Tags: adobe

07/20/14

Permalink 01:51:35 pm, Categories: Welcome , Tags: adobe, animage, broswers, edge, edge animate 2014, html5, wwwc

As I continue to develop and explore Edge Animate as a potential animation tool, I have to comment on the new audio functionality introduced in Edge Animate 2014.

They did it!

My biggest beef with HTML5 is the syncing of audio and animation - if I am animating in Flash, I can add audio wherever I want and the animation in synched. It's a wonderful thing. I said I wouldn't convert to HTML5 until it could do this.

I don't know how they did it, but the wizards at Adobe have added that functionality to Edge Animate 2014. I haven't dove deep enough to know if it is a true synch or just an event trigger, but I've been impressed with it so far.

Yes, my friends, Adobe has created a tool that allows for audio synching and HTML5 output. As more and more of my customers are looking for an HTML5 based solution, this may be the final straw. While I am not abandoning Flash in any sense of the word, my reservations about HTML5 are slowing slipping away.

Of course, the WWWC has to get the browsers to all agree about how to consistently display HTML5 content, but that's coming soon too.

If you haven't taken a look at Edge Animate 2014, go do it now. You will be impressed - it keeps getting better and better.

02/21/14

Permalink 11:17:09 am, Categories: Software, Adobe, Rants , Tags: adobe, animate, animation, edge, flash, html5, killer, love, option

Just a quick note to say how much I am enjoying Adobe Edge Animate. It's a part of the CC bundle of software and I highly recommend it if you are programming in an environment where Flash is no longer welcome. It does simple animations and writes it all to HTML 5. You can then take the HTML 5 and drop it onto your web page, into your LCMS, into your elearning course etc.

I'm finding it really easy to use and although I haven't stretched it to it's limit yet, I'm optimistic. It still feels like new software, but if it continues to be upgraded, I think it may be the first REAL option to compete with Flash.

Now, you already know how much I love FLASH, so for me to express that sentiment, it must be true! Ha! But, seriously, Edge Animate is a ton of fun to use and for simple animated sequences where Flash is no longer an option, it's something you should explore.

01/23/14

Permalink 04:47:20 pm, Categories: News, Software, Adobe , Tags: 2014, adobe, animate, astd, cc, edge, html5, techknowledge

I had to leave a little early from this year's show, but I was honored to speak about my new "up and coming" piece of software: Adobe Edge Animate CC. It's like Flash, but it writes to HTML 5 as opposed to creating a SWF. Now, if you know anything at all about me, you know I love my SWFs. I've made my living creating them for many years. I'm also not too happy about how HTML5 is being forced down our throats. Yes, I said FORCED. I feel like an elearning duck being prepped for foie gras. It's still not ready for prime time elearning development. Enough on that...I'll have another post about it soon.

This year's conference was interesting - topics about copyright and raw technology were replaced by general social media and case studies. The creation stations were all awesome (and hands on), but the show still caters to the intro-medium level user. I'm a "do-er-ist" rather than a "theorist", so the lean towards theory was not my cup of tea.

However, as always, ASTD put on a great show. Thanks everyone! See you next year.

Now...onto that article...Patti Shank...I'm calling you next week. I've figured out a title and subject for our research article...

09/30/13

I am a lover of technology and cannot seem to get enough apps and programs and bits of code that help me to build great web pages and eLearning programs. I teach the Essentials of eLearning Authoring Tools for ASTD, have written a book about tools (Technology for Trainers) and have several articles published in the area of eLearning Tools and tool selection.

I'm the Tim Taylor of eLearning Tools. I'm going to use that, so don't steal it!

One thing I don't think I've ever clearly expressed are the tools I use in my every day work. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, below is a list of software that I use at least once a week, every week.

Graphic Design and Photo Editing Software

  • Adobe Photoshop CC
  • Adobe Fireworks CS6
  • Adobe Lightroom 5
  • Apple Aperture

Audio Recording Software

  • Audacity
  • NeoSpeech - I'm securing a license now, but have been using the trial. It is, in my opinion, the best Text to Speech editor out there.
  • Internet Jocks - the best human voice-over site out there. Once again, my opinion. Super professional quality and super fast turn around.

Video Editing Software

  • Apple iMovie - it's low end, but it does everything I need!

Screen Capture Software

  • Snapz Pro X (MAC)
  • Snagit 11 (PC)

Animation Creation Software

  • Adobe Flash
  • Adobe Edge Animate - not as powerful as Flash, but writes HTML5 animations

HTML/XHTML Writing Software

  • Adobe Dreamweaver CC

eLearning Creation Software

  • Articulate Storyline - this has become by goto software now that I can strip out the navigation interface and create my own. My clients love it, it plays well with all my other software and support is top knotch.
  • Adobe Captivate - this is my goto software for clients looking for training on computer based applications. If I need to teach someone how to use software, this is my goto. Yes, I choose Captivate over Storyline because editing your recorded movie slides in Captivate is heads and shoulders above the screen recording in Storyline. So, I dropped the cash and use both - best tool for the job

So there you have it...this is the list of tools used by a working professional eLearning developer. Does that mean you can purchase all of these tools and build like I do? Nope. I have my own creative eye and strengths in graphic and multimedia design that I bring to my eLearning visuals. However, some people have asked so I thought I would share.

Oh...and the picture at the top is of an adobe structure. Get it...adobe structure? Adobe Software?

08/05/10

NOTE: This article was written by Ginger Nichols, a graduate student at University of Colorado, Denver. She interned with me this summer, and I asked (forced, persuaded, cajoled...) her to do a Flash project. She had never even opened the software before. Because so many of my visitors are completely new to Flash or looking to get started with the tool, I asked her to write about her internship so that others could benefit from her experience. She wrote a nice piece outlining her journey, so with her permission, I'm reproducing it here.

To give you a little background, I am a graduate student (soon to be a graduate) of the Information and Learning Technologies (ILT) – Instructional Design and Adult Learning program at the University of Colorado Denver. Over the course of the program I heard and read a lot about the eLearning content that one could create by using Flash. Unfortunately, the University didn’t offer a course in Flash so my advisor recommended taking a class at a local community college. I put that idea in the back of my mind and continued on with my coursework in the program.

