Archive for July, 2010

iPad app development course builds on iPhone SDK training

Published by | Friday, July 16th, 2010

In iPhone SDK: Developing iPad Applications, author Simon Allardice shows how to apply your existing knowledge of Xcode, Objective-C, and the iPhone SDK to create applications for the iPad. The course focuses on what’s different on the iPad, including design principles for the larger screen real estate, detecting device capabilities, and working with new Xcode project types.

Simon is also the author of iPhone SDK Essential Training.

HTML5 training: Taking a first look at HTML5

Published by | Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

In all my years of teaching and writing about web design, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a topic explode in terms of interest level and passion as quickly as I have with HTML5. Despite the huge amount of interest in the topic, there is still a great deal of confusion about what HTML5 is and how to go about learning it. In my opinion, one of the best ways to approach HTML5 is by first comparing it to HTML 4 and learning the differences. That way, it’s easier to understand exactly what is changing in regards to HTML and cut through some of the hype and clutter that is currently surrounding the topic.

Although HTML5 represents an ambitious step forward in the evolution of HTML, it is largely a revised version of HTML 4. If you are comfortable writing HTML4, you should find yourself quite comfortable with the majority of the HTML5 specification. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the differences between HTML5 and HTML 4.

First, it’s important to note that the HTML5 specification is designed not just to replace HTML 4, but also the XHTML 1.0 and DOM Level 2 specifications. That means the serialization of HTML to XML and the DOM specification are now contained inside the HTML5 specification, instead of belonging to separate specs. It also contains detailed parsing rules that are designed to improve the interoperability of systems that use HTML documents. As such, the HTML5 Specification is much larger than HTML 4 and covers a lot more ground.

One of the first places you’ll notice a difference in writing HTML5 documents is in the doctype and character encoding. In the past, based on the version of HTML they were using authors have had to use long, arcane doctypes to trigger standards mode in modern browsers. You may recognize this code, for example:Now, rather than having to deal with multiple complex doctypes, you simply use a single doctype that declares the document as an HTML file. Since HTML is no longer SGML-based, no DTD is required. Character encoding is likewise simplified. All that is required now is a meta tag with a charset attribute. Here’s what the above code looks like in HTML5:

Much simpler!

There are, of course, new elements in HTML5 that are not part of HTML 4. These new elements assist with page structure and code semantics, allow embedded content, and include new phrasing tags that help add additional meaning to content within the page. By now, you’ve probably heard of new elements such as the section, article, and header tags that will make structuring pages more meaningful and elements like the video and audio tags that make it much easier to add multimedia to sites. In addition to new tags, several new attributes have been added to existing elements to extend their power and functionality as well.

Forms undergo a dramatic update in HTML5 as well. Much of the work done on the Web Forms 2.0 specification has been added to the HTML5 spec. The result of this is new form controls and input types that allow you to create more powerful forms and more compelling user experiences. New form elements include date pickers, color pickers, and numeric steppers. The input element is now much more versatile, with new input types such as url, email, and search that will make it easier to control the presentation and behavior of form content both on the web and within mobile applications. It’s worth noting that HTML5 also adds support for the PUT and DELETE form methods, making it easier to submit data to a wider array of applications.

By far the addition to HTML5 that is getting the most attention is the introduction of several new API’s that are designed to make developing web applications easier across multiple devices and user agents. These APIs include the much talked about video and audio API, an API for building offline applications, an API for editing page content, one that controls Drag and Drop functionality, another that focuses on history, and one that controls Application protocols and media types. Other API’s like Geolocation, Web Sockets, and Web Messaging are associated with HTML5, but are defined within their own specifications.

Those are a few of the highlights of the differences between HTML5 and HTML 4, and should give you a good idea of how HTML5 will change the way that web sites and web applications are authored. Sign up for the Online Training Library® New Releases announcement so you’ll know when my HTML5 tutorials are available.

New interactive design course on Papervision3D

Published by | Friday, July 9th, 2010

This 3D image of a skybox was created in Papervision3D.

As part of our ongoing training courses in Flash, we’ve just released a new course in Papervision3D. I had a chance to catch up with author Seb Lee-Delisle to talk to him about his experience with this fascinating 3D software.

Q. What is Papervision3D and what does it do?

A. It’s just a whole bunch of ActionScript files that gets compiled into your swf in the same way as your custom ActionScript would, although the Papervision code is complicated and there are hundreds of class files.

Papervision3D calculates what the 3D objects should look like in 2D and then uses the Flash drawing API (moveTo, lineTo etc) draw the 3D objects in real time.

Q. What are some of the most surprising uses of Papervision3D you’ve seen?

A. I’ve seen Papervision3D used for 3D interfaces, racing games, and kids’ websites like our own Plug-in Media projects for the BBC, Big and Small, and ZingZillas. Even use it for their 3D pitch simulations!

Q. What foundation skills would people need to get the most out of Papervision3D?

A. Ideally you would have a basic understanding of ActionScript programming, and a familiarity with Flash Builder (previously Flex Builder).

Q. In your opinion, what’s the most interesting feature in Papervision3D?

A. Just the fact that you can now render full 3D objects in Flash is brilliant. And the Collada file importer means that you can now create your 3D objects in apps like Maya and 3DStudio and watch them come to life in interactive projects.

