The bane of online existence is that our data is invariably scattered in different places. And nothing is affected more by this than photos. In all probability, you have pictures on different services – Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, Instagram, and many more. The end result is that when you need to find that one photo you are looking for, you don’t know where to begin searching. Wouldn’t it be better if all your photos were collected in one place, ready to be accessed at any time?
PixelPipe promises to make this easier by letting you migrate images and videos from one web service to another in a dead-simple interface. So whether it’s because you’re running out of space or you simply want to change your image host, this just might be the magic wand you have been looking for.
The Internet has made it possible for anyone to become a writer with the click of a button. Naturally, the number of quality articles have increased, which are more easily discovered by curators such as LongForm, Kottke, TheBrowser, and more. Invariably, it means that you won’t have enough time to read everything that catches your fancy. So here’s an idea: why not listen to it on your commute?
A new web app called SoundGecko makes the process super-simple by converting any article you want into an MP3 file, using text-to-speech technology. The audio files are sent to your email inbox and can be synced with your Google Drive or Dropbox. There’s also the option of listening to your files in the form of a podcast from any device. Let’s get started: (more…)
Let’s face it, cable is expensive and it is definitely not going to be getting cheaper any time soon. About two years ago, my wife and I finally made the decision that it was time that we “cut the cord” so to speak, and get rid of our cable bill. As I look back on it, it was probably one of the best decisions that we made. I thought I would miss it, and there are times when I do, but for the most part, I have definitely learned to live without it.
I didn’t get rid of watching television all together, and I don’t think I could ever do that. But, what we did do was we took a long look at some web alternatives that would help us get our TV fix. As with any other cost cutting move, it definitely did not come without some sacrifice on our part. But, if you are every interested in making the move, then continue to read on and see if it is the right move for you.
The internet is a great resource for news and updates, and no matter what you’re looking to keep track of, you’re sure to be able to find countless sites that will be able to keep you up to date with the latest information. To help make it easier to keep track of new developments, you might make use of an RSS feed to save you having to look things up manually. You might already be used to using RSS in apps like Google Reader, but there’s so much more you can do with RSS feeds.
Pipes is a tool from Yahoo that enables you to take things a step further so you can, amongst other things, create your own custom RSS feeds that pull in content from a variety of sources and filter it so that you only see the most relevant news stories. It’s a venerable web app, starting off life in a rather Google-ish way of being in a lengthy period of beta but then living on for years, long enough that many of us have likely forgotten about it. But it’s still a great tool, even in 2012, so let’s dig in and see what you can do with it.
WordPress may just be the most versatile web app ever. You could use it to power your site or blog (as we do here at AppStorm), or you could turn it into an eCommerce store, discussion board, photo gallery, or almost anything else with the wide range of plugins and themes you can add to your WordPress install.
But what if you want to use WordPress to do something totally new? You could always code your own theme or plugin, but that can be rather daunting to new users. Even if you”re already familiar with web programming, you”d have to learn the ins-and-outs out WordPress before you could get started.
Before you start…
You won’t have to do too much to get started writing new apps inside WordPress with Script Manager. You’ll simply need to install the plugin on your site, or in a demo WordPress install on your own computer with tools like Wamp Server on Windows, MAMP server on a Mac, or XAMPP on almost any computer, period. Then, you can take a look at its documentation to familiarize yourself with its features. For the most part, though, if you’ve ever used a code editor, you should quickly feel at home coding in Script Manager in WordPress.
Now for the fun part: creating new features in WordPress with normal HTML, PHP, and Less code. We’re going to make a calculator in WordPress, which shows how much you can do with just a bit of code in WordPress, even if you really wouldn’t need a calculator in your site for real. We’ve included all the sample code in the article, so even if you aren’t a developer yet, you could still follow along with the examples. We’ll also use the following image assets in making the calculator, which you can download from the links below:
Getting ready to code in WordPress
The AppBar launcher HTML code is simply a wrapper for the icons of the actual programs. The code for the AppBar HTML is:
Most of the work is in the Less scripts for styling the application. You can use the following Less script for your own AppBar, replacing the image URLs with your own site’s URLs:
As you can see, the AppBar is simply a container that looks nice for the applications to place their icons. We can always expand on this idea, but we have enough now for working with our calculator application.
