Tag: 2016

Software Preview: Incomedia WebSite X5 Evolution Product Family

Software Preview: Incomedia WebSite X5 Evolution Product Family

Just a quick heads-up that I have an upcoming review of Incomedia’s WebSite X5 13 family, which is releasing today. Until I finish/post my review, please check out their dedicated website for more details Until then, keep on techin . . .

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Ashampoo Office Catalog Extension 1.0 Review

Ashampoo Office Catalog Extension 1.0 Review

As I wrote to you last week, Ashampoo has created a family of CAD programs, which allow you design a wide range of structures that you might have a vested interest in your life. In my various articles, I went over the benefits of having these tools at the disposal of select groups (and tailored to the final application and potential profession of the user). In addition, to the main software programs that I referenced in my prior articles, Ashampoo has added a new plug program to the line-up, called Ashampoo Office Catalog Extension 1.0.

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While the office furnishings and design elements present in the main programs are quite nice and offer some versatility and variety, the additional items contained in this add-on are well worth the asking price.

As a disabled individual, I have a high priority in having my electronic equipment in close proximity, and in top-tier working order. In my current residence, I do not have a dedicated office space for myself and my wife, and it impacts our productivity quite a bit. I have lived in quite a few places, but I have been the happiest in my working/hobby life in places where I have had a dedicated space for those tasks. I have not been able to design an ideal office space, up until this point, but I am hopeful that will change in the future. When the opportunity presents itself, I plan on having the necessary ports (HDMI, Display Port, SPDIF, USB, etc.) built into the walls, cabinets, and furnishings to minimize tangling and cable management. Not having to worry about cables being tripped over with my wheelchair or cane, nor the hassle of having to constantly move mine or my wife’s computer equipment to accommodate one another’s projects.scr_ashampoo_office_extension_ml_sideboard

Having a well designed office space can dramatically affect the how quickly and proficiently that you can complete tasks. As a disabled individual, I have specialized seating (wheelchair-accessible), and have the need for wireless keyboard and mouse, that can be placed either in my lap or on a movable/portable table. scr_ashampoo_office_extension_ml_tablesWith this design plug-in, I can have access to a larger pool of design office elements that will allow me to add ergonomic furnishings from the prominent design house, Vital-Office GmbH.

Having these expert design powerhouse included inside of this plug-in, means that if their product line meets or exceeds your design needs, you can layout the items that you need, and transition to ordering them for delivery and placement on the job site/office project. I can say, in watching several home improvement shows, how important it is to not only have a fine design plan, but a nice work-flow and follow-through to make the dream a reality. Having a floor plan and “ideal” elements in your design is fine and good, but when you go to execute the plan if the items you need/want are not available, you have to settle for less than want you have planned. Since Ashampoo has gone to the trouble of arranging the license to use the elements from this esteemed firm, the value proposition for this plug-in only grows.

scr_ashampoo_office_extension_ml_tables2Knowing how much this can expand your capability for design above the base programs, it is well worth the asking price of $14.99 USD. As always, they stand behind the products that they sell. If you, my readers, have any experience with their products, you will not hesitate to purchase this product, and have no regrets. Also keep in mind, this catalog extension does work with the other extension (Kitchen) to expand and round out your options, for design elements, as well as potentially work with future extensions, as they are developed. Bottom line, if you need office ergonomic design elements and have an inclination to create your office with CAD, you need this software. Trust me; you will not regret having this in your toolbox. As always, until next time, keep on techin’ . . .

 

P.S. If you are interested, Ashampoo has given away their Home Designer 3 for free this week. All you have to do is apply for a license, via e-mail, after you download and install the program. This is a nice way to try out their CAD programs in greater detail, than just a demo version. The program, along with some details can be found at the following link: https://www.ashampoo.com/en/usd/lpa/download-0367 I hope you check this out, and enjoy this great program for yourself.

