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Thursday, November 20, 2014

When Business Is Slow, Find An Important Project to Complete

A week from now it will be a holiday here in the United States and that means most of us will be with family and friends eating massive quantities of comfort food. Growing up in Kansas, I typically found that Thanksgiving meant cold weather and it wasn't uncommon to have snow. My first Thanksgiving in Arizona was held outdoors which was a great change. Since then I've had the chance to enjoy it on a beach in Maui, in the freezing cold and darkness of Alaska and even among the revelry in Las Vegas. While each experience was different, the idea of being with our family and friends was the same. I hope each and every one of you has a great holiday!

For some businesses, the holidays are crazy busy. Retail stores are a perfect example. On the other side, service businesses are often quiet around the holidays. I use times like to work on special projects since I know it can be quiet around the office. For example, I installed Windows 8.1 on one of our office computers over the Thanksgiving holiday last year. It wasn't a task that required a lot of my time. I'd start an installer and then get back to something else. Most importantly, it didn't disrupt business in any way.

This year I don't think I'll have a project like that, but I'll probably put in a little time on some new Web sites to be launched in the near future. Not only do I have a work project, I'll also probably try to get a few things crossed off my never-ending to-do list at home.

I bring up my process to get you thinking a bit about what tasks you might do in the days when your business is slow. Loyal readers know that I'm a huge proponent of backing up your computers regularly. If you are not doing it or doing it very infrequently, maybe that downtime is the perfect occasion to put a better plan in place. Of for those of you who "never have the time" to learn some new software tricks, spend an hour or two learning during your business downtime.


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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Everyone Should Have a Wacom Tablet, Here Are the Two Best Options

Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Small TabletI've been using a tablet as my primary pointing device on my computers for more than twenty years now. Don't confuse a graphics tablet with a tablet computer such as iPad or Samsung Galaxy Note. We're specifically talking about a device that in many ways replaces your mouse usage. Except it doesn't have to completely replace your mouse.

What exactly do you do with a mouse? You move your cursor around the screen and mix in left, right and double-clicks to execute certain actions. In graphics software, your cursor is used to draw and/or edit graphics. One phrase I've uttered hundreds (maybe even thousands) of times in a training class is "did you learn to draw with a crayon or a bar of soap?"

For me, a mouse is nothing more than a bar of soap with buttons. Whereas the pen supplied with a graphics tablet represents a very powerful crayon. While there are multiple tablet brands, this is one category where one brand is so far above the others that you shouldn't even consider the lesser brands. You should get a Wacom brand tablet and the only choice is the size and feature set you desire. Obviously your budget does play a part in the decision, but consider that a good tablet can easily last a decade or more.

Wacom Intuos Pro Pen and Touch Medium TabletFor this post, I've chosen the two tablets from which the majority of users should choose. The top photo is the Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Small Tablet and it is selling for $84.95 at Amazon as I write this. The area in which you draw on the tablet is approximately 4" x 6". It doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of its bigger brother, but it is a great way to get started with a tablet and I doubt you'll find any features missing.

The bottom photo is the Wacom Intuos Pro Pen and Touch Medium Tablet and it is selling for $300.99 as I write this. It has a larger drawing area of approximately 6" x 8". You'll also notice a row of buttons on the tablet that can control functions on your computer. This is the size I have used for years now and it is perfect balance between size, price and functionality.

Whether drawing vector graphics or editing photos, I find the pen to give me far better control over the cursor which allows me to get projects done faster and with better quality. If you'd had issues with carpal tunnel, you will probably find that using a pen is a lot less stressful on your wrist than long hours pushing a mouse around your desk.

For those who are new to a tablet, it may take a day or two to adjust to using the absolute positioning of a tablet over the relative positioning of a mouse. Once you've made the adjustment, it is very easy to switch between the two pointing devices. While I use a tablet almost exclusively, I still have a mouse attached to my computer as a backup pointing device. Yes, both can be used on the same computer!

Some of you may have an older tablet that has seen better days. Maybe it is time you considered getting a newer tablet. Regardless if you are new to tablets or a veteran, these are the two tablets from which I'd suggest you choose.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Resolving Conflict Between WordPress, WooCommerce and Theme

As part of yesterday's blog, I told you that we are working on more projects with clients to help them with their presence on the Web. Those of you who read a little deeper found that we are using WordPress as part of our Web site building projects. It can make many tasks easier, though it can be extremely frustrating when trying to resolve a problem.

Last week brought a problem that was a real head scratcher. Adding features to a WordPress site can be as simple as installing a plug-in. Some plug-ins are free and others have a cost. To add a store to a site, WooCommerce is a popular solution because the base product is free. Of course there are numerous ways to add more power by purchasing add-ons.

If you have a store on a site, you want pictures of the products, right? Well for some odd reason we were not able to add a primary picture for products. After going to Google and searching for answers, I found the part of the interface to add the pictures was just flat-out missing. Some of the articles provided suggested solutions though I couldn't find a solution that was relevant to this specific situation.

The other aspect of WordPress that makes it popular is the ability to install a "theme" to control the overall look of the site. Some themes are free and some have a cost. Often we will look at Themeforest as they have a wide variety of WordPress themes from independent authors. As part of the research on this specific problem, I contacted the author of the theme used on the site and was informed a fix to our problem was included in a newer version of the theme.