With two semesters left in the program, I started thinking about my internship. I wanted more exposure to eLearning than what was offered in the Instructional Design and Adult Learning concentration. Thomas was the first person to come to mind to help me with my internship. We talked about what I wanted to learn and came up with a few projects involving eLearning that met my objectives. Thomas had a fantastic idea to convert a course that I attended in person to an eLearning course, and design a module from the course in Flash. I chose to convert a presentation and public speaking class that was offered at work.

My timing for the internship was far from perfect. I saved it until my last semester in the ILT program – Summer 2010. The summer semester is half as long as Fall and Spring so I had 10 weeks to work on my three projects. I reserved the last month to work on the Flash portion of the project. The following list includes the resources and things I learned while working with Flash.

1. A good Flash “how to book.”

Thomas recommended a book from Friends of Ed. I read Foundation Flash CS4 for Designers by Tom Green and David Stiller. It took me about a week to read through the book and complete the exercises. I don’t typically learn by reading the book or the manual on my own but the hands on exercises really helped me to understand the concepts behind Flash and ActionScript 3.0.

2. Lynda.com.

If you aren’t familiar with it, Lynda.com is a subscription service that provides online software training via video. I signed up for a 7-day free trial because I wasn’t sure if I would like the service but I did.

When the book wasn’t making sense to me, I watched the videos on Lynda.com for another perspective. The videos were great because they match my learning style. If I can see how it’s done, I can usually do it myself. I had a few “that’s what they meant” moments when the video made the concepts in the book click for me.

3. Someone who knows Flash and ActionScript

Thomas and I met up on Fridays during my internship. Each week I had the chance to pick his brain to learn how he uses Flash. His blog is a great resource because it contains many Flash tips and tricks. I also sent him a few late night emails asking him “How do I…” I’m going to blame the “How do I make the movie stop?” question on fatigue.

4. Cartoon Solutions

Part of my internship was to research Accelerated Learning and apply it to my eLearning project. Storytelling is one way to reach a variety of learners and it’s something one can use in the eLearning environment. For the introduction to the course, I wanted to tell the story of someone who gave a terrible presentation at a convention that would set up the objectives of the course.

I included this story in my storyboard that Thomas reviewed. The storyboard was drawn by hand and I mentioned to Thomas that I didn’t think my stick figure drawings were what I wanted to use in the Flash movie. Thomas pointed me to Cartoon Solutions’ website where I found a character and backgrounds to use in my movie. Two backgrounds and one person cost me about $30, which was worth every penny since they made my movie look more professional than my hand drawings did. Don’t get me wrong, I love drawing on a whiteboard during a facilitated training session but my drawings just didn’t translate in Flash.

5. Patience

There were a few moments working on the Flash portion of the project when I thought about giving up on it. I could set up a few PowerPoint slides, drop them into Captivate and have a Flash training module in a matter of a few hours. I was frustrated that I couldn’t make Flash behave as I wanted it to. This is when I knew that I needed to walk away for a few minutes, or quit for the day. The important part is to come back to your project. It was easier to reread a portion of the book to understand a concept when I had a clear head.

Another thing to remember is that you’re not going to have advanced skills right away. My story had a scene where the character walked out on stage. In the final product, my character slides out on the stage instead of walking. Flash has the capability to animate the walking motion and my pre-made cartoon man was set up with joints for this purpose but I didn’t have the knowledge or the time to figure out how to make the character walk. Sure my Flash movie would have looked extra slick if the character walked across the screen but it didn’t add to or take away from the content so it wasn’t necessary.

Your skills will improve with time. Master the easy techniques then add more advanced skills in later. I submitted my final project to Thomas and my professor for review and received my grade for the internship.(TT Note :: Ginger got an A for her internship) I plan to go back to my Flash movie to work on making my character walk across the screen. I don’t have a deadline now so I can take my time and figure this out.

The bottom line is that Flash isn’t all that scary. Flash is a powerful tool that you can add to your repertoire of eLearning creation tools. Just like anything new, it takes time to master. However, the basics are relatively simple to pick up in a short amount of time. In just one month I created an eLearning module that I was happy with and that I wouldn’t hesitate to use as a real eLearning course rather than just a project for school.

06/14/10

Flash CS5 bugImagine you just dropped $599 on the CS5 upgrade, and you cannot wait to try out the new Adobe software. You have a bunch of things you were working on in Flash CS4, but CS5 is new and you want to start using it right away. You load up your old files, work on them for, oh, 24 or 30 hours, all the while saving as CS5 format. You are done for the week, enjoy your weekend, open up Flash CS5 on Monday to continue working and you get this message.

"Cannot open .fla file. Flash can not parse this document."

Wait...really?

You try again, because you know you saved the file. Religiously.

"Cannot open .fla file. Flash can not parse this document."

Yes friends, our new buddy Flash CS5 feels like a beta. This is a known bug. This is happening to me. Right now. I am not happy.

Also, I discovered that the radio button component works differently in CS4 and CS5. I don't know how, but when I program my multiple choice questions and all works in CS5, I get funky errors in CS4. Re-open in CS5 (without changing a single line of AS) and it works fine. I have no other details, because I've had bigger fish to fry with Flash today.

Luckily, in my scenario above, I was testing enough in CS4 and CS5 to save 70% of my work. Here is my workaround:

1) Open your CS4 file in CS5.
2) Work on it, but click Save As CS4 file when you are done.
3) Continue to use Flash CS5 in this lame way until Adobe fixes it

Yes friends, you are saving your CS4 files as CS4 files to work on them with flash. I haven't had any issues with files created in CS5 originally, so if you are working in CS5, don't downgrade to CS4 and then back up because you will encounter this bug. Now I have a new problem...my client hasn't upgraded to CS5...when they do, they will have the same problems unless Adobe gets this fixed fast.

While researching a solution to this mess, I discovered that there is a new Flash patch 11.0.1. Yay! However, it did nothing to fix my current files. Boo!

