Ellen Cline, writer
Creative communication that markets, informs, and entertains

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Tools that Work–Visual Thesaurus

Author: ; Published: May 11, 2010; Category: Business Writing, Communications Tools; Tags: , , , ; No Comments

<Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus

I learned about the Visual Thesaurus years before I became a subscriber. I thought of it as this interesting toy that I would try occasionally using the “trial” feature on the site, which still exists today.

Have you tried it? Just go to the Visual Thesaurus and type in a word.  This little Tinkertoy-like structure will appear on the screen, showing you the word you selected and arrayed around it, all the related words. The “word map” (their term) doesn’t just pop up; that doesn’t really do it justice. It’s more like this quivering creature, gyrating into a standing position after doing it’s “look at me” dance.

But beyond the cool visual appeal, the Visual Thesaurus is useful. Click on any of the words in the little word constellation, and it becomes the center, with its related terms circling it. See the definition(s), save words you’re interested in, and more. Just be careful or you could end up traveling through this universe of words for hours.

I finally got tired of using the trial feature, broke down and paid up on an annual subscription a couple years ago. After decades of using the tried and true Roget’s Thesaurus in print form, I decided the online Visual Thesaurus was worth having.

Numb fingers from all the flipping from the index to the numbered items in the Roget’s? I did used to really give the book a workout when coming up with company or product names, headlines or taglines. So perhaps that’s part of it, but it’s also that the Visual Thesaurus offers a lot more than just the thesaurus.

You can sign up to have the Word of the Day sent to you. There are all sorts of interesting articles and blog posts in their online magazine. With their little tool you can add to your Microsoft Word program, all you have to do is right click on a word and boom, the thesaurus comes up.

I like getting the Word of the Day email each morning.  It’s always an interesting tidbit about the origin of a word. Entertaining and educational, what more could you want?  I feel like I’m getting smarter, learning, or being reminded of the roots of words, their meanings and why they’re spelled the way they are.  It’s a nice warm up before writing. 

No, I’m not being paid to plug, push, advertise, or promote the Visual Thesaurus.  It’s just something I really like and want to share.

Tools that Work–Acrobat

Author: ; Published: Apr 16, 2010; Category: Communications Tools; Tags: , , , , ; No Comments

the monkey wrench, like acrobat, is a tool that works

When I first heard about and saw Adobe Acrobat in action, it was love at first sight. For me, it solved a huge problem: how to show clients how their project would look and get their feedback.

In the bad old days, you had to show people a mockup—on paper, in person. Then people would mark things up—in writing you couldn’t read.

It was even worse when they faxed their scribbles to you. The colorful layout fought with the handwriting and all looked like mush in the B&W fax. The markups made no sense, which meant lots of rounds of revisions. So inefficient, so annoying. And since time is money, all those little changes added up to more costs for the client.

Acrobat .pdf (portable document format) files were groundbreaking. I could show people how their brochure, website or ad would look in color, quickly, and have them annotate right on the electronic document. Or even if I made the computer annotations for them, I could organize all their comments for the designers in one place. No more multiple printouts, each with their own set of conflicting notes on them.

The fact that you could type edits into little comment bubbles right on the pdf, pointing out exactly where the edit went was great. Even better, from my point of view, was that I could type the edits and the designer could copy and paste the new text right into place. No rekeying.

Maybe I was just dealing with designers who were not the greatest at typing and proofreading, but wow, that just saved so much time. When anyone rekeys info, there are more chances for errors. When a person who just sees type as a pattern and not as words that need to be spelled properly keys things in, you’re headed for trouble.

And then there were .pdfs as downloadable files on websites. People could download a client’s brochure without being at a tradeshow or sales meeting to hand it to them, or without having to mail it. It was amazing. The biggest challenge in the early days was tutoring all the clients on how to use the program.

Today, many years later, I’m still using Acrobat files. There are so many features, I don’t even use them all. Adobe Acrobat .pdf files have become so common, ubiquitous even; I don’t have to explain them to anyone anymore. I’m just happy Acrobat is still around, and keeps improving.