Best landscaping software to create your dream yard

Every worthwhile effort starts with a vision – if you don’t know where you’re going, you risk getting lost somewhere along the road. Landscaping is no different – marvelous yards and gardens aren’t created by slapping various elements on top of each other and hoping for the best. Rather, they’re made by following a detailed plan of execution that starts with an image of what the ideal end result would look like.

But how can you and your clients convey this image to one another in order to work together? Drawing a blueprint is good, but it’s two-dimensional and often limited. Since you can’t project your thoughts, you’ll have to make do with the next best thing: feature-rich yet easy-to-use landscaping software that both you and your customer can work with.

What your landscaping software should have

Many landscaping software suites are similar, but not all of them do the job equally well. In general, the basis of whichever landscaping software you use should include numerous interchangeable templates for various parts of a client’s yard: deck, patio, garden, overall landscape and so forth.

Since plants are such an important part of these efforts, quality landscaping software usually comes with an extensive 3D encyclopedia of plants that will let your client cherry-pick those that best complement the garden. Aside from these features, additional tools like a virtual shopping assistant that helps you create a list and estimate the costs should also be included. Here are some examples of quality landscaping software suites for both personal and commercial uses.

Realtime Landscaping Plus 2014: 2014 might have passed, but this software is still ahead of the game in terms of what it offers to its users. A key appeal of Realtime Landscaping Plus is that it’s a professional tool designed for the average consumer – no home owner should have difficulties assembling the perfect yard or garden regardless of its size and features. Aside from an encyclopedia of plants that’s bigger than most, Landscaping Plus also boasts templates that include parts of the landscape that are sometimes considered adjacent, such as fences. The price tag of $80 doesn’t make it the cheapest software out there, but it’s definitely one of the best, especially for landscaping professionals.

TurboFloorPlan 3D Pro 17: Another powerful landscape editor, TurboFloor is notably absent of templates and instead focuses on users taking their time to adjust every part of their dream yard. Most see this as a good thing, as home owners are often very peculiar about their yards and gardens. TurboFloor goes past just designing your yard and lets you fully incorporate your home into the equation, allowing you to plan additions to it more easily and see how it will look surrounded by your new garden. In particular, the software emphasizes deck creation and features a tool designed specifically for this – your dream backyard will easily become a reality with a bit of time spent in front of the computer. A price of $100 makes it more expensive than most of its competitors, but the cost will almost always be justified.


Top 3 places online for business logos

Ah, the science of creating a good logo. Is great service what makes extremely simple logos like Nike’s or Adidas’ so widely recognizable, or is it that the shapes etch into our minds and make us want to buy the products? It’s probably a combination of the two. Creating a good, long-lasting logo can take half a minute, days, weeks… The results will only become apparent later on.

As an Oriental rug cleaning company, you’ll want your logos looking exclusive and high-profile yet still reaching out to your customers. Your clients aren’t billionaire businessmen – they’re often just average middle-class individuals with a taste for some of the finer things in life, quality rugs being one example. Your business logo should reflect this and consist of a simple-yet-complex image that’s easy to remember and associate with top-notch rug care.

To create a good business logo, you’ll need inspiration, creativity and the ability to tell the difference between tasteful and tacky. In the absence of this, many business owners will opt to hire a designer for their logo and might end up paying hundreds of dollars for a simple image. If you’d like to avoid getting yourself in such a situation, here are 3 sites that help you make your own business logo without having to pay for anything.

Online Business Logos A great logo instantly and free of charge? It sounds too good to be true, but it’s exactly what DesignMantic promises to give you. The user interface is as simple as it gets – on the front page, you enter the name of your company and the type of work you do and click the big red button. You are then treated to an appealing logo that can easily be used for years to come. If you don’t like the logo you got, you can repeat the procedure as many times as you’d like until something satisfactory comes out. To add more reasons to use this site, you can also use it to design other logo-based media like business cards and website headers. A serious competitor to DesignMantic, LogoGarden creates logos that look every bit as good(and perhaps even better) without making you pay for anything. The logo-making interface is a bit more complicated, but never to a point that it becomes difficult to use – it simply means that there are more options to choose from, like editing the color to your liking. Logos are similarly grouped based on industry, and the site’s designers clearly know what works for each particular niche. If you’d like even more control over your business logo, check out Vecteezy’s large collection of free vectors ready for use. Of particular interest to Oriental rug cleaners in Palm Beach, Florida will be the site’s ‘Oriental pattern’ category – it features thousands of relevant images with Eastern motifs to choose from, most of which are completely free. Find the right vector, crop it, slap your company name with the right font on it and you’ll have a logo that stands to serve you for a long time without ever going out of style. Best of all? You didn’t pay for it!

