25+ of Danny’s Favorite Multimedia Tools

Many handymen have a favorite wrench or drill they adore and always keep with them. Well, journo-geeks are no exception.

Below is a shortlist of more than 25 of my favorite (and mostly free) multimedia tools. I put together this list for a session on new media tools that I led Saturday at a multimedia workshop hosted by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors.

Hate my picks? Love em? I’d love to hear your favorites, so please share in the comments!

Here’s a peek at some of my personal favorites:


UStream.TV – http://www.ustream.tv
Streams live video from your laptop and camera and creates an embeddable player with chats. You can stream it on your SMART TV if you have one. You can look at VIZIO options if you are in the market for a new TV system.

Mogulus – http://www.mogulus.com
A live streaming service similar to Ustream.TV that allows you to have multiple producers at a time creating a live show.

Qik – http://qik.com
A service that allows you to easily stream live from many video-enabled cell phones. Hook up an external microphone or audio pool feed to it, and you’ll have reporters recording live video like a rock star.


Twitter – http://twitter.com
A constant conversation and a great place to build audience. Use Twitter Grader to find who are the top Twitterers in your area.
(I’m at twitter.com/dannysanchez)

Twhirl and Tweetdeck – http://www.twhirl.org http://www.tweetdeck.com
Desktop applications that let you manage Twitter much more easily (I prefer Twhirl).

Facebook and MySpace- http://www.facebook.com and man date
Centers around personal details and friends. Features groups where you can share content.

Becoming a power user on some of these social bookmarking sites can bring big traffic to your content if it strikes a chord with your “friends” on these sites. These are just some of the top services:

Digg – https://journalistopia.com/being-a-single-mother/
StumbleUpon (Make sure to try the toolbar!) – https://journalistopia.com/hookup-page/
Reddit –dating site for professionals
NewsVine – date rich women
Delicious (Try the Firefox plugin) – http://delicious.com/
Tailrank – http://tailrank.com/


VuVox – http://www.vuvox.com
Creates stunning multimedia timelines that let you embed slideshows, video and more.

Dipity – http://www.dipity.com
An embeddable timeline app that is great for timelines with a lot of points and detail.

Soundslides – http://soundslides.com
A great and inexpensive tool for creating impressive audio slideshows.


Picnik – http://www.picnik.com
A free, simple web-based photo editor that is perfect for turning your whole newsroom into web producers without dropping $200 for Photoshop Elements. Has a nice Firefox plugin and syncs up to Flickr.

Pixlr – http://www.pixlr.com
A web-based photo editor that is extremely robust and similar to Photoshop.

Photoshop Express – https://www.photoshop.com/express
Provides many of Photoshop’s features in a free web-based editing tool.

More great image editors reviewed here: http://sixrevisions.com/tools/web-based-image-editors

Flickr – http://www.flickr.com
Not just a great place to share and promote your photo work, it’s also my top source for Creative Commons photos used on this blog.


Firefox Web Developer Toolbar – https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/60
Has a pixel ruler (how wide is that box?), element inspector, CSS editor and much more.

Firebug – https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1843
A Firefox plugin that can pick apart a Web site and let you edit HTML/CSS on the fly to fiddle with a design. Try with Yslow.

FireFTP – http://fireftp.mozdev.org/
An easy and free FTP client that works right inside Firefox.

You have noticed all this stuff is for the Firefox web browser, right? Just making sure!

Notepad++ (For PCs) – http://notepad-plus.sourceforge.net
A much better text editor for working with HTML/CSS and virtually any kind of code such as PHP, Python, Ruby and more. Adds colors to your code and features tabs and macros. I refuse to use crash-prone, resource-hoggin’ Dreamweaver to write any code!


PollDaddy and MicroPoll – http://polldaddy.com and http://www.micropoll.com
Create embeddable polls for your site with no hassle.
(Plus: Shelley Acoca of the Miami Herald recommends Vizu for polls)

WordPress – http://wordpress.org
IMHO, the best blogging platform out there (used here on Journalistopia). It’s free and has thousands of great plugins built by a large network of developers.

Tableizer! – http://tableizer.journalistopia.com
Quickly turns spreadsheets into HTML tables you can put online. Built by yours truly!

Wordle – http://www.wordle.net
Create beautiful “tag clouds” out of a block of text.

Cover It Live – http://www.coveritlive.com
Provide liveblogging updates and host web chats with an embeddable widget. Lets multiple producers help with a chat.

Bloglines Beta and Google Reader – http://beta.bloglines.com and http://www.google.com/reader
Don’t hop from site to site. Use an RSS reader to bring the news to you. I’m a Bloglines Beta user, but Google Reader is also an excellent choice.

Audacity – http://audacity.sourceforge.net
A powerful, free audio-editing suite used by many multimedia producers.