Ashampoo 3D CAD Professional 6.60 In-Depth Review:

Ashampoo 3D CAD Professional 6.60 In-Depth Review:

In my last article, I introduced you to the world of Ashampoo 3D CAD Architecture in my last piece. In that article, I shared with you how this family of tools comes in various forms and tiers, which are aimed at distinct types of construction projects and audiences. The first programs that reviewed covered the home, its fixtures, and some light commercial applications. For people who want to branch out of these types of projects, they have a top-tier program that not covers these uses, but almost any type of project that can be visualized or contemplated, including industrial sites and buildings. This fine program is called Ashampoo 3D CAD Professional 6.

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While I have never been an architect or industrial designer, by profession, I did take some of those classes in college. My experiences taught me that these structures have to adhere to stringent requirements in regards to accessibility, energy usage, “flow,” ambient lighting, parking, function, and rigid federal, state, and local ordinances and regulations, among other constraints. This is so much more the case than private residential requirements.

I also had the experience and privilege of studying in an industrial arts building, during my collegiate career, where I learned to photography and develop orthochromatic (black and white) film for paste-up graphic design work. The fascinating structural design that is worth mentioning is that the darkroom was a walk-in camera. Inside of the room were the developing pans, aperture, and a vacuum-assisted film door, that held the film to be exposed to light for each, separate element to be photographed for optical composing. I can only image what must have gone into the designs and laying out the plans for the building, and in particular that camera room.

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In the days that the structure on the campus was built, they had to rely on manual and mechanical techniques (drafting, blue-line/blueprint drawings, optical compositing, etc.), rather than CAD (computer-aided design) methodology. If they had at their disposal the power, versatility, and materials, and plugins that Ashampoo offers in their flagship program, 3D CAD Professional 6, I can only imaging the solutions that they could have come up with for the construction. This is not to knock or denigrate the engineers or architects, who have worked on such projects with older methods, as the one I have highlighted, but rather to show that speed increases, materials testing/cost estimation, could be used to save money, and expedite the timetables for project completion.

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You may be asking yourself, with such power, versatility, and expansive capabilities, why I would go to the expense of selecting this level of program. The answer is multi-fold, and can be broken down in some key areas. Before I explain further, let me reassure you that this program can be for multiple skill levels, so keep that in mind, as I elaborate on my points.

First all, this program is quite capable and useful in a myriad ways. Its inherent versatility can be liked to Adobe Photoshop, in that you can use it in numerous projects, and at various levels. While cost is a factor (not unlike how Adobe has Photoshop Elements to give people access to some key features, at a reduced price), the entry-tier and mid-tier versions of Ashampoo’s products, can offer some features that you want to sample and test the waters, at a lower cost. However, the different costs associated with the full-featured, “expert” programs are worth the expense. These programs will allow any user to grow and expand with the programs, in tandem with their requisite skill level, and 3D CAD Profession 6 fits this bill, perfectly.

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The cost of this program is $379.99 USD, and that cost might give one pause, but keep in mind that is a good value proposition. I have seen many design programs that cost much more than this, and do not do as much, feature-wise. Safe to say, you get what you pay for, and software is no exception. Design software is a fairly costly category of programs, so some cost is expected to occur with these programs, but Ashampoo has done their best to minimize these issues, offering the program in each version that I have reviewed, so their customers only need to buy what they actually need.logo_w10_comp_blue

I know that once you try any of these versions of the 3D CAD program that I shared with you, the last few months; my readers will jump at the chance to get these programs at these fine rates. They do offer demo’s of their programs for you to try, so you can be sure you are getting what you want. Tell them I sent you, and keep on techin’ . . .

Ashampoo 3D CAD Architecture 6.60 In-Depth Review

Ashampoo 3D CAD Architecture 6.60 In-Depth Review

I did an article a short while back, that highlighted the benefits of basic home design software for residential and/or kitchen layouts. Now those fine folks at Ashampoo have released a more full-featured design family. These newer, two levels of software comprise the various applications and approaches, from more advanced home and landscape projects to commercial buildings and solar panel photo-voltaic arrays. Both of these programs can create mutually-accessible files and materials, which can work inter-operator-ability between the programs, and their associated plugins. This works well, in conjunction with the needs of specialized office spaces, kitchens, and universally-accessible structures, which these programs provide for the novice and professional alike.

