Although creating presentations in PowerPoint is so easy, there's one thing that PowerPoint can still no do -- and that is creating interactive elements that can be dragged and animated at the same time. Most of the time, any click while a PowerPoint slide is playing results in the next animation or the next slide.
ActiveSlide Thunder, the product being reviewed here gets around that limitation by using Flash SWF movies inserted in PowerPoint to offer interactivity and animation at the same time. And it creates these interactive Flash components in a few minutes using a wizard based metaphor.
ActiveSlide Thunder is actually the basic version -- the advanced version is called ActiveSlide Professional, and adds more niceties. This review will look at ActiveSlide Thunder (hereafter ActiveSlide).
ActiveSlide is from pharus53 software solutions GmbH, a company based out of Hamburg, Germany. You can learn more and download a trial version of ActiveSlide from their site (link no longer exists).
ActiveSlide creates interactive Flash components intended for use in PowerPoint presentations, websites and e-learning courses. The application has inbuilt wizards which helps you to create Flash movies that include draggable elements, navigation, animation etc.
My contact at ActiveSlide for this review was Tobias Windbrake - thank you, Tobias.
Download the installer from the their site, run the setup routine and
follow the instructions. You'll end up with an ActiveSlide Thunder program
group in your Windows Start menu (see Figure 1 below).
Figure 1: ActiveSlide Thunder Start menu Group
Unless you buy a full version that includes a license file, you'll run the product in demo mode.
ActiveSlide does not convert Flash into PowerPoint or vice versa, nor does it insert the Flash movies that you create in ActiveSlide or some other application into PowerPoint. ActiveSlide's main forte is to create Flash SWF components that feel and look good inside your PowerPoint presentations -- and that's the reason why ActiveSlide uses the slide metaphor so that PowerPoint users can feel at home within the program.
This tutorial will show you how you can create a quick Flash SWF component in ActiveSlide:
- Launch ActiveSlide by choosing Start menu | All Programs | ActiveSlide
Thunder | ActiveSlide (See Figure 1 above)
- This opens the ActiveSlide interface. You'll be shown a New Project dialog box where the dimensions, background color and number of initial
slides can be set. (see Figure 2)
Figure 2: New Project
After setting the dimensions, click the Next button to see the options for background and slides, when all the changes have been made click on Finish Button. A maximum of 3 slides can be added.
- This brings up the Select Wizard dialog box that you can see in Figure 3.
This provides a list of all interactivity patterns (on the left) with animated demo and text explanations for individual patterns (on the right). These interactive patterns can be applied on any image or object.
Figure 3: Select Wizard
Note: It is not compulsory to use the Select Wizard at the start of the project, it can be closed and can be used later.
- For now, just click on the Cancel button so that you can see the ActiveSlide
interface, as shown in Figure 4
Figure 4: ActiveSlide Interface
The interface is explained below:
- Icon bar provides functions to edit elements such as set draggable, line color, background color, opacity, select wizard and preview.
- Element and Drawing tabs place elements like images, text labels and shapes. In the drawing tab, you will find tools to create geometrical shapes.
- Slide bar allows you to add, delete and duplicate the slides.
- Format palette is only activated some formatted text is placed on the document -- using the options on this palette you can format text in terms of font style, size, color, bullets, alignment, etc.
- Slide is the actual slide area, where all the elements can be placed.
- Create any shape using the drawing options, place an image or some
text. Once you have placed something on the slide area, you can tweak
them in various ways:
- Resize, reposition, and format them as required.
- Click the Select Wizard button on the icon bar to create an interactive Flash component.
- Right-click the object, and choose any of the options in the resultant menu (see Figure 5).
- Add or remove slides as required (a maximum of 3 slides are allowed in the ActiveSlide Thunder version)
- Preview your slides by clicking the Preview button on the icon bar.
- Tweak settings further as required.
Figure 5: Edit Menu
- At this point of time, it's a good idea to save your project as a ActiveSlide Thunder file with a TAP extension. Once your project is saved, you can always make changes later, or you might want to publish your project to a Flash SWF, as explained next.
- To publish the interactive component you have created to a Flash SWF,
select File | Publish as shown in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Publish Option
You can choose to publish your component as an HTML page with embedded Flash or just as a single Flash file.
- After selecting the desired option your component will be published.
Once your Flash component is created, it's easy to insert it inside PowerPoint.
ActiveSlide is available in two versions -- ActiveSlide Thunder, the basic version reviewed on this page, and the more advanced ActiveSlide Professional version. ActiveSlide Thunder Edition costs EUR 39.90 (or an equivalent USD rate) and the ActiveSlide Professional Edition costs EUR 498 (or an equivalent USD rate).
Support options include email support, online tutorials and a FAQ.
I like ActiveSlide because it makes it so easy for non-Flash designers to create something so quick. And the examples on their web site show you that the possibilities are so engaging.
The price is right too, but we found several dialog boxes still use German text -- we wish they create a full English version of the program. Also, 3 slides is probably a very limiting factor. That small grouse aside, ActiveSlide is certainly a winner.
Update: Tobias got back to me and wanted to add this info:
In the upcoming release (in two weeks of time) everything is translated
-- so you'll find no German dialog boxes.
All examples shown on our website have been created with ActiveSlide Thunder, most of them actually using one slide. The focus of ActiveSlide Thunder is creating interactive components, so in most cases you just don't need more. In some cases (e.g. software simulations) it is indeed helpful to have more slides, and that is where you could upgrade to the Pro Edition. There you have the possibility to create an "unlimited" number of slides.