Software

Decision Support: Bring your tutorials and demos to life with ViewletBuilder3

Product review of a presentation tool used to build demos and tutorials for users


Qarbon.com has made creating tutorials and demos even easier with the release of ViewletBuilder3. Viewlets are simple to make, easy-to-use presentations that can demonstrate FAQs, assist users with troubleshooting, or preview new software. ViewletBuilder3 boasts over 200 enhancements from the previous program, most of which are centered on project editing, which makes the creation process even easier.

More about Viewlet
For a more detailed review and examples of Viewlet's use, see the article “A Viewlet is worth a thousand words on your help desk’s Web page.”

Better and easier authoring
The first step in creating your Viewlet is to capture a sequence of screen shots that you can later caption and animate. The capturing process is even easier to use in this version; the user can now use a mouse click in addition to a keyboard hot key. This allows for more seamless screen shots of a procedure. In addition, images can be imported in a variety of standard formats, which allows you to use pictures of hardware, diagrams, etc., to show objects or describe events and procedures outside the computer screen.

Probably the nicest feature in the authoring environment is the addition of a context-sensitive toolbar. This makes it easier and faster to add captions and changing balloon shapes. For example, after adding a balloon and selecting it, the toolbar automatically changes to allow you to easily change balloon shape or color. Text can be added directly to a screen shot instead of only inside a balloon or note, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A
New ViewletBuilder3 screen with toolbar


Other authoring enhancements include the welcome addition of a spelling checker and the ability to add a background image or color to your screens. A new shape tool allows you to draw free-form shapes on the screen shots to draw attention to areas or add colors and borders.

Output enhancements
The final product in ViewletBuilder for Web publication is now generated in Flash 5 format. This allows you to add content or links around the embedded Flash component. It can be useful for adding links to related written documentation or to a specific Web page. Another plus of the Flash output is the ease in publishing the final files. There is no longer any need for Java functions embedded in the <HEAD> tags of your HTML document. Additionally, you can set up the Viewlet for normal or continuous playback, such as that used in a kiosk.

ViewletBuilder shows can increase user interaction, as shown in Figure B. Users can choose to jump to different portions of the show (click here for an example of how it works), input text, and be required to click certain areas, which would result in a more interactive tutorial.

Figure B
Users have choices in an interactive Viewlet


The ViewletBuilder author can also now generate a printed copy of the slides to make handouts. This may be useful in a live training session. The only drawback is that this must be done from within the ViewletBuilder3 application and it doesn't allow you to generate a format that can be downloaded from a Web site or printed from the Web site itself. After watching a Viewlet on a Web page, many users would find it helpful to print the information to refer to at a later time.

More OS support
ViewletBuilder3 is currently available for Windows 98, 2000, or XP, and Qarbon.com will soon be releasing versions of ViewletBuilder3 for Macintosh OS X, Linux, and Solaris.

Pricing and learning more
There is good news about pricing for ViewletBuilder3 as well. Since our last review of the product, a single professional license has gone down in price from $999 to $899. Discounts for multiple licenses are available. A free trial download is available on the Qarbon site with all the features of the professional edition, except published Viewlets will appear with ad banners.

If you decide to try out the free version, there are some great resources for learning about building Viewlets. Written documentation and Viewlets on making Viewlets are available on Qarbon's site as well. In addition, Qarbon now offers Webinars of Viewlet authoring techniques. A full schedule is available on the Web site.

ViewletBuilder3’s improvements make it an even better tutorial and demonstration-authoring tool. It continues to be easy to work with and use together with many applications within your support and training departments.

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