Did you know The Graveyard Rabbit has a magazine on Flipboard? You can view it online, but for the best effect you should add the free Flipboard app to your tablet and read it there. Flipboard is available for iOS, Android, Windows and Blackberry devices. Check your app store to install it.
The problem with the holiday newsletter is that it arrives at one of the busiest times of the year. Often I don’t get a chance to really sit down and read the newsletters we receive until after New Years as we’re taking down the decorations and putting things away. I love the idea of a holiday newsletter presented as sort of a family yearbook, but I don’t think I want to send mine out until after New Years.
That doesn’t mean I won’t take advantage of the seasonal opportunities to grab ideas, templates and graphics for use in my yearbook.
One very useful personal publishing resource is MagCloud. They have free holiday templates you can download and use with your word-processing software (Microsoft Word or Apple Pages) to build either a two-page flyer or a four-page pamphlet. There are all kinds of templates for bigger projects too. Once you’ve put your yearbook together, follow the instructions to export it to PDF then upload to MagCloud for printing. Prices begin at 30¢ a piece for the flyer and 60¢ a piece for the pamphlet when you buy 20 pieces or more, but there are no minimum quantity requirements. You’re not stuck with 100 pieces when all your wanted was 10. You can even take advantage of MagCloud’s Ship to a Group feature to send your yearbook directly to the people on your holiday list.
If you want to get it there before Christmas you’d better hurry. To insure your yearbook reaches your family before Christmas you’ll need to get your order in by December 9th for shipping via USPS.
Don’t forget to keep a copy for your family’s archives. It now a part of your family history.
If you don’t already know, I’m a big fan of presentation graphics apps for scrapbooking. Keynote will do everything my scrapbooking app will do and then some. And, thanks to the iCloud version of Keynote, I can easily create and share presentations with other family members – even those who don’t have iPads. Keynote on the desktop is still the best place to create scrapbooks since both the iCloud and iPad editions have less functionality than their big sister. Then there’s that growing collection of digital graphics that’s about taken over an external hard drive . . .
So what about Windows users? Are they left in a lurch? Not at all. If you’ve got Keynote on your iPad and an iCloud account, you can use it to move your PowerPoint presentation to your iPad. And, it’s quite easy. Log into your iCloud account, then click on the Keynote icon to open the app to your presentations directory screen (which displays the presentations you’ve got saved in iCloud). Now, all you have to do is drag your PowerPoint file onto this screen and iCloud will upload it, convert it to Keynote and make it available for editing and/or presentation either in your browser or in the Keynote app on your iPad.
Remember that neither the iCloud or iPad versions of Keynote have anywhere near the features of Keynote and PowerPoint on the desktop, so it’s a good idea to keep the whistles and bells to a minimum. You are also limited in the fonts you can use to those fonts available on the iPad.
I have found that I can take advantage of this capability to create custom scrapbooks on the desktop adding background papers and graphic elements from my scrapbooking “supplies”. Then I save them in iCloud, open them in Keynote on my iPad and manipulate those elements in any number of ways from there.
It’s calendar season again . . . time to pull out this year’s photos and organize them into 2014 calendar templates from any number of platforms so you can have a stack of beautiful printed calendars ready to share at Christmas. If you are so inclined to share calendars for next year, please leave me off your list. I don’t need or want a wall calendar or desk calendar of any kind. I have reached that stage in life where the best kind of calendar for me is the one that beeps at me and reminds me where I need to be or what I need to do. As a result, my computer and mobile devices have replaced printed calendars.
No, don’t look so disappointed. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create gorgeous calendars to share with your family. You might just want to re-think your definition of a calendar. Instead of a printed calendar, why not create wallpaper calendars? We all love to have beautiful home screens on our desktops, tablets and phones so why not use some of your favorite family photos – old and new – to build your own. And, you can easily distribute them each month by posting them on your family’s blog.
Need some inspiration? Take a look at the wallpapers available from Sarah Hearts. Many of the digital scrapbook designers also offer monthly calendar “stamps” or “brushes” so you don’t have to build each month’s calendar yourself. Here’s one example from paislee press.