4 stock photo sites reviewed

Taking a great photo requires a combination of a good camera, perfect timing and positioning, enough spare time and a bit of talent to boot. Even the best photographers can’t create on-demand images, instead merely going with the flow and capturing circumstances as they unfold.

So what happens when we have an immediate need for a particular type of picture? Well, the best way of getting one would be, of course, to search online. But many pictures are copyrighted or available only in lesser quality, with higher-quality versions needing purchase.

Stock photo sites can be an exception: their purpose is to fulfill people’s needs for quality photography without having to wait or deal with low resolutions. Stock photo sites are plentiful – some are free, some make you pay for each image, and others fall somewhere in-between. Which ones will give the most for the least amount of money, or even offer photos completely free? Here are 4 great examples.

 Stock Photo Sites

  • could be considered the mother lode of stock photography. It has what’s probably the most impressive portfolio of stock photos you’ll find anywhere on the web – if you can imagine it, there’s probably a high-quality picture of it on iStockPhoto. There’s just one problem: virtually every image on the site is for sale only, with few to none free options available. The pricing plans are, well, pricey, and probably won’t satisfy you if you have a constant need for good images. iStockPhoto is best used when you need that one perfect image you can’t find anywhere else – there are better and cheaper alternatives in most other cases.
  • The other big subscription-based site, Shutterstock also features quite a few images that come with a ‘free’ copyright license and can be used as necessary. However, as you might have expected, you’ll have to pay up to get some real variety. As is the case with iStockPhoto, the prices are fairly steep and will probably have you looking for free alternatives, although the site’s purported 60 million+ pictures should cover just about every specific need you might have.
  • Don’t feel like paying for an image that wasn’t even taken by a professional photographer? Many consider picjumbo to be the king of free stock photo sites. The page is run by a talented photographer named Viktor Hanacek who distributes all of his pictures for free(including for commercial uses), with some affordable premium plans also thrown in there. The photo variety is staggering for a one-man effort, and the picture quality is always top-notch.
  • With a little under 400,000 pictures, FreeImages have nowhere near the selection to compete with some of the larger subscription-based sites, but that doesn’t make them any less worthy of bookmarking – there are plenty of diverse categories from close-ups to landscape/panoramic, and nearly every one features thousands of free-to-use images that could otherwise cost you a pretty penny. The site also has a highly-functional search feature that lets you navigate the hundreds of thousands of pictures without too much trouble. For those wanting more, there’s also a cheap premium option that adds many new categories to the fold.

Free or low cost Photoshop alternatives

Without a doubt, Photoshop is the alpha and omega of photo editing. Its wealth of features is rivaled by no other image editing software – many even find it too feature-rich to use and would prefer a simplified version. Unfortunately, a professional tool carries with it a professional price in the form of a costly subscription that you probably aren’t willing to pay unless you earn a living by editing pictures.

But what are the alternatives? Microsoft Paint? Not quite. There’s a plethora of image editing programs that work great and do the job for a fraction of the price(or even completely free), but they’re all unjustly overshadowed by their big brother. Here are some examples of software that lets you manipulate images to your liking without making a dent in your bank account.

Photoshop Alternatives

PhotoFiltre: Think of this as a souped-up version of Paint – more features with a similar ease of use. PhotoFiltre’s been in the game for a while, and its latest Studio iteration is better than ever while remaining free for personal use. It doesn’t have the fanciest features out there but will let you edit your pictures in many different ways without making you pull your hair out as you try to figure out where the desired tool is.

GIMP: Perhaps the most popular freeware image editing program, GIMP is anything but gimpy – it has all the necessary photo and image editing tools and then some, without complicating the whole thing. The men behind GIMP recognize the use of their program as a top alternative to Photoshop and have therefore added the option of styling the former to look like the latter, free of cost. Only true professionals in the field will notice any difference in terms of options – for the majority of people, GIMP will more than serve its purpose.

Pixlr: Want to edit photos on your mobile device? You probably can’t go much better than Pixlr. This software works great on both Android and iOS platforms and is completely free to use despite featuring over 600 ways of editing an image. Like quite a few editors out there, Pixlr does its best to look like Photoshop and does a fairly good job of it without inheriting too much complexity. If you’re always on the move and can’t afford to sit in front of a computer to edit your images, don’t skip on this free mobile version of Adobe’s premier image editor, even if you’re just after some better-looking selfies.

Sumopaint: Sumopaint shoves a lot of its competitors out of the wrestling ring on one point alone – it’s browser-based and generally requires no installation. This makes it perfect to use if you’re always changing between computers and can hardly wait for a lengthy installation of dedicated editing software. While it doesn’t offer as many features as Photoshop or GIMP, you can’t expect more from an image editor that runs on Adobe Flash. Besides, anyone who’s had to sit around for a few Photoshop installs will appreciate Sumopaint’s on-the-go functionality.