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Monthly Archives: September 2013

My Speed Video Speed Adjuster

MySpeed™ by Enounce allows you to speed up (and slow down) videos as you watch them. “Speedreading for videos” is how Enounce describes it on their website. I’d say it’s a whole lot easier than speedreading.

We watch a good number of training videos here at Data Designs. I love this utility.

  • The average reader processes 200 to 250 words per minute.
  • The speed of most speech is only 100 to 125 words per minute.
  • MySpeed keeps me from becoming impatient and giving up on the video before they get to the part I really need to learn.
  • MySpeed saves me time while I’m spending time on training. That’s a good thing.

Speeding up videos occurs without any loss of audio quality – that means you avoid the Alvin syndrome – and it’s as easy as clicking a slider. You can increase the speed of videos up to 5 times faster or decrease them up to 3 times slower than their normal speed. You can alter the speed of online videos (including YouTube) or offline videos (with their Premium version only).

Best news: They offer a free trial. Give it a try here.

Our Experience
Most of the videos we watch are short, so we don’t save a lot of time on each video, but it all adds up. Since most of the videos we watch are training and how-to videos, there’s a good portion of the them that we don’t want to speed up because they’re doing demonstrations or we’re taking notes (in fact, sometimes we’ll slow them down at those times), but there are always other places where either we know the material or we’re not interested in that portion of the video.

Watching these types of videos, I did a few timed trials. I reduced a series of videos totaling 16 minutes, 40 seconds by two minutes. That may not seem like a lot, but it translates to saving 7 minutes for every hour of video you watch. That’s nearly a 12% time savings. And I got these results on videos by David Blatner, an InDesign Expert who could easy be described as a fast talker. I only increased the speed to between 1.1 and 1.3 times for this test. I’m looking forward to using MySpeed on videos in which the speakers talk much more slowly.

I did that once – just the other day I was watching a Toodledo tutorial. (I blogged about Toodledo here.) In this video I varied the speed between 1.0 (normal speed) and 2.0.

Apparently I finished that Toodledo video at 1.5. The next morning, I turned on Pandora as I often do. The first few songs seemed a little fast, but it was background music and I didn’t fully process what was happening. Then an oldies fave came on – “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago – and I knew something was definitely wrong. MySpeed was speeding up my Pandora tunes! (Fortunately, a click put it back to normal speed.)

Download a free trial of MySpeed here.

And you gotta love the company tagline:
Enounce website

In our last blog, we talked about the best way to insert graphics into Microsoft Word and demonstrated the settings that would preserve the quality of the original image without decompressing the life out of them. Following that procedure is a huge improvement toward maintaining the quality of your final printed document, but the best approach is to always keep the original graphics files as separate files, not just a copy of the file embedded within Word.

But we all live in the real world. Sometimes images are inserted into a Word document and then wander away from the herd. How do you extract graphics from Word and get them into your InDesign document in a way that gives something better than poor results? We’ve found a couple of approaches, one better than the other, and we’re happy to share that knowledge with you.

First Method: Word to HTML conversion

  • First, do a Save-As of your Word document, selecting as your new file type “Web Page, Filtered”. It will create an HTML version of your Word file and open it in Word. (You might want to remember this tip for the next time someone asks you, “How can I make a webpage from a Word document?”)
  • We’re not concerned with the resulting Word / HTML file itself, so you can go ahead and close it.
  • Use File Explorer to go the directory (aka folder) whree you stored your Save-As HTML file and you’ll find all of the graphics from the Word file saved as GIF files. They’re small and they’re bitmapped, but they’re there. Use them as you see fit.

Second Method: Word to ZIP conversion

  • Save a copy of your Word file as a DOCX file.
  • In File Explorer, rename the DOCX copy from filename.DOCX to filename.ZIP. (You’ll get a warning message that says something like “Are you sure you want to do this?” Yes, you want to do it.) The Word DOCX file format is really just a disguised ZIP file! Who knew?
  • When you unzip the newly named ZIP file, there will be a number of folders inside. You might need to drill down through a layer or two of folders to find what you need, but you’re looking for a folder called “Media”. The Media folder has all of images broken out as either EMF (Enhanced Meta File) or JPEG files, either of which can be imported into InDesign. Or you can bring them into Photoshop and edit them as desired.

Recent Results from Testing Both Methods

In a recent test we performed, the files extracted by the ZIP method were much better quality than the GIF files produced by saving the Word file as a Filtered Web Page. By comparison, one of the extracted GIF files was 14 KB, 72 dpi, and measured 2.83″ x 3.25″. The same file extracted from the ZIP file weighed in at a hefty 2,596 KB at 96 dpi and measured 7.83″ x 9.24″. Now that’s something you can work with! While 96 dpi is too low resolution for high-quality printing, the graphic was only needed at 3″ wide. When we downsized the graphic (without resampling it) we were able to boost the resolution to an acceptable level.

