Articulate Presenter 09 / Studio 09 review

£585
Price when reviewed

When it comes to producing onscreen presentations, Microsoft PowerPoint is almost ubiquitous. It has one glaring omission, however: its presentations can’t be delivered on the web. That’s where Articulate Presenter 09 comes in, enabling PowerPoint users to take full advantage of the Flash platform for high-impact online delivery.

Unlike rivals offering similar PowerPoint-to-Flash conversion, Articulate Presenter doesn’t work by simply importing PPT files and spitting out its own. Instead, it’s an add-on that works within PowerPoint (versions 2000 and later).

This integration is most complete with the PowerPoint 2007, where all Presenter 09’s tools are conveniently accessed via a new tab on the Ribbon bar. There’s also support for hidden slides and the ability to animate SmartArt objects.

Presenter 09 goes further than this, though, with two significant added features. First, the optimised onscreen rendering of embedded bitmaps and second, animated annotation capabilities that help you draw attention to onscreen elements. The spotlight effect is particularly impressive, allowing you to highlight a portion of a slide while the rest of the slide is partially dimmed.

For web delivery, the most important additional element you need to add to presentations is a voice-over. In this version that’s been made easier, thanks to centralised control over recording, and synchronisation with animations and annotations. Using the simple integrated audio editor, you can now quickly cut out any distracting “ums” and “ahs”.

Audio is key, but Articulate Presenter also lets you add other media such as embedded web content. Most important is the support for interactive Flash SWF files. These SWFs can be produced in any Flash authoring package, but Presenter 09 also provides dedicated commands for incorporating and managing work produced with Articulate’s own Flash-based add-on packages – Engage 09 and Quizmaker 09 (see p64).

Articulate Presenter 09 also now lets you incorporate video. This must be in the Flash video format so, if your video application doesn’t support FLV export, you might well want to consider Articulate’s Video Encoder 09.

This provides a simple way of converting existing footage in most standard formats (AVI, WMV, MOV, MPG) and of recording directly from webcam. Video Encoder 09 is included for free with any of the Studio bundles.

Once you’ve added the content to slides, you take control over your project using Presenter 09’s Slide Properties view. This provides a tabular view of all your slides, letting you set titles, outline hierarchy and so on.

A new option is the ability to control basic slide navigation to create simple branching. And general project management and house-keeping is made far simpler thanks to the new PPTA format, which incorporates all associated media in one file.

Previewing output has also seen major improvements. In earlier versions you had to preview the whole project at once, but now you can quickly preview each slide as you work on it. And new options on the publishing side include an audio-only podcast version of your presentation and a simplified single EXE option for delivery via CD. There’s even support for Flash Lite 3, so you can begin catering for a mobile-based audience.

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It’s after publishing that you see Articulate Presenter’s greatest strength in action. Your presentation doesn’t run as a full-width, PowerPoint-style slideshow; instead, it’s displayed within the Articulate Presenter player.

Details

Software subcategory Office software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Other operating system support Windows 2000

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