Installing theme updates isn't always as easy as I would like it to be. Yet another one of the frustrations that can be experienced with using WordPress. There are various ways to update a theme and each has its pros and cons. I found the easiest solution was to install another plug-in geared towards a quick method to update themes. This plug-in made it easy to update the theme to the updated version with the product image fix. After the fix, the "set featured image" option was available in the WooCommerce interface (shown above right) so we could add the primary picture to a product. Woo hoo, problem solved!

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Name Your Software, Backup Your Computer and a New Service

It's been a while since I've answered questions from the mailbag. Unfortunately I think two of the topics are going to sound like a broken record because they are topics I talk about quite often.

Name Your Software

I continue to be baffled by users who are completely unable to name the product about which they have a question. There is no such product as "Corel X3" or "Corel X5" or anything else where all you provide is the name of a company that makes software. Feel free to insert Adobe or Microsoft with a random version number and it is the same thing. Please read Why Is It So Difficult For Users to Name Their Software.

Sometimes the users are asking a question about how to do something in a product. There are times I can guess what they are asking about, but oftentimes there is no way to know without the name of the software. Other times users are asking about one of our products. Unfortunately no attempt is made to name the product that there is just no way to guess. This frustrates me as I want to provide help and I'm sure it frustrates the person asking when I have to ask for more information.

Some of you are probably grumbling and making excuses about why you can't provide the actual name of the software. It isn't that hard! Just do it and it makes things easier for all of us.

Backup Your Computer

I frequently talk about hardware and software to backup your computer. Many of you still don't ever backup your computer. I had a call last week from someone really upset about losing something when unfortunately they had done absolutely nothing to backup their computer. If you have never had a hard drive fail (or get eaten by malware), you are very lucky. It will happen to you. You will lose a lot of data. You will be very upset. So quit making excuses and backup your computer regularly starting right now!

Need some suggestions for software and hardware? Please read Network Attached Storage (NAS) Secures Data and Backup, Seagate Portable 2TB USB Backup Drive and Disconnect Backup Drives to Protect Data.

New Service Offered

We haven't really talked a lot about it, but we added a new service on our site last week. People have often asked me about what I'm going to be doing now that I will not be writing any new CorelDRAW books. Behind the scenes we have been providing a variety of Web services for clients, we just hadn't really listed it on our site as a service. If you need some help with Web solutions, please get in contact with us and allow us to help you!

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Corel's "Extreme Black Friday" Deals Available Early

As I watch the news, I see stories of stores opening on Thanksgiving Day to start their special holiday deals. I'm one of those people who doesn't go into the stores at all on the "busy" days because I don't want to deal with hassle of the huge crowds. Luckily for people like me, the early start to the deals also extends to online shopping. Corel has passed along their best deals to me and with this post, I'm sharing them with you. If you've been waiting to get one of these products, bargains are out there. I was not provided with exact end dates on these days, though I'm guessing the deals expire in the very near future so take advantage while you can.

Buy Corel Painter 2015 For the products that I felt would interest you the most, I provided a banner. There are other products available and I'll include a list of those deals below.
Save up to 40% + Get FREE BONUS items!I'm sure some other companies will be providing me more deals in the next week and I'll make sure to pass along those that I think are of interest to you. Typically there are also deals that only last for a day or two right around Black Friday or Cyber Monday. All I can suggest is that you make sure to check the posts every day so you don't miss out. I always hear from someone after the deals expire asking why I didn't tell them earlier and I don't want you to be that person this year.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Warm Up to the Points West NF Free Font

Download Points West NF FontWith the bitter cold that is hitting a large part of the United States, you may be tempted to go to points west (like our home in Arizona) to find some warmth. While actually getting away to the west may be hard, we thought you might get some warmth from the free Points West NF font. Get your free copy!

Not sure how to download and install these free fonts? Make sure to read Downloading Fonts, Installing Fonts and Spam Filters for detailed instructions. Need help setting up an account for free stuff? Read Do You Have Account For Free Stuff On Graphics Unleashed?

Important Note for Firefox users: You may get an error telling you the source file can't be read. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the file on our server. A recent update to Firefox seems to be causing this error. We have tested the download with other browsers and it works perfectly. Follow-up: In the past week, an update to Firefox was released and our testing shows that the download errors have gone away with this update.
Download Points West NF Font

Points West NF

Points West NF Character Chart Downloadable Product
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Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Is Your Three Year Cycle?

A few months ago I did a CorelDRAW Unleashed Training Session for a company whose products are on a three year update cycle. There are a variety of training materials from books to DVDs to live training presentations. Within those materials are a lot of graphics.

Once a cycle is complete, they look for ways that they can improve the materials for the next cycle. With the information they provided, I helped them put together a list of changes to implement. Recently they contacted me about some more improvements and we'll put together more plans to cover those changes.

Maybe your cycle is much short and maybe it is much longer. It could also be that you never update any of your designs. No matter what you are doing, it is still good to look back at previous projects and put together a plan for how you can make improvements going forward. Those improvements could be ways to have a better design or they could be methods for getting things done quicker. In all likelihood, it is some combination of both.

If you haven't done anything in a while to update your designs or process, plan some time in the near future to give everything a good long look. You may find that you are doing a great job already and very few changes are needed. Or you could come up with some tweaks that will benefit you and your clients greatly. Until you take time to give it a look, you might never know.

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