Maybe this is what I get for being an early adopter. However, I feel like Adobe blew it again with 1) No public Beta and 2) Pushing out CS upgrades before they are ready. How hard must it be to get 7+ products updated and released all at the same time? It's got to be near impossible but yet they cram them all out at the same time anyway. CS3 and CS4 felt that way, and now CS5 is the same. I feel like I am beta testing for Adobe, and I am paying them for the privilege.

I love Adobe products...six months after they are released when all the bugs are fixed. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on Adobe. I won't get suckered into a release day upgrade again.


6/15/10: UPDATE: A very nice Adobe rep who saw this post (or my FB post, or maybe it was my Twitter post...) contacted me and offered to figure out what was going on with my file. Today, I got the file back and it seems to work fine. There was an empty frame on layer 1 of one of the symbols in my library. I sent a note back requesting more information about how to prevent it from happening again, how to fix it when it happens etc, and am waiting for a response. So far, its pretty impressive that Adobe is taking such an active role in squashing this bug. I'm downgrading from angry to annoyed.

05/06/10

Over the past week, I have been surprised by the number of eMails and calls I have received from people in my network regarding HTML 5, Flash, Adobe and Apple. Folks in my eLearning circle are abuzz and asking questions about the future of Flash and the Web and what "these changes" are going to do to the field of eLearning development.

I am so over it.

I really, truly believe that right now, at this moment, it’s a non-issue. Initially, I was concerned because of Apple's childish decision (there, I've said it) not to include the Flash player on their iPad and iPhone. Then I started thinking about how my business was going to be impacted by the lack of Flash on these devices, and I had a huge "So what?" moment. So what if I can't run my stuff on iPads and iPhones? Are my business clients going to be negatively impacted because they cannot run "Effective eMails and You" on their iPad?

Odds are, I think that we won't see any kind of major investment into iPads at the corporate level. Why? Do you see IT teams making decisions to replace Blackberries with iPhones? Do you see IT teams issuing NetBooks to their employees instead of laptops and desktops? Is the iPad that much more powerful than a NetBook? Is the App store a blessing or a curse to an IT team concerned about privacy issues? If I issue my employee an iPad, do I dictate which apps are allowed to run? Who gets the app the employee purchased after termination? And on and on and on…in this climate, business have more important things to think about than jumping ship to a new technology infrastructure.

What about the business of HTML 5 killing Flash? Why are they mutually exclusive of each other? HTML 5 has a long, long way to go before the standards are finalized; generous estimates state that the standards will be in place in 5 years; conservative estimates consider 10 years a more realistic guess. Either way, this means that the web designer/programmer and eLearning designer/programmer is facing 5-10 years of pain because of the ultimate weak link: the browser.

HTML 5 is a programming language, but it is up to the browser to interpret that language and display the content. If the browser can't render the code, strange things start to happen in the display. We are facing that now with some versions of CSS. Different browsers on different platforms interpret the CSS differently and browsers display the content as they see fit. Look at sites on your Mac using Safari or Firefox and then on your PC using Internet Explorer - slight differences may appear if your programmer used CSS to any major degree.

Until HTML 5 gets standardized, each browser will interpret it differently. It's World Browser War III.

I have to tell you from experience (building on the web since 1996), clients don't get it and they don't care. If it works fine on your machine but breaks on the client machine, it’s broken. Clients don't want or appreciate long winded explanations of how browsers work; they paid you to design and program something and it doesn't work on their computer. You stink. It's a painful process of trial and error, multiple browser testing and all that stuff we used to HAVE to do during the previous World Brower Wars.

Adobe CTO says that they are going to make the best tools for HTML 5 and people scream "OMG!!! Adobe is saying that they are going to drop Flash!!!" No, it means that Adobe is going to keep current with browser coding tech and make their tools better by including it, just like they did with previous versions of HTML and with CSS. It's nothing to hoot about - it's a great step in the right direction. Adobe has always done this with Dreamweaver to ensure that coders have the most current tools at their fingertips. It’s great, and in no way says anything negative about Flash.

And while I am on that note, why is Flash suddenly Satan?

As far as I'm concerned, Flash is awesome. For me and my customers, it is the best way to deliver interactive content and eLearning for distribution over the web. Period.

Think about this: The odds are HUGE that the HTML 5 standard will still support browser plug-ins which means Flash will run just fine in HTML 5 standard browsers. Your current Flash movies and content will run in the HTML 5 standard browser, as long as that browser allows for the Flash plug-in. Based on the current specs (point 2.1.5), the use of plug-ins hasn’t gone away. Repeat after me – HTML 5 browsers will run your Flash projects.

Right now, the big whoopdy is Flash video vs. HTML 5's video capabilities. Sure, the browser will now be able to play video files, but what about the interactive capabilities of Flash? Will HTML 5 allow me to create the unique, interactive learning experiences that I build in Flash? Will HTML 5 allow me to store variables and convert them to numbers, compute on those numbers and then deliver customized responses based on those numbers? Will HTML 5 allow me to program “If...Then” paths based on user feedback and decision making? It doesn’t look like it.

Flash is a great tool and the files it creates display the same in every browser on every platform. The inconsistencies in the way the browser displays content has no impact on your .swf. It runs the same, it looks the same, it feels the same, and it sounds the same on each and every platform. It is a stable tech that my clients understand and provides me with creative flexibility. I don’t every have to say “no” to a client when building in Flash.

It needs to be stressed again that just because HTML 5 is coming out doesn't mean that Flash goes away. By the time HTML 5 standards are finalized, Adobe will have released Flash CS6, CS7, CS8 and maybe even CS9. Developers and the general public are freaking because Apple is ignoring the huge install base, the huge number of Flash developers and issues some sweeping statements against Flash. Since when is Apple the “be all, end all” of computing technology? If Apple says it, it must be the right?

In 2006, the W3C indicated an interest to participate in the development of HTML5 and in 2007 formed a working group chartered to work with the WHATWG on the development of the HTML5 specification. Odds are, you didn't know about it until Apple kicked Flash to the curb a month ago. I truly believe HTML 5 a long way off, will be filled with developer frustration as the browsers work on figuring out how to display the code, and it will not have the same multimedia and computational power I currently enjoy using Flash.