This process is an emergency recovery method that you don’t really want to have to resort to. Even the better of these two (darned cleaver!) approaches will not give you results that are as good as using the original source graphic files. Your best option is always to keep the original graphic files and provide them to your desktop publisher when you’re ready to move your document from the draft stage to a professionally desktop published document. Your promotional products vendor will also thank you when you provide a decent logo for an order of pens or T-shirts.

One final thought: Always keep the original graphic files!

I’ll bet you already know how to insert an image into Microsoft Word. You’ve probably been doing it the same way for years. It’s easy and it works. Right up to the point where you want to print the file with anything close to decent quality. The graphics come out looking anywhere from marginal to pure crap. Why is that and how can you prevent it?

Word’s default setting compresses graphics by decreasing their resolution. It does it automatically in the background, and I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that you didn’t even know it. And you probably didn’t know that there was something that you could do to change it. (We didn’t until recently.)

Go to the File menu and select Options down near the bottom of the list. The Options dialog box opens with a menu in the left column.

You want to select Advanced.

The Advanced Options dialog box has a lot of stuff in it that you’ve probably never seen before. Some of it can be darned useful for giving you more control over how your Word documents are created, saved, and printed. The various options are grouped together under subheadings. I’m using Word 2010. In my version, the stuff we’re looking for right now is in the third subhead, called Image size and Quality.

Word OptionsRight next to the words “Image Size and Quality” is a drop-down box. This will give you the option of applying the settings you’re about to change to this document, to any other Word document that you currently have open, or to all new documents. I went with the All New Documents. (See the top circled box above.)

There are a couple of check boxes under the subhead of Image Size and Quality. The second check box says “Do not compress image in file.” There it is! Put a checkmark in that box to disable the automatic file compression that’s been taking place since forever. (See the second red circle above.) Not only will this make your images print better, it will also be the best option for when you lose the source graphic and have to resort to copying the image from Word and pasting it into another file.

In our next blog, we’ll discuss extracting graphics out of Word when you have to have a discrete source file.

Calendar for 2014
Need to create a calendar for 2014? Check out Sandee Cohen’s blog on She’s written about scripts and templates for creating 2014 Calendars that are available InDesign. Sure, there are lots of calendar programs that will print out a calendar for you, but that calendar will undoubtedly lack design and you may not be able to print it in the format you’re looking for. Find a script or template that will meet your needs in Sandee’s blog.

Why reinvent the wheel when someone else has already done the heavy lifting?

3D Maze with Green ArrowMany people and new businesses want to have a website, but for those who’ve never done it before it’s hard to know where to begin. There’s no shortage of ways to set up a website and the multitude of options can be paralyzing for newbies. There are a number of things to consider that don’t necessarily meet the eye of someone who hasn’t done it before, so we’re going to break it all down for you. As you go through this, if you have any questions, leave a comment or give us a call (419-660-0500). Or if you decide you just want to hire us to do some or all of it for you, we can discuss that, too. Let’s begin.

Web Hosting

One of the least obvious issues is that you have to select a company to host your website. Your website won’t run off your computer. You need to hire a web hosting firm to be the “broadcaster” for your website. We like Siteground. We’ve moved all of our websites to Siteground. Their prices are good and their customer service (when we’ve needed it) has been unbelievably good — very fast response times and quick resolution of all of our questions or problems.

While the web hosting decision is foundational to getting your site up and running, you should choose your host based on other decisions that are discussed below. Signing up with the web host is actually one of the last things that you do in the chain of events, but worth keeping in mind throughout the process.

What’s Your Address?

Another big consideration is choosing the web address for your site. The address is also called your domain or URL. Your domain will be the address that people will use to go to your site and will be the name that your audience thinks of your site as, so this is a very important decision. Be forewarned that every good and obvious domain name that you want may already be taken by someone else. Just because a name isn’t available doesn’t mean it’s actually in use by someone else. Good domain names are bought up by speculators who think they will be wanted by someone someday and will sell you the rights to it at a premium. Back in the days when the web was new, a lot of people got rich quick by buying up names like and selling them to the Pepsi company for vast amounts of money. So be advised that a lot of domain names are taken, whether they are actually being used or not. If you’re desperate and have deep pockets, you can buy the rights to one of these taken but unused domains, but most of us will just keep looking for unlicensed alternatives. We recommend sitting with a small brainstorming group (very small), a bottle of wine, a whiteboard and internet access. As names are considered, you can list them on the whiteboard while someone else checks for their availability. The bottle of wine makes the session more productive. Trust us on this. We’ve done it before. More than once.

There are several websites from which you can buy your domain. They will let you do a search for the name you want to use and will let you know if it’s available or not. Some of these sites will suggest variations on the name if the one you want isn’t available. Then they will sell you the rights to use the domain name on a contract basis. The company that we use for buying our domain names is NameCheap. Click on the link to check them out. Sandy has more experience with domain buying than I do and she strongly suggests that you not buy your domain name from the same company that does your web hosting. I always do what my wife strongly suggestions, so enough said there.

