Category: Layout & Design

Cropping Images in MS Office: Are You Doing It Right?

Did you know that when you crop images in MS Word, PowerPoint, etc., the full image is still there? Anyone who has a copy of your file can restore the image back to the original.

This is especially problematic if you frequently crop after doing a print-screen. Do you remember what was in the background that you just cropped? A sensitive email? Student grades? Your credit card information?

Fortunately, you can ask MS Office to delete the cropped areas of your images, but you do have to ask. For each image. In, for example, a Word file, click on the image, select the Format tab, click the “Compress Pictures” icon. In the pop-up window, make sure the “Delete cropped areas of pictures” box is checked. Click Ok.

Why doesn’t MS Office automatically do this? I guess because they want to make it easy for you to restore the image back to the original in case you didn’t like your cropping job. Fair enough. But a warning somewhere that says that the part of your image that you can’t see is really still there in the background would be nice.

Clipping Magic: Delete the Background from Images

It’s time to clean up the graphics you use in your presentations or on your website/course management system. Remove the content you don’t want; only keep what you do want.

Clipping Magic makes it about as easy as you can imagine for removing content, say, the background, from photos. Drag and drop the photo you want to edit. Mark green for what you want to keep. Mark red for what you want deleted. Zoom in or use a smaller brush size to get in the corners.

You can change the background. I’ve chosen transparent for my example, but you can choose from a small palette of solid colors.

When you have your photo looking nice and pretty, click the “Download” button. That’s it.

Here’s the final result from my project – I don’t think it took me much longer than 5 minutes.

Clipping Magic is currently in Alpha (that means it’s really in the beginning stages of development) and free (because it’s in Alpha). While you can use it without a log in, sign up now to “get freebies when the service comes out of alpha!”

[Photo: This is my lovely wife, a Wisconsin native, during a recent trip to Washington, D.C.]

Desktoppr: Wallpapers for Your Desktop

Like having different wallpapers for your desktop? I have 110 different images that change every 15 minutes on both my work and personal laptops. (You’re right. This has nothing to do with teaching. But it is fun.)

Here’s one.

How to do it

Create an account at Desktoppr. During the registration process give Desktoppr permission to access your account. (Don’t have a Dropbox account yet? Sign up here.) Desktoppr will add an “Apps” folder to Dropbox if you don’t already have one. Inside of that folder it will add another folder called “Desktoppr” where it will sync the wallpapers you select.

I filter by “most downloaded first”. For the wallpapers you want displayed on your computer, click the cloud icon under the image. Here you can see that the wallpapers with white clouds are ones I’ve chosen.

The images you select will automatically be downloaded, via Dropbox, to your computer.

Displaying the wallpapers

Now that the images are on your computer, you need to tell your computer where those images are and to display them as wallpaper.

In Windows 7, right click on your desktop and at the bottom of the menu, select “Personalize”. Alternatively, go to Control Panel – > Personalization. (Mac users, see instructions here. I’m guessing that step 4 is where you’d choose the Desktoppr folder.)

At the bottom of the screen, select “Desktop Background”.

Click “browse”. Navigate to your Dropbox folder -> Apps -> Desktoppr. Next, decide how often you’d like the wallpaper image to change.

Changing wallpaper manually

While I have my wallpapers set to change every 15 minutes, I might not be in the mood for the one that is currently displaying. When I right-click on my desktop, I get this pop-up menu. About 2/3 of the way down, I can click on “Next desktop background” to cycle to the next one in the queue.

Deleting wallpapers

Go into your Desktoppr folder in Dropbox and delete the wallpapers you don’t want.

Adding wallpapers to Desktoppr

If you’d like to make your own images (where you own the copyright) available to other Desktoppr users, save your images in your Dropbox -> Apps -> Desktoppr folder. That’s it. If you decide you don’t want everyone to be able to use them, you will need to contact the good folks at Desktoppr and make that request.

Mind Maps

Today’s Faculty Focus article is on using mind maps to get students to engage with the course material. While the author recommends using a large sheet of a paper, I would ask faculty to consider pointing their students to

Earlier this year I wrote about SpiderScribe. (See this blog post.) It has a very short learning curve, and with the ability to include text, images, URLs, and documents, the maps that students create could be very powerful study aids.

