Category: Multi-part Articles

In-depth articles on various topics, spanning more than one write-up, often labelled as ‘parts.’

Evernote Mobile – Part 4: Seven tips and techniques to use Evernote for college

One of Evernote’s biggest usergroup is college students. While day-to-day use of the service is being done in great amounts everywhere, one of the less talked-about uses is for college.

Use Evernote to collaborate

Evernote’s student ambassador, Megan Cotter, has already come up with a few tips for using Evernote — as the company itself puts it — from a college or university setting. But there we see a lot about using Evernote across devices — desktops/laptops, phones, tablets and so on.

However, in the real world, we are more often with our phones than most other devices, so here is how we can make best use of Evernote mobile everyday for college.

Evernote for research? Read on to find out!

Before we head off, I would like to map out our journey (it is going to be a longer article than usual!) We will start off by looking at a few common questions most students have — and, trust me, having used Evernote at college for 2 years, I realise there are some things you only learn by experience; nonetheless, I will share them with you!

From then on, we will assume certain things for our seven tips: that you are a college student (or are soon going to be one,) that you go to the same human college as the rest of us, where we all just love homework, that your day at college is spent (at least) trying to be more productive than usual, that you are actually interested in college.

Whew! We got that out of the way.

A couple of common questions

Should I go free or premium?

Sure you are an Evernote junkie, sure you can afford Evernote premium — you can also afford that enviable Volvo you look at everyday — but do you need it? Unless you are a student of graphic design, fashion, media or some field that actually lets you create visual artwork all day long, you most probably have no use of the extra offering on an Evernote Premium account.

Yet, the best advice I can offer you is this: try Free first; if you are frequently held back by the 60MB per month limit of Evernote Free, go Premium and bask in all 1GB glory.

I am an Apple fanboy, I have iCloud.

I am happy for you. No, really, because all I have is Google Drive which offers me all that and more, absolutely free. Anyway, since this is not a competition, let us return to the question at hand: can Evernote offer you something iCloud cannot, or vice versa?

Evernote using MapBox

Evernote+MapBox, one of the many extras Evernote can do. Image courtesy: Flickr/MapBox

Honestly, that is a silly question — and a surprisingly popular one at that. Evernote is a cross-device, cross-platform note-taking, pinning etc. app; iCloud is cloud computing. If you still do not get it, this might help: use Evernote as a go-to app for taking notes, making mark-ups, collaborating in sharing memos, links, saving parts of the web and so on; and use iCloud to store your documents securely online and make them accessible from everywhere.

So, when you share an update on Evernote with your project team, you can attach a link to the document on the cloud. You can take notes using Evernote, but compile them and create formatted documents on the long run that you can save on the cloud (Drive or iCloud.)

The bottom line? Evernote and iCloud are different, they cannot replace each other and are best used side-by-side.

So with Evernote mobile at college, I can take notes. Anything else?

A lot more. Evernote being called a note-taking app is mostly a namesake. Evernote really is a lot more, as we will see over the course of this article.

Now let us move on to the meat of this article!

1. Use Evernote as a scanner with search features

This is one of Evernote’s biggest advantages, in my opinion. When you come across some interesting snippet to keep and… well, just keep, then you can go the CamScanner way. But when there are notes you will get back to, study, annotate and stock, use Evernote. This is, in fact, how I do it myself.

Evernote’s wonderful image scan feature lets you search scanned, hand-written notes based on words appearing in those notes! Here is a quick demonstration of a similar  in screenshots:

Evernote image search demonstration screenshot 1

Step 1: I capture my handwritten note

Evernote image search demonstration screenshot 2

Step 2: I search for a keyword I recall

Evernote image search demonstration screenshot 3

Step 3: Evernote delivers results!

2. Organise your research

As part of an informal college group that discusses physics once a week, I find that I have to constantly hunt for information, research, read, make notes and recall them.

While Evernote cannot possibly help me do the last thing on that list (unless I physically look at my notes) it can help me do all the others there.

Research is a part of almost every college student’s years. The next time you are sitting for a long bout of reading, start capturing things and putting them in your Evernote. And when you are not sitting and researching, the chances are that you will come across something that might help you. The solution is simple: clip exactly what you need, organise it at leisure, and you are good to go!

3. Capture that whiteboard (or black or green)

Capture whiteboards with Evernote at college

Capture that whiteboard! Image courtesy: Flickr/Arenamontanus

We all know the popular saying, “Chalk and blackboard wait for none.” (Well, I cooked that up now, but you get the point!)

The next time your professor gets something up on the board (and if they are not allergic to phones and other gadgets in their class) snap a picture. With Evernote’s image search feature that we saw before, you can get back to the right whiteboard (or black or green) anytime you like.

4. Discuss and collaborate with your peers

While I cannot do this myself, I cannot deny the idea sounds enticing either. In fact, all college students should start collaborating this way if possible.

Set up a shared notebook (or stack if you wish) and start using it as a cross between a noticeboard and a discussion forum. Your friends can update it with things they have found in their exploration of syllabus topics while you can do the same. You can also set up combined study meet-ups in this manner.

This can also help in projects where many students will have to collaborate. Use Evernote as your own discussion board to exchange files (our next tip,) memos, updates and related thoughts.

5. Share, upload and search files

Evernote cannot open any files (as of the time of writing this article, not even open file formats) but the attach feature lets you attach a file in absolutely any format to open and use elsewhere.

Attach files to your notes in Evernote mobile

Attaching files in Evernote mobile

If you have an important file and uploading it to your choice cloud service is time consuming, quickly attach the file to your Evernote. That way, it syncs at leisure (for instance if you have set up sync only on Wi-fi) but you can rest assured the file will always be attached and available locally.

Now this may take up your storage space if you do it ten times a day, but it should hold up for nominal use. Also, if you already have an Evernote Premium account, you can search attached .pdf files. What is important here is to note that when you attach, Evernote merely carries the file, so, be it Pages, Office, OpenOffice or any other unheard of format, Evernote will still attach and carry it around, albeit never open it.

6. Record lectures or your own thoughts

Now students of sciences may find this impractical, but students of arts — where a lecturer’s words are art at best — will find  it extremely convenient to record lengthy talks and discussions directly to their Evernote. Simply turn it on at the beginning, go through class and turn it off again.

Recording audio notes is fast in Evernote

Recording audio notes is fast in Evernote

Here, you have the choice of keeping it locally in your mobile phone alone, or, if you do not mind the huge file sizes (as with our previous tip,) you can sync it to your other devices. Recording to a local notebook will solve this problem as it never syncs; similarly, recording to a synced notebook does its thing too.

But here is a nice thought that applies quite to everybody: use the audio note feature to quickly record your own thoughts into your Evernote.

For instance, I get weird, but wonderful, ideas many a time when I am out walking my Dane. If I stopped to type a note each time, he would understandably rip my shoulder socket out and continue on his walk. But if I record my thought, I can listen to it later while not breaking pace on my walk.

7. Manage documents, handouts etc.

I probably do not have to say how handouts and notices and schedules and notes and slides and… Well, these are essential and rather tiresome part of document management in college. With your Evernote, you can just start digitising them, or, if they are already digitised, maintain an Evernote library of all these documents.

By library I mean a notebook full of these documents attached. It is one thing to leave them lying around in your storage card, but an entirely different, organised approach to have them filed in your Evernote on all your devices.

I myself usually make it a point to download schedules, any syllabi and notices from my college website onto my Evernote and then scan and digitise supplied notes, slides etc. as the year goes. Try it yourself!

 Bonus tip! 

8. Keep a Schedule notebook

I call it a schedule notebook, but you can go ahead and call it whatever you like. The idea behind this is simple: keep a track of recurring things. (Not your daily schedule — I know the name is a tad misleading.)

College students have several things to do every day and several of them recur. These may come once a week, a month or over some other period; and a schedule notebook can help you keep track of things and make sure you attend to them all. These recurring tasks can be anything from making sure you attended enough hours in every course to keeping tack of whether you completed all assignments usually allotted each semester. Or it could be something — including regular tuition and hostel fees — that recur and are specific to your college.

Simply create a list with check boxes and leave it untouched. Every time you need to swing into action and do one of the tasks on that list, make sure you tick it and you can keep track of your progress.

 Bonus insight! 

How do I organise my Evernote mobile for college?

