Monday, February 14, 2011

Smile: It's a Smilebox Creation!

I remember a time when I was pretty young, when taking a photo was a rather stately affair. We only had a small camera which produced tiny squarish photos, you had to change the flash light often and developing photos was rather costly in itself. A far cry from today: you can say that nearly everyone owns a camera or at least they are able to take pictures and videos using their phones. Traditional photo developing is a thing of the past: photos can be easily printed off at home, and of course, one may also choose not to actually make a hard copy of one's photos, but use them creatively to create an interesting slide-show or collages to be shown on a computer. The Internet is rife with free programs that enable one to make impressive photo presentations with the mere click of a button. Today we will explore Smilebox, an animated PhotoAlbum, Scrapbook and Slideshow creator, which allows very creative use of media by allowing users to browse through different designs and create some impressive digital presentations.

Getting Started

To start using Smilebox, go to and click on the Get Started Icon on the bottom right hand side of the screen. You will be able to download a small programme (under 7MB) that installs itself on your computer and and which will allow you to use Smilebox on your computer. You must also provide a valid email and create a user name and a password so that your work will be stored under your profile online. There is no confirmation email to check and click; once you submit your details you will be able to use the application. Thereafter, when you wish to use Smilebox, you do not have to open your Internet browser (although you must be connected to the Internet); simply click on the Smilebox icon that will appear on your desktop after installation.

Browsing Designs

Smilebox offers literally hundreds of design combinations to choose from and work with your photos. You can choose designs by either Theme (bottom of the screen: choose from themes such as Holidays, Special Occasions, Birthdays, etc) or by Format (Collages, Slideshows, Photo Albums, Invitations, etc.) You can take your time to browse through the different themes and formats which best suits the work at hand. Below is a table of all the possibilities:

As you can see from this table, the possibilities are, quite literally, endless.

Examples of Smilebox Creations

Although there are so many different things to do on Smilebox, all tasks across the different themes follow a certain pattern: that is, uploading a photo or video on to form an Online Album is no different from uploading media to create a Greeting Card. What changes is not the method, but rather, how your audience will view the final product.

Let's assume you have a set of photos that you want to group together and share with your friends or colleagues. First, you may click on Browse by Format on the bottom right hand side of the screen, and choose the format which mostly suits your needs (for example, Collages). You will then immediately be prompted to choose a Design for your collage - some more suitable to certain events than others, for example, you can find designs suitable for holiday pictures or for more formal presentations. You can also sift through the designs by sorting them by name, format, number of photos, style or newest first. Once you choose and settle on a design, click on Personalise to download and be able to edit it.

Once the design has finished downloading, a template will open up for you to edit. If there is any text, you will be able to click on the textbox and delete or edit the text as you wish. You can add your own pictures or videos by clicking on the Get Photos or Get Videos at the bottom left hand side of the screen to browse through your hardisk or removable media and upload resources onto your Smilebox project. The pictures or videos can be then dragged directly onto the design template to create your collage. From the menu on the right hand side of the screen, you will be able to make changes to your design, such as increasing/decreasing the number of photos used, your layout, font styles and colour schemes. You can also choose to add some music to your creation to make it more lively.

When you are finished editing, click on the Save button at the top right hand side of the screen; Smilebox will automatically save your creation in the My Smilebox Creations folder which the is automatically installed in the My Documents folder. Then click on the Preview button on the top menu to be able to look at your creation before finalising it; if you wish to make any changes hit the escape key, but if you think your creation is ready for sharing, click on Share, Print or DVD button. You can share it for free online by sending the link as an email (Email your creation) or posting onto your favourite blog or social networking site (Post it on Facebook, Blog or Web). Printing or saving your creation to DVD will require additional subscription to Smilebox Club (no fee is incurred for online sharing though).

To embed it online for free, click on Post, choose a name for your creation, choose a repository (Blogger, Wordpress, Facebook, etc) and click on Continue. Remember to also choose the Basic Design if prompted, which allows for free sharing of your creation. Wait for the code to be generated, then copy and paste the code onto your favourite Blog, or, in the case of Facebook and Twitter, log onto your respective account and your Smilebox will be uploaded automatically. For example, to upload my collage on this blog post, I have asked the programme to generate the Blogger code by clicking on the orange blogger logo on the top left hand side of the screen, and copied and pasted the code in HTML mode.

Click to play this Smilebox collage
Create your own collage - Powered by Smilebox
Customize a picture collage

As I said before, the process to create an animated collage can be applied to all the other types of creations and designs: be it a Photo Album, a Scrap-book or a Calendar....The system is the same throughout: chose your design, upload the photos, drag them to the template and change the template accordingly. And that is the beauty of Web 2.0 applications: once you find your way around one, with a bit of thought, you will be able to navigate your way through the others...
Happy creations!

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