Getting Started With FreeForm

Use these links to jump to sections of this page:
Intro -- Getting Help -- Guided Tour -- Image Hosting Explained -- Picture URLs and Uploading -- Copy and Paste -- Photo Preparation
If you've arrived here by clicking a link from within the FreeForm Builder page you may close this window to return. If you arrived here from elsewhere you will always be able to find FreeForm from the home page at robshelp.com

Intro:  You can get there from here!

FreeForm is a building block tool that roughly parallels how web pages and item descriptions are put together by HTML experts.  Along the way, most of the formatting choices HTML experts have at their disposal are made available via the settings choices built into FreeFormís Builder.  The two biggest differences are you donít need to be a computer expert and what you create in FreeForm will always work on eBay.

Along with building, you gain extraordinary flexibility in using / reusing what you have assembled.  So, the upfront time to learn FreeForm is well worth the investment.  Rather than having to settle for templates others have created or having to guess what youíll need in a template, with FreeForm you can load what you have previously created back into the Builder and alter it on the fly as you create individual item descriptions or web pages.  Probably most important for eBay sellers is always being able to show as many photos as desired in whatever quality and size needed.

If you, like me, donít have artistic talent or skill creating graphics (headers, wallpapers, logos, dividers, etc.), you may do as many have - rebuild professionally designed templates into FreeForm using the "ingredients" from the original.  Then, rather than having to continually depend on others, you are in control to make changes as needed.

Donít forget, Iím here to help

FreeForm is very powerful so please feel free to take advantage of my experience.  If you encounter formatting difficulties concentrate first on getting all the "ingredients" (text and photos) into the Builder, save your work in process, then write to me.  With your work saved in FreeForm I can also access it, load it into the Builder, and assist "hands on".  Iíll make suggested modifications or rearrange, then save for you to use and work with further.

Along the way if you need assistance prepping photos for use in eBay item descriptions, I can also help you apply the techniques I discuss in this tutorial: Crop Resample Cutaway Compress which is a must reading for every eBay seller wanting to display photos in the body of item descriptions.  If you subscribe to my EAPH.com hosting I can help more thoroughly because Iíll be able to access your photos directly and describe how Iíve used the Optimize Tools included with EAPH to prepare your photos.

Bottom line, I really am here to help personally.  Write to me at: rob@robshelp.com

For the smoothest possible start take my guided tour:

Learning FreeForm will pay off for you with lasting benefit.  Iíll make you a believer and probably save you literally hours of work and potential frustration if you are patient and take the time now to follow along with my guided tour.  I have the tour on a separate web page so you can print it out, follow along at your own pace, and write onto it in your own words any reminders you think youíll need.  Especially if you only have a short time to spend right now, printing out the tour will help you find your way back and continue where you left off.

Take The Tour
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What is Image/Picture Hosting?

All pictures/photos/images files that you use on eBay or elsewhere on the web must be copied to a server on the Internet.  The process is usually called uploading.  When you choose to use eBay Picture Hosting, for example, eBay is taking copies of your picture files from you (uploading them) and storing them on their servers.  The process is super simple because eBay takes care of everything from the time you "show" eBay which pictures to use on your computer on through to the display of those pictures at the bottom of your auctions (and other types of eBay item listings).

If you don't want to use eBay Picture Hosting because you don't like the way pictures are altered by eBay, or you want pictures to be displayed up inside the description area of your auctions, or you need lots of pictures with your auctions and don't want to pay eBay for them, then you'll need to do some of the work eBay is doing for you behind the scenes -- You'll need to rent a little place on the internet for yourself.  You'll do best if you first have a basic understanding of how hosting on the Internet works:

The World Wide Web (AKA Internet) consists of a huge number of computers all physically connected together either via phone lines or other types of cables.  Most of those computers are what are called "servers" because they are designed to serve up files (web pages, pictures, etc.) that are stored on them.  Servers can be owned outright or space to store files on servers can be rented (website or image hosting service) and there are even services that provide free hosting.  What you see when you access websites such as eBay.com and robshelp.com is what is stored on servers.

To access servers on the Internet requires an ISP (Internet Service Provider) to provide a connection (gateway) to those servers.  If you pay monthly service charges for access to the internet, this gateway is what you are mostly paying for.  Some ISPs, however, do also supply server space that can be used to store web pages and images.

To view files on servers a "client" such as a "web browser" is required.  Right now you are using a web browser to view this page (for most that will be either Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla FireFox).  Whichever web browser you are using, it is a program stored on your own computer that handles communication with servers.  Browsers act as intermediaries doing most of their work behind the scenes requesting data from servers, filtering it, and finally presenting it on your computer screen.  Part of the filtering that browsers do is interpreting HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language).

