistake within 5 seconds of clicking the Send button, will allow you to pull back the email before it’s sent. This new feature is called Undo Send, and here’s how you can add it to your Gmail account: (more…)

Web Accessibility Made Easy Part 1: Mythbusting

This is the first in a series of posts about web accessibility that will give an in-depth look at the topic, using IU’s guidelines, as well as the web accessibility standards documents from which they were derived. Through these posts you can learn correct and easy ways to make your websites accessible so that they can be used by everyone.

Web Accessibility Myths:

1. The BIG one: Making a website accessible is a long, involved and costly process.

This is half-true. If your current web site is not accessible, it can be a lengthy process to make it accessible. But, if from the beginning, your web development work incorporates the techniques described in these blog posts, creating an accessible web site will add little time to the design process.

2. Web accessibility can be validated with an automated process just like HTML.

This is also half-true. Many web accessibility guidelines can be tested using automated validators. But this does not tell the whole story. For example, just because an image on a web page has an “alt” tag does not mean that the tag provides helpful, relevant information. Keep in mind that retroactive fixes to an inaccessible web site will take extra time. Including web accessibility in the design from the beginning will take no time at all. And a site that is accessible is will be more usable for everyone.

3. No one with a disability uses or visits my site

While this could be true, there is no way of verifying this statement. For one thing if an individual with a disability cannot successfully use a web site, they will quickly seek alternative web sites. The major disabilities are impairment of hearing, seeing, thinking (cognitive), and mobility. Some disabilities are visible, some are hidden. Some are permanent, some are temporary. 18.7% or 54.4 million people in the US report some sort of disability (US Census Bureau [pdf]). With these statistics in mind, it is fair to conclude that someone with a disability has or will try to view your site.

4. A text-only version of your web site is a great accessible alternative.

Does reading the book that a movie was based on give the same experience? Probably not. A text-only version is accessible and does meet some of the guidelines, yet the experience is not the same. And more importantly, while you may remember to update your web site with current information, maintenance of a current text-only version is often forgotten, creating unequal information access. Today most assistive technology programs today work with CSS, can access Flash movies and can deal with JavaScript. As a result, users with disabilities can access content that is correctly coded. So why limit them to a text-based version of your site?

Save Time Finding Information with a Firefox Quick Search

Like many folks, I rely on the Internet for my primary information gathering on a whole variety of topics. If I want to read a quick general biography of Dolly Parton, I’ll head over to Wikipedia. If I want to see whether to bring an umbrella with me to work in the morning, I’ll pull up Weather.com. And if I want to see what the movie critics are saying about the new movie The Watchmen, I’ll hit up Rotten Tomatoes. These are tasks I do often – if not daily, then almost daily.

Do I Look Like I Have All Day?

The problem with these everyday tasks are how long they take.  I’m a busy person! Using the Wikipedia Dolly Parton search as an example, here’s the steps involved:

  1. Click bookmark for Wikipedia
  2. Wait for Wikipedia page to load
  3. Scan the page to find the search box
  4. Type in the search term I’m looking for (”Dolly Parton”)
  5. Wait for the Dolly Parton page to load

Boo!  Using the Mozilla Firefox Quick Search feature, I can cut this down into:

  1. In the Firefox address bar, type: wiki dolly parton
    Firefox Address Bar - Quick Search
  2. Wait for the Dolly Parton page to load

Yay!

Read the rest of this article to learn how to create Firefox Quick Searches.

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Repairing Heavy Damage by Duplicating Pixel Information

Many times in our images, we find damage that is too intense to replace with the basic healing tools.  When this happens we can sometimes replace these damaged pixels with information from a different image, and occasionally with information from the same image.  In the previous exercise with this image, we repaired the background.  This time, we will see how to repair the damage over the right arm, using the left arm as a basis for our correction.

Use this exercise file to follow along:

Portrait Mid Point

View this video tutorial to see how we can use information in the image to repair it.

Repairing Heavy Damage by Duplicating Pixel Information

Extra Content for Adobe CS4 applications from IU Ware

When installing the CS4 applications available from IUWare, you might have missed some important additional content that is also available.  In this post, we’ll explore what is available in these Extra Content installers, and which items should be considered essential. If you have purchased the disc version of Design Premium, this extra content will be available on the Content disc.

First of all, let’s find out where to get this Extra Content.  It is available from IU Ware at the following address: http://iuware.iu.edu/list.aspx?id=196

NOTE: You should have any CS4 applications you wish you use installed before downloading and installing these files.  Fonts in these packages can be installed without installing CS4 applications.

Here you can download all of the Extra Content that is available. It is separated by program, but we will see shortly, that some of the files inside are duplicated.  First, let’s list what programs have Extra Content available, and what can be downloaded.

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Retract an Email in Microsoft Outlook 2007

We’ve all heard email horror stories that make us cringe: the job applicant who hastily sends an email to confirm an important interview but forgets to spell check first; an angry worker who informs his employer that he is quitting his job before he stops to think about the consequences; the employee who inadvertently sends a personal email out to everyone in the office. The list goes on and on.

If you find yourself having nightmares involving email and disaster, there are two things you should know. First of all, Microsoft Outlook 2007 does contain a recall feature that allows you to retract a message after it has been sent. Unfortunately, this feature is far from perfect. It only works if the recipient is on the same Exchange Server as you, and even if you are able to rescind the message before the recipient opens it, there is still a slight chance that they will see part or all of the message before the recall is complete (especially if they have AutoPreview or the Reading Pane enabled).

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Create footnotes in InDesign

The request to learn how to do InDesign book and manuscript tasks is on the increase in our workshops. The reason is, more and more scientific publications ask their authors to have copy-ready papers, and InDesign is so much more cooperative than Word when designing columns with graphics.

InDesign DOES have a footnote feature, and it’s easy to use. Here are the pros and cons:

The good: Footnotes and endnotes from your Microsoft Word documents can be imported into your InDesign documents.

The bad: InDesign completely disregards your own Footnote And Endnote numbering options. Instead, it reformats footnote and endnote reference numbering to regular text.

The ugly? Decide for yourself on this one: InDesign can’t convert your text to approved publication styles the way EndNote, a Word and WordPerfect plug-in does, so you’ll have to style them yourself.

As I said, it’s very easy to do. See this excellent tutorial by David Blatner of lynda.com:

http://www.wonderhowto.com/how-to/video/how-to-create-footnotes-using-indesign-cs3-3785/view/


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