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Course Review: GIMP Essential Training

Teacher: Dave Rankin
Length: 5h 13m
Provider: (course link)

When I saw the offering on LYNDA, I jumped at the chance of seeing what Dave Rankin had to offer. I’ve been meaning to become acquainted with the software for years in order to make myself less reliant on crappy web-based services. Given that GIMP was listed as an alternative to Photoshop, learning GIMP seemed intimidating. GIMP Essential Training makes it a heck of a lot easier. As my introduction to courses by Dave Rankin, I am impressed.

In this course, Dave Rankin offers an in-depth look into the various features of GIMP, a popular piece of free, open-source image editing software. There aren’t a lot of courses that cover this subject as most tutors are geared towards paid products such as Photoshop. It is a shame as well, given that GIMP is packed full of features.
So, what is covered? It begins with basic features such as familiarising yourself with the interface, layers and brushes. Then, it builds upon this by dealing with more advanced features such as masks, cloning, filters and transform tools. Dave Rankin wraps things up by discussing exporting and print options.
This course covers a lot of ground, making this software accessible for a newcomer such as myself. Whilst I may not use the software a lot in future, I am confident that I’ll be able to navigate the numerous options with ease. If I come across issues, the course also offers some links to useful resources to overcome difficulty.

I recommend this course to anyone new to GIMP as well as veterans looking for a refresher. Just be prepared to do the suggested exercises as that will assist in getting you acquainted with the features. I am really looking forward to Dave Rankin’s course on Inkscape, another piece of free, open-source software.

Next stop, Drawing Foundations: Fundamentals!


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Course Review: Ebooks: Distribution and Marketing

Teacher: Dave Wogahn
Length: 3h 16m (course link)

In this course, Dave Wogahn goes over the various things that you’ll need to consider when you distribute and market an Ebook. This includes sales trends, search trends, market analysis, market history, promotional materials (press releases and book synopsis), promotional methods (social networking, blog networking), reviews, direct distribution versus aggregation services, pricing, and several other things worth taking into account. It was a lot to go over but it was well-worth the undertaking.
However, I will point out is that the course was produced in 2013, making several services obsolete, such as the now-defunct Shelfari. In this regard, you can use the course to teach you what to look out for when deciding the route that you will take with your Ebook. It will also offer a checklist of steps to take as well as some other relevant information to keep on hand when you are about to release your Ebook.
I highly recommend this course to anyone looking to distribute and market an Ebook, as well as those curious about what to expect from the process. If you do decide to release an Ebook, then I wish you the best in the undertaking. Just make sure to release a polished product.

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Course Review: iBooks Author Essential Training

Teacher: Chris Mattia
Length: 6h 55m (course link)

Whilst the previous courses in the Publish an Ebook learning pathway dealt with EPUB and MOBI format Ebooks, this course gives a comprehensive look at how to make an Ebook for iDevices using iBooks Author. This piece of software is available free of charge and is impressive, to say the least. I was stunned at the available features. It is a powerful piece of software and I really wish there was an option for Windows users. (No, I am not inclined to create a virtual machine in order to use other operating systems.)
Chris Mattia begins the course by giving us an overview of how to modify an existing template before going into the creation of a project from scratch. You will learn how to add media such as video and image files; modify imported media; add and create graphs, tables, with objects and shapes; import content from Word, RTF, Apple Pages and LaTeX; and add interactive elements such as multiple-choice questions for textbooks. This is all followed up by a chapter on exporting as different formats and a final chapter on publishing your finished product to the Apple Store.
I was pretty impressed with what I learned during this course. While a lengthy title, it made me somewhat jealous of folks with Apple MAC computers. iBooks Author is such an awesome piece of software that I wish that I had a MAC to experiment with it. It also looks logical from a user experience viewpoint. If I ever get enough money to purchase a MAC on top of my Windows gaming rig then it is a serious consideration. Alas, that might be some time into the future.
In any case, I highly recommend that folks consider checking out this course. Chris Mattia is an awesome teacher as well, with some neat activities to give us some hands-on experience with the truckload of features. And if you are looking to learn the editing and publishing aspects, then this title will teach you everything that you need to get you up to snuff.


