SWiSHZone Presenter Review

SWiSHZone Presenter is not really an eLearning development tool, and is not marketed as one, but it’s worth looking at if you need to convert PowerPoint to Flash. PowerPoint conversion is all this tool does, and it does it fairly well. I ran into some issues, but overall it’s worth considering and has some practical application in eLearning development. At $99 US, Presenter gives you a cost effective, but very basic PowerPoint to Flash converter with limited features and output options. This tool doesn’t try to be something it’s not. It’s just conversion tool – nothing more, nothing less.

For this evaluation I downloaded the 15 day trial version. Getting the trial version was pretty straight forward and installation was painless. Also, even though I had to register my email address to get an unlock key for the trial version, I haven’t been getting spam from SWiSHZone. Thank you.

Features

Presenter is very easy to use, mostly due to the fact that there aren’t a lot of options. You don’t get a lot of bells and whistles with this tool, so the interface is straightforward and simple. About the only thing you can do with Presenter is add audio to the presentation. There are no quiz tools or tools to embed Flash or other media. Presenter assumes you just want to package presentations for the web, so most of the features revolve around publishing. You can add WAV or MP3 audio on a per slide basis and sync the slide duration to match the audio file, but that’s about it.

Publishing

Presenter breaks the publishing process into three simple tabs. From all three tabs you can select the slides to include in the output. By default all slides are selected. In the first tab you set the size and playback rate; it defaults to 720×540 at 12 fps. (Tab 1) In the second tab you set the slide length and optionally add audio. You can also set up slide transitions. (Tab 2) In the third tab you set the output format and playback controls. You can also choose to export individual SWF files for each slide and export an SWI file, which you can open with SWiSHMax. (Tab 3)

The output format is always SWF, but you can set the image type for export as GIF, JPG, vector, or image. With image and JPG you can set the quality level much like typical JPG export controls on graphics programs or in Flash. I found the JPG quality to be lacking even when using 90 (100 is the highest quality). With vector and GIF export there is no quality settings. With the GIF export the text was not smooth, but there were no compression artifacts. I had problems with the vector output – it never worked well. On my first attempt some colors in some graphics were not reproduced accurately. In my second attempt, the vector output only had the first slide.

You can view samples of each output here with various playback controllers:

Because this is not an eLearning tool, there is no SCORM or AICC output. However, you could easily add SCORM tracking in another application.

Playback Controls

The playback controls are pretty standard. There are only a few options, but they are the right options in my opinion. Depending on the theme you choose, you get slightly different options for playback controls. Generally the options include full controls and minimal controls. The full controls include a pop-up table of contents, slide notes, and volume controls. The styles are pretty generic and will work with pretty much any color scheme your organization may have.

There are not a lot of playback control customization options in Presenter. The help file says you can make changes to the playback controls by editing an XML file that stores settings, but I couldn’t make it work. Additionally, the settings are stored in the Presenter program folder so they get applied to every presentation. That’s fine if you want to change options for every presentation, but not so good if you want to be able to change them for each presentation. I changed the XML file to remove the notes, but when I published the notes button was still there.

There are also tutorials that explain how to make custom controls using SWiSHMax, so if you want to spend the extra $100 on SWiSHMax you can theoretically customize the playback controls. I would have liked to be able to remove the slide notes from the full controls, but other than that I thought the default controls were adequate. I did not try to create custom playback controls in SWiSHMax.

Summary

Overall, Presenter is good for straight PowerPoint to Flash conversion. While it is not an eLearning tool, it could be have applications for basic presentations or exporting slides for inclusion in a course as Flash assets.

The good:

  • Easy to use
  • Inexpensive
  • Can add audio to slides
  • Adequate controls

The bad:

  • Output quality is not great
  • Customization did not work as documented (could be a trial version issue)
  • Vector output did not work

Ratings
On a 10 point scale, 10 being best

General
Ease of Use 8 Editing XML to change settings knocked this score down.
Interface Design 10 All controls and options were well organized and clearly labeled. They used well understood labels for controls.
Ramp-up 10 I was up and running in minutes.
Help 7 Decent help, but not stellar
Support 7 I liked what I saw on the website, but didn’t want to create a support account to login. Since you have to register your email address to get a key, they should give you access to the support site.
Course Authoring
Customization 4 Limited default themes. To create custom controls you need SWiSHMax. Couldn’t get changes in XML to reflect in output.
Integration 4 Only PowerPoint and WAV, MP3. Does not support any other formats.
Quizzes N/A  
Publishing 6 Does not publish to SCORM, just SWF and HTML.
Output Quality 5 JPG and Image setting didn’t look good, vector didn’t work.
Total 6.7 Average based on categories scored

Finally, if you come across any errors or misrepresentations, please let me know. My review is based on my somewhat limited use of the trial version. If you have used SWiSHZone Presenter and have had different results, please let me know.

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5 Responses to SWiSHZone Presenter Review

  1. Idetrorce says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

  2. It’s OK to disagree, but I’d like to hear why and what you disagree with. Others may find your thoughts valuable.
    Thanks,
    Gary

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