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Month: October 2016

Review of Visme

whiskey-and-wordsThere are a ton of products out there for creating graphics online. Why? Because we aren’t all great at creating graphics, posters, infographics, and other marketing materials. Sometimes we just need a program with a few templates pre-loaded, some decent graphics along with the ability to load our own, and some simple tools to get the job done.

Don’t get me wrong. This program, or any other like it for that matter, does not replace a good graphic designer, or make you one. I mean, it does not work that way for me anyway. I tell stories, sometimes using graphics, but I am just not a design genius.

True, Microsoft Office 365 includes some templates for posters, presentations, and other materials. But most users will tell you they pretty quickly download third-party templates and graphics to give themselves a more robust set of choices.

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Visme is different from the start. Different from Canva and other programs, different than Buffer’s Pablo, a great tool for making simple images to share on social media, but not an epic design tool by any means.

Full disclosure before we begin. I was given a free trial of Visme to review. I had access to all of the premium features, something I recommend if you are going to create any number of graphics. I will also tell you this: I am a skeptic, and I have been given trial memberships to several business programs and apps in the past, and I certainly have not reviewed them all. Why? Well, because my mom told me if I did not have anything nice to say, to not say anything at all.

So you won’t hear about those programs from me. Some I used for less than a day. Some I tried, waited for updates, and tried again. When they didn’t work, I hit the uninstall button and moved on with my rather busy life.

Visme is Simple to Use

Every program or graphic design app says this, but in this case, it is true. Visme has a number of simple templates, is very clear about what you are trying to create, even allowing you to select your own sizes, graphics, titles, and animations. The initial menu is pretty easy to navigate.

That being said I am a pretty advanced software user. In this case, though, the interface was intuitive and ran smoothly and quickly.

Online Tool

Visme is an online tool, so no need to install some bloatware on your computer and slow down your processor and hard drive. You can even save your projects in the cloud, or download them, or do a combination of both.

Sharing your creations and embedding them in websites is simple as well. The code can be simply copied and pasted, even if you have no knowledge of coding websites or blogs.

Need help? It is just a click away, and the advice is good and easy to follow. I had some initial issues logging in, but they were quickly resolved in a few easy emails.

However, any review that simply offers undying positive praise to without pointing out the negatives is probably fake or paid. Here is a simple list of the pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Intuitive and Easy to Learn
  • Online: no bloatware or storage issues
  • Ease of Sharing
  • Ease of embedding in websites or converting to other programs.

Cons:

Simple software. This is not Photoshop, nor does it make you a graphic designer. For simple graphics you need to create quickly, this program is great. However, don’t fire anyone, at least not yet.

Completely Online. We are all pretty used to be connected wherever we go. However, if you do find yourself in a hotel with no wifi, or for some reason your network is down, you can’t use Visme. You can access projects you have downloaded, but you will have to use another program to open them.

Subscription Service. Okay, this is something I have not historically been a big fan of, but I have adapted to Microsoft Office 365 and other programs offered this way. The cost is not prohibitive, but it will be a monthly expense. If you do a lot of presentations and make a lot of graphics and infographics, this tool is a great way to do it with minimal cost. Especially if you are a small business who has to outsource design. It’s just good to keep in mind that this is not a single-time cost, but an ongoing investment.

That being said, the advantage of subscription services is that if you don’t need them anymore, you can just stop paying for them, and move on to another software.

This is not likely to be the case with Visme.co. This is a program I will keep around. I certainly won’t use it for everything, but I do see myself using it on a regular basis for simple marketing materials.

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October 13th, Unlucky No More

 

Every October 13th has been a rough day for me since the year 2000. That year, October 13th fell on a Friday, and my life changed forever.

Traveling back to Payson, Arizona where I lived at the time from a friends house in Wilhoit, I came around a corner near the final stretch into town. A Toyota truck was turning left into an outlying neighborhood. I still swear to this day that the driver saw me, because I was watching. I swear she hesitated, and went anyway.

I applied both brakes and steered left, but I could not stop in time. I hit the side of her truck at about 45 miles per hour.

Even a year ago, I would not have been able to type those words without sweating. However, due to some great counseling over the last year, that trigger has gotten way better. It used to be that every year, I would get on a motorcycle and ride on that day, a spit in the face of fate.

I’m lucky I did not die that day. I let the bike go, and flipped through the air, landing on my right side. My shoulder was dislocated, stuck in place. For hours they thought my collarbone was broken. Around midnight, after x-rays of everything, I woke with a splint on my right thumb and was told I would be having surgery on Monday to reconstruct my thumb. It would be the first of several.

thumbI still carry the scar on my hand, and it reminds me of the accident whenever the weather changes, often in October.

But I don’t have to be scared of this day any more. It’s not a trigger like it used to be. Yeah, I still have scars. If I don’t work it out regularly, my shoulder is painful, and my thumb hurts pretty often, since I write for a living and type all the time.

