How Great is MS Office Mix

office mixI first met Office Mix a few years ago, before I had the required Office 2013 or higher. I loved the demo I watched, cried a bit that it wouldn’t work for me, and then forgot about it. Now that I’ve upgraded to Office 365, I’m eager to use all the features that got me so excited back then.

Before I get into those, let me back up for those who have never heard of Office Mix. It’s a free PowerPoint add-on that turns your existing PowerPoint slideshow program into a fully-featured presentation tool. Using the traditional slide decks you love, you can now collect all the resources required for a presentation, webinar, or book launch into one place including video (book trailer), narration (book blurb), audio (author interview), form (sign up for the blog hop), screen captures, photo albums (images related to your book), and more. Just like with PowerPoint, you start with either a blank slide or a professional-looking template. Once the slide deck is completed, you share it via link or embed it as a slideshow or video on any device.

Because Mix uses audio and video tools to communicate ideas, users are eager to view the result making it a perfect addition to a book marketing program.

How to get started

To get started, download the add-on from the Mix website. When you open PowerPoint, Mix will appear on the toolbar, toward the right side. Click and you’ll find the features that have made Mix a new favorite digital tool with so many educators.  You can watch a collection of how-to videos, but if you’re in a hurry, Mix is intuitive enough to skip right to the “get started” step.

Pros

Because most people already use PowerPoint, this feels natural. There’s nothing tricky; in fact, it’s intuitive and easy.

I like that you can include a Discussion Board, encouraging readers to add their thoughts and react to those of others.

Mix videos can be downloaded as .mp4s making them easily used in a wide variety of places, including a YouTube channel.

Cons

Mix allows you to embed a web page into a slide, which is cool, but it only allows those with https — the designation for secure sites. I was surprised how many sites don’t include that and were, therefore, unable to be shared.

You have to have MS Office 2013 or above to run Mix. This isn’t really a “con”, more of a warning.

Writing applications

There are dozens of authentic uses for Mix in your writing. Let me share the top three mentioned to me by my community:

  1. Use the screen recording tool to capture just a portion of a longer video (from, say, YouTube) and embed that into a slide.
  2. Videos recorded using the screen recording tool can be saved as a stand-alone video and embedded wherever you need (keeping in mind appropriate copyright protections) such as your book’s website or blog.
  3. Rejuvenate slideshows you created in the past by uploading them to your 2013 or later PowerPoint and “Mix” them by adding video, screencasts, audio, whiteboards, and more.

Overall, Mix is one of the most exciting free tools from Microsoft in years. It’s one of many of the free add-ons now available through MS Office and reason enough to update to MS Office 2016.

More on Microsoft tools:

8 Ways to Use Minecraft in Your Classroom

OneNote–the all-in-one digital notetaking app

Tech Tips for Writers #100: Top Nine MS OfficeTips


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 20 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning. Read Jacqui’s tech thriller series, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days.

Advertisements

Great Writing Tool: Google Docs

Google Docs is a free word processing program that does 99% of everything a writer will ever need to do–write, edit, rewrite, and re-edit. If you have a Gmail account, you have Google Docs. It is part of Google Drive which you access through the nine-dot array in the upper right corner. Or, through the link: http://drive.google.com.

Google Docs operates in the cloud so there are no download foibles, pesky maintenance, or expensive yearly upgrades. While it does have a moderate learning curve (no worse than MS Word), once traveled, writers quickly adopt it as their own and find many reasons why this becomes their favorite tool. The end result is a writing tool that is powerful, robust, scalable, and free.

Here are the top eleven reasons why you might agree, from the writers I talk to:

Always up

I’ve never had the experience of logging into Google Docs and having it not open. On the other hand, I have often experienced that heart-stopping occurrence with MS Word when a doc has become corrupted for no reason I can tell. Using Google Docs has probably added years to my life just in the lowered stress levels.

Always on

Because work is created and shared in the Cloud, users can access it from Internet-connected locations and devices by logging into their Google account. The latest version of their document is there, waiting. No worries about forgetting to save it to a flash drive or the email you sent to yourself didn’t arrive. This is great for writers who work on their manuscript at their job and home.

Autosave

Google Docs automatically saves in the cloud as you work. There’s no need to Ctrl+S to save or scream when the power goes down and you haven’t saved for thirty minutes. Google takes care of that, auto-saving to their servers where you easily find all your work in one location.

google docsCollaborative

Google makes it easy for groups to edit a document simultaneously. Up to fifty people can add comments, revise, and format at the same time. This is great for group writing projects and when you are making changes with your editor.

Easily shared

You can share the file to anyone (like your editor) with a Gmail address to be viewed only or edited. You can also share by embedding the document into a blog, wiki, or website where people can view or edit (depending upon the permissions you award). If you are a freelance journalist, this makes it easy to collaborate on a piece, share with others, and keep everyone up-to-date in a fluid environment.