Clients don't always care about the technology, they just want it to look a certain way and to work as they want it to work. Until HTML 5 standards are finalized and all the browsers have figured out how to display the code, and until I can create the same multimedia/interactive experience for my learners, I'm going to continue developing my eLearning in Flash.

04/05/10

Steve Jobs and iPadMr. Jobs,

I wanted to take the time to write you this note today because I think that you may be unintentionally killing off one of my critical software development platforms: Flash. Now, you may just be thinking that by omitting the Flash player from the iPad and iPhone removes the user's ability to see video streaming on the web, but it does much more. For me, it has the potential to kill my future eLearning business prospects.

A little bit about me: I am an eLearning developer. I use Adobe Flash as my primary development tool. All of my eLearning is either developed directly in Flash, or uses a tool that exports to .swf format to embed in the browser. This way, my clients and their users can get around messy plug-ins and media components and just experience my projects in a browser window. I have been doing this for years, improving my eLearning design skills with each new iteration of Flash.

I switched to Mac in 2004 and have never looked back. I've purchased five Mac Pros, several Mac Books, a Mac Book Pro, about 15 iPods for my family and friends, an iPhone and just this weekend, the glorious iPad. I bleed Mac. But, your anger with Adobe and the Flash platform is starting to shake my confidence that my future is going to be OK.

I've been a big proponent of mobile learning - writing eLearning programs that run on mobile devices. As far as I'm concerned, the iPhone is the ultimate mobile device, and now the iPad has knocked it off the hill. I see every student and professional carrying around an iPad as a replacement for their day planners, their laptops, their heavy text books and training material.

This is why I am a little scared for the future of the thousands of Flash-based eLearning projects out there: None of them will work on the iPad. None. Zero. Zip. Entire organizations will have to deal with outdated learning software that won't run on the iPad and other Apple devices. Not that change and growth is bad, but it is one thing to adjust the settings and another to completely reboot.

Again, I understand your anger with Adobe - most, if not all, of the software problems I experience on my Macs happens when I am running Adobe software. I crash. I hang. I have weird font bugs. I have things that frustrate the heck out of me. However, I feed my kids and support my family with Adobe software running on Macs. My entire business produces Flash based eLearning programs that run using the Flash plug-in in any browser. It may not be perfect, but I'm happy to stick with Adobe and will tolerate the little bugs that crop up from time to time.

Some have said that HTML 5 will replace Flash video and Flash will evolve or just go away. I don't think so. The problem is that in the educational world, there is so much Flash content helping kids and adults learn, it is a shame to just have to throw all that away or force them to find an iPad-like device that will allow the learner to run their eLearning content.

I think that the iPad is going to change mobile computing. I also think that it has the potential to change the educational arena as well: for younger kids, the college crowd and adult learners. I see a future with this device. However, this fighting with Adobe must stop. Either iPad sales will stagnate because students and educators won't buy them en masse because the device can't access their current Flash content, or Flash will die and the iPad will take over and set new standards. Until one or the other takes place, can't you just let Safari on the iPad have the Flash plug-in?

Think about it Mr. Jobs : Flash is here. It has an immense install base. It is a relatively stable platform for distributing video files and is the premier platform for developing interactive multimedia projects. In my case, those interactive multimedia projects pay my bills.

Safari on the Mac already has the Flash plug-in, and all works fine. Why not just insert it into the Safari browser on the iPad? What is wrong with tipping your hat to current technology while simultaneously roaring forward to change the world? Can't we all win?

Thank you for your time.

Thomas Toth
President
dWeb Studios, Inc. & The Catapult Training Group

03/10/10

On July 11th, 2007 the term Crapid eLearning was introduced by Tom Kuhlmann from Articulate. He introduced the term in his blog post Myth 1: Rapid eLearning is Crapid eLearning. I love this article because it defends the tools and attacks the design. This is one my Thomas mantras - focus on the LEARNING part of eLearning. It also gave me a great new word I could use in casual conversations with my team!

For me, Crapid also means visually barren. Sure, you can have a great eLearning design doc, great objectives and some cool interactions and simulations, but if it looks unprofessional or amateurish, then you have some usability issues to overcome. Now, there are lots of folks who may disagree with me, but out of the box templates, buttons, ready made flash "interactions" all fall short of what a professional graphic designer can create. They may help you quickly put together a program, but the user may view the content in a bad light if the interface and visuals are shoddy. They may have a hard time seeing the diamond in the rough. Visuals must be stimulating and professional looking until they fade into the background and the content takes over. Think of it as a first impression - it takes a long time to get past a bad first impression, just like it may take a user a while to get past an ugly, awkward interface.

I've created Crapid eLearning. I've also created bad eLearning projects. Because clients want what they want and paid me to deliver it. I've worked hard to talk people out of design decisions or instructional choices that I didn't agree with, but because they are the client, I build it to match THEIR vision, not mine. I've also done Crapid work because the client just wanted to check a box and push the project off their to-do list.

In this blog, a little more than a year ago, I predicted an eLearning regression and others agreed with me. Now, a year later, using my own observations and interviews with participants at the ASTD TK 10, my clients and others in the industry, I believe it came to pass. eLearning software development companies are selling the heck out their software and upgrades are popping out like crazy. Instructional designers who don't know a thing about graphic design or coding are whipping out SCORM compliant programs with ease. Template sites and pre-coded sample bundles are popping up (yes...mine are coming too) on the web and people are buying them like beanie babies. It's now easier than ever before to develop eLearning and non-tech, non-graphic and non-programmers are doing it using these tools.

Now...here's my ethical dilemma. I've had it before in June of 09, but its back with a vengeance. At that time, I called it "Should I advertise the tools" and I was wondering if I should advertise that I develop in Lectora, Captivate and others. I received lots of interesting feedback on that one, and today I have the answer.

Yes. I should. And here's why: My clients now own them. My clients like them. It provides me with an edge. I can now offer high-end completely custom, partial custom or templated eLearning.