My mind is better, though. I don’t have a motorcycle at the moment, but I will probably take a long ride on my bicycle later.

Just a small spit in the eye of fate.

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Save the Data: An Author’s Guide To Backup and Recovery

I migrated to a new computer this weekend, and it is probably something that was long overdue. My tower stopped working, and while I, in an amateurish way diagnosed the problem as a failed power supply, the motherboard had actually stopped working. Not a simple or cheap fix, and with the price of parts and labor, I could just buy a reconditioned machine.

On top of that, my son, now 14 needs a computer more and more for school. I have a laptop I have been using, or rather overusing, and he needs a device of his own so he doesn’t have to rely on my wife and I, whose devices are often occupied with our own work.

The last time I did this was just a few years ago, but things have changed. Much more of my information and my software licensing is stored in the cloud, which also ensures that they are secure. Fortunately, I had just backed up all of my files before my computer took its final electronic breath.

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However, I hear stories every day of authors whose laptops or home computers died, and entire novels, short stories, and more are lost, never to be recovered. There is no need for that anymore. Especially if you do the one thing I always tell authors they must do: treat your writing like a business, because it is. You need to have a plan to backup all of your files, and recover them if they are ever lost.

There are several ways authors have used in the past to back up files, and they are still effective. However, in light of modern technology, they are also not as efficient. Still, it’s not a bad idea to use some of them.

E-mail your work to yourself. This one is very common, and I know authors who do this every time they complete a chapter. The good news of this method? As long as you can access your email, you have access to your files. The cons? If you can’t get to your email, or you have a political scandal and delete 33,000 personal emails, and your files are part of those (okay, unlikely), your files can be lost.

Many authors create a unique email account and never delete any of the emails in it, or often don’t even look at them unless disaster strikes and they have to. Something like [email protected] (not real, don’t mail me your stuff at that one) works, since it’s free and if you don’t list it anywhere, your inbox should stay free of spam.

Back up files on an external hard drive. This is still good advice. It never hurts to have a copy of your files on a device that you can take with you anywhere, and recover files even if you do not have access to the internet. A few words of caution:

  • Don’t use thumb drives. They are notorious for failing, and the nature of them being small makes it possible they would be lost. This is a good way to keep files mobile, but a bad idea for long term backups.
  • Migrate your data to new file formats. It takes a long time for files types to become obsolete, but it does happen, and not being able to recover your data because it cannot be converted to new formats is disheartening at best, tragic at worst.
  • Store hard drives in a safe location. Fire proof safes in your home, a safe deposit box (although this makes it harder to access) or somewhere apart from your property is the wisest choice. Fire, flood, and other disasters can destroy your hard work, and while it is not the worst thing that might happen, losing nine months of work on a novel is an additional heartbreak.

Used wisely, external hard drives are a good option, and frequent (at least weekly) back ups are a really good idea. There are of course more modern backup methods. You have to be connected to the internet to recover your data, but in an age of connectivity everywhere access is fairly assured.

Multiple Cloud Backups. The cloud is essentially your data stored on someone else’s secure servers. They have backups and data recovery plans as well. It never hurts to have a writing folder in more than one cloud app. MOst offer enough free space to back up a number of documents, and offer large amounts of storage for a nominal fee.

  • Google Drive: This is storage offered by Google under your Google Account. Depending on how many files you have to store, the free 15G storage may be adequate, or for $1.99 a month you can add more. Just keep in mind that the storage limit includes your Gmail files and Google + photos.
  • OneDrive: This is Microsoft’s answer to cloud storage/ Free storage is limited to 5GB of data, but if you are a Microsoft 365 subscriber (something I highly recommend for authors) the limit is 1TB, enough room for most if not all of your docs, photos, and music.
  • DropBox: Drop Box offers 5GB for free as well, with additional paid options. Of course, if you are just using it to store and share documents, 5GB will be more than enough to back up a ton of text files.

Backing up your files on more than one service ensures that if something happens to that service or you lose access for some reason, your data will still be protected.

damaged-cdData Recovery. More than once those authors have lost all of their data and have had to start over. But it isn’t necessary. Even if your local computer shop tells you the data is lost, there are companies who specialize in data recovery. One of them, Kroll OnTrack, offers data recovery from almost any device, and they offer this advice:

  • Get the device to them as quickly as possible.
  • Know what to expect: not all data can be recovered, but a good recovery service will tell you what can be recovered before you pay for it.
  • Don’t give up on a damaged device. The data may still be intact. Contact a professional before giving up.

The better hardware and software get, the more likely it is that lost data will not really be lost. Even with catastrophic hardware and software failures, data recovery is possible.

You work hard as a writer, and sometimes it takes months to shape a story the way you really want it to be. Edits take time, and can be costly. So taking data backup as seriously as other businesses do is vital to your long-term success.

Using multiple forms of backup and having a data recovery plan makes this possible and worry free even if you are not technologically adept. That way you can focus on what you are best at. Writing.

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