Research options/reference tools

The Research functions activate in the right sidebar when you select ‘Research’ from the ‘Tools’ drop-down menu, click Ctrl+Alt+Shift+I, or simply right-click on the word you want to research. From this one location, you can search online for articles, images, or quotes. When you insert directly from the sidebar, it will automatically add a citation as a footnote, referencing where you found your data. 

Citations

These are added automatically when you find information through the Research tool. This makes it easy to credit sources for non-fiction and freelance articles.

Reviwriting with google docssion history

Google Docs automatically keeps track of all revisions made to a document by anyone involved in the edit/write process. You can find this option under File>See Revision History (or click Ctrl+Alt+Shift+H) and it comes up in the right sidebar. From there, you can review revisions and restore to a prior edition of your article or novel. To be fair, MS Word has this also, but I’ve found it glitchy at best. In fact, more often than not, I have no history to click back to. I think MS Word 2016 is much improved, but haven’t experienced it yet. Anyone know?

Great for writers workshops

There is no easier tool to use if you teach Writer’s Workshops. With Google Docs, participants write, peer edit, and work together seamlessly. They are productive, energized, and dynamic.

Lots of add-ons to personalize the experience

By partnering with third-parties, Google Docs is able to provide an impressive collection of enhancements, modifications, and extensions. You can find the entire list by clicking the Add-ons menu tab and selecting Get add-onsTo find what you’re looking for, you can search for a keyword, sort the add-ons into different categories, or simply browse. A few of my favorites are Thesaurus, EasyBib Bibliography Creator, Open Clipart, FlubarooGoogle Keep, and LucidCharts

Works with MS Word

You can open MS Word documents in Google Docs to view (much as you view documents in cloud locations like Carbonite) or convert them to Google Docs to edit and share. Sure, there will be some changes, but not a lot (unless you’re an MS Word power user). You can also open Google Docs in MS Word.

***

If you have a Gmail account, you already have the Google Docs program. Simply click on the Omni box (the nine little dots in the upper right of your Gmail screen) and select ‘Google Drive’. Once you’re there, you’ll have the option for creating a New document, one of which is a Google Doc. Problems? Leave a comment below. I’ll see if I can help.

More on Google Drive Apps

Embed Google Docs


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

The Writers Circle: Writing in Early and Secondary Education

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

Whether it’s a book report or a literary analysis, essay writing is a common experience in schools as kids are growing up. However, creative writing isn’t always a required component of classes in school. Do you feel it would be beneficial for students to have a creative writing component included as part of the curriculum in elementary and secondary education? Why or why not?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

The Writers Circle: Online Tools for Writers

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

We have talked in the past about important tools for writers such as software or specific kinds of notebooks and pens. Today we’d like to hear what kinds of online resources and tools you find helpful to your writing. Are there specific websites you use for research? Online tools to inspire you to write? What do you find invaluable on the internet when you look at your writing life?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

The Writers Circle: Tools and Technology

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

We have discussed this topic before, but given how rapidly technology is changing, we like to check in on this subject every so often.  What tools have do you use or have you found useful to your writing efforts?  Is there software you’ve found helpful for writing, editing or preparing a manuscript for self publishing? A particular type of laptop or tablet that has a particularly useful feature for writers? If you go with pen and paper, do you use specific types of notebooks or other means of organizing and filing your work?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

7 Digital Tools for Writing

Even though I’m a tech teacher by profession and a geek by desire, my default approach to writing is pen-and-paper. It’s got to do with grabbing a wrinkled piece of paper and jotting a note that I woke up thinking about or shuffled through my brain on a long commute. Something about pen scratching on paper or the even flow of the letters beneath my hand helps me think. But, by the time I’m ready to unravel whatever hijacked my attention, I’ve either forgotten what I meant or lost the note.

For the new year, I’m improving my productivity by going paperless. Before beginning any writerly activity, I’ll take a moment to decide if there’s a digital solution that not only saves me time, but adds less trash to our throw-away society. Here are seven ideas I’ve come up with:

pre-writingNote-taking

Use one of the many digital note-takers that live as apps on my phone and iPad. It can be as simple as iPhone’s expanded Notes or as varied as the integration of text, images, photos, and videos in Notability.

Digital annotator

Instead of printing out agendas and rosters, I’ll load them onto my phone or iPad and digitally annotate them with the basic simplicity of Adobe Acrobat (free) or the fully-featured approach of iAnnotate (fee).This includes conference schedules and submittals at my critique group.

digital writing toolsBrainstorming

There are so many great tools that make brainstorming with colleagues simple. And, if you’re planning your next story, brainstorming is a great way to get the basics down before fleshing out the plot. Start with the title in the center bubble of the canvas, add characters, setting, and plot. Put the details in as you figure them out and drag-drop them to their right place. You can do it as a timeline or a mindmap. Many brainstorming tools are infinite screens so you can pinch-and-drag to put as much information as you’d like on a canvas.

