Friday, July 20, 2007

Reviewing Wink

I just used the screen-capturing software Wink to create a walkthrough of my LSC 597 Digital Library project. Since I was unable to attend the final class in person (wedding in Florida), I thought I could try out this tool and see how well it substitutes for an in-person demonstration. The price couldn't be better (free), and the export format is the nearly universal .swf (Flash).

The interface is very straight forward, with a main pane for the current frame, a set of thumbnails of all frames under that, and the local resources for each frame on the side.

You typically start by using the screen-capture wizard to either grab still shots of you whole screen, a window, or a shape. You can also set it up to record automatically, at whatever frame-rate you like, or to take a snapshot at every mouse or keyboard event. You can record audio as you go, or do it later when you're working with the frames you've taken.

One feature I didn't notice immediately is that Wink captures the frame and the cursor location separately. This means that you can move the cursor around (and change its type) to wherever you want on the frame. The cursor will move automatically as you change frames, going from the previous frame's location to the current frame's. I found that I could use this feature to save from recording continuously in order to capture mouse movement; I just needed one shot of the frame, and then I could move the cursor from link to link.

Adding audio is easy; just click the 'add audio' button on the local resources, and record. You can do it as many times as necessary to get it right. The exported presentation will automatically remain on the audio-enhanced frame as long as it takes to play the whole recording; you don't have to manually add 'stay on this frame for' (if you do, it will wait that much longer after the recording finishes...).

You can also add buttons, links, text boxes, shapes, and internal jump-to points. I didn't find any of these useful for my presentation (though I did use a text box to white out something), but they are good features to note.

The export process for my several-minutes walkthrough took about a minute and a half. The resulting file was about 5 MB. Wink automatically produces an HTML file with the .swf embedded, so you're ready to load it onto the web.

All in all, I was very pleased with Wink. If I need to do more online tutorials, I think the extra experience using it will make me like it that much more. I would need to invest in a better microphone and recording space, though. I look forward to a chance to compare it to the commercial software Captivate.

Oh, you can view my website tour here. Keep in mind, the intended audience is my LSC 597 class.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Website Redesigned!

At long last, I've had the opportunity to redesign my website. The chance came with my enrollment in LSC 597: Digital Libraries. The primary feature of this new site, aside from its new address, is that it is a database-driven dynamic site, rather than flat HTML. I'm hosting it myself, on the SquareOne. You are encouraged to check it out.

The Photos section is currently up and running, though you have to be a local (i.e. in my apartment) user to see the full sized images. This will change when I build the user login system.

Keep in mind that advanced search and Documents searching is as yet unimplemented. The collection is small enough right now that that's not too big a deal. When the collection grows, so too will advanced searching.

There is a lot of other stuff on the list to do; I know there are several broken links, and the CSS I'm using is horribly boring. One of the nice features that will come with the user login is the ability to choose amongst several CSS, and have the system remember your choice (without those pesky cookies!). Again, coming soon.

I welcome comments and feedback.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Digital Libraries presentation using Spresent

For my LSC 597: Digital Libraries class, I am required to do a presentation on digital library technology. Rather than use Powerpoint, or cobble together a website, I thought I'd try out Spresent, a tool I discovered via Librarian in Black. It's Flash based, which has intrigued me since SLA 2006.

The first thing I noticed was that, like most Web 2.0 tools, Spresent is still under development. They have lots of plans, including being able to export the presentation as a .swf, and being able to upload photos from your harddrive, but at this time, neither works.

Text can be either a headline, a text block, or a list. Each of those types comes with possible animations and other options.

There are several good backgrounds to choose from, and store of generic clipart. The real photographic power comes from the Browse Flickr button, where you can search for tags (with respect paid to copyright and Creative Commons). You can also specify the location of a JPG, YouTube video or Flash animation to embed in the presentation. Downside: only JPGs work, not GIFs or PNGs.

Slides are easy to create, copy and modify, and you build your slide show linearly or not-linearly, using buttons to jump from slide to slide. Internal links update automatically when you insert or remove a slide.

It wouldn't be Flash if it didn't play like a movie, and you can set your presentation to run automatically, with audio in the background and everything. I chose not to use this for my presentation, since I didn't know how long I'd spend on each slide topic, but for stand-alone web presentations, this is good stuff.

One thing I didn't like: you can't make text or image hyperlinks. I wanted to use the icons from the various companies I research as links in my bibliography, but (in addition to just looking cluttered), I couldn't make an image into a link. Nor could I put a link into text, or really do any kind of formating to the text, actually (no bold, no italics, nothing).

All in all, I think I found a good alternative to Powerpoint, though somewhat limited in what it can do right now. Hopefully as more people give Spresent a try, and are impressed, they will continue to upgrade and enrich the application. Give it a go if you have a presentation you need to give, and have a little extra time to play around with a new tool.

By the way, if you'd like to see what I created for Digital Libraries, you can go to the following link: