Random Tip #12: TypeItIn

There are times when we have to repeat ourselves. Not because no one is listening, but rather because we’re faced with similar situations that require the same responses. As an educator, this happens often. For example:

  • The “Oxford comma” is required unless you’re a journalist or British; this is the comma that appears before the conjunction (e.g., and) in a list of items. For more information about the Oxford comma, see: https://www.grammarly.com/blog/what-is-the-oxford-comma-and-why-do-people-care-so-much-about-it/
  • Thanks for contacting me! The final project is due May 7, 11:59 p.m. EST. The requirements are noted in the classroom, under the Final Project icon in Unit 9. Please review the requirements, rubric, and sample and then email me if you have any questions about what is required. Late submissions are not accepted.
  • APA citation format requires the title of the periodical to be italicized in the full-citation. The title of the periodical should appear after the title of the article. Also noted after the periodical title is the volume number and the issue number.

I suspect educators and parents can relate to this situation where the exact same text needs to be conveyed multiple times (often, to the same individual). I can envision a Human Resources representative needing to often cite policy in email responses (e.g., “As noted in the Employee Guide, dress code does not permit open-toe shoes, including sandals, flip-flops, peep-toes, or worn out Converse shoes. It was brought to my attention that you have violated dress code, which resulted in this written warning.”) Other professionals in the fields of medicine, law, business, and IT may often need to reproduce the same text in emails/letters, reports, contracts, or websites/software.

If you have situations where you need to repeat yourself in writing (i.e., typing), then I would recommend investing in PasteItIn or TypeItIn. This software is not free, but it’s affordable. Mac has similar software, TextExpander, but I own PCs and didn’t find the PC version very user friendly. If you’re familiar with macros in Word, then it’s the same concept, but works on all forms of text-driven software (e.g., email, PPT, Internet forms, etc.).

typeitinpromoWhat does this software do? It sets on your desktop as a list of labeled buttons that you create. Clicking a button will insert text that you’ve associated with that button. You can change the coloring of the buttons so each will stand out in a glance. You can also create groups of buttons; for example, all of the grammar buttons are listed together, while all the responses to emails are in another group. The grouping prevents the button list from getting too long or confusing. Unlike macros or TextExpander, this software does not rely on “hot keys” (i.e., pressing a combination of keys to get a response, such as Ctrl+A) or a partial word that triggers a response (i.e., typing oxf would insert the Oxford Comma text). I’m not a big fan of either of these methods because I either need to remember the hot key combination or I may accidentally get the Oxford Comma text when I’m typing Oxford University.

TypeItIn sample

Here is what the tool looks like after creating a group and some buttons.

There are drawbacks (with the version I own), but the tool is simple and cheap, so the drawbacks are within reason and may have been addressed with more recent version. You cannot rearrange the buttons once they’re created, though you can copy or move them to different groups. Also, links are not active when inserted into certain situations (e.g., gradebook comments). Another issue with the tool is if you have too many groups, then it gets difficult to scroll down the list of groups in the dropdown box; I have have a scroll wheel on my mouse, which circumvents the difficulty.

I purchased TypeItIn many years ago, and it functions just fine for my needs. Although I like seeing my text typed out character by character, it’s probably a better option to go with PasteItIn (as it takes less time to insert text by pasting the whole text at once).

TinyTake…unless you have a big screen

Name: TinyTake
Cost: Free (pay versions available)
Type: Software download
Rating: 2/5

TinyTake_logo

Although I’m a technical writer, and able to explain steps in a process through text, I value the “let me show you” ability that screen capture software provides, either with still-shots or video capture. This type of software helps the audience compare their actions and outcomes to those described in the tutorial or instructions. I can only imagine how this software would have changed my approach to training when I first started out as a technical writer. Instead of long training sessions, brief videos could capture what the documentation reinforced. For anyone who has sat through a three-hour PowerPoint training class, you’ll understand the value of videos you can watch at your leisure. As for screen shots in documentation created 15 years ago, I used the Prt Scr keyboard button of Windows, and then edited it in Paint. Actually, TinyTake is not too far off from the options in Paint, though it includes the screen capture feature that Paint does not. If TinyTake was the only screen capture software I was given when abandoned on a desert island, I would probably last about a week before pitching my laptop into the ocean. It isn’t bad software, but it’s just not very dynamic. That said it would work well for anyone who likes to use a simplified version of Paint (if you can get more simple than Paint).

I would like to thank one of my technical writing students (Britt Wells) for bringing this tool to my attention!

