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Create Animated Demos with TurboDemo

 Business | Graphic Design

Everyone knows that a picture is worth 1000 words.  When you're trying to explain something, a moving picture can be worth 1000 stills.  Animated demos and marketing pieces can explain and persuade. They hold the audience's attention better and are more compelling than just using words and written text for many purposes.

There are several programs that create animated demos, including Flash Demo Builder and Viewlet Builder.  I'm going to review TurboDemo, one of the most popular.

For this review, I tested TurboDemo by creating a short tutorial on using FindApp.  To begin, I recorded myself using the Find feature to locate software on FindApp.

After recording, TurboDemo looked like Figure 1:

TurboDemo Interface

Figure 1: The TurboDemo User Interface 

Notice that TurboDemo calls each captured screen a "Slide". Each slide can have its own graphics, text, and audio added. If you have used Microsoft PowerPoint, you should find the interface for editing slides familiar.

Once you're done recording it's time to turn the simple screen capture into a demo or tutorial.  It's surprisingly easy.



First, I added text to several slides.  I also added a callout, also known as a word balloon, to one slide.  I used rectangles and arrows to emphasize important parts of some screens.  Finaly, I added a "Start" button to the beginning of the tutorial so it wouldn't begin before the viewer was ready. I chose not to use audio for this demonstration. 

After you've completed all the text/audio annotations, it's time to adjust the timing.  You can control how long each slide stays on the screen using the Player controls.


Figure 2: TurboDemo Player Controls

The number shown is the duration for the current slide.  Allow enough time for viewers to read the text and/or listen to the audio.

A major strength of TurboDemo is how many ways you can save your demo.  You can create Flash or Java for web pages.  You can also make a self-running Windows program (EXE), PDF and Word documents or an AVI movie.  I created an executable file, which you can download below.

FindOnFindApp.exe (4.15 mb)

TurboDemo is surprisingly easy to use, and has enough depth that experienced users will continue to get better and learn new tricks. You can create buttons, interactive test questions with automated responses to both correct and incorrect answers, and much more.  It does have a few quirks and frustrations, mostly a somewhat out of date user interface.

TurboDemo is a very good choice for a professional who will be creating enough demos and animations to justify the price.  You can find both TurboDemo and other demo builders in the Presentation category of FindApp.



Create Unique, Realistic 3D images with Quick 3D Cover

 Graphic Design

It matters how things look.  Whether you're trying to sell products, giving a gift, or creating a DVD collection, it's important to you how the package looks.  You can find lots of software packages on FindApp that help create CD labels or box covers.  Quick 3D Cover handles a different job: it directly creates images of the packaging, without your having to make and then photograph the package.  For instance, Figure 1 is a box image, making this 3D illustration took about 10 minutes. Figure 1: My Personal DVD Editor

The program is designed to be easy for anyone to use.  There is a simple text tutorial available from the opening screen, which explains the four-step process:

  1. Choose a template.  In Quick 3D Cover, a template can be a box, a label, a card, and other types of object.
  2. Select graphics to display on each side.
  3. Decide what size image to create.
  4. Save your image.

Despite the name, Quick 3D Cover is not limited to producing covers and box images.  If you do presentations, you'll find its ability to simulate screens, portable devices, and even clipboards very useful.  Here's another example: 

Figure 2: PDA



I really like this program, but I can't call it perfect.  It's very powerful, but the user interface is not as straightforward as I would like.  For one example, the Gallery of templates should be divided into categories, and the templates should have meaningful names.  This would make it much easier to find the one you're looking for.  As a "power user" type, I would love to see a template editor, so I could create my own images to fit any object I happen to want to stick graphics on.  

It would also be very convenient if Quick 3D Cover worked with software that produces actual cards and/or labels, like Label Designer Plus DELUXE, so I could create both actual labels and the 3D image of them easily. 


Overall, I recommend Quick 3D Cover to anyone who needs to create product images or presentation graphics.

Do you have an opinion of this software?  Please review it yourself.



Image Makeover: Bitmap File Converters

 Graphic Design

As I write this, it's February.  Lots of people took hundreds of digital pictures in December, and millions of others got new digital cameras for the holiday and now they have even more pictures on their memory cards and hard drives.

To use image files, you often have to convert them into the proper format.  Most image editors will let you open a picture, then save it in a different format.  However, if you have many files to convert, you should consider using a dedicated conversion program to save yourself hours of boring work.

Probably the single most commonly used image file format is JPEG, the standard defined by the Joint Photographic Experts Group.  Both most cameras and most web pages use JPEG images.  AnyToJpeg from PhotoActions converts dozens of photos in a single operation.  While converting, you can also rotate, stretch, crop, and perform other operations.  Process all your photos with only a few minutes of effort!

If you are comfortable typing commands, or if you would like to include image conversion and manipulation in a script, you should download and evaluate Neomesh Image Console.  Image Console can convert between many different image formats including GIF, JPEG, TIFF, and TGA, and also adjust brightness, create thumbnail images, and much more, all from the command line.  If you need to automate image processing it can be a lifesaver.

If you use CAD or drawing software, you know that photos and other bitmap graphics must be converted into vector format or traced before you can use them.  Vextractor can trace image files in almost any possible format, including BMP, GIF, JPEG, and TIF, and turn them into easily resized vector graphics in an amazing variety of different file formats, including Adobe Illustrator, EPS, AutoCAD DXF, EMF, WMF, and many others. Anyone who has ever struggled to hand-trace a face, building, or flower understands what a huge advantage it is to have excellent software like this do the work for you.

There are dozens of programs in the Converters and Optimizers section of FindApp.  If you work with images at all, take a moment to look around, and you'll probably find something that will save you time and effort while making your work more fun.

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