Find Sounds Easily Web 2.0 Style

Soundsnap LogoWith my involvement with The Global Geek Podcast, I am always on the look out for great resources. I find that one of the most enjoyable parts of production is in mixing in all the sounds and effects to give the piece a unique feel and personality. I derive a great deal of satisfaction getting the right sound and timing perfect. One of the most frustrating things about production is just that though, getting the right sound for what you can hear in your head. Soundsnap is a sound effects repository with a Web 2.0 slant, it is brilliant and just made the task of finding that perfect sound a breeze.

The front page presents all the categories of sounds that are available to browse. Clicking on any of these categories opens up a view that presents these sounds as pages. Here you can sample any sound with a simple flash player and get other information on each sound such as length and a wave form. Although I am not sure of the purpose of the waveform as it is too small to be useful. Clicking on it however gives you the sounds technical info. Sort by popularity or other criteria. See comments made on sounds, who uploaded it and click to see their profile and what else they have uploaded. You can expect the usual set of ranking and sorting features that are ever present in Web 2.0 style sites.

One feature that I really like is the ability to drill down the data within each category without searching. Under each category you can click on sub categories to refine your manual search. Makes it easier to find a specific type of sound. This is also a nice way to search for a specific sound as you might find something better than what you were thinking of.

Once you have found a sound that you want they are free to download and use. Sounds are available in .wav, .mp3 and .aiff. You don’t have to have an account to download files. Great to have the access without another login to worry about. The quality varies slightly but on the whole they are very good.

The presentation of the site is excellent. It looks slick and well done. There is plenty of Ajax goodness and the navigation is easy and intuitive. Full credit to the developers on this front. There are a number of sound repositories out there but there are none that are this well done. For a new (to me at any rate) site there are many, many FX to download and even some obscure ones that are hard to find. I noticed that the is a bucket load of loops available for music buffs; around 3,700 and this will only grow as time goes on. Hopefully one day it will make those very expensive sound effects disks that are available commercially obsolete. As a podcaster this is a fantastic resource and I would encourage those that are actively involved in the community to keep producing sounds and samples that will save our bacon.

Soundsnap Screenshot

 

Thanks etc.

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Need a Ruler?

Sometimes it is the tools for simple things that are hard to find. Not only that the ones that you do find are not what you want, are not free and might come tangled up with some other nasty apps that you did not count on. Pixel Ruler fills the void of needing to get image sizes just right for your blog or webpage or whatever else you are thinking of.

Pixel Ruler has all the functions that you need. It is small and one of those tools that is good to have because you never know when you might need it. There is not much to it. It works in all applications. You can choose between vertical and horizontal measurement, naturally. There is a maximum measurement of 1300 pixels, but that should cover most possible situations. Not sure why but you can choose between a number of skins as well. This virtual ruler measures in pixels, but as you would know this is preferable to actual size such as mm or cm.

I used to use an actual ruler on the screen to measure the optimal size for images. Might sound stupid, but I did not know this tool existed. It is less important now with the wider body that I have for posts. But larger screenshots on the old theme were a pain, they would not have been with Pixel Ruler.

Pixel Ruler is Free and comes from Mioplanet where you can find other great applications to make your life easier.

Pixel Ruler Screenshot

– Thanks for the Tip Tim

Develop Flow Charts Easily

bubbl.us LogoIt is true that pictures and diagrams can say a lot more than words can at times. A flow of ideas and thoughts, related concepts or how-to diagrams are very effective. But they are problematic to make. Ever tried to produce one? Don’t bother because with bubbl.us you can do it for free on-line.

This would have to be the easiest way to create a bubble flow chart that I have seen for a while. Based on flash without the loud colours, very glad about that. I am starting to like flash more since I have seen developers realize there is a whole rainbow of colours out there and they don’t need to be flashing in your face to be effective. bubbl.us is a fast way to create these types of flow charts or diagrams. Features on offer:

  • Free
  • Very easy to use
  • Automatic or manual placement of bubbles
  • Drag and drop interface
  • Automatic scaling using the mouse wheel
  • Keyboard support for viewing
  • Contextual help
  • Save your charts

There are plans to add things like:

  • Multiple user support
  • Recording brainstorming sessions

A couple of gripes but minor are that while the contextual help is excellent the text is way too small. I also found that the drag and dropping of “bubbles” is not as precise as I would like. A bit of persistence pays off here and you eventually get it where you want it. Apparently you can print your creations but I could not see a “print” button.

