CXO

RoboDemo: Flexible e-learning and online product demos

eHelp is building on the company's RoboHelp experience with RoboDemo, part of the product demonstration segment of the user assistance market. The tool offers a simple format and flexible output options.


If your project requirements call for e-learning content, or your marketing group is clamoring for online demonstrations of your latest product, product demonstration software can help. Because these presentations are typically delivered in a variety of formats—internal company portals, partner extranets, and Web casts—you'll want software that has a range of export options.

RoboDemo 3.0 is eHelp's entry into this market space. eHelp is best known for RoboHelp, an industry standard help authoring product. RoboDemo builds on the company's experience developing and marketing tools such as RoboHelp and other online user assistance tools.

Inside RoboDemo
RoboDemo produces Macromedia Flash-based presentations, which can be viewed by users across multiple platforms if they have a Flash-enabled Web browser.

RoboDemo's basis in Macromedia Flash, an accepted Web multimedia standard, means no proprietary clients are required for users seeking to view the interactive presentation. Users working on the following platforms can view RoboDemo authored presentations:
  • UNIX
  • Linux
  • Windows
  • WebTV
  • PocketPC

Creating and editing RoboDemo presentations
If you have worked extensively with Microsoft PowerPoint, you'll have no trouble getting up to speed on RoboDemo. If you've developed content only in word processing and desktop publishing applications, your RoboDemo learning curve may be steeper.

To create a RoboDemo presentation, select New from the File menu, and then select the capture size of the presentation from the following options:
  • Programs: To define which open program you want to record.
  • Custom: To choose the capture window size and position.
  • Full-screen: To capture a full-screen version of your desktop.
  • Pocket PC: To capture a presentation in a resolution suitable for playback on a Pocket-PC-based PDA.

After the capture window launches, you can begin recording a RoboDemo presentation.

When creating and editing RoboDemo presentations, you'll need a fast machine. The machine used for this review was a 2-GHz Pentium 4 running Windows XP Professional with 512 MB of RAM, and I noticed a couple of sluggish points. While this may have been an anomaly, it's important to note that RoboDemo does have to churn through a lot of graphical content, which requires speedy hardware.

RoboDemo's editing features include:
  • Playback controls so the user can control the RoboDemo presentation as it plays
  • Movie preferences, including default speed, keystroke speed, mouse pointer speed, JPEG quality, and playback visual effects
  • Editing at the frame level of the presentation

E-learning and RoboDemo
E-learning is one of RoboDemo's strengths because the application includes a number of features to help users create e-learning content. Those features include:
  • Rollover captions and images that provide additional on-screen information
  • Text entry boxes that allow users to interact with the demo or tutorial by answering onscreen questions
  • Score tracking that rates the performance of a user using an interactive tutorial
  • Branching from any screen that allows the integration of movies, Web sites, and other resources to augment a RoboDemo project

An experienced training developer or technical writer should be able to cull enough tips from these online tutorials to get started in developing a working tutorial.

You'll use the Insert menu to develop interactive e-learning content. It includes commands to add interactive features such as dialog boxes and captions. You simply drag and drop these interactive assets into place.

Exporting RoboDemo projects
The flexibility of RoboDemo is one of its more attractive aspects because the tool can cover a variety of onscreen presentations. RoboDemo projects can be exported to a variety of media, including:
  • The Web
  • Outlook and Outlook Express
  • An .EXE file
  • Microsoft Word

Support and documentation for RoboDemo
RoboDemo includes extensive online help and an online tutorial accessible from its help menu, but minimal print documentation.

RoboDemo would benefit from more articles and books offering how-to advice and best practices. eHelp has established an online community site for RoboDemo, which is a good place to start learning how to use the tool.

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