Inspired by Debbie West’s article, My Lucky Journey, in the current issue of Somerset Digital Studio, I’m beginning a scrapbook of my own to tell the story of our family heirlooms along with the treasures my husband and I have collected throughout our marriage. One of the things I found fascinating in Debbie’s examples was the way she staged the items she photographed. For example, the photograph of her pearl necklace has the pearls draped over the side of an elegant box. The clasp and the pearls next to it are on the top of the box and get the focus while the puddled pearls below are artfully blurred. D’uh! I don’t need a mugshot of my pearls to recognize them either. The photograph of her mother’s depression glass bowl was staged with fruit in it – much like it would have been when her mother pulled it out for special occasions.
Debbie’s photography is divine, but that’s just the beginning. There’s plenty of text to tell the story of each item. And she puts her scrapbooking skills to good use too. She used a collection of simple design elements that highlighted each photograph and its story without overpowering them. Each treasure has its own page and while the design is basically the same for each page, the size and shape of the photograph along with the amount of text in each story determines the actual design. Graphic elements are repeated throughout her book, but are used differently on each page.
While I’m taking inspiration from Debbie, my book of things will be quite different. Instead of the standard 12″x12″ scrapbook page, my book will be designed to display digitally on an iPad. I’ll use Pixelmator for photo editing and Keynote for layout. My style will be more minimalistic.
I’m still in the planning stage. I’ve identified six items I want to use to kick off my project. Once photographed, I’ll use them to develop a couple of page templates. Right now I’m looking at my scrapbook graphics collection – and checking in with my favorite designers – to build a collection just for this project.
I don’t see this as a project with a definite end result – which is one reason I’ve chosen to build it digitally. Like a scrapbook, I expect to continue adding to it regularly. Oh, yeah . . . I’ll be writing about what worked and what didn’t and showing off pages as I build them.
The family stories I want to tell are full of pictures and charts and other types of graphics. While I can include them in books formatted for Kindle and other e-reading devices, I don’t have the control I want for page layout. It’s even worse for the Digital Storytelling and tech guides I want to write. I keep falling back to Scribd as my publishing platform for fixed layout publications and Scribd keeps improving – both its tools to help me publish and share my work and its apps to make the reading experience even more enjoyable.
With Scribd, you create your publication with tools you already have and know how to use. Scribd can upload Word and PowerPoint files, but for best results you should first convert your document to PDF to insure formatting and fonts will remain as you designed them.
It costs you nothing to build a document library on Scribd. You can even take advantage of Scribd’s store to sell your publications and/or offer them as part of Scribd’s Premium Reader Service and receive a royalty when subscribers read your works. An agreement with the Harper Collins publishing house has made this subscription service even more attractive to readers which could help attract family to your content too.
Scribd is a very social platform supporting comments, sharing and even embedding options – similar to embedding a YouTube video – so you can even display your publications on your blog.
Are you concerned about the longevity of the content you publish here? I cannot predict the future, but I can tell you what Scribd has done in the past. The Scribd platform was originally designed using Adobe’s Flash technology to display the books and documents it manages. When Apple refused to support Flash on its new iPads, Scribd rebuilt the platform to use HTML5 instead. And, they converted all the content already posted here to the new format. This was a very smart move as HTML5 is gaining traction as THE platform for digital publishing.
Online data libraries like Scribd (for documents), Flickr and Instagram (for photos) generate their revenue because of the content their users post there. They have a vested interest in not only protecting your content, but also taking advantage of the latest technology. Yes, there are blips and glitches in their systems, but they invest much more time, money and effort in taking care of their collections that any of us every could with ours. Don’t make them the only place you store your precious stories, photos, videos and such, but do take advantage of them as an alternate storage option as well as a method for presenting your content.
The photo gallery below offers a look at the Scribd platform. Click on any thumbnail images to view it full size. If you pay a visit to the Scribd site, make sure you stop by the Moultrie Creek page.
Those of us who have photographs, letters, journals and other writings from our ancestors are blessed with a view of their worlds that no amount of vital records can provide. These are precious treasures which we spend a lot of time, money and effort to preserve. But, what are we doing to document and preserve a personal record of our lives for those who come after us?
In today’s digital world we have some amazing tools for capturing photographs, conversations and video clips, giving us the ability to document – and share – all kinds of special moments. The joys of digital media are tempered with some concerns. At the top of that list is how quickly things change. Anyone who’s had a desktop computer for more than a couple of years knows the frustration of documents that can no longer be opened because the software application that created that document no longer exists. Yes, this is a concern, but it’s a manageable one.