This is a question I got soon after I published the second article in this series, and I think it is both valid and interesting. While how each person organises their notes depends entirely upon that person, for the few who are understandably lost as to where to get started, it helps to know how others are organising their Evernote.

I keep a stack called “College.” At the start of a semester I erase all of my unwanted notes/notebooks and prepare fresh notebooks arranged so: one per paper, named by subject; one called dates; one for documents; and one miscellaneous notebook.

Any homework or coursework announced goes into the respective “subject” notebook. Any important dates, such as submissions, test dates and so on go into separate notes in the “dates” notebook tagged with the respective subject — this allows me to later search for dates by subject. As mentioned before, syllabi, handouts and other documents go into the “documents” notebook with the subject tags. Everything else goes into the “miscellaneous” notebook with the same tagging system for later reference.

Take a look below. (Since I am between semesters right now, I have reset my notes and that is why all note counts you see here are zeros.)

How I organise my Evernote for college

Organising my Evernote for college

 Apart from this, I do keep a To-Do notebook which may contain college stuff, but is a general notebook because it also contains my everyday, out of college stuff; the same goes for my research notebook, since I do not consider research to be a college-centred activity, but a lot more of a general one. And once a job mentioned in a note is finished, I tag it with my all-time favourite tag, done, so I will know when it is complete and out of my way!

I will spare you any further details; but now that you have an idea of how I organise my Evernote for college, maybe you can go ahead and come up with a system of your own to suit your subject and needs. Or you could go ahead, save your time and do it the way I am doing it. Either way, make sure your use of Evernote serves the purpose: increased efficiency, organisation and getting the job done. [vhb]  Cover image: Flickr/NazarethCollege 

Evernote Mobile – Part 3: Effective browsing, web clipping and saving with your Evernote

More often than not, time spent browsing the web is unproductive. For some this may be because they veer off course, for others because they go online with something in mind and one thing leads to another and they have too much information on their hands — more than anybody can possibly remember or digest in an hour or so.

Introducing web clipping

Evernote web clipper tipsA quick and self-sufficient way to work around this problem is to use Evernote’s nifty little feature: the web clipper. This tiny browser-bar button sits out of the picture until you want it, and when you do, it swings into action by saving just the area of a web page that you choose.

I say self-sufficient because the web clipper is beautifully integrated into Evernote: once you choose an area of a page to save, it allows you to add tags and pick a notebook to save it into, and quickly clips and stores it away on all your devices. In this article we shall see a couple of ways in which you can make your web clipping better and more efficient, and also some interesting uses for it.

Important! This is part 3 of a 7-part series of articles on Evernote Mobile:

  1. Getting started with Evernote Mobile
  2. 5 tips and techniques for improving your Evernote organisation
  3. Effective browsing, web clipping and saving with your Evernote
  4. Seven tips and techniques to use Evernote for college
  5. Five tips to use Evernote for photography

Why is it better than alternatives like Readability, Pocket or Instapaper?

Many, including myself who uses Pocket, will naturally be asking this question. What will Evernote’s browser extension give me that existing apps like Pocket will not?

As far as I am concerned, the biggest draws towards the Web Clipper for me are two things: small size and (wonderfully) the redundancy of one more app.

Firstly, in Pocket, when you save a web page, the app decides whether you save it as text or web page itself. In other words, there are quite a few instances where you cannot save a webpage as text alone. Evernote’s Web Clipper, on the other hand, allows you to clip (as opposed to save) a part/whole of a web page, leaving you with a smaller file. This is especially useful when you are on mobile data — not all of us (or perhaps nobody, now,) has an unlimited plan!

Secondly, using the Web Clipper, you can completely get rid of Pocket from your phone (great as it is) since your Evernote can do the job of both and more.

Web Clipper on Evernote Mobile

The biggest drawback on mobile (which was where Pocket, Readability etc. came in) was that the Clipper was desktop-only. So if you were browsing on your phone, there was no way you could save a webpage unless you shared the entire thing to Evernote, which offers no real advantage — besides, you would be plain foolish to want to do something like that.

But now, the good news is, there are Evernote web clippers for phone OSes. That is right, all plural, there is more than one!

EverWebClipper vs Add-ons

Broadly categorising, there are two way you can go when it comes to web clippers on Evernote mobile: the paid EverWebClipper app, or the free Add-on. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. And there are Android and iOS versions.

Evernote mobile web clipper

Step 1: Drag out the sidebar

EverWebClipper offers three styles of clipping: full web page (with styles,) text-based, or URL-only (like Pocket, Instapaper etc.) all of them are quite self-explanatory, and in the decreasing order of file size. The disadvantage is, of course, that it costs money.

On Android

Among add-ons, the most popular one is arguably the Dolphin Evernote Add-on that lets you save web pages to Evernote. The catch here is that although it saves the whole web page — more or less itself deciding to chop in text-heavy areas and rarely going wrong — since we are on mobile browsers, we are already being fed slimmed down text-prominent versions of the website or article and file size is not all that large.

Evernote mobile web clipper 2

Step 2: Fill in the details

The disadvantage is that it is a Dolphin browser add-on, so if you are a fan of Chrome on Android, you cannot experience it there (yet — there surely is a Chrome mobile extension coming!)

On iOS

It is the same case with Safari on iOS which does not support an Evernote web clipper either. In this case you can follow these (rather complicated) steps:

Step 1: Create a blank bookmark (i.e. without opening any page) on Safari and give it a recognisable name.

Step 2: In the URL section (you may have to go back and edit your bookmark to add this first) copy the following code and paste it:

Evernote mobile web clipper 3

Step 3: Let it clip

Step 3: The next time you spot a web page to clip, simply click on the bookmark you just created!

The first time you clip, you may have to log into your Evernote account, but it remembers the data for further clippings. The advantage of this procedure is that the javascript that runs when you click on the new bookmark lets you pick a notebook and tag your clipping. Read this article to find out why tagging is important.

Quick clip tip: normal web pages vs print-friendly pages

Evernote mobile web clipper 4

Step 4: Enjoy it on Evernote

A quick way to make sure you clip text and not ads, images or other unnecessary media is to first turn on the print-friendly (or reader friendly) version of web pages. This is something similar to Safari’s reader view option. Once there, simply clipping it will make sure you get the content and not the heavy flair.

As karloldreyes puts it, “sometimes [the web clipper] doesn’t handle formatting or any other extra things like ads or flash very well… [the print-friendly] version usually has little to no formatting and other useless things you don’t want clipped like ads or comments.”

Related results

While this is not yet (unfortunately) a feature of Evernote Mobile, it is nonetheless worth mentioning.

Once you log into the web clipper on a desktop browser, Evernote starts supplying what it calls related results on all your Google searches. These appear in a decent, non-intruding fashion on the right-hand side of the results page and show three notes from your Evernote that are in some way related to your search query on Google.

Evernote web clipper related results

Evernote web clipper provides related results on Google. Image courtesy: Evernote

This is quite a nifty feature for obvious reasons. Having these snippets can re-direct and tune your search as you are aware of what you already have on that topic and you could go about finding more interesting data. Or maybe something else entirely?

Evernote Business account holders can also get search results from co-workers’ notebooks they are linked to or permitted into.

In conclusion

As we saw, the Evernote mobile web clipper, even if not as powerful as its desktop counterpart, can be an unparalleled add-on to your mobile browsing experience. It offers an offline view of your favourite web pages with a small file package, not eating your data or running dry your free Evernote account’s paltry storage limit.

Using this intelligently can let you save your web experience for later, to come back, annotate, crop, cut, clip, share and make your work a lot more organised and efficient.

Return in a day for our next article in this series: “Seven tips and techniques for effectvely using Evernote Mobile at college.”

 Cover image: Flickr/Guttorm Flatabà

Evernote Mobile – Part 2: Five tips and techniques to improve your Evernote organisation

In this age of technology, we all have more things to do than we possibly can. So we need some sort of digital assistant to keep reminding us of those things and making sure we complete it. Now some can afford human assistants to get this job done, but others would rather have safer digital assistants.

Evernote is one such application: it is a note-taking app that can help you keep your day-to-day activities on course, keep a schedule and do things as planned. But Evernote alone cannot make you do your job. There is a certain systematic method in which you need to organise yourself around this wonderful app to make it truly useful and effective to you — and a lot more people need to understand this than is evident at first.

With the five simple techniques we will see in this article, you can learn how to manage and make Evernote a more efficient and effective digital assistant that can actually help you get things done!

