Agile Update – Week 19

My new class finally started this past week Tuesday. It’s a true night class, 6:00 – 10:00 pm, once a week, so much closer to what I’m used to, and it’s only 7 weeks – so quite compressed. The class is in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Much to my surprise – we started with Illustrator, Adobe’s Vector Graphics program. I’m also finding that I enjoy working with Illustrator – I had a lot of fun in the computer lab just playing with the program, and the various backgrounds, fills, effects, textures, and “symbols” (what Illustrator calls clip art). So, for professional development I attended class on Tuesday, then worked in the lab every afternoon Weds through Friday. Unfortunately, the lab isn’t open on the weekend. On Friday, I did get the main homework assignment completed though.

However, even with class and homework – exercise wasn’t forgotten. I exercised three days this week, two 30-minute Yoga sessions and one 20-minute Pilates session. I probably should have tried to exercise once over the weekend, but it didn’t happen.

What I did do over the weekend was research and download free graphics software. I downloaded Inkscape , an Open Source version of Illustrator with a GNU license. I played with it on both Saturday and Sunday and had a lot of fun. It’s going to take me awhile to get used to it – and it doesn’t have every feature that Adobe Illustrator has, but it’s a good program, and fairly intuitive. I’ve had GIMP for awhile (It’s an Open Source version of Photoshop) and I’ve bought a book for it. Plus, once I actually go through the Photoshop unit of this class, I’m hoping GIMP will make a bit more sense.

Then I discovered a company called Serif. They have their own versions of the entire Adobe suite, and you can download the programs individually. The programs are:  Page Plus (InDesign), Web Plus (Dreamweaver), Draw Plus (Illustrator), Photo Plus (Photoshop) and Movie Plus (movie editing). Unfortunately, the software is not open source, and to do more useful things, you need to purchase the full version of each program. The good news is the price for the full version is reasonable, under $100 each (like $95 – $98 for Page Plus and Draw Plus – each), and because the software is downloaded separately, you can prioritize and pay the upgrade fee over time and only for the programs where you might need the full version. I also had trouble installing both Photo Plus and Movie Plus, and will have to try again at another time. But Page, Draw, and Web Plus installed just fine and those were what I most needed. It does seem like the upgrades are pretty much required. Page Plus has a limit of four pages – so it can’t be used for e-books or even longer magazines (the full version removes this limit), and it only saves in it’s default format – no exporting to .pdf or EPUB (again something the full version has). Draw Plus also has limitations. Still, it’s nice to know there are alternatives out there, and Page Plus was much nicer than Scribus (open source desktop publishing but a major disappointment). If anyone has recommendations for other free or low cost Graphic Design programs, please mention them in the comments – with a .url if possible. One cavaet, for me personally – it must be downloadable software (or something you can buy on DVD/CD) I cannot use Cloud software because of my satellite Internet – it’s literally impossible. Even if I could afford the outrageous amounts of money Adobe wants – their “Creative Cloud” is impossible for me to use on my machine because of my Internet.

My writing and blogging didn’t suffer either. I think having a definite schedule helped. I posted three posts to WordPress this week, including two movie reviews on both Blogger and WordPress, as well as my regular weekly Agile post. My movie project is coming along. It’s interesting, what was originally meant to be a one-year project reviewing 166 movies, is well into Year Five, but the upside is that the entire project will over over 200 movies. I’m also putting together my reviews into an EPUB book for myself at least. That started as a portfolio piece for InDesign, but it’s grown – and it’s why I would really like to find a good InDesign alternative I can afford and use. I also wrote a book review on GoodReads, see the widget on the lower left of this blog to find links to all my book reviews.

So for this week the plan is to exercise 3 – 5 times this week, continue working on my new class, write 3 – 5 blog posts, plus an additional one for Nix Studios, and even try to play with the design software I’ve downloaded. Additionally, I have a STC magazine to read. All and all, things are going very well!

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