If you do not have Photoshop and have wondered what is the best way to extract assets and style information without it, then a great new free tool from Adobe called Extract should interest you (and even if you do have Photoshop, this tool may well be of use).
Extract is available as part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud Files, a cloud storage service which offers 2GB of free storage to share files, folders and collaborate — all accessible from your desktop, smartphone or tablet.
Extract is certainly a valuable new tool for web designers and front end developers, and Adobe’s own Creative Cloud blog succinctly describes what Extract does:
‘The new feature in Creative Cloud Files enables Web designers and developers, who work with PSD files, to easily create code-based design from Photoshop CC compositions. That means extracting style information and image assets, copying text and CSS, grabbing color, gradient and font information, measuring distances between elements, and saving optimized image assets for production—with a drag, a drop, and a click of the mouse. From a single PSD file. Directly in Creative Cloud Files.
And the best news: Anyone with a free or paid Creative Cloud account can upload a PSD file to Creative Cloud Files and use Extract. Not only that, but once an Extract link has been shared, the recipient doesn’t need to be logged-in to a Creative Cloud account to pull assets and measurements from the file.’
It’s great to be able to do this simply and effectively in the browser, and it’s extremely intuitive to use. You can try Extract now to get a taster, or take a look at the Extract for PSD to Web Workflows document or the YouTube video.
The halfway point of the year seems a good time for another round up of the latest free WordPress themes. As usual I have steered clear of ‘free’ themes that are so limited that you really to need upgrade to premium to make any use of them. I’ve not tested all the themes, though all the themes look like they are from genuine sources. For themes that are not in the WordPress depository you may want to check them with the Theme Authenticity Checker Plugin or check the theme files at VirusTotal. So here goes:
Limo is an impressive modern free full screen theme from CodexCoder with a good range of features and options that you often only find in premium themes.
‘Limo is a beautiful HTML5 template Designed and Developed by CodexCoder. This template is validated by W3C and we attached lots of Features. Its awesome outlook and effects can easily attract visitors’.
‘Isis is a Simple, Clean and Responsive Retina Ready WordPress Theme which adapts automatically to your tablets and mobile devices. theme with 2 home page layouts,2 header style,10 social icons,4 widget ,Slider,3 page templates – Full width page, 4 google fonts, font-awesome service icon,Upload logo option ….. Isis is suitable for any types of website – corporate, portfolio, business, blog.’
Continue Reading for Themes 3-30
Really like this web page which shows you just how much activity takes place on the net and how quickly across a leading selection of the most popular sites – likes, posts, searches, uploads etc. Go to the page and watch how quickly the stats accumulate.
Click the image to open the interactive version (via pennystocks.la).
It’s been a while since I posted anything on WordPress so here’s a few top WordPress plugins that have caught my eye recently.
Shortcodes Ultimate – there are lots of shortcode plugins out there for buttons, accordions, columns etc but this has to be one of the best and most extensive with 30+ shortcodes. Simple to use and responsive too.
Blue Studio Tiny MCE Widget – open up the possibilities of your widget areas by adding a WYIWYG visual editor widget. Great for clients.
WordPress Visual Slide-box Builder - Add cool hover effects to images or any other type of content. Impressive range of effects for a free plugin.
MailChimp for WordPress – Mailchimp is a great e-newsletter generation tool and this plugin integrates MailChimp subscribe lists with your WordPress site – an excellent combination!
Easy Digital Downloads – excellent free plugin to sell digital products, with add-ons also available.
Change of Name for Long Established Security Plugin
Better WP security has changed its name and look. It’s now known as iThemes Security, and is still a worthy addition to any site.
You’ll find all of the above and many more in my WordPress Plugins directory.
‘Help me get to No.1 on Google’ is a common refrain from new and old website owners. The art of getting a website on the first page of Google’s and other search engine’s search results is, as many of you will know, known as Search Engine Optimisation or SEO. There are many techniques and tactics to achieve this, but over the last couple of years in particular Google has taken on those that use the dark arts or black hat techniques to get their site ranked highly.
In many ways, this has made it more difficult to get to No.1 as it is harder technically to play the system, but in other ways, it has made things simpler – it is the quality of the content of your site that matters most together with the quality of the incoming links to your site.
Here’s the first round-up of new themes for 2014 including some big bold contemporary themes. It’s also good to see many of these themes offering WooCommerce compatibility. All themes are free and responsive.
This looks to be one of the more impressive free themes of late with a real premium look and feel about it. I look forward to giving Bearded from bonfirelab a try.
‘A responsive CSS3 and HTML5 blogging and portfolio theme. It supports all post formats and has layout, and color options built into the theme customizer. The theme also supports the Custom Content Portfolio plugin, giving artists and other creative people the ability to share their work’.
This is a great full screen theme from Themesmarts who are aiming to ‘to create free or open source WordPress themes using the best and free open source resources tools on the net’. This theme, packed with features and options, looks like their best one yet.
‘Simple wordpress themes goes by its name a simple wordpress theme with enough features and options to get your satisfaction a big boost. Simple WordPress theme supports multiple color schemes 5 to be exact and 2 primary color which is dark and white. Its homepage can be fully customized, using a set of shortcodes the homepage can be created uniquely.
Simple WordPress supports 3 types of page templates, Blog template which shows all the latest blog posts, portfolio template which shows the latest portfolio project and lastly is the homepage template which is used to create your homepage’.
