Isn’t it expensive to set up a website to produce and sell educational packs?

useImage3The outlay before you’ve even started must have made you think twice. Well, actually, no! Apart from a few pieces of software (and we could have used free alternatives of those!) and the cost of setting up a self hosted WordPress site, the main burden on our resources has been time!

So what resources do we recommend? Well, everything mentioned on this page has been used by Resource Angel in the course of our business development. We’ll start off with the software that cost us money. We’ve kept all the receipts so that our accountant can offset our expenses against our taxable income (if there is any!).

Paid-for Software

Serif DrawPlus6- www.serif.com/drawplus/

DrawPlusX6-BSRFWe like the Serif range. They are reasonably cheap if we stay one version behind the latest version.

However, after using DrawPlus5 we had to upgrade to version 6. Simply because Drawplus is the best drawing software we’ve ever had the opportunity to use. A lot of our clipart goes through Drawplus at some stage or another. The software has so much depth to it. If you prepared to put in the work, it will amply reward you with vector graphics, bitmap graphics. The cut-out studio is, for us, the best and most used part of the software. We couldn’t have produced most of the graphics in the packs without it. Stunning!

The manual is useful but the online support is so, so valuable. There are short videos to download by using Freemake Video Downloader, community forums that are populated, online articles and run-throughs. This is true, not just for Drawplus but for all of the software Serif produce.

Serif DrawPlus X6

 

Serif PagePlus7- www.serif.com/pageplus/

PagePlusX7-BSRF-DVD_15This is the software that pulls our packs into shape. We import text from our word processors. It even imports pdf files and separate them out into editable objects. It is similar to Microsoft Publisher which we have used for the last few years after losing touch with GST Pressworks which WAS an excellent desktop publisher back in the day. (We used it first when we were the proud owners of an Atari STE!).

It manipulates pictures, fonts, formats paragraphs and tables and is so intuitive to use. We couldn’t run this business without it! Again, support is good and if you’re prepared to put the work, the results are very rewarding.

This piece of software was in constant use as we started to build our own website BUT as soon as we discovered WordPress this software became redundant. In some ways, that’s a pity as it IS a good piece of software. You can design your website just as if you were using a desktop publisher. It took a month of learning its in and outs to produce the first draft of a good website. However, it took less than a week to design our WordPress website and we’re nearly ready to put our shop in action. WebPlus 7 is a good starter program but WordPress wins every time. Don’t use the free WordPress. If you’re serious about producing a good website then you need to buy a self hosted site. More on that later.

Serif PagePlus X7

Serif PhotoPlus5- www.serif.com/photoplus/

SerifX5right-boxshotThis is the least used of our Serif software purchases. Having used Paint Shop Pro in school and Corel Paint at work, we have become used to a fast workflow with these programs. We have used the free Microsoft Paint for its fill procedures. PhotoPlus 5 does this but, at the moment, we don’t have the time to put the work in. Again, manual and online support looks to be excellent.

A little tip we found early on is that most software manuals are on pdf these days. We are not prepared to bear the cost of printing out the manuals so we save all our manuals onto our iPads using the iBook app. The iPad sits beside the computer and is quickly in use when needed. Also we have put onto our iPads the downloaded videos from Serif and have bookmarked the appropriate webpages from the Serif website.

Serif PhotoPlus X6

Serif WebPlus 7-  www.serif.com/webplus/

Serif webplus7This piece of software was in constant use as we started to build our own website BUT as soon as we discovered WordPress this software became redundant. In some ways, that’s a pity as it IS a good piece of software. You can design your website just as if you were using a desktop publisher. It took a month of learning its in and outs to produce the first draft of a good website. However, it took less than a week to design our WordPress website and we’re nearly ready to put our shop in action.

WebPlus 7 is a good starter program but WordPress wins every time.

Don’t use the free WordPress. If you’re serious about producing a good website then you need to buy a self hosted site. More on that later.
Serif WebPlus X7

Word 2007

Microsoft Office 2007This is a leftover from when all the family were working in schools. Teachers could install Academic copies of Microsoft Office on both their school and home computers. We all did.

What is there to say about it? There appears to be no need to upgrade to a later version. We all have either Windows 7 or 8 (in our opinions both very good Operating Systems!) and it works smoothly on both.

There are alternative, free word processors like Libre Office. We’re sure they’re all good in their own way but we haven’t seen any other word processor that demands we use it instead of Word. Word is a proven word processor, it just works. We know our way around it. Almost all our packs, blogs and web-pages get written on Word before being transferred onto other software. All we need further is a decent monitor (at least 21 inches), a good keyboard and plenty of hard-drive space. Sorted!