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The middle-tier, focused program that is inclusive of every major instance of residential and light commercial application, and designed with this in mind is Ashampoo’s 3D CAD Architecture 6. This is an excellent stepping stone from just changing one or two rooms, into a full-fledged home remodel and landscape/hardscape overhaul. If you have ever wondered what would be involved, in terms of material, labor, energy usage,   and general construction planning, this tool has you covered.

Not unlike their Home Designer 3 program, this software allows you to not only layout designs in 2D and 3D formats (blueprints/plans, renderings, accessories), but it has the capability to specify electric grid components/circuitry, and see the utilization in potential action. These calculations can even help you determine the effectiveness of how the solar exposure will impact your energy generation and the offset of the home’s usage, with a photo-voltaic system. This is a very important feature that is only gaining steam, as various municipalities are requiring further self-sustaining “green” energy plans for new and/or remodel construction, requiring clean energy generation and reduced power usage. In addition, implementation of these systems can also qualify the property owner for subsidies and rebates to offset the cost, installation, and operation of “green” energy systems.

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As someone, who lives in a very hot climate in Northern California, USA, I wish I had a home/residence that had such a system in place, along with a geothermal system that would function as an alternate HVAC system. It is my dream someday to live in such a structure. This would augment the added energy usage that I require for my durable medical equipment, and allow me to have extra cooling that might lessen my systems, too.

The feature set of this program does support designs that would fall into the category of light commercial. A good example is my wife’s home-based business. She is a professional illustrator (10 years+), and is in the process of branching out into becoming an author of children’s books. She has used spare bedrooms or dining room tables for her work. However, I could use this program to create her a dedicated art studio, which would incorporate a static place for her to set up to paint (easel, palettes, brushes, paper/canvas, etc.), as well as having dedicated built-ins for reference books, maquettes/models, and her computer equipment. One could make sure that electrical outlets, cable connections (HDMI, TOSLINK/Optical, USB, Display Port, etc.) are at the proper heights and in the correct number. Also natural and artificial light must be incorporated and managed to great effect. This is just one application of this program’s power; there are many others.

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While my disability and my limited mobility affect my ability to do outside work, I would love to have a nice, custom landscape, that would be very wheelchair accessible and friendly access to an outdoor grill and cooking work area. Ashampoo comes to the rescue in this regard, as well, as it allows you to have great flexibility in laying out your landscape plan. You can pick out your materials, colors, plant varieties, and appliances that you want included, and have the program walk you through the steps needed, until you have the patio you have always dreamed of your whole life.

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These are but a few examples, as the limits of what you can do for your home and light commercial projects with Ashampoo 3D CAD Architecture. Such capability in a compact program, it must come with a steep price right? The answer is a nice no. You can have this power at your fingertips for $99.99 USD. If you need more added templates and features, you can add on the Kitchen and Office Catalog Extensions for $14.99 USD, apiece. Basically, for less than $150.00 USD you can have an extension CAD program that will design any home, home office, simple storefront or garden structure that you might need.

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To top it all off, Ashampoo has great customer support, with prompt service, and fast, courteous replies and solutions to all of your needs and questions. While I have never had the need (nor suspect that I will or you will, for that matter), you can always ask for a refund if you are not satisfied; they stand behind what they sell. After all, I know that once you try out this fine program (one of many, many programs they make), you will find that it not only meets your needs, but exceeds them quite nicely. If you think you might need even more designing muscles, and then tune in next time, as I will share with you their top-of-the-line CAD program for all manner of construction/design projects, Ashampoo 3D CAD Professional 6. Until next time, keep on techin’. . .

Ashampoo Kitchen Catalog Extension 1.0 In-Depth Review

Ashampoo Kitchen Catalog Extension 1.0 In-Depth Review

As I wrote to you last week, Ashampoo has created a suite of programs that allow you design your own residence or office, business, or many, other structures that you might need to have in your life. In my initial article, I went over the benefits of having these tools at the disposal of the masses, particularly if you are disabled and need customized adaptations and modifications that are not included in many basic floor-plans.

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In addition, to the base software that I referenced in my prior article, Ashampoo Home Designer Pro 3, the companion program/plug-in, called Ashampoo Kitchen Catalog Extension 1.0, from those same fine folks adds specialized cabinets, appliances, flooring, and other implements needed for 21st. Century homes and offices. While the detail designs in the base program offer many choices, the abundance afforded the final recipient of the built structure will greatly appreciate.