Continue Reading for Themes 3-15
HTML Email Marketing
An email marketing campaign is an excellent way to reach more customers, or remind existing ones that you exist. Before you begin though, it really helps to be clear about the purpose of your email (e.g. to sell a product, promote a service, to provide information etc.), and this in turn should help determine who you would like to send it to. For this you will need to develop a targeted email distribution list.
Email Distribution Lists
If you’ve been busy collecting emails from your customers with their permission you have a good start. It’s certainly best if your email distribution list is permission based – that is a list of subscribers who have already giving their permission for you to contact them by email (e.g. by subscribing through your website or other sources). It’s worth putting in some effort to develop and maintain this list so do not miss opportunities to get people to subscribe to your emails.
If you do not have a good list of subscribers, you might be tempted to send out speculative emails. This can be quite contentious and for a good reason – to prevent spam. There are legal pointers to bear in mind (the US has quite stringent rules). However, in the UK and Europe at least, if you are marketing to other businesses (B2B marketing) then you should be OK. Email marketing company, Extravision, gives the following advice (see Legislation to consider when embarking on marketing via email for full article):
‘The good news for you if you are selling and marketing to other businesses is that you can continue to work on an ‘opt out’ basis. This means that you can contact those names you have on your database without needing to gain their permission first.
The legislation allows the member states to choose whether or not to include business emails in the ‘opt in’ rule. The UK government decided that common sense dictates that you shouldn’t need advance permission to contact a business. It also felt that corporations were well placed to protect their systems from unwanted emails.’
You should also make sure that you do not conceal your identity in your emails and provide a free of charge ability to opt out of future emails.
Note that email marketing to individuals, which for legal purposes, includes sole traders and partnerships, should be permission-based i.e. on an opt-in basis. Therefore if you want to market to personal email addresses the recipients must have opted in to receiving your emails.
In terms of security, an up to date WordPress site is fairly robust, but because WordPress is so popular, there are plenty out there looking to exploit any weakness in security. Before you know it, your site could be full of links to Viagra and dodgy pharmaceutical products, or worse. So what can you do to make your site more secure? Here’s a non-technical list of 10 things you can do.
1. Use a security plugin. There are two good free plugins available – Better WP Security and WordFence. Once activated, your site is immediately more secure, but the settings provide further enhancements which do not take very long to set up.
2. Don’t use admin as your user name – it gives half the game away! And ensure strong passwords – non-dictionary, with numbers and characters. This can help protect you against ‘brute force attacks’which aim to gain access to a site by trying passwords and usernames over and over again.
Continue Reading to View Steps 2-10
It’s been a couple of months since my last round-up of free WordPress themes and a quick check around the sites reveals there’s been a surprising amount of good new themes released recently. Some of the following themes are still quite fresh so bear that in mind if you are thinking of using them – most of the developers will welcome any feedback and suggestions for improvements. The themes are all responsive and it’s noticeable that Bootstrap is being used as the basis for more and more themes.
This looks to be a truly impressive free theme with a host of features usually seen in premium themes. The full screen front page slider looks great plus there’s a load of widgets and use of Page Builder to help create customised layouts. It’s a popular theme with 25,000 downloads in 5 weeks.
‘Vantage is a flexible multipurpose theme. It’s strength lies in its tight integration with some powerful plugins like Page Builder for responsive page layouts, MetaSlider for big beautiful sliders and WooCommerce to help you sell online. Vantage is fully responsive and retina ready. Use it to start a business site, portfolio or online store’.
Another very impressive free theme, Openstrap utilises the Bootstrap Framework, and offers a whole host of features with plenty of widgets and page layouts.
‘The Openstrap theme for WordPress developed on top of Twitter Bootstrap Framework. The theme is fully responsive and can be viewed on any device. Openstrap theme provides 6 different layouts for posts and pages, 11 widget areas, 3 strategic menu locations, nicely designed and customizable footer with its own widgets’.
Continue Reading to View Themes 3-15
By all accounts, the latest substantial update for the well-established photo gallery plugin, NextGEN (over 7 millions downloads!) has been a disaster. The update promised much, but has delivered little, with broken and buggy sites now scattered over the web. For the moment, this plugin is best avoided. If you are currently using it, don’t update to version 2.x, and stick with the older versions.
NextGEN has been one of the best plugins for many years but was recently taken over by Photocrati, who have clearly struggled to make the worthy looking improvements they were seeking. Let’s hope they can sort it out as although there are many gallery plugins out there, NextGEN was the most comprehensive, especially for free, which also makes you wonder about Photcrati’s decision to bring out a Pro version at the same time as the update.
See the WordPress reviews for the plugin to get a taster of some of the problems the update has created, whilst as of today, it is worth noting that only 180 of 1,630 support threads have been resolved in the past two months.
If you need to go back to an earlier version, Next GEN do provide guidance on how to rollback a version. If you have updated successfully or have been using the Pro version and like it, please let me know, so we know that’s it’s not all doom and gloom!
UPDATE EARLY 2014: NextCellent Gallery
NextCellent Gallery – NextGen Legacy – the 2013 NextGen upgrade has led to this fork from the original, which has 40,000 downloads in a few months, and is getting good reviews.
If you have Nextgen and want to change then this article – So Long NextGen – may help.