Digital Workshop Opus Pro XE 04.5 review

£340
Price when reviewed

Opus Pro XE is the most powerful of UK-based Digital Workshop’s Opus range of multimedia authoring tools. It’s a product with a similar depth of features to its main competitor, MatchWare’s Mediator 8 EXP, but with a slightly different, more commercial focus.

Digital Workshop Opus Pro XE 04.5 review

Multimedia developers often want to create evaluation versions of their software; fully functional, but set to expire after a certain period. While this can be achieved with most authoring tools, Opus Pro XE makes it simple and seamless, down to allowing your users to unlock the software with a user-specific registration code.

Developers of e-learning products for commercial use will be familiar with the SCORM standard for interchanging information with learning management databases. Again, while it’s possible to make a Mediator or Director application SCORM compliant, with Opus Pro it’s a simple matter of selecting the appropriate publication type. You can even create a SCORM-compliant Flash application, although Opus’ real strength lies in creating CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs.

As with Mediator 8 EXP, Opus Pro XE includes Scripting support in the form of its bespoke OpusScript coding language. Scripting is more tightly integrated into Opus Pro XE than Mediator, and OpusScript is certainly more powerful than Mediator’s VBScript implementation. OpusScript is based on the same ECMA standards as JavaScript and ActionScript, but is more difficult to get to grips with than VBScript. It therefore takes longer to become productive, although is more rewarding when you do. Opus Pro XE doesn’t support ActiveX though, preventing it from becoming the complete authoring environment.

Opus uses a drag-and-drop approach that’s similar to Mediator’s, along with the same Events/Actions methodology. Due to this, you can become productive quickly, although the sheer weight of features means that getting familiar with Opus Pro XE will take some time. The interface isn’t, at first glance, as pleasing to the eye as Mediator’s new look, and it certainly crams a huge amount of information into a small space. It can take some time to track down a specific option among the multitabbed dialogs but, once it becomes familiar, you’ll appreciate the fact that no option is more than a couple of clicks away. Unlike Mediator, it also works well on the dual-monitor setup becoming standard among multimedia developers.

This latest version of XE includes the facility to directly edit the Windows Registry from OpusScript, along with new file-management functions, the ability to disable the system screensaver and the Alt-Tab task switch. It can even detect and respond to a joystick. Finally, it’s now possible to export your publication as a video file. Add this to the Mouse and Keyboard Recorder, and you can create a simple training system that may be burned to a DVD.

Opus Pro XE offers a compelling upgrade for Opus Pro 04 users looking for finer control of their publications and their deployment. Taken with the features also added to Pro in this iteration, there’s enough in this new version to make it a worthwhile upgrade for existing Pro XE users. Opus Pro XE is feature rich, stable and mature: it’s a fine alternative to Mediator 8 EXP if ActiveX and multi-user support aren’t important.

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