Creating Screen Capture Animated GIFs for Mac OSX

I regularly create short, animated GIFs of my computer screen to illustrate tutorial blog posts that I write. An animated GIF can be such a simple yet effective tool for web based tutorials but they can be a complete pain to create.

Creating Screen Capture Animated GIFs

I’ve recently come across a new and FREE piece of software that has made the process so incredibly easy. Whereas I have historically had to record a video of my screen actions (with a video screen capture tool) and then use another piece of software to convert the video to GIF, usually with an horrific loss in quality, I can now complete the action in one go.

LICEcap is so easy to use and creates impressive quality output, quickly. You simply open the application, which reveals a transparent window frame that you can move and resize. You then press the record button on the bottom right of the window frame and perform your action. Press stop when you’ve finished and your GIF is ready to go.

NB – My mac is set to open GIFs in preview by default but in order to view the animation in its full glory you will need to open in a web browser such as Safari.

Here is an example of a short GIF I created using LICEcap to demonstrate how to create a pivot table using Microsoft Excel for Mac OSX.

Animated GIF from screen capture

I am very happy with the quality of this GIF and the ease of production was impressive.

Image Compression

As I’ve created quite a large GIF I have chosen to compress it using an equally simple program called ImageOptim. Download and run this program and then drag and drop your GIF (or indeed any image file) to immediately compress without any apparent loss in quality. I achieved a 10% reduction in size with Pivot Table tutorial but it ImageOptim claim that reductions up to 50% are achievable.

Here it is in action.

image_optin

I also run Windows 10 on my Mac so that I can run a decent version of excel. Happily LICEcap also has an excellent windows version.

ImageOptim doesn’t so you might find this in depth review of cross platform image compressors to be useful.

Ripping Off I Done This Journalling with Day One

One of my New Years resolutions was to start journalling. The daily practice of writing is widely considered to improve one’s psychological well being but my main reason for starting a diary relates to my absolutely appalling memory which would have less power to rob me of exciting experiences if I had a journal to glance over.

I didn’t intend spending hours with a quill and leather bound notepad, penning a diary of great literary worth. In fact my initial resolution said I was to spend 5 mins jotting notes with the latest app du jour – IDoneThis.

I Done This is a great idea, it started as an email based work productivity tool – teams would be emailed at the end of each day with the question “What did you do today?” It can be a great management tool so you can unobtrusively keep in touch with progress but it also encourages a shift in focus towards a more Get Things Done attitude.

IDoneThis iPhone app for getting things doneI Done This have translated the concept to a free iPhone app which allows you to achieve similar benefits on a personal level. I’ve been using it since the beginning of the year and it has invaded my life in a very positive way. I’m ticking tasks off and starting the day thinking what do I want to achieve today – what do I want to add to the “I Done This” list?

The downside with I Done This is its lack of visual appeal and portability of data. It’s a beautifully simple app that does the job required of it but I have a weakness for apps that offer at least as much style as substance, and this one just doesn’t excite me. The biggest draw back for me though is the lack of a dropbox sync feature, or other means to extract the data I’ve entered. I don’t like the idea of investing days, months or years into a single app that I become effectively locked into.

It may be that I’m doing the app a disservice, it does sync to the IDoneThis website and although I haven’t explored this, its quite possible that I could export my data from here. Its not intuitive enough though, so primed by multiple blog reviews singing the praises of Day One, I went off to investigate.

It’s not a fair comparison, but in contrast, Day One is a beautiful app that flows seamlessly across all your mac gadgetry. It is by far and away the most adept journal app available for mac.

Day One journalling app for getting things doneBecause of it’s tagging functionality, Day One can handle all of your logging requirements so it doesn’t have to function as a one dimensional personal diary. The Day One blog features multiple uses for the journal such as travel journal, ideas journal, reading log, research journal etc.

I’ve set up an “IDT” tag as a direct rip from IDoneThis and capture daily bullet points of achievements worthy of mention. It’s a low demand way to start journalling with no pressure to write anything too worthy. It does encourage you get things done though. I don’t want to open the app at 8pm and struggle to populate even the first bullet point.

Now that I’ve been doing this for nearly 2 months I’ve developed the journalling habit and my list of tags are spiralling.

I just wish I’d started this earlier.

3 Twitter Tools to Test

Here are 3 tools to enhance your twitter experience. Let me know if you use them already or have found better ways to achieve the same functionality.

I currently let friendfeed handle the linking of flickr uploads to twitter but it’s not ideal. FF alerts the world to my first uploaded image in any batch and I can’t control whether it should be twittered or not. Twittergram on the other hand will only set up a tweet post for images that I have tagged with the word twitter. That has another bonus – if I’ve bothered to tag the photo I will probably also have named it so it will prevent all those messy img2036.jpg style links.

TweetBeep can be a great ego boosting device, sending email notifications whenever you, your website or products are mentioned in a tweet. It’s even able to pull out your website address from a shortened URL, although the domain alerts are only available for premium subscriptions. Of course it doesn’t have to be all me,me,me you are at liberty to enter any search term of interest for your regular notifications.

Favrd is a website providing a time line of all the most favourited tweets and as such provides a very handy way to pick up a few more interesting tweeps to follow. I’ve just found the gay @DerrenBrown – welcome.