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For many, many years, the central room and “town square” of the home has been the kitchen. Since the days of families gathered around mom or the cook, making three meals a day, from scratch, interacting between the parents and children, between the kids themselves, and sometimes the extended family or neighbors, the most time spent in the home was in the kitchen.

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Fast forward to today, when people are in/out of the home, in their own worlds, on phones, tablets, game consoles, with minimal cross-interaction between members of the household; irrespective of this fact, what time spent in the home, with people talking, sharing, or having a common experience, it most likely will be in the kitchen, with the second choice being in the living room/den. Such emphasis can only be necessary if this room is important, inherently, as it, due to its generational significance and the exchange of information that spans the years.

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Knowing this has been a cyclic constant from way back, having the tools that allow us to cater the layout, appliances, and storage, traffic flow, etc., is a freedom that the disabled have needed, but has eluded them. In being in a wheelchair, crutches, walkers, power chair, getting around your home or a place of business can be a daunting task. In 1990, in the USA, a law was passed called the American Disabilities Act (ADA), which mandated that government and commercial buildings, going forward would have to be more disabled-accessible, plus some modifications and retrofits for previous construction, would be rolled out over the years, going forward.  I am sad to report that while this law was a great step forward, the law should have included residential construction, as anyone, at any age, and at any time can become disabled, and having to retrofit or rebuild a home is daunting and very costly.

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Many people have a basic knowledge of this fact, but when they are able to save up and buy a home or permanent residence, they are disenfranchised in having affordable resources to have “universal access-based” construction planning. Companies, such as Ashampoo and their product families have filled in this gap, and allowed us to have these, previously non-affordable resources made available to us, at a fair price point.  The programs, such as Ashampoo Home Designer Pro 3 and Kitchen Catalog Extension 1.0 are shining examples of these tools, and I am happy to introduce you to them.

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In saying all of the important factors that this tool offers, the cost of Kitchen Catalog Extension 1.0 is very reasonable at only $14.99 USD, which is quite a steal. If you factor in the cost of the main program, Home Designer Pro 3, at $49.99 USD, you can have the full suite of tools to make your home and kitchen your own, in design, for under $100.00 USD; cannot beat that easily. No matter what you need in your home, office, and/or other building; Ashampoo will fit the bill for what you need. Until next time, keep on techin’. . . !

Ashampoo Home Designer Pro 3.30 In-Depth Review

Ashampoo Home Designer Pro 3.30 In-Depth Review

Many people were not very aware of housing and building constraints that affect the disabled, or the modifications they need to be independent, until war, and its effects were put on the world stage, in the early 2000’s. This is getting more exposure, due to many returning home veterans from these recent wars/conflicts, and the help they get from various charitable and government entities. While a tragic by-product of combat, our connected world now has seen that those who have injuries (which modify how they can interact with cabinets, doors, hallways, bathrooms, etc.) need specialized housing, equipment, and accessibility devices. These brave men and women deserve our consideration and help in either obtaining or modifying their homes, so they can remain independent and further support and care for their families, within their homes. They embody how those with disabilities reflect the respect that they disabled deserved, and need to be accommodating to those, who are not as able-bodied as themselves.

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It is a dream of many people to own their own home, especially if they could design it, to their specifications. This is very near and dear to the hearts of the disabled, as well. While many people dream of palatial estates, with numerous stories, diverse rooms, and sprawling grounds; the disabled many times just want rooms that allow them get into them without getting stuck on thresholds, wide enough for their wheelchairs to pass through, cabinets that can be reached from a low position, tubs/showers that do not have to stepped into over lips, etc. These desires are not just for plush comfort, but rather to allow those who are disabled, to be independent and not have to depend on others to fetch their food, bathe them, nor take them room to room. Many times, people do not have someone to be their caregiver, around the clock, so blueprints and architectural drawings that are used for buildings should keep this in mind.

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Having these improvements and design plans should be required, so residences and commercial buildings could be used interchangeably, without costly renovations. Sadly, building codes and typical floor-plans are not made, with these considerations, except in the case of government buildings and commercial structures. Even so, many times, I can tell you, firsthand, the door clearances, thresholds, and traffic flow is not up to the task for easy access, for those in manual wheelchairs.

