Do more design online, free

Web-based programs, downloadable software, and virtual worlds are now letting us do more and more, and all without shelling out a dime. For example, Web-based software such as Autodesk's Project Draw lets you create vector drawings for floor plans, electronic-cirtuit diagrams, user interface mockups, and the like. An intuitive interface makes using the drawing program a breeze. Just drag rectangles, ovals, and the like onto the workspace and use handles to strech and pull shapes. You can save your work in several editable formats on your server or the developer's. Export your diagrams as PDFs, JPGs, PNGs, and SVGs. At the bottom of this post is an example of a simple drawing I created in the software, which I saved on my local machine as a JPG.

SolidWorks Labs has a link to the developer's island on Second Life. I am still stuck on dial-up at home (yes, yikes!) and our company firewall won't let us interact with Second Life at work, so I can't yet explore this as much as I would like. I am ready though. My avatar's name is Pez Balut, and I am just about to purchase land so I can have a presence in the World. Are any of you active users of Second Life? If so, what do you think? Just email me or reply to this blog.

A nifty software package, available for free download is IBM Lotus Symphony. It's based on the Open Document Format (ODF) standard, so you're not locked into upgrades, proprietary file formats, and software licensing agreements. Included in the package are programs to create documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. I haven't tried the ones for presentations and spreadsheets, but the word processor is great. It has a clean, elegant, and easy-to-use UI. The software looks like Word, but better, and it works in a similar fashion.

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