Indezine is primarily a site which aims to address issues pertaining to presentations and multimedia. We focus on Microsoft PowerPoint quite extensively. Using other applications with PowerPoint to exchange and enhance content has been an important aspect here. In the past, we have discussed using PowerPoint with Director, Flash, SVG, and AutoCAD (using WHIP! and Volo View). And now we look at Illuminatus Opus (hereafter, Illuminatus). And frankly, we are sure that we would not be off the mark to quote that this could be a very significant research indeed for users of both PowerPoint and Illuminatus. In many ways, they both compliment each other perfectly. So, let's explore.
So, What is Illuminatus?
Illuminatus is basically a multimedia development tool from a UK-based company called Digital Workshop. They create many more fine products which surprisingly cost only a fraction of the amount you would pay for other similar stuff elsewhere. You'll find more information at their site:
Across subsequent versions, Illuminatus has evolved to emerge as a mature multimedia creation platform. The newest version called Illuminatus Opus takes this trend further with many new features and refinements. Digital Workshop also creates an advanced version of Illuminatus Opus called Opus Pro. However, for this review, we have used the basic Illuminatus Opus application for all techniques explained hereafter. You'll find more information on Illuminatus Opus at its homepage:
So, how do PowerPoint and Illuminatus work together? Actually, in many ways only limited by your creativity or imagination. Now, many people would point out that with Illuminatus and its advanced multimedia features, one does not need PowerPoint. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Our experiences with PowerPoint have resulted in a mindset which believes that PowerPoint is much more than a basic presentation program. In fact, PowerPoint owns the presentation standard. Tomorrow's presentations are going to be even more PowerPoint-centric, with almost unlimited distribution strategies being developed around its core. And yet, we've not discussed PowerPoint's greatest advantage. Let us explain using an example:
A few months ago, one of our clients visited Australia to deliver a presentation we created for him using PowerPoint. There were a few changes he needed last-minute, so all he did was to open the presentation in his copy of PowerPoint and edit a few figures. That's something you cannot do with a multimedia development program. In plain words, PowerPoint is omnipresent!
That's why it is important to create opportunities where other programs perform in concert with PowerPoint, and that's why we are looking at Illuminatus. It is certainly more strange than ever because the question is why Illuminatus and why not any of the other multimedia programs like Director, Authorware, Dazzler or Mediator? We would love to answer that question because we've had some experience with a few of the other products too. Illuminatus basically scores better on both the features and the price front. Let's look at features: Illuminatus can create autorun splashes for autorun PowerPoint presentations on CD ROM, it can create browser controls to view the new PowerPoint 2002 HTML presentations fullscreen from the web or CD ROM, it can incorporate actual PowerPoint presentations in itself using the DocView feature and finally it can create standalone EXE files which can be linked to actual PowerPoint presentations. We'll explore all these techniques. Finally, Illuminatus costs much less than its other competitors, and almost anyone who has PowerPoint can take advantage of a cheap upgrade path to buy Illuminatus at an even lower price.
Some time ago, we needed to create a portfolio of PowerPoint presentations on an autorun CD. Since we were experimenting with Illuminatus, we tried to create an interactive splash screen as a menu to run multiple PowerPoint presentations. The entire thing was accomplished in less than half an hour, and the whole thing included animations, custom backgrounds and embedded typefaces. The compiled splash screen was set to run as a trigger from an autorun procedure as soon as a CD was placed inside a system. Resultant menu clicks opened PowerPoint presentations in full show mode. As soon as the presentations were viewed, the control reverted back to the splash screen. The result was simple, yet elegant.
Illuminatus can also create an autorun.inf file which tells Windows to run a CD ROM automatically on insertion through the Publication Properties dialog box.
PowerPoint 2002 HTML Presentations
PowerPoint 2002 is the new version of PowerPoint which ships as part of Microsoft's Office XP suite. New to this version is Microsoft's commitment to bestow it's Internet Explorer product the new avatar of a presentation-browser.
As Microsoft makes its moves to promote Internet Explorer further in this direction, one is forced to face the fact that such HTML presentations don't open fullscreen as normal presentations do. Enter Illuminatus again, which we used successfully to create an autorun container for just this purpose. Such autorun containers can be created to link to an inline web page to act as an elegant splash screen and help system. Basically, the entire system uses the browser component built-in into Illuminatus.
All such inline browsers require the existence of Internet Explorer on a client machine since the browser control actually relies on the Internet Explorer engine to render a page.
DocView in Illuminatus
Sometimes, your major project could have been developed in Illuminatus itself, and you may be looking for an easy way to incorporate existing PowerPoint content into the Illuminatus project.
Illuminatus contains an object model that includes the DocView component. Inserting such DocView components is as easy as inserting a picture. Such DocView components can contain Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and you guessed it, PowerPoint presentations! Unlike the Word and Excel DocView links, PowerPoint presentations are dynamic; they play like any other normal PowerPoint presentation in either a window or fullscreen mode within your Illuminatus project or standalone compiled EXE.
DocView is indeed among the important killer features which make using Illuminatus and PowerPoint together so easy. Nevertheless, it's important to mention here that a PowerPoint engine in the form of a PowerPoint installation or the free PowerPoint Viewer needs to be made available on every client machine.
Link an EXE from PowerPoint
Our examples above discussed Illuminatus as a host container which made calls to a PowerPoint engine. Finally, we look at a reverse situation, wherein a PowerPoint host will make calls to an Illuminatus engine.
We basically need a compiled standalone EXE project published from Illuminatus. Thereafter, one can link to this EXE from within PowerPoint using the Action Settings option for a given hyperlink.
Here, it may be important to consider the resolution implications. While a full-screen Illuminatus publication will completely superimpose a playing PowerPoint presentation onscreen, a windowed Illuminatus publication will only superimpose the areas it covers onscreen. Such windows are excellent for usage of newer QuickTime content which PowerPoint does not support natively. Of course one can use this technique for anything else, and small popup windows over the PowerPoint show can look very elegant when one needs to highlight something significant to an audience.
Digital Workshop offers free lifetime technical support through a dedicated support line, although you may not need support at all since Illuminatus Opus comes with an extensive manual and online help files. Also, the product itself ships on two CD-ROMs which contain many tutorial and sample files to get you going.
There's also an excellent support forum at the Digital Workshop site, where answers to problems are provided by longtime Opus users and developers. There's another excellent forum at the Illum4 site, which again also functions as a US-based distributor for Illuminatus Opus.