Top 10 Open Data Resources Online

Analyzing DataThere’s a lot of hype around big data these days. And it isn’t any wonder with everything going digital. We’ve been generating a large mass amount of data that’s becoming more and more valuable.

Think of publicly available and open data.  You may be asking why is it so important? Using open or publicly available data can be extremely useful. Some examples include:

  • Analyzing global trends
  • Measuring the efficiency of government policies
  • Innovating a new service
  • Improving your company’s products

Because of the wide range of applications, not just data scientists, but journalists, marketers, business professionals, and even freelancers, are learning how to access, clean and interpret raw data.

While you may already have access to data analytics tools or a topic to research, all that may be missing are the big data sources to work with. Wondering where to find statistical data? Below is a list of databases you can start with.

1. The World Factbook –The CIA website has an open source library where you can find its World Factbook, which offers the public opendata on 267 countries on topics ranging from history and government to geography and military.

2. Amazon Web ServicesAmazon Web Services offers a suite of cloud computing services for database, computing, storage and analytic solutions to name a few. AWS also hosts a number of public datasets, which you can access. You will need to have an AWS account or access to its command line tools.

3. Open Government Data—Looking for data from major governments? You can search through data available publicly from the Governments of Canada, the USA and the UK. The EU Open Data Portal can give you access to a range of data produced by member countries of the European Union.

4. Open Data Network – The Open Data Network, launched by Socrata.com in 2014, is an online data catalogue that makes finding the data you need as easy and familiar as finding data with Google. Its latest enhancements include updates for elements like autosuggestion and easier mobile navigation. This site covers all major US regions including public data sources for areas like finance, health, infrastructure, education and social services to name a few.

Open Data Socrata Network

5. Google Public Data Explorer– What better place to explore datasets than on Google? Google Public Data Explorer makes it easy for anyone to access and interact with public data from international organizations and academic institutions. You can upload, share and visualize datasets. Here’s an overview to get an idea of how to use Google Public Data Explorer.

6. DBpediaDBpedia is a crowd-sourced effort to pull structured data from Wikipedia into an accessible database form on the web. According to the site, the advantages of the DBpedia knowledgebase are that “it covers many domains; it represents real community agreement; it automatically evolves as Wikipedia changes, and it is truly multilingual.”

7. Worldbank.org—Made up of five international organizations, the World Bank Group is the largest development bank in the world, working towards ending poverty and shared prosperity. The organization offers “free and open access to data about development in countries around the globe.”

8. UNDataUNData is an internet based data service from which you can access datasets that include statistics from countries that are part of the United Nations.UN Open Data

9. World Census Open Data—Need census data from other countries? Get census results from other places around the globe like Argentina, New Zealand, Romania, and Egypt. This source is valuable for those gathering geographical or localized statistics. In addition, you can find census data for the USA and Statistics Canada in the linked sources for easy access.

10. Open Data Portals –At Dataportals.org you can find a curated list of open data resource portals around the world. It will help you start broadly and then narrow down your search by location. With 519 portals, as of this writing, the site welcomes additions or feedback to create one of the most widely curated free public data sources online that every user can benefit from.

Dealing with datasets can get overwhelming. You can expect your data to be disorganized and unruly. And as easy as these sites are to visit, be warned that you may come across hard to access formats requiring you to first convert a scanned PDF to Word before being able to use it. But don’t get discouraged. The potential of that data is unlimited.

Did we miss any? Add your own main sources to this collection—the more on this list, the better!

How To Create Custom Hatch Patterns?

Part 5 of 13 in our How To Use AutoCAD series

One of the great things about AutoCAD is that it can be used to design drawings meant for different types of industries. And because AutoCAD designs can be intended for any structure under the sun, the material being used or involved in the design’s construction can vary greatly.  

This poses an interesting situation when AutoCAD users need to fill in the hatches of their drawings. These hatches represent the real material to be used. So getting the hatch patterns just as accurate as the drawings themselves is important.

Now, although AutoCAD offers plenty of hatch patterns on its own, sometimes we may want to personalize our drawings and implement our own hatch patterns. You can do this by following these simple steps:

1.In your AutoCAD document, draw a desired pattern using a tool from the Draw panel.