Q. What are some of the main issues for developers?

A. Papervision3D is a software renderer, which means that you won’t get the sort of performance that you’re used to in full hardware rendered 3D like in modern console games. But in the course I show you the easiest way to get started along with all the insider tips and tricks to getting your projects optimised and running beautifully.

View Papervision3D 2 Essential Training in the Online Training Library®.

Office 2010 for Business: Focus on Access

Published by | Thursday, July 8th, 2010 has been rolling out courses on Office 2010 since the suite launched in May, and there are already more than 50 hours of Office 2010 training in the Online Training Library® covering all the core applications and SharePoint! I have been talking with our incredibly talented and enthusiastic group of Office 2010 authors about their experiences with this latest version. Today’s Q&A, the last in the series, features Alicia Katz Pollock, author of Access 2010 New Features, Access 2010 Essential Training, and Access 2010 Real World Projects.

Q: Access 2010 is touted as a simple product that you can use even if you’re not a database expert. What features can inexperienced users take advantage of to get up and running with Access?

A: While getting started with Microsoft Access isn’t as easy as sitting down and typing a document in Word, Access provides you a variety of tools to get started building your own database solution. First, take advantage of the sample database templates, such as the contact management tools. If you’re starting from scratch, Access’s Application Parts and Quick Start menus have predesigned tables and forms to provide the most common fields and configurations. And last, a new feature is that field data types and validation options are now available right on the Ribbon so you can easily see them and take advantage of proper database techniques.

Q: An issue most businesses wrestle with is how to get data out of databases and into the hands of busy managers in a format they can use and understand. What kind of tools does Access 2010 have for presenting data to the decision makers who need to act on it?

A: It’s easy to create an attractive, modern-looking report just by clicking a few buttons. Click on a table or a query containing the information you want on the printed report, and click the Report button. Voilà, a report ready to send to the printer. And if you want more control, including subtotals or your logo, click on the Report Wizard and answer its questions. Once you’re done, you can further refine the appearance by dragging the reports table cells to rearrange and resize them. Last, if you need the data moved into another data reporting tool, it’s easy to export into .xls, .csv, .txt, .xml, and .html using the Data ribbon.

Q: For users migrating from Access 2003 to Access 2010, they’ll have a new interface experience. What can you tell folks who might be nervous about the Ribbon interface? How has the Ribbon improved from 2007 to 2010?

A: The Ribbon is one of the best things to ever happen to Microsoft Office. In fact, when Microsoft polled users about what features they wanted to see, 90 percent of them were already in the program, but buried three menus deep. The Ribbons give you instant access to just about every feature in the program, yet are nice to look at and easy to understand.

One of the best Ribbon improvements from 2007 to 2010 is that they unburied all your table-building tools, so that you don’t have to go into Design view to use techniques like data types and validation rules.

Q: What’s your favorite feature in Access 2010 and why?

A: My favorite feature in Access 2010 is the new Record Validation tool. You’ve always been able to determine if acceptable data was entered into one field, but now you can compare data within two fields in a record to make sure your data was entered correctly. For example, you can now confirm that the “End Date” is after the “Start Date.” For us nitpicky data analysts, that brings comfort and security.

But on second thought, my favorite feature may just be the new and improved Macro builder interface. You no longer have to know code to build macros!

Rancho Ojai, pigs, and live action… Oh, My!

Published by | Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

With live action video shooting going full tilt in the production department these days, producers and directors are always looking for new scenic locations at which to shoot content for the never-ending flow of courses released to the Online Training Library®. For a soon-to-launch title, Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography with seasoned photographer, Ben Long, finding a suitable location was even more challenging than usual. With only a day before shooting was to begin, we were forced to back out of our initial shoot location, due to a logistics issue. During an internet search I made weeks earlier, I had tucked away the information for a 233-acre, oak-covered ranch, situated on one of the best vantage points in Ojai, California.

New Creative Inspirations documentary features photographer Natalie Fobes

Published by | Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Award-winning photographer and author Natalie Fobes is the subject of's latest Creative Inspirations documentary.

Interviewing in the middle of a spectacular old growth forest in the Olympic National Forest, our crew took a moment to appreciate what a privilege it is to bring the Natalie Fobes, Photographer documentary to members. Natalie’s photographs take us from the (all too relevant) Exxon Valdez oil spill to the very personal moments of a bride’s special day.

We discovered that she is as special as her photographs. Natalie is always giving back, whether it’s through her work with the Blue Earth Alliance or teaching photographers how to make a living doing what they love—capturing unforgettable moments. The images in this installment are, in my opinion, some of the most striking our cameras have captured. It was just released today in the Online Training Library®. Enjoy! Employee ‘Share Your Story’ Contest winners

Published by | Thursday, July 1st, 2010

In May 2010, employees were asked to share how they have used training in the Online Training Library® to design and create personal projects. The best entry would receive an Apple iPad. After reviewing the many entries, the panel of judges couldn’t decide on just one winner.

This movie highlights how three of’s employees put into practice what we teach every day. Michelle Fitzgerald in the legal department made a family video for her parent’s 50th wedding anniversary with iMovie. Scott Erickson, from the production department, created stunning photos from a road trip with the help of Aperture. Steve Hahn from the IT department learned photo retouching with Photoshop and restored a valuable family photograph.

Training used in the winning entries: iMovie training Aperture training
Photoshop CS4 One-on-One series