Wildform WildPresenter review
Flash has unbeatable advantages as a technology, but its primary authoring application, Flash Professional, is expensive and fiendishly difficult to master. There are alternatives, though, such as the recently launched WildPresenter.
Before you put WildPresenter to work, you’ll have to come to terms with the interface. Flash might be associated with the bleeding edge of modern web-savvy design, but WildPresenter looks more like 1980s shareware. If you can manage to look past its appearance, though, the interface proves surprisingly intuitive and efficient. Running down the left 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.
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 slides. This means it’s 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 alongside line and fill formatting with support for custom gradients and bitmap tiles.
WildPresenter’s animation capabilities are comprehensive too. 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’s no scripting capability to control more advanced interactivity). WildPresenter leaves PowerPoint trailing with more than 400 dedicated text animation effects covering just about every possible combination of character-based fades, rotations, skews and explosions – though only a fraction will actually enhance your project. More useful is WildPresenter’s layer-based timeline, which makes it simple to visually control and synchronise your animations through simple drag-and-drop.
You can achieve reasonable results using these built-in authoring capabilities, but to take your Flash presentation to a higher level, WildPresenter supports a wide range of external media formats, including PSD, AVI, DV, MOV/QT, MPEG, MP4 and WMV video format files, as well as WAV, MP3 and WMA audio files. In each case, the image, audio or video is encoded to Flash’s own SWF format or, in the case of video, the more recent and more efficient FLV Flash video format. And for good measure WildPresenter throws in the ability to convert back from FLV to SWF, as well as to batch-encode files.
WildPresenter’s final flourish is its ability to import PowerPoint PPT files – nowhere near as seamlessly as the integrated PowerPoint-to-Flash conversion of Articulate Presenter, but for the most part it works. Where some rival programs simply convert each slide to a bitmap, WildPresenter keeps text and vectors live, keeping file size down and still letting you edit converted objects or text.
A popular use for Flash is to provide screen-based videos for computer-based software training. WildPresenter rises to the challenge with its screen recorder, which lets you capture audio and onscreen activity directly to SWF format, complete with intelligent handling of cursor motion, or to AVI for later conversion. Alternatively, to keep file size to an absolute minimum, you can choose to record in Shot mode where you manually record individual frames.