Scribus…scribbling would be more productive

Name: Scribus
Cost: Free
Type: Software (download)
Rating: 1/5

Scribus LogoMany many years ago, I started my PhD and was first introduced to InDesign through a document design course. I cannot adequately describe the wave of disbelief and frustration that washed over my peers and me as we started working with this desktop publishing software. None of us could afford to pitch the computers out a window, so we trudged through it and learned the basics of this software. Once we survived the basics, I started thinking about how I could use this software in my classrooms. And then, I saw how much the software cost. Yikes! Thus, my desire for a free or cheap desktop publishing option. Scribus is a good option for free, though knowledge of InDesign is needed, or you’ll be reviewing as many tutorials as you can find on the Internet.

Goal: Free version of InDesign to create one-page documents (e.g., posters, newsletters) to save as PDFs and post in my classroom

Scribus Workspace view

This is a blank, one-page document

Benefits:

  • It’s free. (If you’ve ever priced Adobe InDesign CC, then free is pretty much the best feature of this software.)
  • It is software that can be downloaded to a computer so Internet access is not needed beyond the initial download.
  • It works on the basic principles of desktop publishing software.
  • There is a wiki for help: http://wiki.scribus.net/canvas/Scribus

Drawbacks:

  • Takes time and patience to learn, and then some more time and patience. (I knew some of the basics of InDesign before using Scribus.)
  • Like GIMP, this is a no-frills interface without built-in guidance, though hovering over an icon will reveal the icon’s purpose
  • Right-click menus are not always intuitive in the phrasing of options
  • The built-in help is not very helpful.
  • Adding and editing text is a nightmare. I can’t see the font style I’m choosing, the spacing freaks out if I want to create two lines of text in one textbox, and there are two ways to edit text (both don’t make sense).

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Emaze….not as amazing as I’d hoped

Name: Emaze
Cost: Free (pay version gets storage and more templates)
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 2/5

Emaze logoPowerPoint? Been there–done that. Prezi? Tried it–liked it. I was ready for something new, and more dynamic, if possible. I also wanted to impress my students with my ability to show them “new” tools they could also use to be just as cool as me. Ultimately, the tool should rely on my existing PowerPoint content, allow me to add audio narration, and then up my cool factor by including video game like animations and transitions. Emaze seemed to be a good option, as it looked like PowerPoint and Prezi had a baby and called it Emaze. (There have been worse baby names by celebrities!) I took my PowerPoint slides and uploaded them, then had to significantly edit them to get them to fit the templates. I spent a few hours getting the look, transitions, and audio just right. I reviewed the final version and noticed a few glitches, but thought it was okay. Nope. EPIC FAIL. One of my students very politely told me that the presentation was “not working,” which was a nice way of saying: “Professor, the presentation is really screwy. The audio for different slides starts playing at the same time, and the content moves too quickly to understand. Going back to review previous slides sends you on a Dr. Who like journey where you won’t land where expected.”

Goal: Dynamic and engaging presentation that allows for transitions, audio, and embedded links

View of Emaze workspace

After setting up your account, this is what your initial workspace looks like.

Benefits:

  • Accepts PowerPoint files to base the presentation on
  • Several free templates with interesting graphics and backgrounds
  • A sort of 3D feel as the view swings around to the next slide, which my audience liked
  • Supports embedded links

Drawbacks:

  • Audio would not consistently sync with the slides. There were no audio controls during playback; in other words, I could not pause the audio for a slide once it started. The audio would overlap and play at the same time if the audience decided to go back one slide.
  • Firefox was quirky with this tool. For example, at one point it would only represent text in upper-case even though I didn’t have the Caps Lock set. I had to exit the browser and log in again.
  • No further dynamic features beyond transitions, such as animations that reveal or highlight information on the slide.
  • Some color themes are nice looking, but may be difficult to read for those with visual impairments

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