 

The fine folks at Ashampoo have created a suite of CAD software programs that get thus done, the primary program is called Ashampoo Home Designer 3 Pro. In starting this project, I can tell you that I was overwhelmed and felt ill qualified to design a residence (even with my design background), but the wizard and furnishings that the program provides more than makes up for this apprehensions. Most importantly, these tools can help you brainstorm ideas that you want to incorporate into your dream home, and need for your specific needs. Using the systematic wizard will allow you to set some key parameters, such as your number of floors, basic materials used, and giving your project a rough outline for it to take shape; naming your dream structure will help you make a reality of your goals and dreams tangible.

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If you are need of ideas or basic structures, the program ships with numerous structure and fixture samples. This virtual portfolio will give you a strong sense of going into an architectural firm or design center, and just window shopping or going for your initial consultation; laying the groundwork for how your home can look. I would advise you to choose several different “modal” homes, and use the mouse/keyboard controls to walk through them to better know what actual space you need, and what amenities that you need to properly accommodate your needs, both now and as you and your love ones age. Of note to consider in conjunction with this is to see how your choices in materials, location, and size will be affected by natural light/heat, so you can get an accurate estimate of how much energy consumption the structure might need. This could very well change, as more specialized adaptive devices (rechargeable scooters, lift chairs, stairway lifts, respiration devices/C-PAP machines, etc.) might require additional power and redundant systems to be put in place, and brought online.

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This software is very scalable, with an emphasis on interior designers and architects, but it does offer ideas for the laymen and the intermediate DIY’s alike. Ashampoo believes in this fact so much, they recently had a giveaway version for Home Designer 2.0, to give people a taste of what this program can offer you. If you missed this opportunity, you can still try out their excellent demo version of this program. The retail price for this program is $49.99 USD, and is an excellent value for the money. ashampoo_company_logo01If you need additional options and added fixtures, they have a companion program, called Ashampoo Kitchen Catalog Extension that plugs into this program. I know that once you try this program, and dream about having a universal access home, you will pick up Ashampoo Home Designer 3 without hesitation. As always tell them I sent you, and keep on techin’!

Day-of-Release: Ashampoo Slideshow Studio HD 4.0

Day-of-Release: Ashampoo Slideshow Studio HD 4.0

Two generations ago, family and friends might gather around a projector screen, with a slide projector with a slide rotary caddy. They would take these opportunities to recap trips they went on, things they saw, and people they experienced the events with. As been the subject of numerous parodies and skits, people have been subjected to seeing the same scene, over and over again, with off-handed quotes. You typically hear such things as “Here is Gene, on the right!” Now he is on the left!” “You remember the heat that day, Gene?” What do you think, Barbra?” The purpose of these gatherings was to track and chart the milestones of people’s life.

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Today, the technology is different, but the purpose has carried on into day, with computers, mobile device cameras, optical media (DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K-UHD) and streaming video being the media that these memories are recorded onto for preservation. The scope has been expanded to now encompass the avenues of commerce, education, entertainment, and journalism, in addition to the personal recordings of yesteryear. The learning curve of these software programs has varied over the years, coupled with the available feature sets that they each offer. If you get an easy-to-use program, the features might be limited. If you choose a more full-featured program, you tend to find yourself facing a less-friendly GUI/UX that is much less intuitive and systematic.

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I am glad to report to you, today, that a new, more powerful, and full-featured program has debuted today, from those fine folks at Ashampoo, entitled Slideshow Studio HD 4.0. This great program fully carries forward the fine, long-standing tradition that Ashampoo has come to represent; demonstrated by the craftsmanship you find in this and all of their programs. Not only does have the standard functions you would expect from a slideshow program, but the forward-looking embrace 4K Ultra-High-Definition video standard that is bursting on the scene.scr_ashampoo_slideshowstudio_hd4_simplemode_adapt_to_music

This promises of up to 8x the resolution of 1080P video, with support for High-Dynamic Range (HDR) for extreme life-like imagery and natural shadows, mid-range tones, and highlights. As Hollywood has begun taking this file format as the go-to choice for how they capture our blockbusters, and present them to us for home theater consumption, not many home enthusiasts programs offer this functionality, but Slideshow Studio HD 4.0 comes through for you, in this regard.