HTML instructions (tags) are embedded into files stored on servers that instruct browsers what to display and how to display it.  The "what to display" may be pictures (images) that are stored on different servers and this is exactly the case when auctions are viewed on eBay.  The images in an auction on eBay are actually stored on other servers.  You only see them because HTML in the auction page has instructed your browser to take a side trip to another server to get the image files and display them.  FreeForm, among other things, automatically provides the HTML instructions that allow pictures to be seen but you need to provide the addresses where your pictures are stored.  Those addresses are called Universal Resource Locators (URLs).

Picture URLs and Uploading

To be able to include images within auction descriptions on eBay the image files must first be stored somewhere on the Internet.  This requires an Internet (web) host and a process of uploading (copying from your computer) your image files to that host.  Once an image file has been uploaded to the host it acquires an address referred to as a "URL" which includes the Internet path to the file.  That URL is what FreeForm and/or eBay forms need to enable it to be displayed.  Thus, the term "Self Hosting" used by eBay is misleading.  You are not actually self hosting the pictures on your computer, you need to use a web host.

URLs always begin with "http://" and are case sensitive.  Case sensitive means that when a URL is typed, the capitalization of each letter must match exactly the capitalization used for the file name on the server.  FreeForm has built in correction mechanisms for several problems with image URLs.  Particularly, some browsers have problems with special characters, blank spaces, and slashes pointed the wrong way.  FreeForm will fix the slashes and perform what is called URL encoding that converts blank spaces and special characters into what all browsers can read.  You may see the result of the encoding (percent signs and such in the URL) as you work in FreeForm.

Regardless of where you decide to store your images on the internet, you will need to copy them from your home computer to the internet server.  After being copied they arrive at an internet address or URL (discussed above) that you refer to in order to display them.  The copy process is called uploading and can occur via a browser interface, via email attachments, or via programs that specialize in transfer of files called FTP (File Transfer Protocol) clients.

Typically, maintenance of files stored on image hosting services is done through a browser interface meaning you visit their site, log in, and then are given the capability to add, rename, or delete files.  General use web sites typically require the use of FTP.  FTP is the more powerful of the file maintenance/upload methods and for heavy use is the most efficient, but it is also more complicated as you first need to install an FTP program on your computer and then learn how to log in to your host through the program.

Below are some screen shot examples of the types of uploading methods available.  My EAPH.com hosting happens to provide two methods, browser based and Java.  The Java method enables drag and drop and selection of multiple files for uploading at a time - the convenience of FTP without the complicated setup.

Browser Based Upload Animation


FTP Settings


Upload using FTP


There are also services that offer temporary image hosting.  With these services a browser based method for uploading image files is provided and the images are only stored for a limited time (typically well beyond the "life" of an auction posting).  Usually uploading is performed only one picture at a time but the method is very straight forward and good for occasional use.

Temporary Image Hosting Upload Animation


TIP:  In the animation above you see an example of a URL assigned by an image hosting service after uploading has occurred.  The process of uploading many pictures will, of course, result in many URLs.  A good way to keep track of them is to open a word processor, such as Notepad, in another window of your computer and use the cut and paste method to produce a list along with a description to help you remember which is which.  Then, when it is time to fill the URLs into FreeForm open the word processor document and copy paste the URLs into FreeForm.  No typos!

Copy and Paste

Learning how to copy and paste can be a huge time saver and prevent errors when working with URLs.  Here is a workshop I've created to help you learn:

Copy and Paste Workshop
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Prepping Images for use within the body of descriptions on eBay

There are many opinions on what is the best size for pictures used in auctions.  Truth is there are only two basic rules to follow: Display them only as large as they need to be and prepare them so they load as quickly as possible yet still display with high quality.
  • It all starts, of course, with your camera or scanner.  Here is a discussion that will help:

    Camera and Scanner Settings
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  • Follow the guidelines in my tutorial: Photo Preparation - The Big Four: Crop, Cutaway, Resample, Compress to learn the best methods for displaying high quality and detail.  That tutorial is must reading for every eBay seller!

    The Big Four: Crop, Cutaway, Resample, Compress
    (opens in same window so use the back button of your web browser to return here)

  • For photos that will be used as eBay gallery pictures cropping is especially important.  Try to make your photo come out square to maximize the size it will appear in eBay search results and category browse screens.  Here's a complete explanation:

    Better Gallery Pictures
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  • Add text after reducing.  If you want to add text to a photo, do so after you have reduced.

  • Don't resize or compress your photos if your hosting service also applies automatic resizing or compression after or during upload.  Double resizing and/or double compressing may cause unacceptable distortion.

  • You have a choice not to use hosts that automatically adjust your photos.  The quality of your photos can make all the difference between getting bids and not getting bids on your items for sale -- it is best for you to remain in complete control over their quality.

This page was created without ornamentation for easy reading and to allow for printing.  If you've reached this page from within the FreeForm program you may close this window to return.  If you arrived here from elsewhere then you will always be able to find FreeForm from the home page at robshelp.com