Feb 14, 2010

Tools for Creating Buttons

I just finished a new post at the Integrated Learning Services blog about how to use your own custom buttons in Captivate. This had me thinking -- what is the best way to make buttons? My strengths are in web coding and not graphic design but I enjoy tinkering with graphics design and I am trying to learn more.

I used to do this in Paint Shop Pro. PSP has some great built in button shapes that I can use. Some of these buttons are quite elaborate and would take a lot of time for me to create on my own. In addition to the built-in shapes, I've mastered using the bevel technique to create my own buttons. This works fairly well but I'm limited in what I can do easily. For example, I don't have a technique for creating buttons with a glassy look.

Recently I've started using Adobe Illustrator. Because it does so well with vector graphics I thought this may be a better tool to use. However, I haven't found any pre-built buttons to work with (maybe I'm missing something) and the bevel tool is much different than PSP. I have not mastered this yet and all the tutorials I've seen on the bevel tool are for doing 3D graphics, not buttons.

After my experience with AI, I'm thinking of going back to PSP for my button needs. However, I'm wondering if I should explore Adobe Photoshop's capabilities for buttons next.

What's your go-to-tool for creating buttons?

Feb 5, 2010

What's in my pocket? Android.

It's been a busy time for me lately. Thus the lack of posts recently. I finally upgraded my good ol' normal phone to a smart phone recently. I'm loving it! I now have the Motorola Droid phone. And since I'm in the U.S. and don't have the ability to take my phone to any network, that means I'm a Verizon customer. Luckily Verizon has great service in the area I work and live so I'm a happy camper.

I figured the phone would fit my lifestyle well and I was right. Here are some of the ways the phone has made my life easier:
  • I can keep up with friends and acquaintances on the go. I do this through Gmail and apps like Facebook and Twitter.
  • I keep my calendar with me at all times. I've now added my work calendar to Google Calendar so that I can remind myself about that upcoming meeting while I'm out at lunch.
  • My task list stays with me. I'm always remembering things I need to do or want to do. Now I have Remember the Milk with me to add tasks when I'm away from the computer or to be reminded of tasks. If I wake up in the middle of the night with something in my head. I just reach for the Droid and type it in and get back to sleep. Ok, that doesn't happen too often, but its nice to have one place to store all my thoughts and its in the cloud so I can access it from any computer.
  • My Droid is my alarm clock. Since I can put my iTunes and MP3 files on the huge 16 GB card that comes with the Droid, I can wake up to any song in my library. Plus the alarm clock features are great and I can quickly set an alarm or ring tone to suite my needs. I have my early workout alarm, sleep late on a weekday alarm, and weekend settings. Easy peasy.
  • Droid is helping me read the Bible in a year. I've got a great app for the Bible so now I can take a few minutes here or there to read my scriptures for the day. It may look like I'm doing some sophisticated business communication while I'm eating at Moe's but I'm really just reading the Bible. ;)
  • Google Voice. Finally a way to check voice mail that makes sense. Love it!
  • YouTube Videos. I wasn't expecting this but my kids love to jump in to bed with me on weekend mornings to watch children's videos on my Droid. They love "That's How a Pumpkin Grows", "The Elephant Song", and "Red Beard: A Pirate's Story".
Having the Droid is also giving me a lot of insight into how I might develop websites and eLearning for mobile. This will be a big growth area over the next 5 to 10 years and I want to be able to gear my development towards mobile devices when the opportunity comes along.