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Programs, Tools & Utilities To Help You Design Your Website

For those of you thinking of designing your own website, apart from using web editing and blogging platforms such as Dreamweaver and WordPress etc.. there are a few other helpful tools and utilities that can help you along the way.

Most web editors, whether free or commercial give you the ability to place images, flash movies, sound and other media on your website but do not give you the ability to create, edit and manipulate them in order to prepare them for publication.

On a basic level, you may want to insert an image or video into your web site or blog that you have taken yourself or perhaps found on the web. Often these image sources come in different sizes and formats that are not ideal and you’ll need the relevant software to edit them.

To give you and idea of what is available out there, here’s a few things you might want to look into.

Image and Video Capture Software

Capture software allows you to capture just about any image or video you see on your screen. Very handy for sourcing media from files and the internet to place on your website or share with others. There is lots of free capture software available on the net such as Snagit, iQuick Screen Capture and Screen Hunter for example, and many pc’s and laptops come with built in features that allow you to do this on a basic level such as Vista’s snipping tool, which is located in the Accessories folder on your Start >Programs menu.

Most free screen capture programs allow you to snip and edit images for free and on a very limited basis but can be upgraded for a fee enabling you to capture more complex media such as videos, scrolling screens, flash videos as well as recording on screen actions and various other elements in different shapes and sizes. In the past I have used Snagit and found it to be a great utility packed with lots of features.

Image Creation and Editing Software

Creating images to suit the needs of your website, as well as editing those you have sourced externally is something all web masters need to be able to do on a regular basis. Adobe Photoshop has lead the way for many years in desktop image creation and manipulation and is widely regarded as the industry standard for graphics professionals. Used extensively in the commercial publishing industry for editing magazine, advertising and sales images, modern desktop publishing applications such as Photoshop CS4 allow graphic designers to use techniques such as airbrushing, layering, colour manipulation and masking to touch up, airbrush and alter images in unbelievable ways in order to obtain perfect images for the viewing public.

Professional desk top publishing applications can be very expensive, and in some instances almost too powerful for the average user who usually only requires an application capable of basic image editing to do the job required. The current versions available for most Adobe products is now CS4, but previous versions such as CS3 and lower can be purchased at reduced prices and are still remarkably powerful pieces of editing software. Students can also obtain versions of this software at special knockdown rates.

There are also many cheaper design utilities and other free web applications you can use for image editing such as Picnic or Splashup for example, that also do a reasonably good job. Here’s a few to give you an idea of what is available.

If you want to stick with Photoshop but haven’t got a big budget, Adobe have created Photoshop Elements, which is a lower priced consumer version packed with the most useful features of the professional application, but without the frills. Still a great piece of software.

Video Editing Software

If you are intent on making your own videos, you’ll need some decent video editing software to create, edit and publish your video creations. If you’re after a full blown professional video editing application that can accomplish complex editing procedures such as chroma key (blue/green screen), graphics, fx, titles, picture in picture (PIP), transitions and much more as standard, you might consider trying out Adobe Premier Pro CS3 or 4. It is an expensive but incredibly versatile piece of software, capable of producing videos of professional standard even on a home PC.

Adobe also have a lower end budget version of this software called Premier Pro Elements.

Again, there are many other free or inexpensive video editing programs out there which will do an adequate job, allowing even the most inexperienced user on a low budget the capability to achieve good results.

Windows Movie Maker is one of the most popular free editors around and comes equipped with numerous titles, transitions and fx that you can use to spice up your videos. If you want the capability to add more complex fx such as chroma key, PIP and advanced transitions to your WMM videos, then by purchasing and downloading various add ons such as Shader TFX (Vista), PIP Plus and other dedicated plugins, you can add many excellent fx to the basic free Movie Maker application for comparatively very little outlay. Check out Rehan’s Movie Maker Corner for more information.

Full Production Suites

If you have the means, full professional production suites designed to give the user total control from start to finish of the whole creative process involved in illustration, flash animation, video editing, sound production, web design and just about every other aspect of desktop publishing, are available for a significant outlay. Adobe Creative suites and Master Collections comprise of complete professional design packages and can cost hundreds if not thousands of pounds depending on which you buy.

Although they are expensive, the complexity and power of these applications is pretty much unequaled by most other design products on the market today. If you are not professionally trained to use them, expect to spend many hours learning the ropes before you start to unleash even the slightest the potential of these monster applications. Once you do, you will have the ability to create almost anything you can imagine.

If you are not sure about any of the products I have mentioned in this post, check out their websites, especially Adobe’s and download a few trial versions of their products. You’ll have a month or so to test them out and see if they are right for you.

Other Posts of Interest

Web Design – The Essentials
Domain Name Purchasing
Web Hosting
Comment Scripts
Helpful Resources

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