 

If you’ve made your way this far, that’s the end of the software we decided to pay for. The rest of the list is all free. Not cheap, but FREE!

 

When downloading the free versions of much of this software be aware that most websites also have paid-for versions with extra features. They, obviously, would rather have you buy the paid-for versions. Therefore, they make it difficult, on occasions, to even find the free versions on their sites! Perseverance is often a necessary virtue.

 

Graphics software

 

Serif DrawPlus6

see above

 

Serif PhotoPlus5

see above

 

Irfanview www.irfanview.com

irfanview2This software started out in 1996. We use version 4.36 with all the plugins installed. First Irfanview helps us to reduce the images in width and height.  The plugins enable us to use the Save for Web option. This uses the Riot plugin. We try to reduce our images down to under 100kb at the worst. Most images end up around the 50kb mark and therefore load very quickly. (WordPress and our ISP like this). The quality is still good to outstanding. Sometimes we can’t see much of a difference between the original and the processed Irfanview version.

 

Riot- http://luci.criosweb.ro/riot/

riot-plugin-free-windows-photo-resize-optimize-xnview-gimp-irfanview-3Riot is used as a plugin within Irfanview as mentioned above. The anti-virus/security system in Chrome, Firefox and Windows 8.1 was quite suspicious about us installing the expanded version of Riot (it did try to download and install a whole lot of extra “useful” software).

However, when you Save as Web t within Irfanview, the plug-in does a great job in reducing file sizes of our images. You can set the max file size and then Riot shows you what the image will look like at that file size.

 

Picasa 3 – http://picasa.google.com/

picasa3This picture management program is produced by Google and we use it for edit our photos more than our clip art. The effect plugins are pretty good especially as the software is free! We use the Straighten  Tool (it’s amazing how many pictures of ours slant to the left or right), the Crop Tool, The Saturation Tool (it adds a touch of colour and class to a photo), the Sharpen Tool and, of course, the Auto Contrast Tool. We have also made some use of other tools such as Focal Zoom (select an area of your photo and the rest of the photo seems to speed to, or zoom in , towards it), the Vignette (gives the photo an early silent film edge to it, the Soft Focus (softens the outside of the photo whilst leaving the selected area alone) and the dark, almost gothic Orton-ish  effect. Try them out and be impressed at the improvement to your photos.

 

CollageIt – http://www.collageitfree.com/

collageit-proThe software company says” CollageIt is an easy-to-use photo collage maker for Mac OS X & Windows, which makes collages automatically. In a matter of seconds, this collage software can turn any ordinary photos into impressive collages. Try this free collage maker to produce your own style collages and share them with your friends and families in a unique way.” We wouldn’t disagree.

There is a Pro version for $20 but so far we’ve used this little program to make our own collage to display various pages from our packs on Pinterest and Instagram. So far we’ve only used Collage 13 from the Free Edition. It works for us! A copyright watermark is applied to the collages at the foot of each collage but I’m sure there’s a way of cropping the finished collage in PhotoPlus!!

 

Miscellaneous Software

 

Word Search Creatorwordsearchcreator.org/

word_search_creator_for_linux-239675-1242547041We’re still experimenting with this. We like to add word-searches to our pack where it’s relevant. Word Search Creator is an open-source word search worksheet creator. We simply typed in a list of words. We clicked create and voila-a ready to print worksheet. Word Search Creator is free, open source and has no feature/time limits. The export to pdf was very useful for our packs. We even experimented with the image copy.

We also used some online ones as well as using this one. But the jury is out on which works best. I think some more research is needed.

 

PaperScan 2 Free Editionwww.orpalis.com/

paperscan-2-600x404This is the free edition of PaperScan Scanner Software. We can use its “universal scanning with post-processing capabilities tool.” It only allows 10 pages of Twain or WIA  import at a time. You can save as single page PDF/A, TIFF, JPEG, JPEG 2000, PNG, JBIG2, WEBP. Post image processing includes colour adjustment,  effects, filters and crop. It works with our Kodak C315 All in One Printer/Scanner so we’re pleased. Yes, we could use the built in scanner support but our Kodakm printer is wireless and very, very fussy about who it plays with! This one works so we just get on with it!

 

Boxoft Free PDF to PowerPoint Converterhttp://www.boxoft.com/pdf-to-ppt/

PDF-to-PPT-converter001_thumbBoxoft produce a whole load of free and paid-for multimedia software. They are often one trick pony programs. This one converts our pdfs into powerpoint files. That’s all!