Important! This is part 2 of a 7-part series of articles on Evernote Mobile.

  1. Getting started with Evernote
  2. Five tips and techniques to improve your Evernote organisation
  3. Effective browsing, web clipping and saving with your Evernote
  4. Seven tips and techniques to use Evernote at college
  5. Five tips to use Evernote for photography
All screenshots taken on an International GALAXY Note N7000. All Right Reserved. No screenshot may be reproduced elsewhere without prior permission. Also, click on any image to view full resolution version.

1. Tags as a fourth-level organisation

An important feature in Evernote (now also present in other apps in a similar fashion) is tagging.

Evernote - add tag - step 1

Step 1

Evernote - add tag - step 2

Step 2

This is a lot like tagging images, which is something more people are familiar with, but differs in one aspect: Evernote lets you tag a note based on what it is about and/or things it is connected to with any (number of) keyword(s) of your choice.

How exactly is this feature useful? Tagging notes means you can search your notes quickly later. Tagging also means you can use this as a fourth level-organisation.

By default, Evernote allows for three levels of organisation: stacks, notebooks and notes. Supposing you (for some reason) have a stack called “Physics,” and several notebooks classified by discipline (“Astrophysics, quantum physics etc.,) and you further have one note for every research paper published, then you can quickly look up tags for all research papers dealing with one subject.

For instance, you can search by tags for all research papers dealing with proton (tags,) under the collection of research papers (notes,) under the field of astrophysics (notebook,) in your Physics stack.

2. Interlink notes

Evernote - note interlink - step 1

Step 1

Evernote - note interlink - step 2

Step 2

One little-known feature of Evernote and its great versatility is the ability to interlink notes.

If you are writing a note that is in some way connected to one you have already written, you can simply link a word or phrase from the new note to the older one for quick access later.

There is one catch here, though (as of the time of writing this article.) On the Evernote desktop client, linking to an existing note is as simple as right-clicking and selecting the “Link” option to choose a note.

Evernote - note interlink - step 3

Step 3

Evernote - note interlink - step 4

Step 4

Now, while the mobile client has no such quick workout, I have come up with a workaround which some of you might already know.

Step 1: Go to the note you would like to link to.

Step 2: Click on sharing options and click copy url.

Step 3: Create a new note and paste the copied url by long-pressing.

Step 4: Save. (Kind of obvious, that, yes?)

3. Create a general incoming stack

While the best way to organise your Evernote would be to have neatly cut stacks, notebooks, notes and sufficient (but not too many) tags, what happens every so often is that you end up coming up with some note that just does not fit your existing stacks.

There may be several reasons for this:

  • You share from an app that does not let you choose a stack
  • You share from an app and forget to choose a stack
  • You share from Google+ (yes, you can do that too, as we shall see in coming articles!)
  • You enter a note but are in a hurry and cannot decide on a stack
  • Doctor Who is showing on TV

The quickest solution to this is to create what I call an Incoming stack. Then set this up as your default stack (via your account settings) and you are good to go. Now you know anything in that stack needs to be looked into to be organised manually, or — in the event that you notice sufficient related notes are coming up — it is time to create a new notebook or new stack.

4. Sync. Please.

You are not going to gain much out of Evernote if you do not download it on all your devices and sync, sync, sync.

The point of Evernote is to get to all your devices before you get to them and be ready for when you do get there. I have my Evernote set up on my phone, tablet, laptop and desktop. Most often, it is my phone that is with me, but there are times when I drop everything off and carry around my tablet; and there are yet some times when I forget my phone at home in the mad rush of not forgetting to carry my laptop and its accessories; and there are other, if rare, times when I am at my desktop and am just too lazy to grab my phone from where ever it is.

In every case, I have Evernote where I am and I can access, edit and add to things with great ease. If you want to increase your Evernote efficiency, this is one thing you simply have to do.

5. Learn these 3 Evernote search techniques inside-out

Like Google search, Evernote too has certain search syntax that can go a really long way in making your search results more accurate, streamlined, fast and simply a lot more relevant especially when you have a huge collection of notes. With thanks to the awesome Brett Kelly for these, here is a list of the top three:

  1.  created:day-x : When you replace x with a number, you can choose to search notes made only since x days ago. So if today is Sunday, created:day-3 will list all notes made from Thursday onwards satisfying yout search criteria. Similarly, created:week-1 will list out everything since last Sunday, and so on.
  2.  tag:xyz -tag:abc searchterm : When you replace the word xyz with a word of your choice, and do the same for abc, and also include a search term as shown, then Evernote will look for all notes related to the searchterm which are tagged with xyz and also not tagged with the word abc. Pretty slick, eh?
  3.  notebook:name : When you want to search for something in a particular notebook, this is how you can do it on Evernote. Simply replace the word name with one of your notebooks and voila! So, if I have to search for something in my Incoming notebook (see  point 3 above) then I would simply use notebook:incoming in the search bar!

 Bonus tip! 

6. Email, Twitter and Evernote Mobile go hand-in-hand!

If you have ever been in a fix as to what you do when you spot something really great on Twitter and thought, “Hey, I should keep a copy of that in my Evernote!” (or even if you did not) there is a way you can do it, quick and simple. Here is an example:

Message I tweeted:

It quickly arrives on my Evernote:

Twitter-Evernote link

Now your link-up may not be as fast, I just happened to tweet it at a time when Twitter was fairly free and not crammed with posters. In any case, unless you are in a great urgency, your message should get to your Evernote in less than 15 minutes or so, but it often happens much faster.

So how do you set it up?

Step 1: Follow @myEN on Twitter

Step 2: You will receive a direct message on Twitter (often instantly) carrying a link. Click on the link.

Step 3: You will be re-directed to your Evernote where you must authorise a connection. Do it.

Step 4: Start tweeting to your Evernote by mentioning @myEN.

Tweeting to your Evernote can be especially useful when you want to keep a tweet: simply retweet it mentioning @myEN.

Alongside tweeting, if you are clearing out your email inbox when you get a thought worth noting (or you simply want to retain a message that will othewise drown in your starred queue) you can also email it to your Evernote.

Your Evernote emailOn your phone, click on your username and choose “Account info” from the drop down menu. There, you can find your unique email address. (It usually looks like so: were you have your username, some letters and numbers and the suffix.)

Simply email anything to that address and the subject line becomes your note title and body becomes your note content.

In conclusion

With the six tips and techniques you have seen today, you can vastly re-organise your Evernote, fine tune your note-taking style and rhythm, and become a lot more efficient over all.

From easy note-taking and posting from third-party services to specifying search strings and interlinking, Evernote lets you do a great deal of things that can make your life easier. Make sure you get all of this into your daily routine to make the best of Evernote, while you wait for a day or two for our next article in this series: “Effective web browsing, clipping and saving with your Evernote.” [vhb]  Cover image: Flickr/watchsmart 

Evernote Mobile – Part 1: Getting started

If you have not heard of Evernote, you definitely are living under a rock. Evernote is a powerful, cross-platform, note-taking and collaboration app. And if you read our recent notes-app comparison, you will see just how feature-rich Evernote is.

Now, on the other hand, if you have not yet got started with it for some reason, that is excusable. With this seven-part series, you are sure to be an advanced Evernote user (we call ourselves ‘Evernote junkies’) and — here is the real deal — you will be using Evernote not just as a note-taking app, but as one to improve your productivity and (seemingly) lengthen you day!

Evernote Mobile

I will only be talking about Evernote on mobile devices (be it iOS, Android or something else, Evernote is basically the same build-, design- and structure-wise) because its mobile app itself is so plump with features and targeted at several types of users that it is going to us seven interesting articles to cover.

I am going to be putting up  one every two or three days to help you digest the information effectively. So, today, let us start with a quick run-down of what Evernote is, what you can do with it and getting a basic understanding of how Evernote works.

Granted, this is for absolute beginners, but let us give all readers an even chance! If you are new to Evernote, this infographic below should give you a good feel for what it is and how it basically works.

Evernote at a glance for beginners - getting started - Infographic by VHBelvadi

In two days, get back here for an intermediate article, “Five tips and techniques to improving your Evernote organisation.” Until then, download Evernote on your mobile device and be armed. [vhb]

On Man: On Democracy and other forms of mis-governance

MAN BELIEVES IN ruling himself although his own realisation of this is flawed, in that he lets others rule him so long as they are men too — at least physically.