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Course Review: Creating Fixed-Layout Ebooks for the Kindle

Teacher: Kevin Callahan
Length: 2h 29m (course link)

In this course, Kevin Callahan goes over some formatting and organizational requirements for creating a high-quality fixed-layout Ebook for Kindle. Whilst Tony Harmer uses software such as Sigil and Calibre, Callahan uses programs such as Adobe InDesign and Dreamweaver. Callahan also discusses components such as the OPF file, creating pop-ups, regional magnification and a few other neat features. You’ll also see a few videos on programs such as Kindle Kids’ Book Creator to give students something fun to play with.
I found this course very useful because of how Kevin Callahan approached the material. He was concise, demonstrated features clearly and built on complexity over time without lingering too long on any given subject. He covered new material not previously covered in other courses of this learning pathway. Throughout this course, Kevin also offers some recommendations for other great resources for furthering your knowledge and as repositories for useful content such as fonts.
Creating Fixed-Layout Ebooks for the Kindle was a great addition to my learning so far. As such all of this in mind, I highly recommend this course to anyone looking to understand what is involved in the messy business of getting an Ebook up to snuff. Heck, just enrol in the entire “Publish an Ebook” pathway and you should have a really good understanding of the process and some of the tools used for creating Ebooks in next to no time.

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Course Review: Creating Ebooks for the Kindle

Teacher: Tony Harmer
Length: 2h 11m (course link)

In this course, Tony covers some of the same ground as Tony’s course on CSS, but with more of a focus on setting up Ebooks for old and new Kindle devices. As with his last course, he uses Sigil and Calibre software for the MAC. However, he made sure to also give instructions for Windows users as well.
He discusses markup and metadata. Due to how varied formats are, he covers how to convert from MS Word, Apple Pages and rich text formats. This also includes how to save into multiple Kindle formats. He teaches students about batch formatting, breaking up larger files and merging files. More is covered before the last chapter on publishing to Amazon.
As with Tony’s previous course on CSS, Creating Ebooks for the Kindle is concise, sticking with the meat rather than wandering off into numerous distracting tangents. He also does it in an engaging and conversational matter that makes this course a must for anyone wanting to learn how to utilise software such as Caliber to create an Ebook for Kindle.

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Course Review: EPUB CSS

Teacher: Tony Harmer
Length: 3h 4m (course link)

In this course, Tony Harmer gives an in-depth look at CSS for the purpose of creating EPUBs. The materials are straightforward and offer students problems at different stages to facilitate learning. It was a lot of fun and I found myself looking forward to each new lesson as a result.
You will also note the use of Calibre, a piece of free e-reader software that has been around for around a decade. It was interesting taking a look at the editing features that it offers as I was under the impression that it was solely an e-reader. Harmer also touched on the features of Sigil. However, he emphasised that students use any software that allows you to tinker with the styles sheets and HTML.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed this course. Though the materials are geared towards creating EPUBs, anyone with an interest in learning CSS will likely benefit. If either applies to you or if you are looking for a refresher course in CSS, then I highly recommend that you enrol in this course.

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Course Review: InDesign Creating Fixed-Layout EPUBs

Teacher: Anne-Marie Concepcion
Length: 3h 36m (course link)

In this course, Anne-Marie Concepcion discusses how to create fixed-layout EPUBs using InDesign. There is some crossover to her course on reflowable EPUBs but a lot less complicated due to how reflowable EPUBs are parsed. If you are an editor looking to make use of InDesign for creating EPUBs, then I highly recommend that you enrol in both these courses as well as the other titles on offer from Anne-Marie Concepcion and David Blatner as they will help you get the most from InDesign CC.