Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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January 2004, Week 2 -- The No-Camera Camera

 

 

  Camtasia Studio

  We recently got a couple of new products with tutorials made with "Camtasia." This is a program that's just about perfect for creating instructional videos. It lets you string together a series of screen shots. It's like making a movie without a camera.

   There's a wide range of uses for this sort of program. One is creating tutorials for other software. But it quickly becomes obvious that if you can create a tutorial on how to use a computer program you can create one for just about anything: how to repair a washing machine, assemble equipment, build a garage or do a chemistry experiment. And in fact the program is commonly used to create these kinds of instructional videos. It could also be used to create a book.

 

   Camtasia has been around a long time, but the newly released "Camtasia Studio" lets the viewer interact with the show. The key to this is the creation of "action hot spots." Spots on the screen can be assigned to trigger some action. Move the mouse pointer to that spot, click on the button, and you are taken to another sequence of screen shots, text or even a full-motion video, complete with voice and music.

 

   You can add your own voice to any screen or sequence, and since the program allows two-track audio, you can add background music as well. Callouts can be typed in to illustrate a photo that needs more explanation. "Callouts" are what page layout people call short pieces of text connected to a line pointing at something in the photo, like labeling the zoom button, or all the buttons, on a picture of a digital camera. Almost all editing is drag and drop, as they say: click the mouse on an image or sound or piece of text and drag it into place on the screen.

 

   If the subject you want to explain is too large for the screen -- a map, for example, you can pan across it. If you zoom in on a section of the map, a small window in a corner of the screen shows where you are on the whole map. This feature allows you to handle very large images that can be displayed even on a small laptop if handled as a series of zooms.

 

   When the instructional video is all done it can be saved to disk, tape, or the web in any of the popular formats and then published. Camtasia Studio is $399 and runs on Windows XP or 2000 for authoring; playback can be done on and Win 95 and up machine. Win 95 and 98 users who want to create instructional videos can do that with earlier versions of Camtasia, which, as is typically the case with software, are much cheaper. Web: www.techsmith.com.

 

A really useful utility

 PowerDesk 5

 

 

   PowerDesk is our favorite multi-purpose utility, a jack of all trades for managing files, sending email and in general customizing the PC. It can substitute for Windows Explorer, but it does more and is easier to use.

   The new Pro 5 version adds routines for handling digital image and MP3 music files. In fact you can use it to view any image or listen to any MP3 file you click on. The new version also adds color coding for files. Mark categories of files with a color and spot them quickly as you browse.

   We can't over-emphasize how useful this program is. It's a breeze to use and we use it several times a week. You can almost instantly zip and unzip long files for emailing, and make those files self-extracting so the person on the other hand doesn't go nuts trying to figure out how to open it; just double-click it.

 

  PowerDesk Pro 5 is $40 from the maker, V-Communications Inc. www.v-com.com, and the price is the same whether you download it or order the disk. There's a free trial version at the site but it does not have all the features of the one you can buy.

 

Internuts

 1st Books

-- www.1stbooks.com  This is a web site for authors who are willing to pay to publish their own books. The company also offers to do distribution and publicity. This kind of thing is often called a vanity press, because many writers just want to see their work in print, but interestingly enough one of their books recently reached number one on the best seller list at Amazon.com.

Will Durant

-- www.mathpuzzle.com  Do you like math puzzles? Well, you wouldn't think that many people do, but this site has received over a million visitors. Some of these visitors contribute their own mathematical oddities. For instance, one guy did a search on five-digit numbers on the Internet and found that the least popular number is 17839. (But 17839 is my lucky number.)

-- www.willdurant.com  Has letters, interviews and discussions concerning the popular historian and philosopher.

-- www.disastercenter.com  Lists the 100 worst disasters of the 20th century in terms of loss of life and property. This is not a current events site and has nothing about the recent earthquake in Iran.

 

 
Digital Image Pro

 

Books

   "How To Do Everything with Microsoft Digital Image Pro," by David Plotkin; $25, Osborne/McGraw-Hill www.osborne.com.

   There are dozens of image editing programs available now but Digital Image Pro was one of the very best we saw last year. The program is great and this book tells you how to get the most out of it.

NOTE: Readers can search past columns on our web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob or Joy Schwabach at bobschwab@aol.com or joydee@oncomp.com.

 

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