Using the share feature, students could work in pairs or groups to create the maps. No need to print them off. Students can add their instructor as a ‘reader’ so the instructor can stop in to see how the map is progressing. Alternatively, students can save the map as an image and email it to their instructor.

While I really like this tool, I should note that it’s still technically in beta. As of this writing, there hasn’t been an update to the SpiderScibe blog since June.

Spider Scribe: Concept Mapping

In my last post, I mentioned I was at the Pacific Northwest Assessment, Teaching, and Learning Conference. After my presentation someone asked me about concept mapping tools. (I wish I could remember who he was. He was very tall. If you happen to be reading this, can you send me an email, please?) I told him that I had recently read about a tool but I couldn’t remember in that moment what it was.

I’m afraid I still can’t remember what it was, but just a few days ago Richard Byrne of the Free Technology for Teachers blog wrote about the newly-released Spider Scribe.

I created this concept map in 15 minutes, including the 2 minutes it took to watch Spider Scribe’s introductory video. It is very intuitive, making it a great tool for students!

View this map.

After registering and creating a new map, you get a blank screen. At the bottom of the screen are 5 tools, which they call stencils: Text box, insert a file, insert an image, insert a map, or create notes with a time/date stamp.

To add a text box, just click and drag the text box stencil onto the map. Type whatever you’d like in the box. Want another box? Repeat the process. Click on one of your text boxes, and alter background color or text color by making changes in the “Properties” box on the right side of the screen.

Want to upload an image? Drag the image box onto the canvas and upload the image from your computer. Want to add another image? Repeat the process.

Want to resize a box? Grab the handle in the bottom left corner of any on-screen box and pull or push to change the size.

They’re still in beta (officially on 5/16/11), so look for the addition of new stencils and additional tools for each stencil, such as different fonts beyond the currently available serif and sans serif.

To link content, mouse over a box. See the circle at the bottom of the box? Mouse over it and it will turn into a + sign. Click on it to generate an arrow. Now drag the arrow over another box, and unclick. Done. The two boxes are now linked. Click on a box to move it around; the arrow will follow. To disconnect them, click on the arrow you want to delete. That’s it.

Maps can be private (only you can see them), or they can be public in a variety of ways.

  • I can grant only certain people permission to view it.
  • I can give certain people permission to edit it.
  • I can get a URL so only those with the URL can view it. (That’s what I chose for the “view this map” link above.)
  • I can make it completely public so that’s it’s discoverable by search engines.

Spider Scribe promises to be a very powerful concept mapping tool. I’m looking forward to watching it develop!

JoliPrint: Print Clutter-Free Webpages

[UPDATE 12/12/2012  : Bad news.  JoliPrint is shutting down effective January 4, 2012. Use instead.]

Find an article online that you’d like to print out for your class for discussion that day? JoliPrint takes the webpage content and turns it into an uncluttered PDF.

Here I’ve taken my post on colorizing Windows folders and turned it into a PDF. Pretty, isn’t it?

A couple things to note. The date and time are included at the top of the page. That’s the time in Paris where one of the company’s offices is located. At the bottom of the page is the website’s URL. In the PDF, the link is live. Just click it to go to the website the PDF came from.

How to use it

If you visit the website, just paste the URL you want to PDF-ize into the box.

Better yet, drag their JoliPrint button to your browser’s bookmarks toolbar. Whenever you land on a page you want to print as a PDF, click the bookmark, and the page will be saved as a nicely-formatted PDF. Very slick!

At the very bottom of this post, you’ll see a JoliPrint icon. Click that icon to PDF-ize this blog post. Check it out!

Flipping Typical: Preview Your Fonts

Looking for a new font for your syllabus? Tired of Times New Roman?

This is a practical and simple idea. The website Flipping Typical identifies 60 fonts on your computer and displays them all at once. Type in whatever you’d like to see and that text will be displayed in those fonts. Want to see it in bold or italics? Highlight the text, then CTRL-B for bold and CTRL-I for italics.

If you want to change the font at the top of the screen, either click on the font you want from the list below or click in the black box and type in the font of interest.

The site doesn’t bring in all of your fonts; I don’t know how it selects the ones it does. However, if you type a font you have in the black bar, it will add it to your default list. The next time you visit the site, that font will appear in your list of fonts.

Clicking “A-Z” on the far left of the black bar will order your fonts alphabetically.

And that’s all there is to it. Amazingly simple.