Therefore, in order to satisfy his spirit, and (mis)lead it to believe he is his own master, he created a new word that could describe his hope. But men were multiplying as far as the eye could see and man quickly realised it would become futile to have so many rulers and so few followers, because, if his own adage were to be believed, “too many cooks spoil the broth.”

This was how man created the word “Democracy,” solely to turn the tables on this adage; but it was in vain: the broth was still a little too salty to be any good.

Some time later, somebody probably hit upon a brilliant idea and that was how the concept of opposition was born. It was not opposition to the idea of democracy (man was hardly in a position to accept his mistake,) rather, it was an opposition inside a democratic system. However, man often takes things too literally and, with a ruling and an opposition, democracy merely became a slightly more civilised way of fighting — although certain human factions, called countries, are yet to attain that civility.

The workings of a democracy are far simpler than they might seem (the workings being intensified and complicated by man’s depiction of them.) At the lowest, and arguably the least consulted, level are the people that matter. They are represented by people who think they matter, and who answer to people who do not quite matter. Some countries, it is worth mentioning here, have several levels in between the lowest and highest strata. This arrangement is often justified by citing a growing population, which, while it is certainly plausible — and hence often goes unquestioned (or unanswered) — is merely a cover to hide the real reason: to alienate the masses from the administration. This is done very efficiently; and is perhaps the only job done so.

The picture of democracy often painted, though, is a different matter entirely. It involves hundreds of people taking part in strange, often questionable, sorts of debate as they claim to represent the views of millions — which is really half-a-million different opinions, satisfying all of which a country is expected to run. And the aim of democracy is to make sure it satisfies no single one of them for fear of disappointing the others.

In the pith, democracy, like all of mankind, is about two parties (there are two faces to every coin) — one which is quite lost and another which believes it knows the way. The latter (popularly known as the opposition) almost always takes its appellation too literally and believes its sole job is to oppose the former in all possible manners, every step of the way. The former (the mostly lost ones, popularly known as the ruling party,) make the best efforts to remain lost. The opposition and ruling teams then take turns swapping places in a bid to satisfy the remaining of their faction/country, signifying that they are both well and truly lost.

In spite of the fact that democracy, at the highest level, is managed by said people, it is not the most hopeless form of ruling (a more fashionable term being “administration.”) There are others, such as dictatorship, where one man does the job of two parties, thereby making the need for the two parties in the first place, somewhat foggy; and there is communism, a misunderstood form of self-reliance where every man is responsible for his own misfortune so long as somebody else caused it. Communism was first experimented with disastrous results by the USSR — a brave people who, thereafter, immediately re-christened a major part of themselves as “Russia” in a bid to wipe away all of history pointing to this and start over anew. It is yet to prove fruitful.

An older form of government that preceded democracy was called a “constitutional monarchy.” The term “constitutional” was stripped off in the early stages, when King John found out what it meant. This fashion of mis-governance has since been succeeded by more efficient forms such as federations (hierarchy of people) and confederations (hierarchy of people who are really cons.)

Some men, called anti-federalists, despise the idea of federalism owing to the fact that they find it hard to keep track of all these layers of governance and repeated lose track by the time they figure out who is ruling at the top; and — unlike most others — these do not mind confessing it, or even throwing a tantrum about it (as they often do.)

Occasionally, these anti-federalists win against the government and — much to their own surprise — successfully overthrow it. However, this is as far as they plan, and, without the faintest idea of what to do next, come up with a name to brand themselves, which is almost always a derivative of sorts of the Spanish word, juntado,  meaning “joined.” Since nobody still knows what it is that is joined, the victorious revolutionaries take safe haven behind an altered (or, perhaps,mis-pronounced) form, Junta, since the word has no real meaning and hence such a thing cannot be inquired into.

It is well known that a poorly planned scenario outlasts an unplanned one; in this manner, the junta, ironically, realising that months later they still have no plan, give way to democracy once again. In this manner continues perpetually, the holy circle of anarchy and hypocrisy in governance.

The most outrageous form of governance, however, is theocracy. It is merely democracy taken one step too far by a company of ingenious men, preachers, priests, chanters and lip-movers who conjure up more-or-less successful ways to get an entire nation to believe they are ruled by an invisible supreme being so far greater than everybody else that nobody is worthy of seeing them, and that all men were created equal &c. — mostly all words people want to hear.

These preachers — in their busy schedule of robbing cities of time in broad daylight, and smothering genuine scientific curiosity in all men — take the time to decide which creatures their supreme being created and which they did not; the latter category usually comprises of either everybody who refuses to believe in such a supreme being unless he is shown before them, or re-elected every half-decade; or everybody who could spot the mute lip-mover in a choir.

It therefore becomes apparent that theocracy is a cross between democracy and autocracy — a hedge of contradicting claims that gives its leaders an opportunity to equivocate.

Man, in these ways has governed himself for as long as he bothered to record the activities of his kind. He is convinced it is working and that there is no better way to do it, save the above mentioned lot. So he does it with all his heart, which is what is most inspiring about mankind: the fact that they know they are wrong, refuse to believe it, and continue working roughly the same way, governed by democracies, juntas or dictators who believe a nation is their private property; and then, alongside them, a bunch of arrogant pro-theocratic men who strongly believe the immeasurable universe was created solely for their convenience — and misapplication.

Everything you need to know about typography: Part III

IN THIS FINAL installment of our 3-article series on typography, we are going to get our hands dirty and take up a fairly complicated project and design typesets in a circumstance mirroring the real world.

[hr_padding] [notice type=”red”] Did you know that this is the third article on a series introducing you to the basics and intermediate levels of Typography? Head over to the first article, and then visit the second one too to get a better idea of what we’re doing in this post.
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Getting hired on a typesetting project

It is going to be a hands-on, real-world experience, so do not take the back seat and read through this. Try, instead, to participate every step of the way and go to a step only after you have finished the last. I have coded this article to make that easy for you. To start, click step 1, and once you are done, click step 2 to reveal it and so on. That way you will not sneak a peak involuntarily.

And before we go on, here is a word about our client of today: he is going to need us to typeset a heavily textual, offline work, covering consistency, readability and overall appearance, and he has several demands that we will learn from him soon. But we shall try to handle it in ways that can be used for either an offline or online work — and for you to get a good picture about on-set typography.

Ready? Dive in! Here is our client walking through the door. We have no idea what his name is, so we’ll just call him Richie.

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Richie’s newspaper typography requirements

Richie is a newspaper editor who owns a local daily called the City Lights Tribune. He needs us to design a newspaper for him, and his requirements are –. Let us hear them in his own words:

[hr_padding] [notice type=”green”] “I’m going to need you to typeset my newspaper for me. Use the usual dimensions. I want the title to stand out, but none of that old English typefaces that everybody uses. Go for something different. I like it modern, but not so modern that it loses the touch of a newspaper and people don’t take it seriously.

“My articles are going to be of three levels. I’ll have a major headline or two, a few important stories and few unimportant news items. Your typesetting must make that clear. And don’t forget colours! I’ll also need a space for just titles and page numbers for navigation and such. That’s what I need. I’ll leave the rest to your discretion. Do a good job of it!”

So there goes the man out the door. Now let us begin working on his paper. By the usual dimensions he probably refers to the rectangular layout of a newspaper, so we shall disregard specifics for now and head right to typesetting it. We shall be using lorem ipsum as dummy text, so if you have no idea what that is or do not know how to get it, take a look at this article.

When you’re ready, head to step 1.

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So, have you taken yourself through the above steps? It is time to take a look at the final product. As your third and final typography lesson comes to an end, and you prepare to brave out the world with your newly found knowledge, here is a final piece of typographical work for you, as part of this three-article series. Click on the thumbnail below. (On the top right corner, you’ll find a tiny grey box. Click it to magnify the image.)

[hr_padding] [pictureframe image=”” align=”center” lightbox=”true” title=”The City Lights newspaper typeset by” link=”” width=”108″ height=”164″] [hr_padding]

So that ends our fun typography blog/workshop! I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it for  you. And I certainly hope it will be of use to you at some point of time in the future. As always, if you have any doubts or would like to drop a kind word, you know how to get in touch with me!

Everything you need to know about typography: Part II

WELCOME BACK TO the 3-aricle series on the A to Z of typography. This part continues from part I that we saw previously, so if you have missed out on that, make sure you head over to part I and familiarise yourself with all the jargon and basics of typography before continuing with this; you are bound to benefit best that way.