TinyTake workspace

This is the whole tool. You can select an image capture, video capture, upload documents to share, or access your YouTube account to share videos you’ve uploaded.

Goal: create video or static photo of my computer screen through screen capture software

Benefits:

  • There is a blog associated with the tool, but at the time I wrote this post, there were only seven articles and none were dated, so they could be a few years old. (I’m becoming such a blog-snob, as I want companies to continually update their blogs with fresh ideas and insights.)
  • There are undo and redo buttons. As someone who is prone to playing around with software until it breaks, I like the option to go back to a pre-broken state.
  • There is an effect to “pixelate,” which threw me off at first because I’m always trying to make graphics clearer rather than more obscure. But, then it dawned on me that sometimes you need to obscure personal information and the like.
  • You can add arrows to point out areas in the graphic. There are options to change the color of the arrow, though that’s about it. It’s also easy to add an arrow and textbox.
  • There are a few different options to save/share: save to computer or to TinyTake cloud; copy to clipboard; email; or print.
  • When uploading videos to YouTube, you can preset all the videos to use the same privacy setting (e.g., Unlisted).
  • MangoApps, the company that created TinyTake, claims their cloud storage is very secure. This is helpful when storing screen shots of proprietary software or personal information.
  • If you like the ability to add text, arrows, and other simple graphics (e.g., circle, square, etc.) to your own photos, you can open graphic files with TinyTake. I’d probably stick with one of the more “fun” photo/graphic editing options, such as PicMonkey, BeFunky, or Canva. You can also import a video you’ve recorded with other software.
  • You can record the audio from your speakers, which is convenient if you’re recording a Google Hangout session. But, you only have five minutes of recording time on the free version, so it needs to be a very short meeting.
  • You can share more than the TinyTake screens/videos on their cloud; in other words, you can share documents and your other YouTube videos you’ve created and want to show others in your group/class.

    TinyTake workspace 2

    After capturing an image, this is what you’ll see as far as the workspace. The “annotating” tools are at the top of the screen.

Drawbacks:

  • Requires software download. This isn’t a big deal, but some people can’t make changes to the PC/laptop they’re using (e.g., school lab, work laptop).
  • Required login to use the software. It’s best to set up the account prior to download because you have to receive and respond to the confirmation email.
  • No click and drag resizing before opening the editing window. Jing, for example, selects the area and allows me to drag the borders to capture more/less in situations where I missed the mark I was aiming for.
  • There’s a “drag me” indicator at the bottom of the screen that makes it seem like more features are available, yet it actually implies you can click and drag your graphic right into another application (e.g., email). I was hoping for something more fun (like Alice in Wonderland‘s “drink me” bottle to change sizes).
  • The pixalation squares for the pixelate effect are really big, so they seem more decorative and the audience may not realize that you intentionally obscured information. I think I would prefer a blurring effect that can be gained in a photo editing tool.
  • There are few formatting options for the textbox text. The border color is the same as the text color; so, you can’t have a green border and black text, for example.
  • The free-draw option (as compared to drawing a box, circle, or line) is pretty basic. I tried to draw a star and I think that I was able to draw better looking stars when I was in kindergarten.
  • The free version does not allow for annotating the video.
  • If you click the main Save and Share button, it goes right to the TinyTake cloud; you have to click the little arrow on the right side of the button to open the other save options.

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Random Tip #11: GCFLearnFree.org

YouTube…the chaotic bazaar of videos, where you can find quality and awful within a few clicks of each other. It really reminds me of the local video rental place we went to when I was young (…I know, I’m totally dating myself). It was a small shop, with poor lighting and shelves running all along the walls (with a set of shorter shelves running through the middle of the store). While the videos were somewhat organized by genre, with one step you could move from Labyrinth to Goonies to The Garbage Pail Kids Movie.

So, my point is, as an instructor, I don’t want to send my students to the sometimes unenlightening world of YouTube if I can avoid it by providing more specific recommendations. This is especially true when I ask students to use PowerPoint or Prezi to make their messages more dynamic. While many students now have been creating PowerPoint since they were in kindergarten, those without early experiences are panic stricken with the thought of clicking on the PowerPoint icon and facing a blank slide. Telling these students just to search YouTube for a PowerPoint tutorial might push them completely into technophobia. Lynda.com is also an option, but not everyone has access to the full video content, which can be frustrating if you get through the introduction and still need more information.

