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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.



Looking Over Your Shoulder: Spyware, Adware, and You

 Security & Privacy

In a previous entry, I discussed how to speed up your PC.  One of the commonest causes of slowdowns, and one of the worst, is spyware.  This article is about how to detect and remove spyware from your system.

What the heck is spyware, anyway?  Spyware is software installed on your computer which reports on you, usually to a company that wants to target you with ads.  For instance, if you visit a lot of sports-related web sites you might get ads for discounted baseball tickets. Most spyware has also been adware, a program that displays ads on your screen, either in a separate pop-up window, or replacing advertising on the web pages you visit.  If a new window containing a commercial message regularly opens on your screen, there's a good chance your system has spyware/adware.  Spyware/adware slows your computer down by stealing time on your processor and space in your memory to run itself, by opening windows you didn't ask for (like multiple ads appearing whenever you click on a link), and by using up your Internet bandwidth reporting back to the maker about what you're doing.   I've seen computers that took as long as 4 minutes to open a word processor window because of spyware problems.  After a spyware cleaning, the time was 5 seconds.

People ask about the difference between spyware and viruses.  A virus generally infects the computer without the user knowing, and does directly harmful things like erasing data or using your computer to send spam.  Spyware often asks permission before installing, and most spyware doesn't intentionally harm your system, it just tries to sell you something using advertising.  However, there is overlap--some spyware is spread like a virus, and some spyware will report personal information that can be used for identity theft. 

Yes, spyware usually asks permission to install, but it is not always very honest about it.  A typical method would be to have the software automatically download when you visit a particular web page.  A window appears on your screen asking, "YOUR BROWSER IS OUT OF DATE.  THIS CAN LEAD TO VIRUS INFECTION. DO YOU WANT TO UPDATE YOUR BROWSER?"  Click "Yes" and you have just installed spyware.  Some adware does honestly state that it is software which will show advertising on your screen.  Very few of these programs inform you that they will be reporting on your activities to the maker of the program.

One thing almost all spyware does do: it makes itself hard to remove.  To get rid of adware and spyware, you'll probably need special tools.  That's what FindApp is here for: to give you the software tools you need.

There are two basic ways to detect spyware (and viruses).   Protector Plus 2009 uses the "signature-based" technique.  Every time a file is opened, Protector Plus scans it and compares it to a list of known spyware and virus files.  If a malicious program is detected, the program offers to quarantine it or delete it.

The other type of spyware detection is behavior based.  Mamutu watches for particular things that spyware and viruses often do, such as modifying certain Windows system files.  This type of protection is particularly useful for what experts call "zero day" problems.  If a particular spyware program is brand new, its "signature" is not yet known and signature based programs can't detect it, but it still acts like spyware and so Mamutu can still block it.

Of course, if you'd like to be protected by both methods, you should investigate a-squared Anti-Malware.  a-squared combines a signature-based system with behavioral testing in one package.

Every anti-virus and anti-spyware programs has its own unique combination of features.  You can test leading packages free of charge by downloading them from FindApp.  Please evaluate the software in our Antivirus category.

John M.



What is Try-Before-You-Buy software?


One of the main reasons people use FindApp is to get try-before-you-buy software.  As I start this blog, I thought I'd take the time to explain the way it works for anyone new to the system.

Also known as shareware, try-before-you-buy software is commercial, copyrighted software.  Anyone is entitled to download and try the software, but the software has some sort of limitation on it that can only be removed by entering an activation code.  For instance, a program might only work for 15 days from the time that it is first used, and then stop working until paid for and activated.  Other software will work forever, but certain features don't work.  For example, a shareware video editor might limit the user to saving only 30 seconds of each file until it is registered.

Generally, try-before-you-buy software is activated online.  When you decide that you like the program and want to activate it, you navigate to the maker's web site, and purchase the software.  You are then emailed a "serial number" or "activation key".  Typing this key into the program unlocks all the features.  You almost never need to download a new version of the program, you simply activate your already-installed trial version.  If you lose the serial number, there is usually an automated system to send it to you again.

The try-before-you-buy model has been increasing in popularity since it was first introduced. Major companies like Microsoft and Adobe now let you download and activate their software.

An example of popular shareware is Auto FTP Manager, an file transfer program.

Shareware is different from freeware.  Freeware is software that is completely free of charge.

Some software is free for personal use only.  If a business wants to use the program, they are required to purchase it.

Almost every software company has its own license terms.  It's always a good idea to read the User Agreement.

In a future blog, I'll talk about how to pick the best shareware and freeware.

That's all for now.  Thanks for reading.

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