If you have already come through that route, keep going right on! In this part we will discuss several more interesting — and, more importantly, fun — things like I had promised last time. Here is a quick look at the highlights of this article:

  1. Considerations when selecting typefaces
  2. Web-safe typefaces
  3. Standard print typefaces in the publishing industry, and
  4. Some good, important rules and practices when handling typefaces

In this article I am going to make fairly open use of some of the terminology you have learnt in the preceding article, so try to keep up. Any time you cannot, just keep the first article open in a alternate tab on your browser!

[hr_padding] [notice type=”green”] After Part 1 of this series, I got several requests to deal with the problem of the near-infinite scrolling, since these are considerably long posts. (This part, for instance, is around 3,000 words long.)

So I sat down, and, with a handful of code and a slightly altered design around that region, managed to break down this post into three pages.

Once you reach the bottom of this page, you have a direction-link to the following pages. Use that to navigate and reduce any stress of scrolling!
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The A, B, C of type selection

You are faced with the dilemma of choosing the right typeface for your work more often than you think. Over 65% of the working population out there does not really bother about the type they set their work in (but they do later spend a lot of time wondering why it does not look as good — I’m particularly talking to Richard Campbell, one of my readers who mailed me regarding this and requested me for a series on Typography.) 25% — which includes you — actually take interest in the field and try to learn from the rest of us who know. That said, the next time you start typing something, start paying more attention to the typeface of your document or book or webpage and you will find it helps immensely.

Plaque for Elrod machine

Plaqe for Edinburgh’s Elrod machine. Image courtesy: Flickr/edinburghcityofprint

When you are considering a typeface, you will naturally have to keep three key points in mind: readability, complementary behaviour, and consistency. Now these are terms you can easily understand: readability refers to how easy the typeface is on the eyes; complementary behaviour is how well one typeface works with another (or several others) in the document/webpage; and consistency is how the typeface works over several weights, styles, sizes and so on.

[hr_padding] [notice type=”yellow”] Remember! Do not confuse readability with legibility.

Readability refers to how easy the font is on the readers’ eyes, and in turn how well suited it is especially for long periods of reading; this is especially in the case of books or articles.

On the other hand, legibility is how high the chances are of every single reader being able to read the typeface with ease. For instance a curvy, flourishing font — while obviously disturbing as part of a large block of text — wold be perfectly fine to use fleetingly as a heading text so long as an O does not look like Q. You get the point.
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Of course this would entirely depend on what you are going to use it for: if it is a book title or webpage heading, you do not have to bother as much about readability as you do about legibility. The same goes for consistency, as the rate of variation of such choice of fonts is narrow at best.

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A CaSe LiKe LeX in typography

There are 6 factors to remember when choosing a typeface, and — since we can afford to rush through this list quickly — I have created a simple mnemonic to help you remember it. If you are a fan of Superman (comics of film) you can definitely not forget an iconic villain, a nutcase like Lex Luthor! So let us take Lex’s help in remembering this list: CaSe LiKe LeX

Needless to say, pay attention to my weird spelling. This is what the six capital letters stand for: Cap-height, Serif, Ligature, Kerning, Leading and X-height. Five of these you have already learnt, but since we have not seen what a ligature is previously, I created a simple equation to help you remember. (And if you are not a fan of equations, just think of this as a typographical diagram!)

Some font have — and many a time typographers make sure that — the kerning between two letters gets so fearfully close that the set-up looks clumsy as two letters, but much more beautiful as a single entity.

The finest example in type-history is the ligature between an f and an i. In some fonts (the one you see above is Robert Silmbach‘s beautiful Minion from the 90s — an entirely digital font) typing f and i in a word, in sequence, creates a ligature that looks very similar — but should not be confused with — an h.

In particular, the term ligature refers to the crossbar-like horizontal stroke joining the two letters.

The thing about CaSe LiKe LeX is that you need to make sure, for an idea you previously had in mind, that a given typeface satisfies all these six needs just right. It is as simple as having an idea, picking possible typefaces, and making sure the six properties of a typeface matches with your idea.

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Web safe typefaces: what are they and why do we need them?

Whenever we talk about typography in the twenty-first century, a standard assumption is that we create a distinction between print typefaces and websafe typefaces.

The distinction is mainly based on availability. If we reeled back to the 1800s or even the early 1900s, and you were thinking of publishing a pamphlet (which was all the rage then) you could only choose between select typefaces — the ones whose slugs the type-caster or publisher had. If you did not find what you were hoping for, he would probably tell you, ‘Head over to Gustaveson’s press, he’s got the typeface you’re looking for,’ or something to that effect.

Fast forward to the 21st century and that problem is solved. With digital printing for books, if you want a font, you will, of course, get it. But a new problem has cropped: this is not true for the web. Much like in the 1800s, if  I want my webpage in a certain typeface and you do not have its font installed on your computer, you can never see my webpage! History repeating itself? Not quite, as we have a work around this — meaning we can now build webpages with almost any font and have in shown in almost any computer regardless of whether a font is installed in it or not; but we will see more about this technique in the final installment of this series.

For now, what you need to understand is that some fonts (mostly the ones that come pre-installed with your computers, be it a mac or a PC) are available in all computers all over the world. These are called web safe fonts and are just as safe as their name suggests. If you are familiar with codes, you will know how we often set a fallback font — or several fallback fonts — to make sure the webpage is delivered as close to what we envisioned as possible.

On Man: On Education

MANKIND BELIEVES IN educating itself although nobody has yet got to clearly defining what that is. It is, however, clear that to some extent, man measures himself by several numbers and papers and decides if he is the intellectual superior of another or not. He hardly ever uses the same comparison with other animals, because the answer to that question is fairly obvious.

Man has decided that there are only certain things he needs to learn, and do so over a limited period of time. This is a unanymously approved definition of the term, education.

Education often starts when a child throws his, or her, first tantrum at home. It is clear that education alone can rid the Earth of more tantrums — hence the appreciable lack of violence between educated grown-ups. Alas, over time, this was mistaken for a trend and children were sent to begin their formal education regardless of how quiet they remained at home.

The term formal education is quite befitting here, because, like all formalities, formal education too is highly limiting: it is limiting on creativity, thinking, independence, creativity, self-confidence, originality, creativity, imagination and several other unimportant characteristics in a human.

By the age of fourteen, children have usually learnt enough to be halfway through their so-called senior schools. The more intelligent ones, by this point, although no better advanced in terms of age, may have sped to college. In spite of this practice appearing awkward to many, it is often expressed as awe.

By seventeen, children no longer wish to be addressed as children, and are therefore, instead, addressed as youths. And by seventeen, adults usually nudge youths to think about doing something worthwhile with their lives — the adults probably having realised that the past twelve years were not. It is then that several forks open up en route and the youths take one of them. They are all several ways to do something worthwhile with one’s life, including, but not limited to, continuing onto college, robbing houses (or banks, depending on one’s IQ,) creating new jobs for other people, called entrepreneurship — which is really just an excuse to create a job for one’s self, and so on.

The smart kids — the ones who attended school at two, college at fourteen &c. — have, by now, usually gone so far ahead in their life that society has lost track of them.

Mankind’s most advanced invention, till date, is measuring intelligence on paper. He has an advanced technique where various people’s response to various situations may be determined by studying various people’s response to the same situation. These are called exams, but are often referred to by more suitable synonyms such as dubiousness, contingency or fortuity.

The underlying principle is that every man gets a corresponding number and the higher a person’s number, the more intelligent he is. Some tribes prefer to use alphabets in stead of numbers, thereby making its deduction all the more difficult. However, it is safe to say that man’s singular method of measuring intelligence may be correct, because mankind, by and large, is in a supposedly better place than they were several hundred years ago (before the invention of this system of intelligence-measurement.)

Once educated — the conventional limit being around the age of 25, anything beyond that being frowned upon and met with either awe or nods of hopelessness — the youths have become men; and these are the men that are expected to drive the nation forward.

The cycle continues more or less punctually, with every generation gaining new knowledge that the older generation has thrust upon it; and the next generation goes through the same punishment, which, although their elders lived through, are adamant to rectify or solve.

On closer observation we find that none of the things mankind enjoys really came from education: the sandwich, the computer, a good joke. However, the use of education can hardly be questioned. The men at the top of every falling company are educated, so are the few at the head of illustrious ones. The same goes for several other sections of society.