If you click the links for ‘timeline’ and ‘mindmap’, they take you to a list of popular, mostly-free options for either tool.

White Board

If you like to draw out your thoughts, any of the free or fee digital white boards are perfect. Draw out your ideas, add colors and text, with maybe a lined paper or grid background. Most are simple, uncluttered, and focus on getting your ideas on paper without the confusion of nested tools A few are collaborative and most can be shared with others. AWW is a simple, functional start, but there are lots more options here.

Voice notes

This is one of my favorites because it lets you continue whatever else you’re doing while saving that elusive, brilliant idea. One of my favorites is iTalk–a big red button on your screen that shouts ‘Print to Record’. There are other great options for phones here.

digital writing toolsMapping

There are a wide variety of mapping tools that let you track your characters and setting geographically around the planet. Google Earth is my long-time favorite, but Google Maps and Waze are just as good. These have become critical to my plotting and scene development, preventing me from putting a bistro or bus stop in the middle of the Hudson River.

Word processing

A digital writing list wouldn’t be complete without adding the tool that turns data into a story. Word processors include MS Word, Google Docs (not great for long manuscripts or highly-visual non-fiction), and fancier tools like Scrivener. All of these make it easy to edit your words, move parts around, and back-up your manuscript so you don’t lose it if the house floods.

These are seven that come to mind as I consider how my writing couldn’t happen without digital tools. How about you? What do you use that wasn’t around when your mom was writing her stories?

More on digital writing:

6 Tips That Solve Half Your Tech Writing Problems

10 Digital Tricks to Add Zip to Your Roadtrip

How to Write a Novel with 140 Characters


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

The Writers Circle: Write What You Know

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

One of the most common things we hear as writers is that we need to “write what we know”.  So today we’d like to discuss how and where you learn about subjects that perhaps you have little direct, personal experience with.  What tools and resources do you use and how has this changed for you over the years you have been writing?

Discuss this topic here in the comments or head on over to the forums to start or engage in a more thorough discussion.

The Writers Circle: Writing Tools

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

What tools do you use for writing – from planning to draft to final edits? What are the pros and cons of these tools and how do they help you keep organized with your writing? Do you use different tools depending on what style or type of writing you are doing?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

Finding Free Photos

Today’s post isn’t intended to help you with your writing. Today’s focus is helping you with your blogging…or website…or even your social media presence. And it’s target isn’t just our readers. Today’ I’m also talking to the people who write for us here at Today’s Author.

Finding an image to use in your blog posts is always just a little stressful. I’m sure we all make the best effort (*clears throat*) to find images that are licensed as Creative Commons or some other Royalty Free source. But it’s not easy. Even when you make the effort you can run across photos that are not free to us, but were distributed–intentionally or unintentionally–as free to use.

As writers, we should all want to make sure that people are getting credit–and when applicable, payment–for their creative work. But for something as mundane as including a picture in a blog post, being ethical can be quite a bit of work.

Well…it just got easier.

For years Getty Images, the largest photo service in the world, let us use many of their images as long as we were willing to put up with a watermark.

But now, Getty has changed the way they share their images. Now a huge number of pictures can be used free, without a water-mark, using their new auto-embed feature. Which also has the side benefit that it gives credit to the content creator.

Here’s how it works (Note: I did not try this first, so I’m writing these steps as I’m trying it–Let’s see how easy it is.

    1. Go to the Getty Images website.
    2. Search for something. I’m testing the claim that many of these pictures are about very current events. So I’m searching for “SXSW”.
    3. OK. That was easy. Now I’ll find a picture I want. Hover over it and look for the embed button (see the example picture below). OK, not all the pictures have this feature enabled–but it wasn’t hard to find a bunch that did,

getty_example

    1. Click the embed button.
    2. In the pop-up box, copy the embed code.
    3. Paste that code into your own blog. Here how it looks.
Embed from Getty Images

Wow. That was significantly easier than I expected.

Looking at the code, by doing this you might have a little less control over placement of the image than with a traditional photo embed. Though I’ll admit I didn’t try to play around with anything more than the size of the image.

This new tool makes it a lot easier for us bloggers to keep on the right side of copyright law. Giving credit where it’s due, is a ridiculously awesome side-benefit.

The Writers Circle: Revision Survival Strategies

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

We all need to revise our works after completing the first drafts. Many writers find this to be a much more difficult task than writing the first drat was.  What survival tactics, strategies or tools do you use to not only make revision easier, but also to make it something you do not avoid doing?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.