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Not only does this software program that has these feature-set, included, but it also introduces the addition of 17 new transition effects, not available in prior versions. If the included transitions and effects that come bundled with the program do not meet all of your needs, post-launch, additional templates will be made available, free of charge from their website. I can attest that having an online depository for specialized templates has been a lifesaver, on several occasions, with other software; I am very looking forward to have this resource for this program available to me and to you, my faithful readers.

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As a faithful user of iOS devices for seven years or so, I need tools and software that allows me to enjoy my media and share it with those in my circle, on these devices. While I have yet to make a mobile-enabled slideshow, with Slideshow Studio HD 4.0, has specialized output settings for these devices, so you have full confidence that your final project will work on these devices, with minimal hassle and problems. For those of you that use Android or other operating systems on your mobile devices, they have output device profiles for those pieces of equipment.

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As you may recall my wife has a home-based art business, and she has branched into tutorials and training videos, in addition to her artwork for sale. She has done videos on Periscope, and uploaded some basic time-elapsed videos of her paintings, but having this tool in her arsenal will allow her to create more polished and professional videos in this vein. I can see that she might very well start laying a narration track over her work, and better explain her creative process to help budding artist reach their potential. I can see that the software’s support of this feature will help her obtain her goal for this purpose.

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Right now, if you purchase this program on the launch day or soon after (which is today, July, 11, 2016), you can have this program for 50% off its regular price of $39.99 USD for a Single-User License. This is a nice savings, and will allow you to become a paying customer for Ashampoo’s products, and might entitle you to future upgrades and discounts on this program, as well as the other members of their product family line. In my opinion, this is well worth the money for such a powerful and versatile program that can be used for personal and professional projects, alike. If you need this program for multi-user environments or for business purposes, you can contact them for a price quote, directly. If you still are not convinced that this is for you, you can use their trial version, and test it out for yourself. As always, keep on techin’!

Gamani GIF Movie Gear 4.3 In-Depth Review:

Gamani GIF Movie Gear 4.3 In-Depth Review:

Social media has grown in importance and significance as the years have gone by, with memes being used to share popular culture and trending topics. Gone are the days of 8-bit (256 colors) simple graphics of the early 1990’s, replaced with 24-bit/32-bit true color images that show HD movies and TV clips of today. Such changes have required file formats to evolve, and animated icons and images are no different. As PNG image formats have supplanted GIF for web images, so too APNG format has began to replace animated GIF’s. Trying to find a qualified program that accomplishes this that is easy to understand, use, and is reasonable priced, is a fairly narrow field. The cream of the crop can be found in Gamani Productions GIF Movie Gear, which supports both the legacy GIF format and the aforementioned APNG formats.

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This program has a very familiar interface that anyone who has familiarity with standard Win32-Bit/Win64-Bit applications can attest. Inset inside of the main window, you can see a sub frame, which allows you to open a file, add frames, or start the tutorial. As you can see, the main window has a toolbar, with File, Edit, Frame, Animation, View, and Help, common to an art program. The thrust of this program is to take a series of still images that you have already created/imported, and turn them into an animation, cursor, or icon. You can also break down an existing animation, and turn it back into individual still images. This program also allows you to blend/merge multiple animations into a single animation that is a hybrid of the originals. Above these options, you can make edits and palate changes to your animations.

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Breaking down individual elements of this program will allow you to better comprehend and understand how these files are created, and the nuances that go into producing professional-grade final images and animations. The tutorial will take you through some sample images, animations, and modifications. I have followed these steps that the program’s author outlines, and as someone who has minimal experience with making animations, I had very little trouble following the instructions. Anyone has any image manipulation experience, can do this with ease. I like how you can take a portion of an image that does not really change between frames and streamline the final animation, by just using the parts that do change. Bottom line, this program has an easy-to-follow, systematic approach that anyone can use.

