Can’t Afford PhotoShop? Look to Cloud Computing!

Google, Zoho, and a whole host of others have been giving us free, totally online alternatives to MicroSoft Office applications for a few years now…  and these alternatives pretty much rock.  But what about the creative type people? Are they stuck shelling out big bucks for PhotoShop and other high-end products to make images and music?

I’ve seen a few online options for the creative types that want to go the cloud-computing route, but most weren’t that special (yet).  Recently, I’ve been seeing a site called Aviary get some attention, so I decided to check it out.  The short version: not too hard to figure out, with a large number of features, all for free.

You can look here for a list of tools they have available so far.  Most of these tools are related to some kind of visual art (including what they claim is the world’s first online vector editor), but there is also an online audio editor in the list.

What interests me about Aviary is that there is a community feeling to it – profiles, favorites, messages, groups, etc.  Kind of like online productivity for creativity mixed with social networking.

There are some drawbacks for the free account.  For example, you can only download a flattened version of your layered artwork or images (with a watermark).  But layered export is coming in the Pro Version.

Ah HA! You say… A Pro version?  That’s where they are going to stick it to us, with a big charge for the really good stuff.  Well, so far… not really.  The tools work the same in both version it seems.  The Pro version gives you features surrounding the tools that pros will need – like private groups to keep your work from being stolen.  And, the Pro version is $24 a year.  Click here for a comparison of the two levels.

I haven’t messed with the Audio mixer – but it looks like you can record entire songs or podcasts online (directly through input, or by uploading pre-recorded audio parts).

Interesting tools for educators – something to keep an eye on.

Check out some of the work created on Aviary.

Collaboration, file-sharing, podcasting and more with

Sorry for the very long delay in posting. The new job and my one-year-old are taking up 113% of my time.  Just wanted to let you know about a new tool a co-worker discovered at Educause Southwest Regional. is a file hosting site that gives users the ability to upload images, documents, audio, video, and more.  A free account gives you 100Mb of space to set up your “drop” (area where you can upload your files), and users can then view a web-friendly version of the file or download the original.  

Adding content to your drop couldn’t be much easier. gives you an email address that you can use to email or MMS files that are auto-added to your drop.  You also get a phone number that you use to call in and record audio which is then saved in mp3 format and auto-added to your drop (read: easy-podcasting).  You can even fax directly into your drop.  A Firefox add-in allows you to drag and drop directly into your drop.

Content can be protected by setting a guest password.  You can even give guests the ability to add their own files, leave comments, and even delete files. also gives you the ability to set an expiration date for the files you upload.

Viewers of your content have multiple methods of being notified any time you add content to your drop.  They can sign up for email alerts (which you, the drop owner, can customize both the alert message and the welcome message) that are sent out any time you add content.  Users can subscribe to an RSS feed or add it to your iTunes as a podcast.  They can even get SMS alerts – they just choose their service provider and enter their phone number.  Add drop updates to your Facebook feed so friends see when you add content, or add the drop directly to your profile.  Users can tweet any file added to your drop.  Users can even add a widget for your drop to their website.  I could go on.  

The educational possibilites are endless: podcasting, collaboration, team building, to name a few.  So, do you use  Are you interested in  What ideas do you have for using in your class?

Click image to view demo.