During the course you will be introduced to the following applications. We tend to favour cloud solutions as these usually work across multiple devices making the material is easy to share. We also support opensource software where possible. While they may lack some of the functionality of the proprietary software they are more than adequate for the task.
Please consider becoming familiar with the software before you start the course by downloading the app to your device and signing up where appropriate.
Please do not be put off by this list. Its only a suggestion, and if you already use a different application and wish to continue to do so then that is perfectly okay.
Note taking and organisation
Interviewing requires noting down what has been said and structuring it afterwards. The free versions of the following tools have sufficient capacity for the design project.
Otter makes interviews and meetings more productive and collaborative with automated note and transcription. Simply sign up for a free account on the website download the app from the Google Play or App Store, log in on the app and off you go. Otter uses the latest AI technology to make sense out of what it hears and convert that into text which you can review and save. The free version only allows for 30min recordings and 600mins per month.
XMind is a full-featured mind mapping and brainstorming app. Like a Swiss Army Knife for your brain, spark creativity and improve thinking skills. XMind enables you to make sense of an interviews and meetings by allowing you to easily group things together in a “parent-child” relationship. Supports all platforms.
If you already have an Android mobile device, then if it’s not already installed then download Google Keyboard from the Google Play store and you’ll have an instant speech-to-text app. Although it’s primarily designed as a keyboard for physical input, it also has a speech input option which is directly available. And because all the power of Google’s hardware is behind it, it’s a powerful and responsive tool. For interviews simply open Notes on your phone and record away. You can expect to edit the text afterwards.
Just Press Record brings one-tap recording, transcription and iCloud syncing to all your Apple devices. It has a built in editor. Its the Apple equivalent of Gboard.
We will use planning tools to record what design tasks need to be done, in what order, and by whom. The tools recommended here support different methodologies and the free plan is sufficient for the Design Project. If you have to chose one then chose Asana.
Asana is a flexible and adaptable project management software that works for many different management methodologies. It’s an excellent tool if you plan to use it for collaboration. Like Trello it supports kanban. It also support a simple list and chapter style as well. The web version can be opened here and there is a version in Google Play and App Store for mobile devices. We use Asana for pretty well all the planning activities on the farm from seeding through to Food Forest planning. Its free plan is one of the best available. A simple intro video is here
Trello takes a Kanban approach to planning with each task represented by a card. These cards are organised in boards. Cards can be assigned to members, given a due date, and a priority. This is a very visual approach to planning and well suited to managing the Permaculture Design task. It is easier to use than Asana but not as flexible.
Google has an entire suite of cloud based software tools. All that is required is a Google account to access these. Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBITNezSmLY for a brief introduction and explanation.
If you prefer to use the Apple of Microsoft cloud suite then this is fine, only we will use the Google suite.
The Google tools we will use are:
- Google Drive to store documents
- Google Docs – MS-word style word processor for collaborative document creation and maintenance.
- Google Sheets – Google’s cloud based spreadsheet similar to Excel
- Google Slides – for presentations, similar to Powerpoint
- Google Draw is a simple drawing tool integrated in most Google applications
- Google Earth – There is a web version and a standalone version. It is an expanded version of Google Maps. After installation it can be used to accurately map out any location on the planet. The historical image function is especially useful to show land use over time.
- Google Groups – Google’s cloud based discussion forum. We will use it instead of a Facebook page as it offers more features and is more suited to our needs
Another product is Google Meet. This is an online platform suitable for online meetings and webinars. It is an alternative to ZOOM and MS-teams. It has few limits unlike its competitors.
These tools enable you to create a design that is easy to email to clients. Pens and pencils have their place but do not transfer easily to digital platforms for email or collaboration. Electronic tools do however take some getting used to and there can be quite a steep learning curve before acceptable models are produced. Fortunately there are more than enough internet resources to describe how to do the most difficult tasks.
If you have access to Adobe Illustrator and are familiar with it then this can be used instead of Inkscape.
Inkscape is the main tool for the Permaculture Designer. It is a free and open source vector graphics editor for all platforms. It offers a rich set of features and is widely used for both artistic and technical illustrations such as cartoons, clip art, logos, typography, diagramming and flowcharting. It uses vector graphics to allow for sharp printouts and renderings at unlimited resolution and is not bound to a fixed number of pixels like raster graphics. Inkscape uses the standardized SVG file format as its main format, which is supported by many other applications including web browsers.
It can import and export various file formats, including SVG, AI, EPS, PDF, PS and PNG. It has a comprehensive feature set, a simple interface, multi-lingual support and is designed to be extensible; users can customize Inkscape’s functionality with add-ons.
SketchUp Free is the simplest free 3D modeling software on the web — no strings attached. Bring your 3D design online, and have your SketchUp projects with you wherever you go. You don’t need thousands of bells and whistles to draw in 3D… All you need is your idea, and room to draw. It is an excellent tool for creating designs in 2D. 3D takes much longer as its is sometimes quirky in how it combines the shapes to form the 3D model. With experience it is possible to produce quite reasonable models.
Many people are familiar with Google and Apple maps, Council’s Geo maps, the map of Covid cases on the various websites, and so on. These maps are are produced by software known as a Geographic Information System. The GIS we are starting to use for recording site details for permaculture projects is the open source https://www.qgis.org software. This links nicely to the https://merginmaps.com/ app, and while we will not cover this in the course we are happy to discuss the possibilities it offers should you be interested.