You may be asking what does a program such as this might cost. The answer may surprise you, as it is only cost $29.95 USD. Many graphic design programs cost well above this price point, and cannot easily do these tasks, with the same ease. This price is for a single-computer license, and entitles you to tech support and extended customer service. If you need this program for corporate environments or multi-computer setups, you can request a price quote for bulk orders. I definitely believe this program is well worth the cost, and I can see putting this in to practice with both creating memes fir social media and potential animations on my blog website.  If you still are uncertain, you can try the program risk-free for 30 days, in a trial/demo version of the program. Check out this program and company and I know that you will agree that Gamani Productions and GIF Movie Gear are well worth your business. Buy this great program, and tell them I sent you. Until next time, keep on animating!

Ashampoo WinOptimizer 14 In-Depth Review:

Ashampoo WinOptimizer 14 In-Depth Review:

As a technician, I know all too well how important routine maintenance on your system is to its overall health. Back from the days of Symantec, and its Norton Utilities and SystemWorks program suites, people have been clamoring for advanced and full-featured tools that augment the operating systems ability to manage their hard drives and registry. As the last twenty years can attest, the growth of the Internet and its transmitted data left behind in people’s systems has only grown the need to add temporary file cleaning and cookie management to system tools, beyond the blocking of malware and pop-ups. While such programs has traditional cost upwards of around $99.99 USD for a single, consumer license, back in the late 1990’s, options available today can be had for less money. You may ask who I should trust with these vital system tasks, the answer is the fine folks at Ashampoo, and their new flagship system utilities suite, WinOptimizer 14.

box_ashampoo_winoptimizer_14_frontThis fine product launches, today, and I can tell you that this program has a nice pedigree of both features and solid customer service/support. At only $49.99 USD for a single license, this program covers the following features and services: Computer Management (info, performance, restore points, processes, etc.), Security (privacy setting, file deletion, file encryption, file splitting, and file restoration), Hard Drive(s) (free space, defragmentation, health status, resource hogs analysis, software uninstallation, duplicate files, speed measurement, etc.), Internet (delete web traces and connection optimization), Operation System (registry clean-up, defrag registry, service management, system settings, icon positions, rick-click menus, file associations, and user permissions), and General Settings (undo changes, maintenance plans, and options). These umbrella categories allow you to protect, tweak, and customize how Microsoft Windows 10 performs for you individual system. While this operating system does have some of these functionalities, it is not as encompassing as WinOptermizer 14 or as user friendly as Ashampoo’s GUI layout across their program family. Breaking down some of these sections will allow me to highlight what each facet of this program suite can be of use to you, my readers, in your daily lives.

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Of primary concern to both business and consumer users is security in the 21st. Century, Internet-connected, inter-operative devices and networks. As I have highlighted before, being able to set limits on data sharing between your computer, operating system, and third parties is a high priority. WinOptermizer 14 has a nice, clean interface that lets you set the different telemetry data restrictions, Cortana (Microsoft’s virtual assistant/search app integrator) limits, and how your apps interact with your personal data. These limits help protect who you are, and what programs you use, to shield companies from using this data for marketing, without your permission.

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A simple menu module that gives each category (where features are held) on the left and various tabs that allows you to make sub-category choices from there, via checkbox. The process is straight forward and very intuitive, even for someone who has any form of disability (such as me), and explains what these changes will mean to the user, and whether or not you want to enable/disable said options. Such straight forwardness is not often found in many security-focused programs, but Ashampoo has made this a priority.

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Along with app/telemetry data protections, WinOptermizer 14 is a strong cookie/temp file deletion program. No matter what browser you might choose to use (Edge, IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari or Opera), the simple, concise module will show you what junk is left behind from your browsing/downloading. Each browser has its own row, so you can be selective of what you remove or leave behind. Most people will want to delete all of their history, cookies, temp files, etc. to best protected themselves from snooping and any nefarious usage of their system on the Internet.

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The likelihood is not high, but with ransonware and new forms of malware being developed all of the time, it is better to be safe than sorry. One added benefit of this habit is it wills the freeing up of hard drive storage consumed by accumulated web debris. I can tell you how quickly these types of files can eat up your drive space. When I was an active on-site tech for a major IT companies, I had a service call, in which I had to start an Internet cleanup sweep for a residential customer. I had to leave it running overnight, and when I checked up on the progress the next day, the customer informed me that he had retrieved back over 3.5 GB of disk space. Not only did that give some breathing room on the drive, but allowed the man and his wife to be able to visit websites without a tremendous slowdown on connection speeds. This is a vital toolset and task that should be done with great regularity.

