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Convexion Pro

Reviewed:

Date Created: February 4th 2010
Last Updated: February 4th 2010






Introduction
About Convexion
Using Convexion
How Convexion Fared?
Pricing and Support
Conclusion

Introduction

With the proliferation of PowerPoint to Flash converters everywhere, you might have wondered why there are almost no PowerPoint to Silverlight converters anywhere. After all, Silverlight is considered by many as Microsoft's response to Adobe's Flash. Add the fact that PowerPoint and Silverlight are both from the Microsoft stable, and the complete absence of PowerPoint to Silverlight converters is like a puzzle with no solution!

Luckily, someone listened and created the first ever PowerPoint to Silverlight converters -- and in this review we are looking at Convexion, a PowerPoint add-in from Electric Rain.

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About Convexion

Electric Rain is a software products company based out of Boulder, CO, USA. You can learn more about Convexion from their site...

Convexion is a PowerPoint 2007 add-in that enables you to publish your presentations to the Microsoft Silverlight and WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) formats for sharing and viewing on the web, and in blogs. It also exports as a live desktop presentation player. In theory, Convexion retains all the PowerPoint presentations animations, effects, & transitions of the original PowerPoint. However, Convexion is a first generation product and comparing it to fourth generation PowerPoint to Flash products is probably not a good idea. So we'll certainly keep that in mind during this review. Also, since Silverlight is cross-browser supported on both Windows and Mac OS, the resultant presentations can be viewed on both systems.

Convexion is available in two editions: Standard and Pro. The Standard Edition exports to Silverlight XAP + HTML & WPF (EXE) formats while the Pro Edition adds support for Microsoft Blend / Visual Studio .SLN Export.

My contact at Electric Rain for this review was Mike Soucie, thank you Mike.

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Using Convexion

Download the installer from the link given above, run the setup routine and follow the instructions. You'll end up with a Convexion tab on the Ribbon as you can see in Figure 1.

Convexion tab on the Ribbon
Figure 1: Convexion tab on the Ribbon

All the options on the Convexion tab are explained below:

  1. Convert Presentation: This option allows you to publish presentations to the Silverlight or WPF formats.

  2. Convert Settings: Allows you to choose from export format and player options.

  3. Help: Takes you to the Convexion support page.

  4. About: Displays the Convexion splash screen.

At Indezine, we use an evaluation presentation as a benchmark to determine how any PowerPoint to Flash converter product works -- we decided to use the same presentation for for Convexion's Silverlight conversion as well. Learn more about this benchmark presentation developed with our FlashPPT site here...

We'll share results of this benchmark later on this page -- first, let's explore how you do the actual PowerPoint presentations conversion using Convexion.

  1. Open any existing presentation inside PowerPoint. With the presentation open, select the Convexion tab on the Ribbon, as shown in Figure 1 above.

  2. Click the Converter Settings button to bring up the dialog box that you can see in Figure 2.

    Coverter Settings
    Figure 2: Converter Settings

  3. From the Export Format drop-down list choose the export format you want. Thereafter, play with the settings for Player Layout and Player Style -- you can also add a Custom Title for the exported Silverlight presentation.
  1. Once done, click OK to apply the choices. If you don't like the choices you made, you can always come back to this dialog box, and click the Restore Defaults button.

  2. Now click the Convert Presentation button to start the conversion process.

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How Convexion Fared?

This benchmark presentation had 20 slides with content of various types: pictures, clip art, shapes, narration, music, Flash movies, videos, etc. Each slide was given between 0 to 5 points each for a total of 100 points, and 50 extra points were allotted to the program interface, support options, output, PowerPoint 2007 compatibility, and pricing.

Convexion Pro scored a total of 103 points to get 68.6% ratings -- again, I do realize that we are comparing a first generation Silverlight output product to fourth generation Flash converters -- so do bear that in mind.

Convexion Pro fared very well in most areas that were not multimedia or animation specific -- the text, visuals, and entry animations worked fine most of the time. However, no emphasis and exit animations worked and there seemed to be no support for sound and video. Of course, embedded Flash did not work but that's not something you would expect from a Silverlight export product. Convexion Pro does provide an extra feature to export straight to Expression Blend, so may be some of these shortcomings can be addressed by further editing the Blend output. But again, that's not an easy option -- nor may it be possible or viable most of the time.

In all other areas, Convexion Pro did a comprehensive job.

Mike made several observations on these results -- and they make very interesting reading:

For this version, our main focus was playback and design fidelity. In doing so, we ended up converting all vector shapes and text to PNG images, which increases file size, but guarantees the font and shape fidelity is retained. To offset the potential increase in file size, we do allow the user to adjust the image resolution relative to the presentation player size they need for republishing on the web. In future versions of Convexion we will work to natively support the conversion & retention of vector shapes and embed fonts to keep file size smaller.

Convexion does support and convert embedded WMV video and WMA audio files. The problem with multimedia is that PowerPoint far surpasses Silverlight with what type of media files it supports. See this site for reference. A few quick examples of media types that PowerPoint supports that SL doesn’t are Flash, AVI, WAV and variable-rate MP3 files. We are looking into a third-party SDK to help us automate the conversion and encoding process from within the converter as well as keeping a close eye on Silverlight v4 features that can assist us in this area. So this is more of a limitation of the host technology, rather than our product.

One differentiating feature offered in the Silverlight converter that I did not see in your review was that Convexion offers a toggled (on / off) setting to enable the web viewers of the Silverlight presentation the ability to right-mouse click and save a copy of the presentation to the their local machine (as an application) for offline viewing. This is a wonderful new feature that will allow online views of the presentation to easily save it offline, as an installed application, with just a right-mouse click.

Thank you so much, Mike -- your observations do make a huge difference to this review.

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Pricing and Support

Convexion is available in two editions: the Standard edition costs $149.00 while the Pro edition is available for $199.00

Support includes online tutorial, knowledgebase, and e-mail.

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Conclusion

I would like to congratulate Electric Rain for creating such an amazing product, and it is indeed a very capable offering. However, I do wish they bring in some much needed improvements in the animation and multimedia fronts as an update rather than waiting to incorporate them in the next version.

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