2. In the Block panel, click on the “Create” command, located in the top right corner.

Selecting Create Block Option

3. Name your pattern and click “OK”. On the pop-up, choose “Select objects”.

4. Click on your drawing until it gets light blue, and hit Enter.

5. Now select “Pick point” and place the cursor on the bottom left corner of your pattern drawing.

Selecting Pick Point Option

6. Hit “OK”.

7. Go to the “Express Tools” tab > Draw panel > Super Hatch.

Selecting Super Hatch

8. Choose “Block” as your desired pattern type, select your block by name and hit “OK”.

Selecting Hatch Pattern

9. Fit your pattern by following instructions. When you’re satisfied hit Enter.

10. Click on the desired area that you want to hatch and once selected, hit Enter.

All done! For advanced users who are interested in more hatch pattern customization options, check out this tutorial from Ellen Finkelstein.

 

How To Easily Optimize Your Business’ Books

Optimizing Business Books

Every business has to face at least one tricky challenge in common: to keep its books organized. That might seem like an easy task if you are an accountant or a bookkeeper, but that’s not always the case.

The vast majority of small business owners end up having to organize the financial/documental part of the business by themselves to save some money or just to keep a close eye on them. Organization is a crucial part for every business’ success, and here are some valuable ways to start improving your operations today.

The first action you can take to integrate and organize your company’s books is to digitalize every single piece of document you might have. That’s right, even that small parking receipt from two months ago or that hotel bill that you paid during the last conference you attended–digitalize it! Documents that are stored in digital format (e.g., PDF, Docx, XLS) are much easier to handle and to access, which can be a huge time-saver. Or if you want to customize and convert the format of the documents you are storing you can use simple and extremely efficient tools such as Able2Extract  to get the job done for you.

Also on the same line of digitalizing documents, a crucial measure to increase your books data security is to upload it to the cloud. This allows companies to store all the information they need in the cloud, which means that the data will be saved in external servers that can be accessed from anywhere at any time. Plus, some cloud service providers such as Welcome Networks presents the users with military-grade security for Virtual Desktops so they can have peace of mind about any hacking attempts.

Another highly necessary and important point to optimize books is to utilize online accounting software instead of the old fashioned offline desktop systems. Since these web-based applications allow you to send invoices, pay bills, do bank reconciliations, and to obtain reports of the most variables types, these web apps operate in the cloud and are the latest trend in the market.

An excellent example is SlickPie cloud accounting, a free software that even offers a source file attachment feature for companies to upload financial documents that are related to their transactions directly to their accounts, which can also be used in combination with Able2Extract to generate double the optimization value.

These software programs will drastically improve your business overall productivity since it will basically show you a financial x-ray of all your transactions through cash flow statements, balance sheets, and all other pertinent records registered in the system.  And the best part is – it will all be just one click away to be accessed from any desktop or mobile device.

All these solutions need to be integrated and applied to increase the effectiveness in the company’s books. This will strengthen the business with top trend tactics that are being used by the main players in every industry, and it will grant your company with advantage points over your competitors’ procedures.

By putting these practices into action, your company will save time, money, and it will be much more secure to provide any financial documents whenever they are needed, regardless of environmental conditions.

If you were still waiting for the right time to come to embrace digital innovations to fully optimize your company’s books, now is the time!

4 Simple Ways Budding Project Managers Can Start Creating Gantt Charts

Organized Project Planning When remote teams are becoming more and more common, it isn’t surprising to see project managers struggling to stay on top of things. One project involving a number of tasks with just as many people working on it can spin out of control.  You’re not only working with people, but you’re also working against time and resources.

And this is where a Gantt chart steps in. If you aren’t using one as a budding project manager, you may want to. Gantt charts are an essential tool to project management. They keep a detailed track record of a project’s critical path at any given moment.

It keeps you up to speed on important factors like the progress or status of a task. Interdependent tasks and resources can be allocated, visualized, and coordinated. And with the internet and your everyday computer, Gantt charts can be updated as needed.

But technology needs and personal preferences are diverse. We know there are many other simpler, quick fix tools that can be used to manage projects to varying degrees. Looking to step things up? Need more complex features?

Whether you’re stepping into a project mid-stream or need to consolidate your project calendar with an existing one, there are ways you can integrate existing tracking sheet and schedule data into a Gantt chart.

1. Convert Google Calendar, Base Camp & Trello Into A Gantt Chart

Now Google Calendar, Base Camp or Trello are probably the most popular free tools online. They’re easy to set up, offer the basic project tracking essentials and can quickly get you started.

Google Calendar, as a project planning tool, needs no explanation.  Basecamp, known for its highly collaborative nature and tracking features, is a popular go to option for managing teams. And Trello is a web app that uses individual (and collaborative) task cards grouped into boards in lieu of a To-do list.