Just this week, I have two clients with real money who want me to develop within Captivate and within Unison.

My ethical dilemma: I don't want to develop Crapid eLearning because I will be using these tools. I have to convince my clients to create custom Flash elements they can drop into these tools. They have to allow me to take the time to create unique templates and interfaces and buttons and other elements to make it look custom even though its using an eLearning tool. In Captivate, I can be extremely creative with the tool. In Unison, I can, but I have to do some serious code cracking to bring it up to my level of what a "professional" eLearning program looks like. I need to take these tools to new levels. I need to push the envelope regarding software capabilities and be creative within the limitations of the tools so that I don't just quickly schlop the project together.

Or, I could just develop Crapid.

The opposite of professional eLearning is Crapid eLearning. However, as you read this, you or your company may have these tools installed. They may be installed on the very machines you are using to read this blog. My challenge to you is this: Follow my lead and don't create Crapid. Look at the work you admire and instead of saying "I could never do that with my tool" or "You have to be a good graphic person to do that" or "I can only do that with Flash" go out and LEARN to do those things. Take it to the next level. Don't settle on mediocre or Crapid. Maximize what you know about the tool. Call the software developers and get into the weeds to bend the software to YOUR will. Buy a good book on graphic design like The Non-Designer's Design Book or Graphic Design School so you can learn what makes graphics, fonts, colors and other elements look nice on the screen.

Even though I am now adding these tools to my professional designers toolbox (and kind of feel like a sell out), I am going to keep my head high and not lower my standards. I don't want to ever turn down business, but I don't want to damage my reputation as a designer by producing Crapid. I'll post samples to this blog as I develop so you can tell me if you think they are awesome or if I fell into the Crapid crack.

02/13/10

I'm having such a dilemma and its driving me crazy. Here is what I'm struggling with: lately, several of my customers have asked me to create or bid on projects where they expect to be able to go in and edit the content, images and layout of the project after the launch. They want to be able to tweak every aspect of the project once its complete. However, they have no technical background and are not interested in learning the tech. As a result, I'm being asked to over-complicate the programming for ease of use later.

First example - a local area church has asked me to develop a web site for them that they can edit themselves. They don't want a CMS (even the free ones), they want to be hand coded. No problemo - I build it in CSS at a fixed width and height per the design from their team. After its built out and they want to start adding content, their editor (who picked up Dreamweaver specifically for this purpose), can't get the WYSIWYG screen to work with my hand coded CSS. Sometimes Dreamweaver, especially older versions, have a hard time rendering the CSS correctly in the WYSIWYG view. The code is solid and displays wonderfully in all browsers, but the client hates it and hates me because it isn't easy to edit in Dreamweaver. After a week of no luck with tutorials and phone assistance, I rebuilt it from scratch using old table code and layout techniques from 2005. They love it. It stretches how they want, its easy to add the content they want and they are super excited about their site again.

I, however, hate it and will not be adding it to my portfolio. It's filled with nested table tags, bloated JavaScript and is "old school" code that I rarely write anymore. However, the client LOVES it and loves me for making their lives easier. I have overcomplicated the "behind the scenes" so the WYSIWYG view works. What!!?

Case number two: I'm bidding on an eLearning project where the client wants all images but the interface to load dynamically and be stored outside the project, all video and audio to load dynamically and be stored outside the project, and all text and headers to be in XML and load dynamically at run time. OK...this is not rocket science, but in an effort to make their lives easier (they won't have to learn Flash to make edits), they are making it much more complicated to develop. It's so much easier to just dump it all into flash, export to .swf and deliver an HTML file and a .swf file and be done with it.

In an effort to avoid learning code or learning Flash, customers seem to be asking for "do it yourself" solutions, when I'm thinking that they should pick up a copy of Dreamweaver or Flash and learn it. It's much more complicated to dynamically load XML text than it is to type the text in the Flash interface. Now, there are very good reasons for using XML for text (I have another client who is going to offer multiple languages and wants to use the same .swf but load the different language XML which is cool), but for simple projects, why make it so complicated?

Couple thoughts:

1) They don't want to pay me to edit the files
2) They don't want to take the chance of me going away and not being around in 3 years when the files have to be edited
3) They expect lots of changes to the files
4) They expect to have to make changes in a speedy, real time fashion

I'm all about teaching a man to fish, but this kind of falls into the "just cause we can, we will." I am all about the straight line - get what you need accomplished in the easiest way possible. Learn Flash. Learn ActionScript. Who says editing an XML file is easier than editing a Flash file? Is this "Do it yourself" idea good for eLearning? Shouldn't it be "Learn the tool."

Am I alone here? Is this something I should just deal with? Since when do customers care about the intricate guts of a project, rather than its functionality, look and feel? Should I just grow up and understand that customers are getting more technical and are asking to "peek under the hood"?

Thanks for listening. Anyone else experiencing this?

11/24/09

Permalink 08:13:21 pm, Categories: Software, Adobe, Rants , Tags: adobe, cs4, flash bug, flash cs4, flash cs4 bug, flash fonts, font bug, mac, os x

Just an FYI...I lost about four hours development time today because Flash CS4 continually crashed after a 2 second live time. Yep...open a file and then 2 seconds later it would close down.

Here were my steps to resolve it on my Mac with OS X:

1) Repair Disk Permissions
2) Reset preferences
3) Reset user settings
4) Uninstall and then reinstall

None of this worked.

5) 45 minutes on hold with tech support who directed me to a web page, FOUR TIMES, that resulted in a 404 error each time.

Finally, the solution that worked is to

6) Turn off all my fonts. Yep, turn all of them off in Font Book, and then turn them back on as the system calls for them, or as Flash needs them.

Turn off my fonts!!! Since when do fonts cause an expensive and complex program like Flash to crash. Whatever.

It's easy to turn off fonts in Font Book (right mouse click on Computer and choose Disable Fonts) and the Mac asks permission to turn them on as you need them, but here's the kicker.

It worked fine last night. Today, I didn't install any fonts, I just opened Flash files and wanted to work. What mystical creature got into my Mac last night and played with font settings?