Boxoft say”If you are looking for a tool to convert un-editable PDF documents into act-like PowerPoint files, Boxoft PDF to PowerPoint could be a good choice for you. The fast and easy converter is totally free software to batch convert your multiple PDF files into PPT format. With it, you will get high quality Powerpoint slides rapidly with preserving the original PDF look and feel.” We want it, we get it!

 

Adobe Readerhttp://get.adobe.com/uk/reader/

Adobe ReaderHere’s a piece of software that you either love or hate. We’ve used it for years, searched around for alternatives, used Foxit Reader for a while until it started misbehaving, and have now gone back to Adobe Reader. As of mid 2014, we’re up to version 11. It’s good at doing what it does, which is to allow you to read pdf files. Seeing that the majority of our packs are in pdf format, we’re pleased to state that it’s an indispensable piece of software on our computers… until something better comes along. Be aware that the latest download tries to package Macafee Security Scan Plus, a “free” addition to your download. Like any other extras check out what it does before you tick to download it.

 

Computer Utilities

 

AVG Free AntiVirushttp://www.avg.com/

AVGfreeYou must have anti-virus software installed. There’s no choice involved. We’ve used so much anti-virus software over the years. AVG Free is the one that seems to have been on our computers the longest. Avast was OK, Kaspersky was very, very good but you had to pay for it. BitDefender was good, if a bit clunky. I think the message is:- find one you like and trust and stick with it. Even if it’s Norton! The free software is not as good as the paid software, but not by that much. If you’ve got other software helping to protect you then the free software will suffice.

AVG Free does the job quietly, in the background and without making a fuss. A lot of the time we’re not even aware it’s there. A bit like a good referee at a football match!

 

WiseCare 365http://www.wisecleaner.com/wisecare365.html

Wise-Care-365-Free-2.95.240sOnce again, a recent change as we used to use Advance System Care to protect our files, manage our startup, uninstall this and tune up that. Reading Webuser magazine, they suggested we try WiseCare365. When it came to renewal time for Advanced System Care it was removed rather than renewed and WiseCare365 took its place. To be honest, they do almost the same as each other. Wisecare365 has a lovely touch of telling how long it took our computers to boot up. Still a change is as good as a rest.

 

CCleanerhttp://www.piriform.com/ccleaner

ccleaner cd etcA terrifically effective program for clearing out all the dross such as temporary files and deleted files. There is a pro version but just download the free version and you’ll be covered. It works quickly and quietly and efficiently.

The software cleans out all the temporary files, all your internet files, your bookmarks, history and cookies (if you let it). So you need to spend a little time before you first use it, setting it up, but it’s fairly obvious what needs ticking and what doesn’t.

Go to http://www.piriform.com/docs/ccleaner for good documentation.

 

LastPasshttps://lastpass.com

LastPassLogoThere are so many sites demanding user name and password before they let you enter and if you can’t remember them and don’t want to write them down, then LastPass is for you. All you need is  a strong master password. LastPass stores all your other passwords as you create them or use them. Again, there is a paid-for version but we’ve been using the free version without any problems for a while now!

 

7-ziphttp://www.7-zip.org/

7zip7-Zip describes itself as a “file archiver with a high compression ratio. You can use 7-Zip on any computer, including a computer in a commercial organization. You don’t need to register or pay for 7-Zip.” It’s open source, meaning anyone (within reason) can help to make it better. Many of our packs need to be zipped (a number of files compressed into one “zipped” file). Winzip is the well known software in this field but it’s paid-for software. 7-Zip is free, fast and relatively easy to use. Most of all, it works! Enough said.

 

Dropboxhttps://www.dropbox.com

Storage on the cloud is vital for us when Resource Angel’s workers are based in 3 different locations around the UK. Dropbox is our choice for exchanging file, clipart, etc. We could have used OneDrive or Apple’s Cloud Storage or Google Drive. We’ve got accounts with all of these. But we use Dropbox as it’s so easy to drop a file you’ve been working on into a folder on My Computer file explorer and Dropbox does the rest.

 

Google Chromehttp://www.google.co.uk/chrome/

chrome logoGoogle Chrome is our browser of choice because it’s quick and intuitive. If it crashes, it recovers quickly.

We used to be Firefox users but over the years, it got slower and slower and felt bulky. Internet Explorer was jettisoned before that due to its lack of speed at the time, its vulnerability to spam and virus attack. It also just looks old and sad. Some would say, a bit like Microsoft at this present time. That saying we all have Firefox and Internet Explorer on our own computers as a backup!!!