Media-Convert – http://media-convert.com
Converts an enormous array of files. Perfect for mysterious video or audio formats.

Joomla and Drupal
Two of the top free, open-source content-management sytems available to creators who want more than just a blog. Some major sites are using these tools. You can tweak them as much as you like, or use them right out of the box, depending on your needs.

(PLUS: Bill Mitchell of Poynter Online convinced me Saturday that a defined framework for making ethical decisions is as important a “tool” as any web app. Hence, I give you the Poynter Ethics Tool and Ethics Hotline, which is like having your personal, on-call anti-stupid-decision counselor.)

New Tableizer! Tool Turns Spreadsheets into HTML Charts

Web producers here in our newsroom often have to throw up quick charts of data online, but hand-editing a table from a spreadsheet or exporting it from Office or Dreamweaver can be a time-consuming endeavor.

Well, now you have Tableize!, a time-saving tool that lets you copy/paste spreadsheet cells, click a button and –voila!– instant HTML tables you can quickly put online.

I put together Tableize! mostly in my spare time with PHP and a bit of script.aculo.us. The tool is a more modern version of the very talented Ray Villalobos’s long-standing Table Tango tool, which saved our butts plenty of times here in the Orlando newsroom, so much credit and respect to Ray for his original idea.

If you like Tableize!, please share it with others who might benefit. And do let me know if you spot any bugs or have suggestions for the tool. Enjoy!

[Tableize! – A quick tool for creating HTML tables out of spreadsheet data]

BlogOrlando Schedule Posted, Registration Open

If you’ve been waiting to see who’s coming to BlogOrlando this year before you decide to make the trip, well wait no further! The schedule is now posted and features some of the smartest blogging minds around — all for the fabulous price of nil.

The unconference, which is now in its third year, features expert speakers who tackle blogging from various perspectives, be it community organizing, public relations or software engineering. BlogOrlando’s main day will be held Saturday, Sept. 27 at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. not far from downtown Orlando. There will be other receptions and events going on as well (see the schedule). For the higher diploma in the mechanical engineering Click here.

If you check out the attendee list, you’ll see folks are coming from all over Central Florida, Tampa/St. Pete and South Florida, as well as from the rest of the country. Last year, more than 250 people attended and got tips on how to integrate blogs in the newsroom, podcasting, blog design and how to organize community blogs. Did I mention all this doesn’t cost you a penny for registration?

I’ll see you there!

[BlogOrlando official site]

Excellent Cheat Sheets for Producers, Designers

Ever since 9th grade, I’ve been a sucker for learning Photoshop shortcuts and speed tricks (such as one of my faves, holding the “alt” key to trigger the “Reset” button in image adjustment panels). So I just had to pass along this post at Six Revisions that is chock-full of cheat sheets perfect for web producers and designers.

You’ll find cheat sheats for Photoshop shortcuts, web hex color charts, typefaces, pixel/point/em type size conversions, CSS shorthand, XHTML character entities (this one is getting printed out today) and more.

And if you’re a web designer, you should really, really be subscribed to the catnip that is Six Revisions.

[Six Revisions: Useful Cheat Sheets for Web Designers]

How the UM Student Paper went from College Publisher to WordPress

Interested in knowing the nuts and bolts of what it takes to move your entire newspaper site from a vendor to an open-source WordPress install? Visit Miami Hurricane online editor Greg Linch’s blog for the play-by-play from webmaster Brian Schlansky. The recap covers the details of everything from installing Ubuntu on an Apache server to gettting the archive working on the new site.

As more and more news sites are embracing open-source software such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and many more, you’d do well to explore how some of these free and robust tools work can be implemented in your operation and how they can foster the rapid deployment of new ideas.

Catnip for Online Designers with SND’s Best of Multimedia Entries

SND VegasWant to see the best online information design the news industry is producing? Then you might want to tune into the SND Update Blog for the next few days as SND highlights entries from their worldwide Best of Multimedia Design competition.

There’s more awesome design here than you can shake a t-square at, so make sure to take a look!

Check out the entries from:

Entertainment/Lifestyle Off Deadline (The category with the most entries)
Breaking News (Most of the entries here seem to allow advance time to produce, but really nice work nevertheless.)
Lifestyle On Deadline
(Only one survivor here)
Non-Breaking News
Sports Off Deadline

[More at the SND Update Blog]

Free Photoshop web design book

The folks over at Sitepoint are giving away another great PDF book that’s perfect for online news producers: The Photoshop Anthology: 101 Web design Tips, Tricks & Techniques

I previously got a nifty Ruby on Rails book from Sitepoint that was more than worth my while, so make sure to snag a copy of that Photoshop book PDF before the offer expires two weeks from today.

