Category Archives: Interesting links

Productivity Tip #15: StrokeIt!

Here’s another life-enhancing tool I love: StrokeIt!

It adds the ability to create global or application-specific mouse gestures in Windows. Incredibly customizable, very simple to use, small memory footprint.

Example usage case: Navigating in Windows Explorer. When I need to go Back, I hold the right mouse button, drag the mouse left and release and it goes back. Forward, click-drag-right-release, forward. When I want to go up a directory, click-drag-up and it goes to the parent directory. You can set it to normal windows commands (maximize, minimize, close, etc) or even a series of hotkeys. It makes navigating through folders in Explorer MUCH quicker and more efficient. I’ve had few of people here at Vigil watch me work with it and install it after a few moments’ watching it in action.

Best of all: FREE!

Tools of the Trade: HTTrack Website Copier!

Ever bookmark a website full of great information, only to revisit it later and discover the link is dead?

Worry no more! HTTrack Website Copier is here, and you need never fret over dead links again.

It’s a free, very easy-to-use, highly customizable tool that automatically downloads webpages in their entirety. You can set how deep you want them to follow links on the page, how to organize them on your hard drive, selectively includeexclude certain filetypes, and much, much more. And perhaps most usefully of all, you can customize how many connections to send at once and whether to cap the maximum download speed so you don’t hassle the server you’re accessing. It’s a very nifty, very clever little application that I’ve used for years.

In fact, I’m using it right now to back up an online copy of a beautiful Illustrated Architecture Dictionary, which has definitions for more architectural terms than I even knew existed. It’s fascinating and has been very educational. It’s the kind of site that I’d hate to lose access to… and with HTTrack Website Copier, now I won’t have to! Not to mention the speed bonus of having everything located locally, because that is a *LOT* of content to constantly be downloading and displaying.

Enjoy!

The Freelancer’s Toolset

I found something awesome on LifeHacker a moment ago that smArtists may appreciate. It’s called The Freelancer’s Toolset. It’s a list of 100 web applications to enhance freelancers’ productivity.

It looks like a fantastic list! Here’s a few highlights from it:

  • Stikkit is a central sticky note repository that interfaces with apps like Outlook. It stores names, addresses, birthdays and other snippets of information. It’s also open for collaboration even for people that don’t have or use Stikkit… and you can email it notes, too, which is pretty cool.
  • NetVibes which I use. Basically it’s the ultimate customizable homepage, much like My Yahoo, except more flexible. You can turn any RSS feed into its own window, as well as drop all sorts of kickass productivity applications onto one page. It even has separate tabs you can load up with different categories of information. For example, I have a tab that contains a calendar, my personal life todo list, upcoming holidays and weather. On another tab, I have a series of small boxes that contain RSS feeds to every major news site I visit. On another tab, I have useless crap I waste time with. 🙂 There’s a huge, thriving community of amateur developers that make modules and custom applications for it to make it infinitely extendable. I highly recommend checking out NetVibes.
  • Google Calendar – I use this as an embedded window in NetVibes. It’s simple, straightforward and fun to use. I also set it up to email and text message me on my phone anytime I have an upcoming appointment so I never forget. It’s indispensible!
  • FreshBooks – The Fastest Way to Invoice! This is a really cool and well-positioned company. Invoicing can be a bit of a bitch and this can help you keep track of it more easily. You can manage a huge series of invoices, send them by snail mail through the website, track the time spent on the job, accept payment online, manage work orders and generate reports. What a kickass idea!
  • ConceptShare – An online visual collaboration tool. Basically, add notes or paintovers to anything you need to, and have small sticky notes that can turn into miniature discussion threads that float on top of the image and have pointers everywhere. This is so damn cool, I may try using it myself with my contractors.
  • Meebo – Gain access to every single IM app on the planet through their website without downloading or installing anything. This is such a mind-bogglingly great idea. smArtists, listen up — IM communication is incredibly useful, and offering it can often be a good thing. Whenever possible, offer it as a quicker alternative for email for smaller, quicker questions. Even if you don’t use that app normally, Meebo can help. 🙂
  • K7 – A terrible name but an awesome service. This will set up a temporary phone number for you to receive faxes and voicemail messages, which are emailed to you. What a great idea!
  • Nolo – Got a legal question that pertains to contracting? Have it answered here and check out their articles and how-tos.

Any other gems I might have missed?

What Would A Game Developer Do?

I just found a great post by Gianfranco over at GBGames that’s called What Would A Game Developer Do?

Gianfranco starts out detailing focus problems we all relate to, then drops some knowledge in the form of solid tips on surrounding yourself with things that motivate you. Then he breathlessly goes straight into conditioning your mind to think more like a game developer and to help stay focused. A choice quote:

Would a game developer come home from a day job and watch television? Would a game developer feel much anxiety about sitting at the computer to work on a game? Would a game developer procrastinate on game development in favor of chatting online with friends or reading random articles online?

No. A game developer would BE a game developer.

A simple mantra like “WWAGDD?” is a fantastic way to focus your mind on what’s important by asking a tough, no-nonsense question you can’t shy away from. This is good stuff! Go read the post!

101 Hidden Tips and Secrets for Photoshop

Found a cool article this morning: 101 Hidden Tips and Secrets for Photoshop

Some useful information in here I didn’t know. A few repeats, but here were some of the highlights I found most useful:

  • 5. Sick of the default gray background around your image? Select paint bucket, hold shift and click on the gray background, it will change to whatever color you have in your foreground color box.
  • 10. Hold Ctrl will temporary make any tool into move tool until you release Ctrl.
  • 19. When free transforming with Ctrl+T, hold Alt to keep the original image and then to transform a duplicated layer of it. Ctrl+Shift+T to repeat whatever you did in the last transform.
  • 28. Hold Alt while clicking on the eye icon beside the layer, it will hide all other layers.
  • 39. Ctrl+Tab allows you to switch between different image files you are working on.
  • 58. Change the active layer : Alt + [ or ].
  • 59. Move the active layer up and down : Ctrl + [ or ].
  • 62. When using the Polygonal Lasso Tool, click backspace to undo a lasso step.

Hope these are helpful. 🙂

Link: Art for Games, not Games for Art

I just checked out Rick Stirling’s excellent blog and found an article for young artists that I wholeheartedly agree with… it’s called Art for games, not games for art. Basically he posits that one of the chief considerations of art for games is putting the needs of the game above your own art and your need to feel creative for yourself only without consideration for the project. Very true, often overlooked, and needs to be said. 🙂