I don't know, but man, I hope this saves you a call to Adobe tech support...Adobe, I love ya, but please get me a stable version of Flash.

06/26/09

As I've spoken about in the past, almost all of my eLearning is programmed by hand using the Adobe suite of products and creating interfaces, buttons and eLearning elements from scratch.

As I get ready to roll out my new business venture (Catapult Training Group...YAY), I'm debating about whether I should advertise on the new web site and in my promotional materials that I use/have used/can use the off the shelf eLearning development tools like Unison, Lectora, Articulate and Captivate. As an eLearning developer, I've always prided myself on the fact that I write from the source and do not use these tools when developing. Several of my clients have asked me to use these tools and help them to learn these tools, however should I be advertising that these tools are within my capability?

Does it diminish my reputation as a developer to talk about my company using these tools? Even though most of these tools are great, they have serious limitations when it comes to high degrees of complex interactivity. I feel that I shouldn't want it featured that I sometimes use them on behalf of clients...am I right to feel that way?

On the other side of the coin, some of my current clients are using them and I've been able to offer my assistance to those folks and make a little money to boot. In fact, one of my clients ONLY uses these tools and has required me to design within the confines of these applications. Is that a value to other companies? Should I advertise it?

I'm seriously interested in knowing your opinion! Please comment or shoot me an email to let me know your opinion. Thank you in advance!

05/26/09

One of the most important elements to include in any eLearning project is a way to display current page numbers and total page numbers for your learners. Adults like finish lines, and there is something comforting about knowing how many pages you will need to work through when taking eLearning, as well as knowing where you are inside the eLearning program: "Page 10 of 100" feels different than "Page 98 of 100".

I used to do it all with regular old text fields in Flash, but with ActionScript 3.0, there are some calls you can make to identify where the user is at on the time-line. Combine this with a design methodology and a couple dynamic text boxes and you can create something that is quickly customized and scalable.

First, from a methodology perspective, you need to decide that each single frame of your Flash movie will be a single page in your eLearning project. You can have content and interactive media built into Movie Symbols, so you don't have to feel tied down to the single frame, but choosing to utilize the embedded symbols onto a single frame can help you better organize your overall project. This, by the way, is my preferred style of programming - a 30 frame eLearning project feels like 30 "screens" to the end user. Even though there is a ton of content dropped into Movie Symbols on each frame, this method works best for me and my development methodology.

Second, you need to add the ActionScript necessary to identify frame location. The ActionScript:

currentFrame

identifies where the user is on the time-line, while the ActionScript:

totalFrames

looks at the total number of frames in the movie.

Applying the code takes a bit of a twist, but once you think through it, its easy - when the user moves to a new frame (ala Next or Back button), then refresh the page counter and re-populate the current frame.

I create my page counter on a single layer with a Back button, Dynamic Text field (current frame), Dynamic Text field (total frames) and then a Next button.

I start with setting up the variable names like so:

var frames:Number;
var totals:Number;
frames=currentFrame;
totals=totalFrames;

This sets up the variables and then pulls the data from currentFrame and totalFrames into those variables.

Then, I have to set up my Dynamic Text variables:

myLocation.text=(String(frames));
myTotalPages.text=(String(totals));

I have two Dynamic Text fields named myLocation and myTotalPages. Variables called as numbers do not display in Dynamic Text fields, so I have to convert them to text by re-categorizing them as Strings. I know...silly step, but it is the only way to take the number variables and display them as text.

Then, I add the code for my Back and Next button listeners:

next_but.addEventListener(MouseEvent.CLICK, goNext);
back_but.addEventListener(MouseEvent.CLICK, goBack);

And then the functions for the Back and Next buttons:

function goNext(event:MouseEvent):void {
	nextFrame();
	frames=currentFrame;
	myLocation.text=(String(frames));
	
	
}
function goBack(event:MouseEvent):void {
	prevFrame();
	frames=currentFrame;
	myLocation.text=(String(frames));
}

Notice I use nextFrame() and prevFrame() to move the user back and forth. Also, I recall the

currentFrame

variable and then re-populate the Dynamic Text box with that updated data.

The

myTotalPages

doesn't update, as the user cannot control how many pages are in the total project, but if you, as the developer, want to add more frames, you don't need to reprogram the page counter. Some designers manually put the total number of pages in as a generic Text box, but adding and removing frames means you would need to change that number on each page. Using

currentFrame 

allows it to be dynamically generated at run time, regardless of the total size of the project.

I'm sorry I've been away for so long...traveling around the United States teaching and speaking keeps me busy, but I hope this entry is helpful to you.

If you want to see this in action, fully functional, download the Flash CS4 .swf and .fla file here!

04/25/09

This past week I finished up my last ASTD Essentials Webinar Series and again had a "virtual" room full of highly engaged, highly interested learners. It was interesting hearing from this group: they are all going to be the eLearning Obmudsmen I commented on in an earlier post. As I was going through the software examples and demos, I started getting some really good questions about process. I have a standard routine that I use when building my eLearning project from scratch, and I thought that it might be of benefit to my reading audience.

After meeting with a client and getting my first installment check (!), we start the following process:

1) Instructional Design Phase

Some of my clients have at least an outline of the content to the site, some have complete storyboards, but most are somewhere in between. Its my team's responsibility to take what they have and build out a storyboard for their review. We use a PPT based storyboard to document screens, activities and simulations in a way that makes it easy for the client to see how their program will function and flow.

Read more »

04/04/09

One of the most frustrating things for me to learn in AS 3.0 was being able to find my movie clips in the code. I usually work on a single Flash timeline with lots of nested movie clips that make up my elearning: Frame 1 has an intro movie clip, Frame 2 introduces the course, etc.

My frustration with AS3.0 is that I couldn't figure out how to control my main movie from within my nested movie symbol. For example, in Frame 1, my intro movie plays, and then ends on a screen that explains the learning objectives. There is a big "Start the Training" button, and when the user clicks on it, the ROOT of the Flash movie advances to frame 2, where a new movie symbol plays.

