Monday, February 14, 2011

Online Photo-Books: Mixbook

I remember an advert from Kodak from a few years back, which highlighted the importance of taking photos of special occasions and events in our lives, as to cherish and treasure the moment forever. Nowadays of course, getting hold of a camera and taking photos is a tad easier than it was in those days; and the emphasis has shifted from actual photo-taking to photo presentations. How are we going to store and share the photographs that we have so lovingly taken? How can we embed them in an innovative and interesting way on our websites or blogs for others to see? On this blog I have often dealt with online applications whose purpose varies from sharing photos (Slide, Animoto, Flickr...) to applications which help us edit pictures online (Picnik, Picasa...). The application which we are going to view today, Mixbook, allows users to create interesting online scrap-books with their favourite photographs, essentially creating embeddable online books for sharing or printing.

Getting Started

As with other Web 2.0 applications, the first thing to do is sign up: go to, and click on Sign Up at the top right hand side of the screen. Take note of your username and password, click on Sign Up and the system will automatically log you onto your welcome screen and dashboard. You will immediately be able to (if you wish) upload a profile picture and get started on your work. You will immediately be able to see a menu on the left hand side of the screen, plus a number of icons on top.

From the left-hand side menu, you will be able to access your works in progress by clicking on My Projects. Your Mixbook friends, with whom you can interact can be found by clicking on My Friends. All the photos uploaded on your various Mixbook projects can be accessed by clicking on My Photos. Finally, by clicking on My Inbox, you will be able to access, reply to and send messages to your Mixbook friends.

Creating your first Mixbook

To start your first Mixbook, click on the Create icon on the top of the screen. You will be able to set up your project by giving a name, description, category and tags. In the creation stage, you will also be able to make your project private, viewable only to your friends or public (that is entirely up to you) and also invite contributors who can edit the Mixbook together with you. Inviting contributors is especially useful if you are engaging in project work and you have more than one person working on the same project at the same time. When you are satisfied with your settings, click on Create Mixbook. You will then be able to choose from a variety of different size-templates with which to create your project. (Do not worry that these appear with price-tags attached: there is no charge for simply creating online, the charge only applies for when one needs to order the actual printed books).

Choosing Themes, Styles & Layouts

After choosing a the size of the album, you can then select themes according to the photographs you are going to use: choose between general themes and themes linked to special occasions such as birthdays, holidays, seasons, educational and kid's themes. Browse through the themes by scrolling down the Themes Menu on the left; you will get a preview of each theme in the central canvas, to give you feel of what that theme looks like. When you choose a Theme, you will notice that at the bottom of the screen, there is a tick next to Give me a book that is almost done option at the bottom of the screen. This option will enable you to work with a pre-prepared book of 20 pages, and you can keep, edit and delete the pages to suit your requirements. This is especially recommended for beginners who might be unsure of the options on offer from Mixbook and especially so if you are using the application for the first time. To start on your first Mixbook, select a theme, make sure that there is a tick next to Give me a book that is almost done option at the bottom of the screen, and click on Choose Theme. This will give you some time to familiarise yourself with the application gradually.
(N.B. Some people however like experimenting and are keen to to start projects from scratch. In that case, untick the box next to Give me a book that is almost done and click on I don't want to choose a theme in order to create your blank project. You will then be presented with a blank, 6 pages long book, and you will be able to add photos, stickers, captions, and choose themes and colours as the project progresses).

Adding Photos to your Mixbook

There are various ways in which to upload pictures onto your Mixbook: you can either grab them automatically from another social networking site, such as Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and PhotoBucket. Or you can upload them the old-fashioned way: by browsing your hard disk or removable media (pen drive, flash card) and upload them directly to Mixbook. To grab photos from an online repository, click on the appropriate icon (the blue "F" for Facebook, the blue and pink coloured bubbles for Flickr, etc); or click on Upload to access photos which are stored on your computer. The wait time will depend on the size of the photos being uploaded and the speed of your connection. As soon as your photos have been uploaded, you will be able to drag the photos into your Mixbook. (You will notice that if you have used a pre-loaded theme, there are already boxes where you can drag and drop your pictures. If on the other hand you opted out of having a theme, you will be able to drop your pictures practically anywhere).

Editing your Mixbook

After filling in your Mixbook with photos, you might also want to edit it in other ways, such as adding captions, stickers, changing colour schemes and adding and removing pages. Each photo in your project can be resized, sent to front/back flipped, rotated and edited (basic editing such as B/W and Sepia effects are available). This is achieved by clicking on the photo, whereby a small editing menu will appear underneath it. You can also edit the pre-loaded captions by clicking on them and a similar editing menu, this time for text and sporting various font settings, will appear. Adding extra captions/text is possible by clicking the Add Text tab at the top right hand side of the screen.

From the menu on the top left hand side of the screen, you will also be able to change the page layout, theme and colour scheme of pages. So even if you had chosen a particular theme/colour at the beginning of your project, if the effect is not as desired, you will be able to edit accordingly. Another feature is that of adding Stickers to your photos or page to create some interesting designs. Once again, the stickers can be accessed from the menu on the top left hand side of your screen.

Finally, you can also change the number of pages/location of particular spreads etc. This is achieved through the Timeline underneath each project canvas. You are able to Add a blank page, Duplicate or Remove a page from the timeline by clicking on the appropriate Page Tools at the bottom right hand corner of the screen.

NB Remember that, at any time during the building of your Mixbook, you will be able to add contributors to your project. Simply click on the icon Add Contributors on the top menu to add more people to your project.

Save and Share Your Mixbook

When you are done editing your Mixbook, you will be able to save it online, share it with your friends and even embed it in your favourite website or blog. Click on the Save button on the top menu, and exit your Mixbook by clicking on the window's red close button. You should be re-directed back to (or if you don't, simply type in the address bar on your browser). Make sure you are still logged onto Mixbook and click on My Projects tab on the left hand side of the screen. Locate your project and click on its thumbnail (do not click on edit). Drag the sidebar to the bottom of the screen, find the About this Mixbook box, and copy and paste the embed code onto your favourite website or blog. Alternatively, you can just share your project's URL by either copying and pasting the project's Internet address onto an email, or else by clicking on the email to a friend button on the left hand side of the screen. From the About this Mixbook box, you will also be able to add additional contributors, should you wish to do so at this stage as well.

This is an example of how an embedded Mixbook looks like in a blog...I have kept this very short of course, but you can add as many pages as you like to your project:

Mixbook - Create Beautiful Photo Books and Scrapbooks! | View Sample Photo Books | Create your own Photo Book

Sites to remember:

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