Wildform WildPresenter review

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Recommended

WildPresenter takes a cheap-and-cheerful approach to Flash authoring but the sheer range of integrated power it offers is exceptional – and so is the price.

wildpresenter

With its powerful multimedia handling, minimal file size, cross-platform compatibility, efficient web delivery and near-total market penetration, Flash has unbeatable advantages as a technology. However as an authoring application, Flash Professional is relatively expensive and fiendishly difficult to master. However there are alternatives. The recently launched Wildform WildPresenter is designed to let you quickly create advanced Flash projects and at a much more manageable price.

However, before you begin putting WildPresenter to work, you’ll have to come to terms with the interface. There’s no way around it: Flash might be associated with the bleeding edge of modern web-savvy design but WildPresenter certainly isn’t – it looks old-fashioned and amateurish and smacks of 1980’s shareware. If you can manage to separate the environment from its appearance however, working with WildPresenter proves surprisingly intuitive and efficient. Running down the left of the screen are draggable slide previews, across the top are toolbars, down the right are collapsible settings windows, at the bottom is a layer-based timeline and in the centre is the main stage where you add the elements of your project.

And compared to Flash Professional, WildPresenter has one huge usability advantage – rather than having to grapple with the complexities of a frame-based timeline you can create projects as simple slides. This means that working with WildPresenter is much more like working with PowerPoint than Flash including the ability to quickly add, delete and re-order slides and to set up repeating background elements on a master slide. And like PowerPoint, WildPresenter provides basic text, line and dedicated shape tools along with basic line and fill formatting including support for custom gradients and bitmap tiles.

wildpresenter authoring

WIldPresenter offers PowerPoint-style authoring.

Of course what makes the Flash format stand out is its ability to bring projects to life and WildPresenter’s animation capabilities are comprehensive. To begin with, using the Slide Settings control panel, you can apply a range of transitions to the slide as a whole. Using the Object Settings panel you can apply these same transitions and hundreds of other effects to individual elements as well as apply basic goto, movieload and getURL actions (though there is no scripting capability to control more advanced interactivity). And WildPresenter leaves PowerPoint trailing with over 400 dedicated text animation effects covering just about every possible combination of character-based fades, rotations, skews, bounces, waves and explosions – though sadly only a fraction will actually enhance your project. More practically useful is WildPresenter’s layer-based timeline which makes it simple to visually control and synchronize your animations through simple drag and drop.

You can achieve reasonable results using these in-built authoring capabilities, but to take your Flash presentation onto a higher level WildPresenter supports a wide range of external media formats (primarily through the support built in to the free QuickTime and Windows Media players). Bitmaps in JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF and PSD format can be imported, theoretically including alpha channel support for transparency effects (though a bug made this unusable). More impressive is the ability to load WAV, MP3 and WMA audio files and especially AVI, DV, MOV/QT, MPEG, MP4, and WMV video format files. In each case the image, audio or video is encoded to Flash’s own SWF format or, in the case of video, you can even choose to output to the more recent and more efficient, external FLV Flash video format. And for good measure WildPresenter throws in the ability to convert back from FLV to SWF and to batch encode files.

Such wide-ranging media support is impressive enough, but WildPresenter tops it with its ability to open and import PowerPoint PPT files. This is nowhere near as seamless as the integrated PowerPoint-to-Flash conversion offered by Articulate Presenter (see page ), but for the most part it works. And where some rival programs simply convert each slide to a bitmap, WildPresenter keeps text and vectors live which means not only that file size is kept to a minimum but that you can even edit converted objects including text.

The surprises keep coming. One popular use for Flash is to provide screen-based videos of applications for computer-based software training. WildPresenter rises to the challenge with its screen recorder which lets you simultaneously capture audio and onscreen activity directly to SWF format, complete with intelligent handling of cursor motion, or to AVI, for later conversion to SWF or FLV. Alternatively, to keep file size to an absolute minimum for web delivery, you can choose to record in “shot mode” where you manually record individual frames.

wildpresenter flash

WildPresenter offers both Flash-based input and output.

Once you’ve brought together all the components of your presentation you’re ready to publish. Again the control offered is surprisingly comprehensive including the ability to output HTML files for web playback and standalone Projector executables for playback on Windows, Mac or Linux – you can even output the first frame of each slide to PDF. You can also choose to export a player for your presentation though these are limited to basic playback controls and as such are a missed opportunity when compared to the powerful and professional player that makes Articulate Presenter stand out.

It’s a pity because otherwise, if you can live with the interface and odd bug and avoid the temptation to throw in over-the-top animation, WildPresenter offers everything you need to produce impressive results. In particular it brings together the core functionality from a whole host of applications – Adobe Flash Professional, Microsoft PowerPoint, Articulate Presenter, Sorenson Squeeze and Adobe Captivate – and at a fraction of their cost (especially at WildPresenter’s heavily discounted introductory price). That’s extraordinary power and extraordinary value – it’s just a pity the interface is so extraordinary too.

Features
6
Ease of Use
3
Value for Money
6
Overall
5

ratings out of 6

Tom Arah

June 2006

 

       
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