Not that hard right? Old ActionScript code:

_root.play();

Not any more. I'm stubborn...I want AS 3.0 to work like AS 2.0. Suck it up buttercup, it won't. The reality is AS 3.0 doesn't see the "stage" or even the "timeline", relative to the objects. Think of it this way...in AS 1.0 and 2.0, objects added to your movie existed on the timeline, and Flash knew where they were at based on where on the timeline you placed them. They were "happyBall instance on frame 1 of the main timeline(root)."

In AS 3.0, movie clips just "are". Very zen like, I know, but in AS 3.0, they are defined as themselves. It doesn't matter where they are on the timeline - their identity is not connected to where they are placed. So, trying to add "root" to an AS 3.0 object is like trying to tell a book to go back to the printing press where it was created. Can't do it on its own - it has no awareness of its location.

After searching around the web, and finding a ton of different solutions (some of which seemed overly complicated, especially the ones that said to replace

_root

with just

root

...doesn't work...nice try), the kind developers at Yahoo found a working solution. It goes back to the day when you were able to identify anything based on its location, relative to the root. The code looks like this:

MovieClip(this.root)

So, in our example, in the movie clip, we have a button that advances to the next frame of the main timeline. There is a movie with some text and a button (named clickMe) in it. In the Movie clip, you would add this code:

clickMe.addEventListener(MouseEvent.CLICK, goClickMe);

function goClickMe(event:MouseEvent):void {
	MovieClip(this.root).play();
}

You can control the main timeline from within movie clips using that bit of code.

I hope this helps you as much as it helped me. Maybe its no longer a best practice to embed ActionScript in movies that control other things besides that movie symbol, but for a guy like me that wants to move from AS 2.0 to 3.0 quickly, I'm going to hang my hat on these little tricks to help me rapidly develop my projects.

Oh...and if you want to download a sample to see this in action click here. Its a Flash CS4/AS 3.0 file that shows you the controls I'm talking about.

03/21/09

Graphic design programs have some critical functions for the eLearning developer. As far as I am concerned, these are the must have functions for anything I am going to use or install.

  • Web Optimization - reducing 300+dpi images down to 72 dpi jpg, gif or png format.
  • Crop and Resize - alter the image itself, tweezing the good from the bad
  • Basic Photo Editing - drawing and painting tools to get rid of red eye, lines, junk/dust on the frame etc.

I use Photoshop on the Mac and love it, but it really is the 400lb gorilla. It does so many things, but when all is boiled down, those three functions are what I use most. Yes, I develop interfaces from scratch and do a variety of other web related graphics development, but it all boils down to web optimization and image editing. Let's see what I found on the web that can perform these basic functions "in the cloud."

Picnik
Picnik is similar to iPhoto in a lot of ways. You can tweak your photos, crop, resize and add text and special effects within the browser. You upload your photo and you get a variety of simple editing tools: rotate, crop, resize, exposure, color, sharpen and red-eye removal. When you are done editing, you can save the picture to a scrapbook, your computer or even to lots of social networking sites like Facebook and Flickr. You can save as jpg, gif or png, as well as tif and bmp and re-size them on export. It was really fast and really free!

For $24.95 per year, you get more effects, fonts, collages and ad free working. Is it worth it? If you don't want to pay $699 for Photoshop and just want to edit your pictures, you bet. I was very impressed with it. Even though it matched my three main criteria, I couldn't create anything from scratch, or combine pictures together to make my own collage. It was templated, which is fine for most users.

FotoFlexer
FotoFlexer calls itself the "world's most advanced online image editor". I had some issues uploading my picture from the main page, but I clicked "edit a sample photo" and it opened OK. I was then able to upload my test picture. Weird...maybe it doesn't like Macs or Firefox.

However, after I got in using the sample photo, I was able to upload my test photo without a hitch. Once I got in, I really liked it. You can have multiple photos on the work area and manipulate them independently. What I really thought was cool were the effects: bronze, sepia, old photo, painting etc. They were not at the level of sophistication as our friend Photoshop can do, but for an online app, they were tremendous.

Something else I liked about FotoFlexer was the ability to recognize multiple photos as "layers". You can apply opacity and flip stacking order, and this was a nice feature if you want to create your own collages. Rotating and cropping and resizing was also a snap.

Once I got in, FotoFlexer was a very, very sweet online app.

However cool both of these applications are, I was left hungry for an online tool that can help me design web or eLearning interfaces in the cloud. I found lots of tools that will develop a web page for you (Google Sites) , but nothing that will allow me to draw buttons, create backgrounds or set up a flat page as an interface for my eLearning projects. Lots of cool things for picture editing, but not so much for drawing an interface.

I did find some software for actually drawing (Artpad, QueekyPaint and a whole bunch at the Ag Design blog but nothing that allows me to create the sophisticated interfaces my eLearning clients expect.

03/02/09

I was reading this article in Wired Magazine The Netbook Effect: How Cheap Little Laptops Hit the Big Time and started to think about all the traveling I am going to do over the summer. I'm not concerned about being able to work from a hotel room, as I've outfit my MacBook Pro with a fully licensed version of the Adobe CS4 suite. Yes, its expensive to have such a nice laptop AND such nice software just to work remotely, and the idea of a Netbook and that article got me thinking about the potential of taking my online learning development completely, well, online. Through a browser. With NO installed software. Could it be done?

And so begins my quest...over the next few days, I'm going to attempt to find online software solutions that do everything I need to build eLearning programs so I can buy a Netbook and just go. Here is the types of software I will need to find:

  • WYSIWYG HTML Editor: I use Dreamweaver in split view: code and design view. Is there browser based software that will allow me to create web pages?
  • Graphic Editor: I use Photoshop to create graphics. The article refers to FotoFlexer as a browser based Photoshop alternative. I'll try it out and let you know this week.
  • Animation Editor: As I've said in the past, Flash is my primary creator of content for my eLearning clients. Is there something out there that's browser based that will allow me to create Flash like interfaces, interactions and programs? I'm doubtful that any web based app will allow me to create like I do in Flash, but let's see what I can find!
  • Content: My clients and I use Pages, Keynote, PowerPoint and Word to create our static content. I lift the content out of these pages and paste into Dreamweaver or Flash. Google Docs is out there as a browser based alternative, but I haven't tried it...I will and tell you how it goes.