[Free PDF Book: The Photoshop Anthology: 101 Web design Tips, Tricks & Techniques]

Webby Award winners announced (with news organization list)

Just announced: 2008’s Webby Award winners! The Webby Awards picks through the best of the Web and grants awards in more categories than you can shake a stick at.

I’ve pored through the list and extracted the winners from news-related categories, as well as news organizations that won in other categories, such as science or best practices. Here’s the Journalistopia-edited list. Apologies in advance if I missed anyone:

Best Copy/Writing
(Also nominated: HowStuffWorks, Design Observer, NYTimes.com and Slate)

Best Use of Photography
Your Shot – National Geographic Magazine

Blog – Business
FT.com Alphaville

Blog – Political
The Huffington Post

ABC.com Full Episode Player

National Geographic Magazine Online
(Also nominated: Dwell.com, Makezine, NYMag, Yoga Journal Yoga Journal)

BBC Radio 1 Meet the DJs

(Also nominated: BBC News, Wired, CNN and Discovery News)

(Also nominated: The Guardian, the Independent, the Wall Street Journal and Variety)

BBC World Service channel site


Yahoo! Sports
(Also nominated: ESPN.com, Nike Skateboarding, Spyker F1 Magazine, Sweet Spots)

HBO Voyeur


Best Use of Animation/Motion Graphics
The New York Times/T: The New York TImes Style Magazine “Circle Squared”

Best Writing
Onion News Network

Documentary: Individual Episode
Coney Island: An Uncertain Future
Getty Images

News and Politics: Individual Episode
Finding the Way Home

Travel (video)
Frugal Traveler: American Road Trip – NYTimes.com/Video


Entertainment (mobile)
Cosmo Mobile: 100 Hot Cities, Fake Calls, Dude Decoder & Cocktails!

Listing and Updates (mobile)
The New York Times Mobile Real Estate Listings

News (mobile)
Mobile NYTimes

Sports (mobile)
ESPN.com (Wireless)

ALSO: Shoutouts to NYTimes.com for their best practices and best visual design/function nominations, Mama Trib’s Swamp blog for best political blog nomination, National Geographic for their best home page People’s Voice award, Consumer Reports for their Guides/Ratings/Review People’s Voice award, the Guardian and Onion for their podcasts nominations, NPR for their politics nomination, NPR and the BBC for their religion and spirituality nominations, Frontline World for their Documentary: Series and Documentray: Individual nominations, U.S. News and World Report for their Best Writing (video) nomination, the New Yorker’s animated cartoons for their animation nomination, CBS for their sports (video) nomination and many more.

Yep, no news site nominees in the navigation and structure categories. We’ll have to work on that…

SXSW video is online

sxsw.pngHead on over to the conference site for South by Southwest (SXSW) for free video from the media and entertainment conference. You’ll want to particularly peruse the Interactive Coverage. And yes, the much-maligned Zuckerberg/Lacy interview is there too.

I wasn’t one of the fortunate souls who made it out to Texas for the conference, so if you have any specific recommendations on what to watch, do share in the comments.

And to think I just got Netflix this weekend, and I’ll be spending a couple of hours watching tiny pixelated videos of guys talking about media nerd stuff…

The worst TIME magazine covers ever

Perhaps a well-placed lolcat caption can redeem this 1981 TIME magazine cover…

Usually I try to spotlight stuff that news organizations are doing right, but there’s also much to be learned from the downright horrific. So check out TIME’s humorous jab at itself with its list of worst TIME magazine covers ever.

If you’re looking for awesomely bad, my votes go to the 1981 ice cream cover and the 1928 Robert McCormick and Joseph Patterson cover.

And the obligatory Journalistopia Lesson: never underestimate the unlimited potential for re-purposing your old cra …er… archival material.

[Hat tip to SND Update and to TIME]

Internet Explorer 8 Beta released

ie8.jpgJust a quick need-to-know: Microsoft has made available the first public beta of the new Internet Explorer 8.

If you’re a designer for your news site, you’ll want to become familiar with the new browser as soon as you can and start looking at potential problem areas with your site’s design (though keep in mind that IE8 is still in beta). IE8 is touted as being very standards-compliant, so hopefully this’ll be the beginning of less CSS headaches for everyone. If you’re interested in more of the nitty gritty details of how IE8 works under the hood, check out the official IEBlog.

[More: Internet Explorer 8 download page]

Trains and trends: the web in 2008

trainmap.jpgDesign blog Information Architects has created a fantastically cool visualization of 2008’s biggest web trends, all pinned to a map of Tokyo’s train system. I know; it sounds strange. But it really is quite awesome. Soon as I get to work this a.m., yours truly is printing this out and tacking it to my offi …er… cubicle wall.

Check out the clickable version and the PDF A4-sized version.