When it comes to domain names, I recommend staying with a “dot-com” address unless you have a good reason not to. Some sites use .org or .info or .net or whatever, but .com is by far the one that most people will think of when they try to find you online. If the main part of your domain name is already taken by a .com, you might be tempted to buy the same name with a .net or .org extension (it will probably be temptingly cheap), but I can guarantee you that nearly all of your potential users will go to .com first. When they don’t find you there, they may or may not think to try .net or whatever. One of the more famous examples of this is the White House’s website: For years there was another site by the same name with a .com extension. It was a porn site. They knew that most people would type in .com by default and come to their site instead. Eventually the White House pulled the plug on those guys.

When you find a domain name that works for you, you might want to consider buying the rights to the .com, .net, and .org versions as well, and having all of them link to your .com site. That way no one else will have access to a name that is identical to yours in every way except what follows the dot, and if your users type in the .org or .net variation, it will always take them to you. Just a suggestion, not a necessity.

Bottom line: Go with a .com if at all possible and avoid good names that already have the .com version taken.

Choose Your Platform

The next major decision you have to make is what “platform” you’re going to use to build your website. There are lots of different software and systems that you can use to create a website. This decision is the biggest fork in the road that you will come to. Once you choose a certain path, you’re on it. Deciding later to go with something else will likely require a complete rebuilding of your site to make the change. Options include coding it in HTML or going with one of the trendy, template-driven platforms such as Joomla, Drupal, DotNetNuke, or WordPress.

Fortunately, this decision has almost become a no-brainer for a lot of people. There is one platform that is dominating the web market right now with almost 20% of all new websites worldwide using it. It’s what we use for all of our websites. We’ve gone with WordPress. WordPress is easy to use, easy to update and maintain, many consider it to be fun, and best of all, it’s free. There is a paid version of WordPress. Don’t go with it. The free version is actually a much better and more flexible option.

Let’s detour here to talk a little bit about your website and what you want it to do. Many first-time website owners want to keep it simple and basic. They wisely don’t want to get in over their head. They plan to add on to it as they go. Many folks just want a static page that acts essentially like an online billboard. Sounds nice, but you will undoubtedly want and need more than that. Soon you’ll want to convey timely information to your readers, and a static (i.e., unchanging) page isn’t going to do it for you. Many business sites will want to have the capability to tell their readers news about their business — new products, services, capabilities, or special sales or events. In other words, you’ll probably want your site to promote your business in a timely and dynamic way. (You should have a Facebook page for your business, too, but that’s a topic for another blog.) Later on, you might even want to grow into having a forum on your site where regular visitors or members would have a semi-private online community. WordPress is ideal for that kind of stuff and it’s very easy to modify and add on to as your site grows.

You Need a Theme

The web host and platform that you choose are behind-the-scenes decisions that your website visitors will never know or care about. They’re much more concerned about how easy it is to get to your site (i.e., good domain name), and how easy it is to use and navigate your website once they get there. These are website design issues.

WordPress sites are run from a template or “theme.” A theme is a “skin” that defines the layout and design which holds the content of your website. You can change themes in WordPress with the click of your mouse, reformatting your content into an entirely new design. The content remains the same, but your layout is all different. The choices can be overwhelming, but it can be fun to shop through all the options that are available to you. Pick one theme or several, copy them to your WordPress site, and start pouring in your content — words, photos, whatever.

The beauty of WordPress themes is that you can download free themes created by WordPress developers and hobbyists, or you can buy professionally designed themes that provide a lot of advanced features, or you can design and build your own themes using software that generates all of the code for you while you just make visual design decisions.

We’ve never used a free or store-bought WordPress theme. We have a couple of different software packages that generate WordPress themes, so we’ve always “rolled our own.” We’ve mainly used a template generator called Artisteer. It’s a very cool and unbelievably simple website generator that you can use to create WordPress themes. If you want to go there and download the free demo to play with, it might change your whole life. You can jump right in and start using Artisteer without reading the instruction manual. It’s so easy a 7-year-old can generate cool website designs that work.

Get Up and Running

Once you’ve acquired a WordPress theme by whatever means, you copy the files to your webhost and start adding content through the WordPress “dashboard.” Once you tell WordPress to post your content, the rest of the world can view it on your site. It’s a beautiful thing.

While this step is getting the least amount of space in this article, it’s really the most important and time consuming. Creating content – that is, the words and pictures your visitors will find when they visit your site – should be where you spend most of your time. Yes, the design must be user friendly so visitors can find all your wonderful content, but if your content isn’t worth finding, everything else you’ve done has been a waste of time.

Yes, there are a lot of steps involved and it can be massively confusing, but truth be told, none of it is really very difficult. Once you’ve been through the procedure a couple of times it’s no more difficult than firing up your word processor and drafting a letter.

We Can Help

We’re happy to be your guides through the process. Give us a call (419-660-0500), let us know what you’re thinking, and we can help you create a place of your very own on the web.