So if you need to suddenly create professional-looking tracking reports or share your calendar with others, great news is that you can create a Gantt chart from all 3 tools using Ganttify.

Gantt Chart Creation Webapp

Ganttify is a webtool that does what it sounds—it takes your data and “Ganttif-ies” it without having to do much but log into your accounts (note that with Trello, though, your task cards need to have a start and end date included).

2. Create Gantt Charts In Microsoft Excel

If you’re just starting out on managing your first project, chances are you’ll turn to familiar tools like Excel where you’ll construct your own tracking sheet with basic formatting and formulas. However, don’t be afraid to get a little more complex and use Excel to create a Gantt chart.

Officetimeline.com, for instance, offers up a detailed, step-by-step tutorial manual on how to create a Gantt chart Microsoft Excel users can set up. Note, that creating one from the beginning can be time consuming, but as your projects become more complex, you’ll be glad you invested the time.

For those who don’t want to create things from scratch, though, you can still get the job done by using a Gantt chart template.  You can find a variety of them online. Here are a few to start you off:

  • A simple 4 week project timeline Excel template from Office.com
  • A free version of Gantt Chart Template Pro from Excel expert, Jon Wittwer, at Vertex42.com
  • GanttExcel.com also has a template you can download that has both a paid and free version
  • Chandoo.org offers a variety of Gantt chart templates for project management

3. Import Excel Data Into Microsoft Project 

For a more specialized project management tool, Microsoft created MS Project. While part of the popular MS Office suite, the project management software program isn’t included with the desktop suite.

This program offers the high end features that are needed for more multi-level complex projects that need high level monitoring and workflow analysis, cost calculations, in-depth planning, enterprise-wide access and more.

However, if you started tracking your project with MS Excel and are switching over to MS Project, there’s good news. You can simply import Excel into Microsoft Project. When you create a new project, choose to create one from Excel. From there, the MS Project import wizard will guide you through the rest.

4. Create A Gantt Chart Online

Online project management is common nowadays. And with cloud storage and remote teams, being able to take and keep things online is essential.

It isn’t any wonder that you can create Gantt charts online free from the very beginning, making it easily accessible from wherever you or your team are. Though you get what you get with online versions, the essential features are there.

Ganttic.com is an online resource planning, scheduling and management tool. While paid accounts will provide you with more features, for project managers that are bootstrapping it, there’s a limited free account available. It allows you only 10 resources to track. but despite the limitation, Ganttic.com has features that are streamlined and simplified.

Ganttic Introduction from Ganttic on Vimeo

Second is Gantter.com which is a free cloud-based project management tool. This one sticks out because it works tightly with Google Apps and Google Drive, which, if you’re working with a Google based team, is perfect.

Its features leverage the power of Google’s cloud services, including real time editing, chat, and Google Drive access. You can even import and export files from Microsoft Project. Not a Google user, though? Don’t worry.  Gantter.com offers a smartapp.com edition that ties in other cloud drives you may be using.

How are you keeping track of your project and your team? If you know of any other Gantt Chart tips to expand on this list, let us know in the comments.

How To Hatch Or Fill Objects/Areas?

Part 4 of 13 in our How To Use AutoCAD series

When using AutoCAD to draft blueprints or designs, the CAD designer must keep in mind the type of material that will be used when the design is built.  For this, AutoCAD uses “hatches” that represent solid masses and materials to be used and incorporated within the design when it’s built.

When creating your CAD drawing, you can decide on the pattern to be used to represent the material intended to be used during construction with AutoCAD’s hatch command.   

The hatch command in AutoCAD is used to fill an area or selected objects with a hatch pattern or a fill. Here’s how to use the command in a few simple steps:

1.Go to the Draw panel on the Home tab. Find the hatch icon in the bottom right corner.

Using Autocad Hatch Command

2. You will see a “Hatch creation” tab. Go to its Properties panel and choose the Hatch type that you would like to insert. Choose between Solid, Gradient, Pattern or User Defined.

3. Further specify the pattern on the Pattern panel.

Pattern Hatch Type

4. Choose your desired method: “Pick Points” or “Select Boundary Objects”. The “Pick Points” will determine a boundary around the specified point. The “Select Boundary Objects” will allow you to manually select the boundaries of the area that you would like to hatch.

5. After filling the area, hit “Enter” to apply the hatch.

As you can see, when using AutoCAD for any design, being as detailed as possible is not only essential, but easy when it comes to specifying small details such as construction material.