Data formats for the written word have come and gone, but one has been around since the very beginning of the digital age – plain text. It is just that – plain. There are no font changes, no bold or underline, no colors. It’s just alpha, numeric and special characters.
Next up the chain of data formats is something relatively new – markdown. It’s plain text with simple codes, created using plain text characters, to represent formatting commands. When viewed in its “plain” state, it’s quite readable, but it’s also very easy to develop programs that can process those simple codes and reformat the document into something very attractive. And, as technology changes, the original document is still quite readable and new conversion programs can be quickly created to jazz it up. For a better discussion of what markdown is, see Markdown – an archival standard for digital documents.
Although you won’t yet find markdown included as a “Save as” or “Export” option on most mainstream word processing applications, it’s getting a lot of attention from journaling apps. For example, the Day One app [Mac - $9.99, iOS - $4.99] uses markdown as its standard format and offers export options to PDF and plain text.
The data format getting the most attention these days is HyperText Markup Language (HTML). This has been the format of the Web and is now also the format of ebooks. Like markdown, it is plain text with codes – known as tags. Unlike markdown it’s not so simple. For a simple ebook novel that’s all text, the HTML code should be very readable in its raw form. A web page full of graphics, charts and links is quite a different story. Fortunately for us, computers don’t have a problem reading and processing the code to present us with a beautiful visual experience. And, because HTML is an industry standard format, it will travel from app to app – even platform to platform – with minimal effort.
How does all this impact the family historian?
One reason geneablogging is getting so much attention is its longevity. Not only are blogs built with HTML, they have an organizational standard that means they are very search-engine friendly (which helps attract research cousins) and can be moved from one blog platform to another. There are services which will convert your blog posts into ebooks and even print books. Most blog platforms offer backup and export options so you can maintain multiple copies – both online and offline. A growing number of journaling and text-editing apps have publish to blog features – giving you an extra layer of archival protection.
In a couple of weeks I will celebrate ten years of blogging. During that time I’ve documented a lot of family history – one story at a time. While the thought of sitting down and writing a “family history” has always been quite intimidating, it didn’t take long to blog enough stories for a book. Is it a complete family history? Not even close. But it doesn’t have to be. Using simple tools, I was able to pull out and reorganize the stories I wanted into a simple ebook to share with my family. And, as the stories grow, so does the ebook. It’s all digital so it’s very easy to update and redistribute.
Nothing lasts forever and digital platforms come and go. My family’s private blog site was on the Posterous platform which was bought by Twitter and later shut down. I was able to export our content and import it at another blog platform – actually to two different ones. Plus, I have a backup copy of the export file on my desktop. These other blog platforms saw the business potential Posterous’ shut down represented and did everything they could to help make the migration as easy as possible.
Don’t let technology concerns keep you from documenting your family history. Start with a blog on a reputable platform. You can get started with WordPress.com in a matter of minutes – and at no cost. Posthaven, created as a replacement for the Posterous platform, will cost you $5.00/month but promises it will be there as long as you want it. Platforms like Google’s Blogger and Yahoo’s Tumblr offer free and easy-to-use blogging, but are not their companies’ main priority.
Experiment with some of the new journaling apps – especially those that include companion mobile apps. The mobile journal apps take advantage of your device’s camera and location services, giving you the ability to easily include photos in your entry, automatically date stamp and even geo tag each one if you wish. Not only is a journal more appropriate for your private thoughts, but often these apps also offer features to publish selected entries to your blog – saving you time and effort.
Today’s technology make it easy to capture and record our family’s precious moments in ways that will insure they are accessible for many generations to come. Isn’t it time you get started?
I am a big fan of ecards – both the commercial ones and ones I make myself. I love the fun and quirky Just Wink cards from American Greetings. I have the app on my iPhone (also available for Android, Kindle tablets, NOOK tablets and Windows Phones) and it’s an easy way to send a card that can be opened and read right in the email message, Facebook update or text message. You can even mail it as a “real” card if you want.
Quirky is fun for many situations, but Christmas isn’t one of them. I prefer something more traditional and family oriented. And, although the list keeps getting smaller, there are still a number of people on my list who only get paper cards. As a result, I have a growing collection of leftover Christmas cards taking up space in the office cupboards. Fortunately, there are now a number of very nice – and affordable – options which give me the choice of sending both digital and paper cards that can include both photos and personal notes. And, they even offer features that make the chore of getting holiday cards done a bit easier.