That's the major functionality I will be looking for in online applications. I want to get a Netbook purely because its new and cool (and I have a problem with wanted all the tech I can get my hands on), but if I can validate it by finding these online solutions, well, then its a purchase worth making! I know...who am I kidding...

I'll keep you posted all week with what I find.

02/21/09

Roger CourvilleThe next edition of the Trainers Talk Tech podcast is here! The topic of this podcast is synchronous learning. You can call it synchronous learning, web seminars, webinars or even edu-marketing, but I was fortunate enough to interview an expert in this area: Roger Courville.

Roger is a trainer, blogger at TheVirtualPresenter.com, and principal of 1080 Group, an independent training firm that helps companies learn and optimize online presentations and webinars. Together with his co-founder, they have created one of the industry's first independent curricula to teach trainers how to organize and accelerate their synchronous training and edu-marketing efforts.

Listen to it here:

Subscribe to the Trainers Talk Tech podcast here:
http://dwebstudios.hipcast.com/rss/trainerstalktech.xml
View RSS XML

During the podcast, Roger and I talked about various books, websites and vendors. Below are the links:

Roger's Resources

Synchronous Learning (Web Seminar) Software

Books

PowerPoint Tips

Please enjoy the podcast and subscribe if you like it! I'm going to be accelerating the frequency of the casts to one every two-three weeks instead of monthly. I have my next interview lined up for the first week in March!

Thank you for reading and listening...I hope you enjoy the podcast. Also, a sincere thank you to Roger for sharing your expertise and experience.

02/06/09

In fairness to some other good vendors, and because I covered some big tools a couple days ago, I wanted to point out a few other good eLearning development tools that people are buzzing about. Again, I prefer to build everything from scratch using the Adobe tools, but I am aware that there are people who don't want to dive that deep into the development red tape. I completely respect that and, considering I talked about Lectora, Captivate and Articulate, I thought I would throw two more onto your radar.

Read more »

02/01/09

As always, ASTD put on a great show in Vegas. I am looking forward to following up with all the new people I met and learned with. I cannot wait until '10!

I had three sessions I conducted: Two Creation Stations and a Tech Intensive. I have to say that the Tech Intensive was a blast. I had about 80 people in the room, and we talked at length about the Adobe CS4 Web Suite. 90% of it went well, but I had one SoundBooth snafu and one Flash ActionScript 3.0 snafu. Before the session, I said to myself that I'd create an interaction using ActionScript 2.0 because I know that cold, but then reminded myself that I made a pact to only program in ActionScript 3.0. I know how to get things built, but some of the calls are still new to me. I forgot to add the

(event:MouseEvent):void 

to my function call. Grr...Oh well. We laughed and got it working when I finally relaxed enough to think clearly. Building a site in the privacy of your office is much different than building in front of a room of learners!

Here are links to my materials from the sessions. If you were not able to attend, I understand! Here are the materials in PDF format:

Creation Station
Flash CS4: Get a Taste of ActionScript 3.0 Hands On! : PDF File

Tech Intensive
Integrating Adobe Creative Suite to Maximize E-Learning Development
PDF File
PowerPoint File

Also, if you attended my Tech Intensive, you remember that we built a "New Hire Orientation" online guide for Tommy Gun's Garage, a dinner theater and "speakeasy" out of Chicago. I thought you might like to see what I built for the client.

View the comp here.

Its just the prototype in a flat Photoshop file, but you can see what a little time and attention can do for good web design.

Thanks for talking with me, laughing with (at) me and having a great time in Vegas at the ASTD TK show.

Now, go build something cool!

P.S. I haven't forgotten to put the David Pogue Web 2.0 list up from the first day of the conference...It will be up soon...

01/20/09

If you haven't seen it yet, Adobe has created an eLearning Suite and bundled my favorite software together. It's a really sweet suite:

  • Captivate - great for screen capture and for recording software demos. Really good tool and the current version is top notch
  • Flash CS4 - great tool, but I'm still fighting with Flash CS4 on the Mac...long story, but nested movie symbols in ActionScript 3.0 movies are slowing down the function of the application...on both Macs...I'm not alone in this, but they are finally elevating my issue...see here, here and here. They are working on it which is encouraging - I trust Adobe will make it right!
  • Dreamweaver CS4 - the best coding tool in the world!!!
  • Photoshop CS4- the best photo editor in the world, hands down.
  • Presenter 7 - Finally available at an affordable price (used to be $1500), this tool lets you use PowerPoint to create eLearning. I'm not a big fan of PowerPoint, so its great news for some, meh for me. However, it works really well Acrobat Connect Pro (formerly Breeze), so if you have that tool, you will love the way Presenter works with it. Note: It works in Office XP, 2003 or 2007. Great news!
  • Soundbooth CS4 - create and edit audio...I really, really like this software. It's the first thing that has started pulling me away from Audacity which is an amazing piece of free audio software.

So...my only question...where is Fireworks in the suite? Photoshop rules, but for web distribution, Fireworks has tools that could help the eLearning developer rapidly develop interfaces, convert to PDF and perform lots of cool navigation and button effects. The price point is a little steep ($1799) but worth it if you want to do be able to do everything (no seriously...everything eLearning!) The upgrade price is great ($599) if you have purchased any other suite. I have to say that, overall, I like it quite a bit. There is a lot of software here that can create anything you, the eLearning developer, can think up. However, if you have an extra $299.00 laying around, I'd pick up Fireworks too!

Now...if I can just convince Adobe to fix the Mac bugs in Flash CS4 and give me a version of Captivate for the Mac, I would go back to raving non-stop about their software. I'll rave about everything but Flash CS4, but really, really want to! If Adobe fixes the Flash CS4 bugs, I'll be their biggest evangelist yet! I'll keep running Captivate in Parallels, but it's not the same.

Very few people are creating technology exclusively for the online learning developer, so this site attempts to fill that gap. Whether you want ideas on how to use web technologies in your eLearning, or have questions about the what's and how's, this site is for you.

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