The Applicaton Skeleton
Before we get into the application, let”s create the framework for all applications that will use the AppBar. The basic framework is this:
The Calculator Application
Now, lets take that framework and start adding our app to it. The first part is the styling done in the Less script. We add it with the “CodeInsert” shortcode as follows:
Now, we insert the icon image for the calculator. I made it after designing the application by taking a screen shot of the actual calculator. Then I resized it for the icon size. Just copy and paste this code, again replacing the image URL with your own site’s image link once you’ve uploaded the image to your site:
Next, we need to design the calculator user interface. When you think about a calculator, the first thing you think of is buttons. A calculator is a display are with a lot of buttons underneath. Since I was experimenting with different ideas on making the buttons, I created a PHP script to create the buttons. I just called the PHP script with a different name for each button to make the button. So, go to the PHP tab, create a script called “calculatorbutton”, and place the following code there:
I used both methods of embedding a varaible into a string that PHP allows. I was having trouble getting the quotes around the button name for sending to the “cctCal.keyPressed()” method, so this finally worked for me. The button is nothing more than a styled div with the id for that button”s name. Once again, most of the fancy graphic work is done in the Less script.
To put everything together, place the following code into the calculator HTML after the icon:
As you can see, the calculator”s user interface is simply divs with unordered lists containing the buttons. The unordered lists makes spacing the buttons easier. The thing to notice here is how we pass the button”s name to the PHP code. We use the “CodeInsert” shortcode specifying the “calculatorbutton” PHP script with the “param” parameter set to defining the PHP variable “$but” to the name for that button. The “param” string is pasted at the beginning of the PHP script and evaluated all together. Since that string can be almost any size, you can really change the script with each calling of the script.
The calculator”s display is a span inside of a div for it. The div makes placement easier, while the span makes formatting easier.
Now that we have the structure for the calculator”s user interface, let”s style it with some Less code. In the calculator script under the Less tab, add the following code:
You will notice that I like to define several variables for colorization. Whenever possible, it is best to design in a way that can easily be changed. If you do not like the blue calculator, change the color values to something that is more suitable to your tastes. You do not have to hunt down all locations and figure out what needs changed. This helps down the road for specializing the same code for a different project as well. With plain CSS, you can not do it. But, Less to the rescue!
You will also notice that I defined two mixins (A term used in Less to define a CSS macro) for the buttons. The first defines the shading while the second describes the mechanics of the button. I used the website CSSButtonGenerator.com to help me define the shading for the button. Once I had the colorization I was looking for, I translated it to Less code and made all duplicate colors to a single define for that color. You will notice the “&:” used. This is Less” way to refer to the current element type. This allows the mixin to be used with any element in the HTML.
My favourite tweak is the “:active” CSS selector. For that selector, we make the element position relative and one pixel downward. This gives the button a look of being pushed down. It is a cute effect that gives the user more feedback, which hopefully makes them feel at home using the application.
The rest of the Less code defines the location and spacing for all the different elements. I used some “!important” tags to override some of the theme’s CSS. Depending on your theme, this may be necessary. It would be nice to define a div element in which all theme related CSS is ignored! An iframe tag would do just that, but it has too many other limitations to be useful.
display(): This method displays the current value in the “accum” class variable in a nice format for the screen. It also checks for the number being too large for the screen.
toggle(): This method simply toggles the visibility of the calculator. This is called each time the icon is clicked. The first time this is called, it will set the center of the browser window position as well.
reset(): This method resets the calculator to a beginning state.
keyPressed(): This is the main method for the calculator. In the beginning state, it keeps appending new numbers keyed in. When a function is pressed, the current number in the display is saved and the next state is started. Now, another number is created through the appending digits as before. When the equals key is pressed, the new number is stored also and the function pressed is performed on the two numbers. That new number is display and stored as the first number and the last state in set. Now, if the equal key is pressed again, the function last hit is performed with second stored number and the results of the last operation. When a number key is pressed, the reset method is called and the new number is stored up. All of this is handled by a few switch statements.