My favorite “snail-mail” card service is Apple’s beautiful letterpress cards. Found in the desktop iPhoto ’11 app, you can create either post cards or folded cards from your choice of design and layout options. The folded cards have layout options that support multiple photos and some even have plenty of room to include a lengthy personal note.
American Greetings also has a build and mail service where you can build your own cards and they will send them for you. No special app is needed, just your web browser.
Hallmark provides a huge variety of holiday ecards – all a part of their very affordable ecard subscription service. They also do beautiful photo cards and offer a service where you build your card with the photo and greeting you want and Hallmark will print, address and mail your card to everyone on your list.
The Lifecards app [iOS - $1.99] offers both postcard and newsletter style greetings as ecards. There are designs and layouts for all kinds of situations and occasions. One of the things I really like about this app is the ability to email as well as save it as a PDF file.
Want to create something totally original? Get out your presentation software – Keynote, PowerPoint or Impress – and take advantage of all the “actions” available. This article from Valentine’s Day will remind you how easy they are to build.
1. A hasty or undetailed drawing or painting often made as a preliminary study.
2. A brief general account or presentation; an outline.
I find artists sketchbooks fascinating. Not only do they capture little moments in time, they are also experiments in technique, color and form. Often sketchbooks are graphical diaries and provide a look at the interests and emotions of the artist. The word “sketch” is also used to describe short biographies – something we family history types know well.
Historically, researchers are known for their notebooks. In addition to quotations, rough maps and source references, you might also find an occasional photo or clipping stuck into the pages. Thanks to the boom in mobile digital devices – many with cameras – the historian’s notebook is less likely to be paper and it’s beginning to look more like a sketchbook.
The ultimate digital sketchbook is Evernote. It supports both desktop and mobile platforms with apps, plugins and widgets and thanks to its amazing handwriting recognition capabilities even your handwritten notes can be deciphered and made searchable. Using the Evernote app on your mobile device lets you capture both photographs and paper notes/sketches while the Penultimate app for iPad even lets you draw. And don’t forget the audio note either. A little imagination and you can build a sketchbook full of rich, multimedia moments.
Journaling apps like Day One [iPhone - $4.99, Mac - $9.99] let us capture photos, videos and text along with location, date and even weather conditions. It’s easy to use yet, by supporting the Markdown standard, insures our captured moments won’t be left in the old technology heap. Android users might take a look at A Day in Life [Android - $1.99]
Even something as simple as the photo postcard apps found on just about any device with a camera serve nicely for quick sketches of an event or a special moment. This example uses Lifecards [iOS - $1.99].
As family historians we are documenting today’s family as well as researching those who came before us. A couple of decades from now, an email postcard such as this may be a valuable treasure to future generations. Today we’re delighted to have a journal, some letters or a photo of our ancestors. Think of the rich media treasures we can leave for those coming after us.
When I hear someone rant about how email is destroying the personal letter or the disappearance of cursive handwriting in the digital age, I just smile. Thanks to technology – and particularly the app phone with its still/video camera – we’ll leave behind a rich view of our world and our place in it. I love playing with my camera along with an outrageous number of apps for editing and manipulating the photos I take. And, because I no longer have to buy film or pay to develop my photos, there’s no need to wait for the “perfect” shot to take a picture. The same is true for video.
I don’t know how many times I’ve wished I had a photo of the soda fountain at McCartney’s Drug Store or the lobby of the Matanzas Theatre during a Saturday afternoon matinee. These and many other places that were part of our day-to-day lives are no longer there, but because they weren’t “special” we never took photographs of them. Today, thanks to my iPhone’s camera and the Day One journal app [Mac - $9.99, iOS - $4.99], I’m not only capturing photos of our favorite places, the camera and Day One automatically add details like date, location and weather for me. No, I’m not going to tap out a description during dinner. That can wait until I’m back home and have time to add details.
So now I have some delightful views of my world captured in my journal thanks to my phone’s camera and Day One. They include a number of not-so-momentous occasions like dinner on the deck at Aunt Kate’s or the dogs at the front window supervising road work along our street. I’d like to think future generations will enjoy this look at our world, but even if they don’t, I will.
Note to Android users . . . check out the Day Journal app [Android - free]. It’s got many of the same features as Day One.