Vector Design Creation and More at an Aviary in the Cloud

Aviary IconsI’ve been looking into the benefits of a Google Apps account lately, and was interested in trying out one of their free offerings – Aviary, a design suite. I signed up for the free account today, which is still being validated. While waiting for my account to become available, I searched for other completely web-based design programs outside of the Google Apps environment. I discovered that exists for all to enjoy. Aviary has an amazing collection of eight design programs that are all free and accessible via the web. This design suite has tools for vector design, photo editing, sound and music creation, and design effects. The site is easy to navigate, welcoming, and the icons and program names have flair.

My initial experiment involved Raven, the vector editor, and I’m very impressed. The features are very similar to Adobe Illustrator, and the vector images easily transfer to or from Illustrator or the design program of your choice. Raven can export files to EPS, PDF, SVG, and bitmap.

Being cloud-based, there is no software to install and your work can be saved in your online account. Aviary makes it easy to share your work in their gallery, Facebook,MySpace, Digg, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and Tumblr. My quick tour made me question how is this all free and so inventive. My guess is that they are building a foundation and user-base for future monetization.

Aviary is on a mission to make creation accessible to artists of all genres, from graphic design to audio editing. We’re a privately held company currently headquartered in New York City with team members around the world. Our founders also created, a talented community of 500,000 digital artists that participate in amazing daily contests.

The screenshot below is just one of 290 hall of fame pages. There are already 5,800 works of this quality that were created with the Aviary tools. The collection may look intimidating, but hopefully it inspires you and illustrates the power of Aviary’s, cloud based programs. There are tons of tutorials on the website for each of the programs. Have fun.


Using Gmail for Unlimited Domain E-mails

One Gmail account can check mail for up to five different e-mail accounts; however, there is no limit to the number of e-mail addresses that you can use to send mail. (See image one.) Where does this leave people that have fourteen or so e-mail addresses, yet want to streamline to one inbox and archive in the cloud? As I have many domains for which I check e-mail, I came up with a creative solution. I forward alias e-mail accounts to my main e-mail for each domain, as I generally only respond from one e-mail account for each. I set up my Gmail account to check mail for three other accounts, leaving room for two more. I also set up another Gmail account and forward additional e-mails directly from the domain servers. The sole purpose of that account is to then forward all mail to my main Gmail account. (See image 2 and 3.) Best thing about all of this is that each incoming e-mail is still from the original domain, and can be replied to as such. Using this technique, I don’t see a limit to how many e-mail accounts you can filter through and manage from one Gmail account.

Gmail Screenshot 1

Gmail Screenshot 1

Gmail Screenshot 2

Gmail Screenshot 2

Gmail Screenshot 3

Gmail Screenshot 3

My Move to the Google Cloud

In the last few weeks, I have been systematically moving towards Google for as many services as possible. I want the same access to bookmarks, search settings, contacts, e-mail, calendars, tasks, web design, blogging, photos, chat, files, and document development from any internet connection. Google is really making this possible. I’m not switching to a paid Google Apps for Business account yet, but I’m working with most of the free services that come standard. It is probably only a matter of time though. The Google Apps marketplace has some phenomenal options for cloud computing.

I’m using Google’s Chrome, GMail, Blogger, Bookmarks, Calendar, Tasks, Notebook, Sites, Picassa, Documents, and other tools so that my work is truly mobile, secure, and shared when I want it to be. I lost a lot of work, late last year, when my PC and hard drives failed. I will do a better job of backing up, but why not let Google take some responsibility for that task as well.

Some of the most amazing discoveries during this move are that, Blogger and Google Sites are extremely fast to update, and you can use your own domain name for either of them. Google Sites, let you create and manage a personal or business website through a web-based content management system. It does have limitations in that you can’t add programming such as SSI, CSS, or even JavaScript, but for a basic website it’s great. Blogger has always been excellent, as your entries get into Google’s searches pretty immediately. I used to ftp to my own domain, but Google changed the process. Although my own domain is used, the files are really stored on Google servers and the time from saving your blog to it being available is instantaneous.

I’ve had a GMail account since the beginning, when Google offered accounts to a limited group. I used it, but never fully embraced it as e-mail until a few days ago. Did you know that from your GMail account you send mail from an unlimited number of e-mail accounts? There is a limit of five other accounts for which you can receive e-mail. I cheated on the limit, by opening another GMail account and forwarding a number of e-mail accounts through one GMail account. If you think about it, this would let you receive e-mails from twenty-six different e-mail addresses or more if you get creative.

You can set up multiple signatures through “Canned Responses.” Honestly it worked great for me yesterday, but now they are missing. If and when I get these to work, it only solves part of my problem. Canned responses are not a part of the Google IPhone application. I may end up storing all of my signatures in an archived e-mail and cutting and pasting or something. There are extensions for Chrome, but I know that I want to set things up so that I’m not tied to my PC or to the browser.

Google Bookmarks is great. I have always had a disjointed collection of bookmarks on every PC and every browser that I used. Now, I’m making decisions about what links I want, how to label them, and they are all available to me from any web connection. Tasks, Calendar, and GMail work great together; especially in the Chrome browser. Every intuitive action that I want to do, seems to have been developed by the amazing Google team. If not already a part of the browser or service; there is usually a Google Lab or Chrome extension that is ready to help.

If you haven’t guessed, in terms of my IPhone – the Google app brings the power of my move towards their services extremely portable. See you all on the cloud.

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