MatchWare Mediator 9 review

Price when reviewed

Mediator began life in 1993 as a tool that made creating interactive presentations simple. Over fifteen years later, version 9 still uses the same fundamental methodology, albeit with the sort of massive feature-set that befits a mature multimedia authoring tool. Mediator is everything Adobe Director should be but isn’t: powerful, fully featured and yet simplicity itself to use.

Mediator uses a very simple approach. Drag and drop objects onto a page, right click and assign Events (for example “on left click”) and then one or more Actions to take place when the Event is triggered. Multiple objects can be controlled from the Timeline object making it very simple to put together a presentation synchronised with a voiceover, for example. Mediator offers all the objects you’d expect of a multimedia authoring tool including sounds, images, video and text along with Actions to manipulate these such as animations, 3D transitions and even collision detection. But Mediator’s ace card has always been rock-solid reliability, making it the ideal tool for corporate training and education.

With version 9, MatchWare has rationalised its range by combining all the features of the top-end EXP edition into a single version priced at £50 more than version 8 Pro and several hundred pounds cheaper than version 8 EXP. The two critical EXP features now included in Mediator 9 are support for Scripting (VBScript or Javascript) and the ActiveX object. By combining these two it’s possible to extend Mediator’s capabilities. For example, you could add a combobox as an ActiveX object and then use VBScript to load it with options for the user to choose. On selecting an option, you can then catch that event and process it using VBScript again. Finally, EXP’s HTTP Request functionality has been included in Mediator 9 making it simple to connect to an online application to send and receive data.

The most immediately obvious improvement in this version is the new ribbon-based interface, reminiscent of Office 2007. This is a huge step up from the rather clunky, dated look and feel of previous versions. Matchware has also been tinkering under the bonnet of the application adding, amongst other things, a new “instant preview” of special effects and a much improved text object, both much overdue.

To round off the new feature highlights, version 9 includes SCORM output allowing e-learning to be linked with a Learning Management System and Unicode support, making it possible to create presentations in non-Western character sets.

Mediator supports export to Flash and HTML but it is primarily built for creating CD-ROMs and EXEs. Many of the objects and actions available to CD-ROM productions are disabled for Flash and HTML although version 9 does improve matters a little. Whilst it makes sense that objects such as the ActiveX cannot be exported to Flash, other omissions are less forgivable. The HTML export, in particular, is disappointing; not only is the range of supported features limited but the resultant markup conforms to the HTML 4.01 specification rather than the more up-to-date XHTML 1.0.

The Flash export is more useful but Mediator is not nearly as fully featured in this respect as Adobe Captivate; if your intention is to publish for the web, Captivate would, in most cases, be the better choice.

For CD-ROM output, however, there’s really little around to compete with Mediator. The only significant competitor is Digital Workshop’s Opus Pro, which includes a built-in scripting language and a similar feature-set to Mediator but no longer looks good value in comparison. Whilst Adobe Director has always targeted itself at CD-ROM production there is nothing except cross-platform compatibility to recommend it, especially given its bloated price.

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