I recently came across a reliable and useful website that provides access to 125 free tutorials about technology (and other topics, such as Reading, Math, and career advancement). It’s the Goodwill Community Foundation: www.gcflearnfree.org. I’ve listed some of my favorite resources, but it’s worth sending students to browse the whole website to see what other useful tutorials and insights they can find. GCF Logo

My favorites include:

Most of the videos are short so that you can just review one video per topic, versus a long video with a variety of topics that you have to watch or fast-forward through. Not all the tutorials have videos, which is helpful for those who need to move through the content more slowly than what a short video can accommodate. I also like that there are share buttons (e.g., Facebook, Google +) buttons, along with a button to print or a button for a “single page view” (if the article is extensive). The content is professional, without being intimidating, and access is free.

GCF tutorial list sample

This is what a list of related tutorials looks like on the website. Clicking on a blue square will reveal the tutorial. Some tutorials provide further suggested links at the end of the article.

Screencast-o-Matic…automatically a success

Type: Internet tool (download version available)
Rating: 5/5

 

Screencast-o-matic logoGetting an audience to see what you’re seeing is ideal for photographers, videographers, trainers/instructors, and technical communicators. This is especially true for a society that has a “just show me” response to learning new things, as compared to “just explain it to me.” Screen capture software can take different forms, whether it’s capturing a static screen shot or recording movements (e.g., clicking, typing) and audio being performed on a computer. Jing has been my go-to screen capture software for many years, and for static screen captures, it’s still my favorite. But, Screencast-o-Matic is my new love for video recordings of my screen. Jing, Camtasia, and Snag-It all have quality issues with recordings; the text is sometime blurry or pixelated, which is frustrating for an audience who isn’t sure what they’re supposed to be seeing. For the record, this post is not my first encounter with Screencast-o-matic. I had looked at it several years ago and found it lacking, though functional, but dismissed it for Jing/Camtasia. Screencast-o-matic’s “new” look and functionality is a great improvement.

Screecast-o-matic start screen

This is the home page, and access to the tool. Very simple.

Goal: quality screen recordings for longer than five minutes

Benefits:

  • No need to sign up or login to start recording your screen. At this point, I haven’t see the value of signing up since I won’t store my videos to their site.
  • Records the computer screen or webcam view and microphone recording; for the pay version, you can record audio from the computer speakers, which makes it a good option for recording Google Hangout sessions or other video conferencing that doesn’t include a recording option.
  • 15-minute recording length, as compared the the five-minute limit for Jing. You can record longer versions with the Pro Recorder (pay), but you’re limited to 15-minutes if you’re uploading it to their cloud.
  • Recording can be downloaded to PC, or uploaded to YouTube of Sceencast-o-Matic cloud (i.e., hosting).
  • Clear (video) screen captures, even when the screen is moving.
  • Tutorials are available, though I didn’t review any of them since you can pretty much figure out what to do for simple screen captures
  • Unless you download the software, it runs from your Internet browser, yet records to your computer. There are two benefits here. 1) You have access to the most recent version of the software without further downloads/updates. 2) Your video is not saved to a cloud unless you want to; so, there isn’t public access to the recording unless you upload it yourself to a public area.
  • A yellow circle rings the mouse pointer so that it’s easier to follow when watching the recording. (See first sample below.)
Screecast-o-matic video options

This is the pop-up screen you’ll see after finishing the recording. You can make changes to the file type, filename, where it’s stored, whether the cursor is highlighted in your final version, and whether captions should be included.

Drawbacks:

  • If you don’t catch the enable/allow Java screen quick enough, the recorder won’t launch and you’ll see the link to download the software instead. If you catch the Java accept screen, though, you can click the box to not ask for permission in the future. I think that if you have a Mac, you’ll need to download the software as the Internet version wont’ work.
  • “Screencast-o-matic” sounds like something Calvin and Hobbes would think up. Okay, not really a bad thing, but it’s difficult to sell the concept to peers and managers with a straight face.
  • When making several recordings, and exiting the recorder each time, you have to click back the the website’s Home page to find the Record Screen button again. Again, not a big deal.
  • There is a watermark on all the recordings done with the free recorder. That said, it’s not obnoxious, as I’ve seen with other free software.
  • If you upload the video to their cloud, then there will be ads on the screen. Since I can save the file and upload it to YouTube, then I don’t have an issue with this. The free hosting plan is limited to a 15-minute upload, so even if you have the Pro Recorder (pay) version of the software, you’d need to invest in their Basic hosting plan for $96/year to get 2-hour recordings uploaded to their cloud.
  • No screenshot option for the free version.
  • No video editing abilities for the free version; you would need to save the video file and use a different tool to edit the video (e.g., Camtasia, Adobe Premiere, iMovie, Movie Maker, etc.)
Java screen