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I could inundate you with more benefits of a system utility suite, but the program really can speak for itself. The thing I want you to take away from this article is that you need this program in your computer life. No matter if you use everything that this program offers; whatever you choose to implement it is well worth the price tag. As I alluded to you earlier, many programs of this type cost around $100.00 USD, but Ashampoo WinOptimizer 14 only cost half of that price. If you are not certain that you need this program, you can of course try out the trial/demo version. If you act now, they can offer you an extended trial period, to give you extra time to decide if you want to get this great program. Also, as this is a new version of this program, you can buy this for 40% off ($29.99 USD, instead of $49.99 USD). Once you try this program, you will become not only a customer of WinOptimizer 14, but all of Ashampoo, and their product family. Just try this program, and I know you will agree. Until next time, keep on computing. . .

Ashampoo Snap 9 In-Depth Review:

Ashampoo Snap 9 In-Depth Review:

My regular readers will know that I use screen captures, frequently, in my review and product highlights. I have reviewed programs from this software category before, but I wanted to revisit this area, due to some people needing to not only capture static images, but videos/clips. While so far I have not done video tutorials or instructional feeds, the potentiality of being able to do so may spark some creativity in my mind for future applications. Most capture programs that can do static captures or even use the alt-print-screen keyboard shortcuts, if you do not have capture software installed. However, Ashampoo and its software cadre of programs come to the rescue! The great program that takes the lead is Ashampoo Snap 9 and it is loaded with features for all capture duties.

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Screen resolutions are growing all of the time, with a new benchmark being 4K (2160P: 4,096px x 2,160px), becoming the top-tier for consumer and web media production. Most programs top out at 1080P, but not so with Snap 9. This great program can allow to you make screen captures and snaps of your desktop, browser, windows selection, and so forth. This is especially nice, if you are fortunate to have an ultra hi-resolution monitor/TV to work on and create clips. Even if you have a screen size and resolution that you are using, which does not match or too large for your final application usage, you can take this program and size it down for distribution; vital for streaming and downloading on non high-speed connections.

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Resolution aside, a standout of this program is the ability to use OCR text processing with your captures. No matter what languages that you might use in your projects, Snap 9 has support for seven languages (Japanese, English, French, German, Spanish, Turkish, and Russian). Being able to take your captures that contain text and either convert them to usable design elements or isolate them as editable and type-able font excerpts that you can reuse. I have had middling results with OCR before, but I am sure that you will find that Ashampoo’s results with Snap 9 to be great!

 

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For my readers, who might be growing in their skills with more advanced video-making tools, I am happy to report that this fine program has built-in support for major graphic design software suites and social media distribution. If you happen to use video editing software that is compatible with Adobe Photoshop and its file formats, Snap 9 has supports for all layers and objects. You can export to WBEP format and auto-sizing of the content for whatever destination platform or device you are optimizing for.

 

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Social media support allows you to share your captures on Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive, and Twitter. If you have an Ashampoo Web account, you can upload them to the service, and share links to your videos with unique links. If social network platforms are not your speed, Snap 9 can aid you in sending your e-mail, via a dedicated client or through a web-based email service. No matter what way you want to share with people, your clips and captures are going to be up to the task.

 

What does such a full-featured program such as this cost you? The short answer is $49.99 USD, for non-members of Ashampoo products. If you have purchased other products from them, you can pick this up for $24.99 USD, as a reward for customer loyalty. If you are a registered owner of a prior version, you can upgrade for $19.99 USD, also for previous purchases. Unsure if this program is for you, you can try the demo version out first.

logo_w10_comp_blueI know that once you try this, you will buy this without reservation. Ashampoo’s products are time-tested, blogger-approved programs are great, and they have stellar support to backup any issues that may arise. They get my unabashed endorsement, and your usage of them will only grow and grow. If you think of great Windows programs, think Ashampoo!