Yet, what the barber can tell him, man finds far more interesting. The nation is run — theoretically — by barbers and taxi drivers, both of whom need not be educated, but still deliver profound quips on politics, anarchy and the difference — or lack of it — between the two.

This would seem to tilt the scales of the need for education back to equilibrium, and as man educates newer generations, one question he tries not to ask himself is whether he is doing it right. He does that because it is a consolation for man, who does not want to be similar, in any way, to any other animal; the fact that he is educating himself makes him stand out from other lower animals who are not learning anything like him — or so is the illusion he likes to live under.

Everything you need to know about typography: Part I

[dropcap1]I[/dropcap1] AM A self-confessed type-nerd and hobbyist typographer. To me, typography is more than a subject and typefaces more than designs. And I believe the choosing right typefaces can convey a powerful message, and — unfortunately — choosing the wrong ones can be devastating.

[hr_padding] [notice type=”red”] This is part of a 3-article series that continues onto the second article. Continue reading here.
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But choosing fonts is more than just liking one and picking it: there are factors to consider, from legibility to atmosphere; and technical details to pay attention to, such as the ones we will see in this post series. And that is why I choose to write this quick, three-part series on how to choose typefaces for any work you take up in the future: in particular, the ever-growing population of websites, web designers and the like; and alongside them people whipping up their own ebooks or, equally importantly, to those looking to bring out books offline (particularly my good friend, Raghul Selvam, who I hope is benefited by this post as much as I intended.)

The point is that one needs to know quite a lot about typefaces and typography before they are able to take a good enough decision and make their work look professional.

[hr_padding] [notice type=”yellow”] Did you know?

Contrary to popular belief, there are a handful of sentences containing all letters of the English language. Here are some of them:

  • Grumpy wizards make toxic brew for the evil Queen and Jack.
  • The quick, brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
  • Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.
  • Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz.
  • Amazingly few discotheques provide jukeboxes.

Such sentences are actually called pangrams. Can you think of more?

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While the subject is exhaustively large, in these three articles I intend to bring out as much information as is necessary, and sufficient, for anybody hoping to embark on dealing with typography on their own. (And if, at any time, you require suggestions, do feel free to contact me — or perhaps consider using my own fonts: I have two fonts under my belt, as a typographer.)

Now, with all this in mind, here is how I am going to divide this series of posts into three parts:

  1. The technical stuff: This is where we discuss the geeky jargon and get to know our alphabets and styles better. By the end of this, you will be able to communicate type-stuff with ease; besides, you’ll sound smart!
  2. Typographical practices: Moving onto more interesting stuff, this is where we go over the standards in professional typography. Here you’ll also gather some tips (secrets?) that will get you great results.
  3. Real-world experiments: In this final article, we’ll go through some great, real-world examples and create a neat design ourselves and put our newly-acquired knowledge to practice before shouting “Eureka!”

Trust me, to dive into book publishing without knowing your types is a recipe for disaster. It’s not just useful, but absolutely important, to understand typography as an art, inside-out, before jumping in. And I assure you the things I’ll teach you over the next three articles will condense all of known typography into a quick reference guide to look back at any time.

But that’s enough talking. So are you ready? Let’s begin!

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Alphabets, glyphs and other basics

Any typeface is basically categorised into two symbols: one, the letters we use in our languages, the ones we call alphabets; and, two, the symbols, including punctuation — such as full stops, commas etc. — and, by-and-large, all special characters. These we call by a different term called glyphs.

Alright, now that’s a new term you learnt, so for quick reference you may need any time later, let us put that into a box:

[hr_padding] [notice type=”yellow”] Glyphs are special characters that a font creator has decided to include in the font; these are compulsorily the basic Latin punctuation, and often include some symbols unique to the font that its creator has made up for the user. [/notice]

Glyphs are not to be confused with dingbats which we will discuss later.

Before we progress any further, let use clarify the difference between a typeface and a font. This is where many people go wrong, and many actually use these terms interchangeably — which is quite wrong. The basic difference between a font and a typeface is that the term typeface refers to the design, the way sets of letters and symbols look; while the container they are in, a computer file (in modern times) or heavy iron slugs (in ancient presses) are called fonts.

As Stephen Coles puts it, “When you talk about how much you like a tune, you don’t say: ‘That’s a great MP3.’ You say, ‘That’s a great song.’ The MP3 is the delivery mechanism, not the creative work; just as in type a font is the delivery mechanism and a typeface is the creative work.”
To illustrate this example, if somebody were to ask me the type (or typeface) in which my website content is set, I would say it is set in one of my favourite fonts, Georgia — frankly, I think Georgia is one of those perfect typefaces! Now if you want to download Georgia onto your computer, you would look for the font called Georgia i.e. a .ttf or .otf file, which is like a container carrying the typeface. Savvy?

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The five landmarks of character recognition in typography

There are well over twenty-five or thirty terms in typography, most of which you will never use unless you take up publishing as a career (trust me, I’m still looking for an excuse to use some of them!) That said, we will not define five basic terms you simply must know: I call these jokingly as the five landmarks of typeface recognition. On a serious note though, if you can account for these five, you will be able to differentiate almost all typefaces in existance; their character anatomies all differ from each other in at least one major landmark.

Characteristic letters such as the small-case m, n, or capital-case Q, O etc. all have, at their uppermost limit, a downward curvature. This curvature is called a bowl. It may also be sideways, such as in the cases of p and R.

[hr_padding] [notice type=”yellow”] A bowl or a loop is the fully closed, rounded part of a character, as seen in p, m, R, Q etc.

You may have recognised, by now, that we are mainly dealing with Latin alphabets — and we will keep it that way.

On Man: On the spirit of competition

[dropcap1]M[/dropcap1]ANKIND, BY AND large, has an urge to compete over everything — possibly over every step of the way. But man’s urge to compete is a lot harmless than it might appear at first, so long as it does not also include an urge to win, for with this urge comes a convenient loss of the sense of boundaries, and one often goes to too great — and, perhaps, to very near fatal — a length to achieve what one wants. And that signifies a misplacement, not of one’s limbs, not of one’s ability to reason — which is faint at best — but of one’s sense of competition.

The cycle of competition seems not to be etched in stone, so one might circle through all stages of life and still not find where it stems from. Does it, for instance, stem from the elders of a tribe (often known to the outside world as one’s family, or to those inside as (hopefully) the first ones to — to use the common human phrase — kick the bucket) as they force youngsters to compete with other youngsters for material laurels; or does it stem from youngsters who force their elders into an early death, the more forceful among whom is the inheritor of a large fraction of a small estate?

Man’s inclination towards superiority — a neanderthal concept created to drive one’s self out of depression — has not only led him to exploit his competitive spirit to win himself praise, but also force his pet — be it a dog or a cockroach —  too to compete in a variety of colourful contests, which are, of course, judged by other men — rather than dogs or cockroaches — owing to their superiority over said animals. The converse however, for obvious reasons, is never true; one will rarely find a contest among men being judged by a panel of other species of animals.

This very spirit may also be the cause of bigger problems including, but not limited to, the so-called World Wars. Fine examples of such competition would be the German, A. Hitler, and the Chinese, M. Zedong. The latter competed for various things, the most notable being getting a photograph of himself braving a flooding Chinese province printed in more newspapers than any other dictator in history. (He lost narrowly to Hitler.) And Hitler himself was an addict of competition, his main, recorded, competitions being his urge to collect arms before other nations, to start more wars and tussles than other nations, and to die earlier than other national leaders — all of which he won. Despite all these winnings, Hitler is noted more for his mass murders of jews (who, being a peaceful folk, refused to compete with the German dictator, thus angering him.)

But these mass murders began more competitions than they ended: there was, for starters, the competition to save more jews than other nations and the competition to send humans to the moon — both of which the Americans won. In the meanwhile a great contest began. (This often associated with cool temperatures, the reason behind this being as foggy as the connection between dying and kicking buckets.) This was a war fought to– Nobody really knows why it was fought, but at some point of time the Japanese interrupted the Americans in their mute (but very graphic) fight against the Russians, so the Americans chose Japan as the perfect site for when they took the name of this singular war a tad too literally and decided to create a cold, nuclear winter. Using a nuclear bomb, therefore, was quite inevitable; but their use of a second one was definitely uncalled for.