After all the code above is in place, you can now embed the code into the page you what to see it or you can make it standard for all pages.
To put it into a specific page or post, simply go to that page or post to edit it, click the “Insert Code” button in the editor. It will show you a requester for the code. When you set the language, the name selector will have the name of all the scripts for that language. Therefore, select “HTML” and “AppBar”. It will insert the following code into your post or page:
Now, when you visit that page, the AppBar will appear to the right of the browser window:
This picture was taken from the demo page for this application.
Now, when you click the calculator icon, the full calculator will appear in the middle of the screen. If you move it, hide it, and then re-show it, it will appear where you last moved it to. Coding that much in a normal programming language for a desktop application would take so much more code! This is easy!
If you want the AppBar on all the pages in your website, simply create a “wp_footer” WordPress Action and put the embed code in it. Now, every page in your website will contain the webapp. Or, if you only want the app to appear on certain pages, you could write some simple PHP script to control it.
To make more webapps to be launched, just follow the skeleton code for applications to be launched and create you new application. Add the embed code for your new application after the calculator’s embed code in the HTML for the “AppBar”. Now, every time you embed the AppBar, you will see the new application”s icon as well.
That’s it: you’ve just create a basic new app inside of WordPress with Script Manager! Perhaps you’ve never thought your blog needed a calculator, but this can give you an idea of what you can do. Feel free to check out the other Script Manager Tutorials for more ideas, or check out the Script Manager Forum to ask questions, share ideas, and more. Remember, your only limitation is what you can dream up!
I’ve started noticing an odd trend: DRM used to bug me to death, but it hasn’t seemed nearly as frustrating lately. I’ve never purchased music with DRM, choosing instead to rip CDs (that I’d legally bought) until iTunes quit DRM-locking their songs. But then it has increasingly become apparant that the biggest frustration with music, or any other media, is keeping up with your purchased files so you don’t lose them. iTunes iCloud now lets you re-download songs and movies, just like the Kindle store has done all along, and I currently feel much safer buying media in each of them since I know I can redownload them anytime.
Several weeks ago, I set out to find a way to manage my DRM-free eBooks in the cloud. Kindle has spoiled me with high-quality native and web apps, and being able to always redownload books from anywhere with an internet connection is very liberating. So much so, I’ve purchased Kindle eBooks over DRM-free books just because Kindle makes them easier to manage. There had to be a better way.
This morning, I finally found what I was looking for, thanks to a post on Minimal Mac about Booki.sh. It was exactly what I’d been looking for. Booki.sh is a new online eBook library that makes it as easy to keep up with your ePub eBooks as using the Kindle Web App. Let’s take a look and see if Booki.sh is nice enough to keep you from downloading an eBook app the next time you want to read a DRM-free eBook.
Sometimes email and Facebook and Twitter and everything else isn’t enough. Sometimes, you need to send an SMS. For many of us, that sometimes is more often than we might think; no wonder unlimited SMS plans are still in vogue most places. When you send SMS messages that turn into a conversation, you can quickly send more messages than you even realize. And even though smartphones keep threatening to make SMS obsolete, the frank truth is that SMS is here to stay until everyone you ever txt has an internet connection on their phone and is using the same messaging app.
So you need to send an SMS, but pulling out your phone to txt while you’re sitting at your computer seems rather odd. Why not put the larger keyboard to use, and just send an SMS from your desktop? There’s a number of apps and sites that let you send free online SMS messages, but there’s one you likely already have open: Gmail. If you didn’t know you could send SMS messages right from Gmail, keep reading to see how you can sta in touch with everyone through Gmail, even if they don’t have email on their phones.
Collusion is a new add-on for Firefox which is designed to show you how sites are recording information about you whilst you browse the web. It also reveals who is forwarding information about you to other websites. Though this information is not specifically identified, it does show a spider-graph of all the websites who are aware of your browsing. Including the ones you never even visited!