Colin Adams is the president and founder of Indigo Rose Software Design Corporation. Privately held, Indigo Rose develops innovative software products and multimedia authoring tools that are usedby thousands of corporate, government and ISV customers around the world. Indigo Rose is headquartered in Winnipeg, Canada, and may be contacted at (204) 946-0263 or found on the Internet at http://www.indigorose.com.
Geetesh: Tell me more about Indigo Rose.
Colin: Way back in 1991 we started making a product called Setup Factory. It was one of the very first tools designed to build wizard-style software installers - the setup.exe's that we're all familiar with nowadays. It was pretty darn successful. In fact we're still updating it and are currently working on version 7.0.
Anyhow, we started branching out from there. When Windows 95 hit the market, things really started to take off. It introduced a great new feature called "autoplay" which could detect the insertion of a CD-ROM and automatically execute programs. We looked around for authoring tools that could take advantage of this feature, but there was nothing out there at the time. So, we decided to do it ourselves.
We put together a software product called AutoPlay Menu Studio. We wanted it to be possible for someone who didn't know anything about programming to build customized graphical menu systems for CD-ROMs. It was all completely visual and drag-and-drop, which was something really unique at the time. The developer would simply burn the menu onto the CD-ROM along with the rest of their content and instantly take advantage of the Windows autoplay feature. Typically, the menus provided options to run applications, view documentation, launch PowerPoint presentations and that sort of thing.
We marketed it as a tool that would reduce support costs and provide a better experience for the person receiving the CD-ROM. As everyone knows, that's exactly how it turned out. Thousands of customers and millions of CDs later, autoplay menus have become a necessity for anything distributed on CD-ROM or DVD-ROM.
That popularity led to tons of improvements over the years. We eventually changed the name of the product to AutoPlay Media Studio to better reflect the growing capabilities of the software. The most recent release is actually a full multimedia-authoring tool, with support for a variety of media content such as images, sound, video, Flash and web. It's still fully drag-and-drop but there are tons of new uses. People are using it for creating everything from CD business cards to training applications and interactive software. It's pretty cool.
Geetesh: What provided impetus to your foray into PowerPoint related products like backgrounds and music tracks?
Colin: That was totally driven by customer demand. PowerPoint users were initially attracted to us because of AutoPlay Media Studio. They wanted to put their PowerPoint presentations on CD-ROM and offer a superior experience for their audience. Our software was tailor-made for that purpose, but people wanted even more. The number one request was royalty-free image and sound content. That's why we developed Style Workshop and Liquid Cabaret.
We originally wanted to simply recommend an existing product to our customers, but we had trouble finding anything that would meet our standards of quality and value. Our goal was to offer content that was extremely "usable" but also very affordable. That's the difference with Style Workshop. Everything is color coordinated and styled according to harmonizing themes, making it really easy to mix and match. With over 25,000 image components (backgrounds, bullets, bars, icons, photographs, panels, buttons and templates) in each volume, it's a compelling value as well.
The same goes for Liquid Cabaret. We hired a professional composer who worked on these background music tracks for months. In the end, we came up with 20 volumes that cover a whole range of styles from orchestral to jazz, rock and everything in between. Customers (and their clients) have been loving them. They're also completely royalty free (just like Style Workshop), so you don't have any hassles on that end.
Geetesh: Tell me more about Indigo Rose's support infrastructure.
Colin: Actually, that's one of the things I'm most proud of. We back up everything we sell with free technical support. In fact, we've just revamped our whole support system and launched a dedicated web site at http://support.indigorose.com. There's a variety of self-help resources such as a searchable knowledge base, announcements, user's guides, product updates and all that good stuff. But, the heart of it is a state-of-the-art ticket system for support requests. Each ticket is assigned a trackable ID and automatically gets routed to the appropriate specialist in our support department. In fact, most tickets are answered the very same day.
We also host a lively discussion forum where users can interact, throw ideas around and pick up some useful tips and tricks. At last count, there were over 5,000 members and 27,000 searchable posts. It's a great resource and we really enjoy the opportunity to get to know our users better.
Geetesh: How do you typically use PowerPoint?
Colin: Nowadays, I'm using PowerPoint more than ever. I use it for its strengths and then supplement it with other tools as needed. It's all about presenting information in a way that engages the audience. It's easy to make a boring PowerPoint presentation - people have seen it all by now. I think it's important to keep that in mind and go beyond their expectations.
Of course, you knew I'd bring up Style Workshop didn't you? But it really does make putting PowerPoint presentations a lot easier and certainly more fun. I'm not particularly talented when it comes to layout and design, so having a library of design components definitely helps. I can concentrate on the message rather than stumbling around trying to make it look presentable. And since the components (backgrounds, buttons, bars, panels etc) are arranged in coordinating themes, it's a snap to put together presentations that put my old efforts to shame.
Geetesh: Autorun for PowerPoint slides has been something so many PowerPoint users want to do all the time - and PowerPoint 2003 brings this capability within its feature list. How can Autoplay Media Studio take over from where PowerPoint 2003 leaves the compilation?
Colin: That's a great new feature - and something long overdue! For those people who aren't familiar with the feature, you're referring to the "Package for CD" option. It takes care of all the little details needed to make your PowerPoint presentations "portable" to other systems. You basically specify a folder on your hard drive and it copies over all of the files used by your presentation, including linked files and the PowerPoint Viewer. What used to be a rather time consuming (and even complicated) process, is now really simple. At this point you've basically got a folder full of files that are ready for the next step.
With AutoPlay Media Studio, you can take your presentation to the next level by designing a complete user interface for your CD. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you want: from a few links that launch your PowerPoint presentations (you can organize a bunch of them onto one CD), to a fully interactive "information application" with video, web browsing and more. The key point is that it enhances and organizes your presentation so that the person receiving your CD gets a full interactive experience. It not only makes it easier to access your presentation, it's a perfect way to bundle in supplementary materials like PDF files, spreadsheets, videos and other documents and rich media that help support and enhance your slides.
When you're done, AutoPlay Media Studio 5.0 can burn your project directly to CD-ROM or even package it up as an .exe file that's perfect for emailing or posting on a web site. It really adds a lot of value for just a little bit of work!.
Geetesh: What do you think about the current controversy that blames PowerPoint for everything from space shuttle disasters to failed meetings?
Colin: Like any tool, it can be used in either effective or ineffective ways. The thing about PowerPoint is that it's become so ubiquitous that a lot of people are just doing the same old thing over and over again. That gets boring for both the presenter as well as the audience - people tune it out. The points that need to be conveyed are getting lost. When putting together a presentation, I think it's really important to get the most bang you can from your message. Keeping things fresh, thinking in a different way and introducing interactivity can go a long way toward that goal.
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