In the meanwhile the scientific community (or that fraction of it which was not busy building nuclear weapons) was busy sending several stuff, some of them still unaccounted for, into space. Space, like a terabyte hard disc, probably seemed misleadingly spacious in the 1960s, until creative artists decided to depict the Earth from space and found hundreds of satellites blocking their view of the predominantly blue water and the predominantly ochre land, so they resorted to a mystical software that could help them get rid of satellites, clouds, auroras, and noise, thus giving a more authentic picture of Earth as it looked from space. Now this software itself was the result of another great competition whose participants mostly consisted of people to whom the line between jogging in the park and jogging one’s memory had vanished.

While a deeper probing into man’s spirit of competition is certainly an exciting thought, it must be noted that this half-troublesome spirit is the result of two man’s own inventions — the comparative and superlative degrees of grammar in the numerous languages men use to converse in (which is the topic of another essay altogether.) The spirit in question has had its fair share of destruction and counter-productivity alike, and — while it happens to be the fuel for many people’s lives — this is what has brought mankind to where it is today. But where exactly that is is strictly a matter of opinion.

Telltale Pre-production Day 2: Screenplay Finalisation and Music Composition

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Update: Now you can listen to a quick preview of one of the Telltale background scores!

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This is part two of the reports on my second short film, ‘Telltale,’ inspired by Poe’s ‘The Telltale Heart.’ Follow the link at the end to read the next/previous reports.

TODAY WE ENTER the final day of pre-production. With Raghul returning to shoot and the Telltale filming beginning tomorrow, I have taken it upon myself to have one last look at the script, and finalise that and the music composition (lietmotif only) for the film. Besides that, you can read more about test shots and sample editing below.

The screenplay

The screenplay I wrote for Telltale is actually one of my older older works — to some extent a spec script — that I merely tightened and shortened specifically for this project. The story is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s The Telltale Heart, a ghostly, horror-tale of how a murderer bends under the strain of his guilt and confesses to his crime before the police. For various reasons I have not adapted this work but written a story based on the same lines and hence given credit (which Poe rightly deserves) in the manner you have seen.

The script is highly symbolic, not pictorially, but more in terms of what the viewer hears, what the viewer sees and what the viewer assumes. This is where I was hesitant to tread on shaky grounds. While viewers of my last film caught onto the story with ease and caught on rightly (although I did get inputs of some who had not quite got the point) this time Telltale goes ahead to expect more on the viewers part.

I would hate to reveal the plot points right away, but I can state freely that the film relies heavily on good direction, camera movement, editing and — believe it or not– music. There were times when I thought I was putting too much strain on myself considering there is no assistant director, no specific cameraman, no separate editor or music composer; this was what happened with my previous film too, but since that panned our beautifully, I figured I would give this a go. Personally, I love music composition, so that is not a problem, and, although it would certainly help to have a hand on-board as crew, that is a little far of right now.

[pullquote_l]What came to me as a revelation was the use of rhythm in developing an overall structure in music. I just thought it was very interesting… How do you write a 30-second piece? Everything is extremely compressed.

— Phillip Glass


And this all adds up to clarify my original point: the screenplay this time has so many subtleties that I am sure not one viewer will get every single one of them. But that is where the fun lies, in everybody getting parts and in viewers getting together to add up their bits and pieces to paint a larger picture. Well, so much for the screenplay!

Voice, dialogue and editing

Annoy Me was a silent film that fared just as I had expected. But it is quite obvious not everybody has the class (yes, class,) or taste for silent films because they are so used to being spoon-fed that they hate to use their lovely little brains for an instant. I, for one, am against such straight-from-the-reel-into-my-head filmmaking; that is the rock bottom of filmmaking. In this regard I made certain that my screenplay got just the right amount of dialogue which viewers can hear while none of it gives away the plot straightforwardly. The point was to get the balance between telling and showing just right, and after several revisions I believe I have got it quite well.

The dialogues for Telltale will be voiced over the entire film, not as narrative but as —

[popup text=”Spoiler Alert!” color=”blue” id=”telltalevoicepopupspoiler”]

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the protagonist reading his confession from a different timeline!

Anyway, there is no lip-syncing, and no trouble of on-location recording which, on the one hand, means the shooting becomes a tad easier, but on the other, means that the editing becomes a lot difficult what with multiple layers of sound (up to five) that need to be handled this time. (In contrast, Annoy Me had only two layers.)

I have also decided to try out a little colour-correction magic and fast paced editing in a couple of areas (mostly because it is a necessity, not just a vague fancy of mine.) If all goes well, the editing should stand out on its own, if not the direction and acting will surely keep the film together.

A few test shots I took turned out to be excellent, leaving very little work to be done on my side of the camera which means I can concentrate entirely on my actor. The digital editing also turned out fairly quicker this time as when compared to my last project (although I have not yet cut shots or combined them.) Either way, I have made sure that there is very little to mess up that cannot be undone at some point of time in the future!


Theme music and background score

THIS IS ARGUABLY the most awaited part for most of my readers on this website. As for others too, it may just prove to be very interesting!

The reason I say this is because of the emails I received over the weekend, after I had written my report of the first day of pre-production. I had not publicly written such reports for my last film so it was, understandably, a welcome piece of writing for most of you; especially to the ones who were interested in knowing what went on behind the scenes of my first film. While the emails consisted of things from screenplay queries to thoughts about the location, it was evident that almost all letters enquired of the music. If you will recall, I had released the theme score last time and it had received many positive thoughts.

For Telltale, however, I have decided not to release the music (it is meant to be a surprise) but, after giving some consideration to the matter, I have decided to release the notes of the leitmotif (see picture above!) If you cannot comprehend it, ask a friend who can and I am sure they will be more than happy to help you make sense of these weird markings.

Another interesting feature this time (except for the conjunction music which I will write only after the editing) is that there are two four-minute pieces of music (separate exclusive background score,) which means, on reel (and that is just a metaphor,) the music is actually longer than the visual. Needless to say, some of the music will be cut out and only that which is necessary to bring out the emotion will go on as part of the film (with repetitions, even more music will get cut out than you might imagine at first!) So I will certainly promise to release the entire soundtrack after the film is released.

So the big question is, what to expect from the music? In short it is semi-minimalist and semi heavy-bass so I would perhaps say, think Phillip Glass meets Hans Zimmer. But rest assured, the music is going to suit the film and its atmosphere just as well as the teaser poster (although it is till full MIDI.) I am also contemplating releasing a part of the background music (not the theme music, mind you!) here just to give you a taste of it. Let us see what time has in store…

On behalf of Raghul Selvam, I feel I must thank you for staying with us through pre-production and wish us luck as we head for the actual, powered-up filming come weather-friendly tomorrow!

Read the report of pre-production Day 1 (Location Scouting)

Telltale Pre-production Day 1: Location Scouting & Poster Release

YESTERDAY WAS DAY one of pre-production for my upcoming short film, Telltale. The story is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-tale Heart. It is the story of one man’s guilt and how it comes back to haunt him, but let us keep summaries and plot points for another day.

At regular intervals I will be posting updates here, small reports, on how our film is coming out, based on schedule, well ahead or a little late. Either way, I intend to make sure you get the news and stay with us right from pre-production (today) through production up to post-production!

Today my actor, Raghul Selvam — who you will know from Annoy Me — and I, went scouting for a suitable location for Telltale. Unfortunately, I did not find a place that translated exactly from my thoughts, but who does? The point of directing a film is to make it look on screen just like you thought about it in your head, and I am quite pleased with the outcome of Annoy Me.

With Telltale I decided to push the bar for myself: this time it is going to be different, not surreal but not simple either; not fast but not slow either; not straightforward but not conspicuous either; and lastly, definitely not entirely silent.

The point is to work smarter this time, building on all that I have learned in my previous venture; if my last film was good, to make this better; if people thought about my last film, to make them think harder about this one.

Lastly, I hope to make it through the end meticulously this time, get the shots near perfect and make my actor perform a hundred takes if necessary. After all, that is film psychology: the actor (and editor and cinematographer and best boy and musician — if they are part of the crew) want to give you their best performance; and you, as director, ought to direct them in the right path, help them give their best performance, bring out the best in them, and make the atmosphere comfortable for them to perform freely. Then again, this is probably only three-quarters of the way, the other quarter has to be filled in by the actors themselves.