This is the Java screen you’ll need to accept (or use the download version of the tool)

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Adobe Premiere Elements…not quite iMovie

Name: Adobe Premiere Elements (version 13)
Cost: $99 (approximately…there are deals you can search for)
Type: Software
Rating: 3/5

Premiere Logo

I’m not here to argue Mac vs. PC. I have a PC. I’ve always had a PC, but I’ve worked on a Mac from time to time. I suspect that if Macs were more affordable and I had the time to learn a new environment, I’d be cool and make the change. But, I have a PC. This means I don’t have access to iMovie. The only reason I know how cool iMovie can be is because I took a 90-minute course at my local library to learn the basics. I loved this software in that 90-minutes, but not enough to make the switch to Mac. Adobe Premiere Pro is the comparable software that will work on a PC. As noted in previous posts, I’m not one of those college professors who makes enough money to afford leasing Adobe products through the Creative Cloud option. Don’t cry for me yet. Being a student and professor allows me to take advantage of software discounts, so I purchased Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements (combo pack) for Students/Teachers.

Goal: find a video creation tool with more features than Camtasia (i.e., iMovie for a PC)

Premiere eLive view

You can easily access recent tutorial videos on common video editing tasks. The eLive list of videos is not exhaustive, and I still end up searching the Internet for other options. But, I do find the videos inspirational in that I don’t consider the options until seen in the tutorial.

Benefits:

  • It has professional editing features such as 3D transitions, pan/zoom (so I can show a photo, and zoom), or graphics that can be added to the video (e.g., a heart that moves across the screen).
  • The Project Assets list has all the clips, graphics, and audio that you identified to add to your video. I like that there is a “used” notation in the list so that I know I’ve already added certain media clips to my video.
  • Like Photoshop Elements, access to training videos is provided in the software under the eLive tab. If you don’t have time for training videos, try the Quick or Guided tabs for help doing common tasks in the software.
  • You can fast-forward when previewing the video. I like to check my transitions and other features in my video, but I dislike having to watch the video (over and over), so I can watch a sped up version (where I sound like a chipmunk).
  • The are “snap lines” when inserting media. So, when I want to match up the start of narration with the end of the previous transition, there is a line that appears to emphasize the beginning/end in the timeline.
  • .AVI is an accepted video file format to insert into my video. This is the file format used when doing screen captures through Camtasia or SnagIt. (See related Drawback below)
    Premiere Guided viiew

    When in either Quick or Expert edit modes, you can access Guided, which gives you some tutorial options for common tasks.

    Premiere workspace view 1

    Here is a view of the workspace with several options open.

Drawbacks:

  • This is not the software’s fault, but within weeks of my purchase, Premiere 14 was released. Argh! This is what happens when you don’t lease your software through CC. (There is a list of the differences between 13 and 14.)
  • The workspace can get cluttered, even on my not-so-small monitor. With experience, I figured out how to open/close what I needed to reduce clutter, but a large monitor is certainly helpful. I can’t imagine do this on a laptop.
  • I’m a little bit old school in that I like printed books to help me with software that has many features. There are few book choices for this software, and of that few, none seem to be outstanding in what is offered in way of explanations and insights.
  • While .AVI files can be used, they render quite awful, as you’ll see in my sample. To fix this, I had to convert the AVI files to Mp4 files and use those versions during the editing process. (Camtasia doesn’t require this extra step and the AVI files will render fine.)
  • The zoom/pan feature is tedious (not my first word for describing, but appropriate). I ran out of patience when trying to zoom out of a graphic to add visual interest to the graphic as it appeared on the screen. I didn’t like the way it was showing up with the zoom/pan, but I couldn’t get it out of the video without just clicking “undo” until it was (hopefully) gone. Adding text to overlay the video was just as tedious. For those with more patience, there is a tutorial video from Lynda.com that might provide insights: Pan/Zoom tutorial.
  • Initial start up takes a while. I suspect it’s checking for updates, but I just want to get to work when I click the Premiere icon.
  • While in use, the software froze for no apparent reason. (I was almost done with the video, and it stopped working. I had to shut it down and lost everything since the previous save, which wasn’t recent. It could be a Windows 10 issue or something not related to Premiere.)
  • The “freeze frame” option only exports as .bmp file type, which YouTube doesn’t accept when trying to upload it as the Video Thumbnail. I had to convert the file to .jpg.

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