I would have liked to have seen these promised features included before release as they may set them apart somewhat from other similar services. I would also like to see custom colours and fonts to be available. This would be great for creating a chart that will match your blog or presentation. Be cool to be able to publish them or send the finished product to someone as well.

I like the speed at which you can add thoughts or bubbles and then being able to edit them later. A very good way to get ideas down in a visual way to refer to later. Maybe create some mind maps for articles or a project. Or just brainstorm a how-to; add the steps at random as you remember them. Then go back and order and arrange the diagram that you want to use. Deleting bubbles is very easy and does not cause a “chain” effect on the others.

Nice site and the presentation is well executed. Include the promised features and you have a very cleaver on-line application that would have a myriad of uses and benefits. Slick interface and intuitive to use. Be nice to see some more collaborative type features. Results look great but could be improved with some minor adjustments. I would commend bubbl.us on the ability to preview the service without account creation, the way it should be done.

bubbl.us Screenshot

Huge Free Wallpaper Resource

I don’t know about you guys but I have had some real trouble in the past finding wallpaper for my desktop. One thing is that a lot of sites that offer wallpaper are full of spyware, pop-ups or some other nasty crap. Not only that there is usually not that much on offer and what there is of it is rubbish. InterfaceLIFT is totally different and I was surprised at the offerings and what they cover.

Interface lift offers hundreds of wallpapers for download. In addition to this they offer a huge range of resolutions to suit. From an average of 320 X 240 right up to 2560 X 1600. Not all images offer the same resolutions or the range but it looks like there is something for everyone and purpose. They also range from nice pleasant landscape pictures to futuristic and Photoshop’ed images. Nice. Looks like most, if not all wallpapers are free.

I was impressed at the extra offerings that I found as well. There are icons, themes plus a developers section. Some of the developers tools are not free.

The most amazing thing is that there is stuff for Mac, Windows, Linux and Mac! There is an especially nice selection of Mac icons. The name definately fits this site, check out InterfaceLIFT to give the view from your desktop a refreshing new look. Just one tip: Careful with the embeded ads that appear in the list of available downloads, not a nice way to place ads but they are fairly obvious. The only critism I would have on an otherwise nice resource.

InterfaceLIFT Screenshot

Web Development Resources

One of the things that I found extremely difficult to adapt to and learn was when I was challenged to built a website for the podcast when it first started. Sure the page had a theme, but it was limited and there were heaps of other features that I wanted to include and the template was very hard to manipulate. There are some great on-line resources popping up that I wish I had then and this is another one.

Free Layouts.com is one of the better sites that I have found for heaps of resources related to building your web site. What’s more it is all free and from a green site. There are a number of dodgy sites out there and I am sure their resources come with a few “extras” that you were not counting on. Not so with Free Layouts.com who offer a great array of layouts, tools and templates including:

  • Website Templates
  • Flash Templates
  • MySpace Layouts, Templates and Generators
  • CMS Templates; including WordPress Themes and Text Pattern Templates
  • Website Generators and Tools
  • Articles and Tutorials

Sure you need a bit of knowledge, however this is where I was at when I was battling the template and the HTML. In the end the code looked like a train wreck. According to a web page developer friend of mine. With these resources you might just be able to put something out that will look great. At the very least it is a shortcut to the inclusion on your page of some complex elements that you probably would not attempt, like flash.

The site looks to be under constant development with new material added often. If you are even thinking of building a website and have never attempted it before then this is definitely worth checking out. Especially for you MySpace junkies out there , there is some great looking layouts here. For the rest of you this looks to be a worthwhile resource that may hold a few gems that you did not know about.