Without further delay, here are the two locations I have finalised. There are a number of scattered spots around these locations where filming will take place, but these are the areas as you see them on the maps below.

Location 1: RR Nagar, Mysore, Karnataka, IndiaLocation 2: State Highway 33 - Mananthavadi Road, KA, India


ABOVE YOU SEE the teaser poster for Telltale. The poster was designed by me and is symbolic to the concept behind the film which will perhaps be apparent only after the film itself is released. Until then it would have served its purpose an fulfilled my intentions if it arouses curiosity in you!

It has already been released on Google+ and Raghul Selvam, who is in charge of online publicity on Facebook, will be releasing it there soon, so all of you on Facebook and not on Google+ will have to wait a few more days!

[NB The theme soundtrack for Telltale will not be pre-released. It will be first previewed only with the film itself.]

[hr_padding] Read the report of pre-production Day 2 (Screenplay and Music)

How to make the best use of your Google+ profile

Back when I was invited to Google+, it took me less than a week to realise what a big phenomenon it would become; and while it felt good to be a part of that before public release, I also realised I had to leverage its power and integration to my benefit: specifically to benefit my online presence, my website and so on. To a small extent, this would also affect my offline persona. In this final installment of my +You series, we shall examine how you can squeeze the juice out of your Google profile.


This is the last of a 4-part article series on Google+. Read the others here:

Understand the effect of Google+ on you

Google+ as I have said many a time before, is called plus for a reason. It is designed to help Google Search in more ways than one. Today, Google+ released their new, landmark algorithm, Search plus your world, and this will exactly prove my point.

Think about it this way: you have a family doctor you stick with. You do so because he knows the ins and outs of your life, your medical history and so on. Now bring that concept into the Internet. If you are looking for something, it is quite probable (and happens about 75% of the time) that a number of concepts, news, images and videos match what you are looking for.

Now the thing that is searching for you is just that, a thing. It has no mind of its own, and it therefore becomes necessary for that robot to learn something about you. Enter Google+: as a Google+ user you have created your community, shared things you liked, declared +1 for things you liked, spoken about your thoughts, views and promoted your work. Google Search is going to start considering all such activities on your part to improve its search feature so it can deliver better search results (i.e. it can present you things closer to what you were actually looking for, than before!)

It is an entirely different story that the result of this algorithm has turned out to be a great success. But that is a topic for an entirely different blog post which I am planning on for the next couple of days.

How is this going to affect your business?

Since Google+ will come into consideration, I suggest you start considering it an extremely important part of your online presence if you haven’t already done so. Now, I do not work for Google, nor write on their behalf, but, from a neutral standpoint, I would sum it up this way:

You may be a fan of Facebook, or another infamous social network. I do not suggest you migrate from it. It is quite easily understood that you have spent your time creating a community and getting in touch with lost friends on Facebook and to many, migrating to Google+ would be a huge undoing.

All you need to do–at least–is have your Google+ profile up to date along with a Google+ badge on your site. If you do not have a site, just keep your Google+ profile filled in the manner I will now explain to you. This is an official requirement from Google, and trust me, if you are not seen in the first page of the Google search results, you might as well be invisible.

To prove my point, I have below a collage of two screenshots; on the one on your left, it shows a user searching for photography tips and another searching for Google+ daily photography themes. Notice how my articles (highlighted) are present above the fold (within the first six search results) in either case? Now these are just two I had in hand so I put them up.

Specifically, it is important that you understand the next couple of points I am going to explain. But before that, also understand that a so-called ego-search will give your Google profile right at the top of the search results (unless, perhaps, you have a good website) and potential employers looking for you might skip if the first thing that comes up is one of your questionable Facebook photographs. You get the point.

A little code magic

I would be underrating Google Search if I said all you have to do to get up on the search page like you see my article in the picture above is adding a tiny bit of code to your site/external profile. No, remember that content is still what matters and what I will explain is just a little aid. But really, it is a feature Google is working on which has not gone public so you might not see the same results that invitees like myself see. In short, our Google product pages might be a little different from yours, but do not worry; rest assured yours will get updates as well.

Now the process I am talking about is simple, but it requires you to understand a simple concept Google uses called author and me relationships. This is to a) let Google know that it is you with the Google profile who is, say, writing an article/putting up a photo; and b) let Google know that you who are, say, writing an article/putting up a photo have a linked Google profile. These are called rel HTML tags.

With me so far? Alright, I have made a small image explaining these rel tags.

HTML rel tags for Google+

Notice how this creates a virtual circle for Google+. This circle ensures Google that the person in question is really you no matter which website you participate in (and not just your blog/website) and it makes sure nobody drops into the circle uninvited and posts questionable content under your name.


The first code you will have to add to your profile anywhere is the rel=”author” code, signifying that the relationship between you, the content and your profile is that you are the author. In stricter terms, it tells Google that the person with such and such a profile ID is the author because your profile ID is how Google recognises you (at least until Google makes vanity URLs a possibility.)

Google uses one key page as a sort of filter. Generally, we content creators use our author page (popularly called the About page) for this sake.

When linking from anywhere to your about page, especially when you are doing it from other pages on your site or from the navigation bar, or when you are doing it through the typical short bio that appears at the end of your articles, make sure you add this code:

This tells Google that the person whose author page is is the author of the article. You can take a look at my own bio at the end of this article. I have linked it to my author page using the same code above.


The next code you need to add is the rel=”me” code, signifying to Google Search that you are the guy who claims to own Google Profile ID so and so. Observe how this works beautifully now (I’ll try to put forth this complicated point as best as I can!)

From everywhere you are active on the Internet, you are credited as the author and linked to a basic author page of your choice telling that page you are the author; this author page in turn links to your Google Profile telling Google that you are the owner of a given profile ID. In other words, Google now knows you with that profile ID are the author of all those other pages on the Internet.

So now we will link your author page to Google using this simple code:

You now need to head to this authorship form and fill it up. But know that you will not see changes soon; instead, the fact that you are all ready to be featured in Google’s search results will be notified to them and they will queue you when the feature is finalised and goes out as a stable public version.

The result? Something like this:

Other benefits of a good, filled Google Profile

One thing you need to understand is that Google+ profiles are really a carry over from the previously existing Google Profiles. I am quite surprised by the large number of people who had no idea of this. If, when you first joined Google+, you found your profile filled, it was because you had already entered those details in various other Google products and Google integrated all that data. However, Google Search had never been integrated with it, and that is what Google has done now.

To some, this looks like a cunning marketing strategy to get people to use Google+ but to others, including myself, this is a wonderful (not to mention easy) way to get worthy publicity, especially if you are a content creator (and all bloggers are.) Google is on its way to integrating the web and creating a smarter experience for everybody who deserves it, and they are using Google+ to personalise everything for a person. The fact therefore is that you need to use your Google+ Profile to leverage Google Search just like Search is using your Profile!

Why not Facebook?

Now you might wonder why Facebook cannot do this; after all they already have too much of your data–a good chunk of it extremely private–and with every passing day hundreds of websites are linking to Facebook. The answer is quite simple: Facebook’s policy has successfully blocked the company from any development whatsoever, in this direction.

As Edd Dumbill writes on O’Reilly Radar, Facebook “does not want to be the web. It would like to draw web citizens into itself.” This clearly renders it a closed platform where, while people connect and get in touch very eagerly with lost friends (whom they should not have lost in the first place,) it does not exercise control over any other part of the Web. While Facebook can engage your existing social circles, it cannot help publicise your work to the outside world as much as one Google Search entry can.

Facebook has often been criticised, after the coming of Google+, as not reflecting real life friendships and social circles as well as the search engine giant’s networking offspring. But my own advice to you is to stick with Facebook if you have a good following there and use your Google Profile as much as I have mentioned in this article.

Good luck on the new Web!

5 Tips for Photography on Google+

I had no idea–and I do not think anybody did–that Google+ would become so popular  for photographers, and photography per se, as it has become today. With Google+, often dubbed a photographer’s paradse, Picasa received a terrific lot of attention, Flickr may start losing out soon if Yahoo! does not come up with remarkable new ideas, and smaller portfolios such as 500px are seeing a wave of their photographers moving their entire work to Google+. Read more →

Google+ Daily Photography Themes

A look at how photography on Google+ is organised by its unique daily photography themes. Also a quick list of the active daily themes on Google+. (Many thanks to Ray Bilcliff for the list.) Read more →


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