RE:Authorware vs...? (long message)

Subject: RE:Authorware vs...? (long message)
From: "Miller, Marlene" <mmiller -at- federatedinv -dot- com>
To: "'techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000 13:35:43 -0500

Tom Beverly said:

>I work in a department of about fifteen technical writers. . .and we need
to decide whether Authorware will work for us.<
Marlene sez: I work in a department of 8 writers. Three of us learned
Authorware about three years ago, but I'm the only one who uses it. We all
went through (very expensive) training, but I was the only one who came back
to her desk and put it to use. The others could not pick it up again several
weeks after the training - it's a use it, or lose it application. There's a
very supportive Authorware listserv ( and many
supportive websites. I've produced two directed tutorials, which means they
are interactive, but I control where the user goes, what they do when, and
what the results are; two software simulations for marketing purposes; and
several other modules that never made it into full-blow pieces. I use
Authorware about 20-30% of my time, depending on if I had a project in the
works. Sometimes I go 2-3 months without touching it, and then it takes me a
day or two to get up to speed again. I do everything - graphics, content,
storyboarding, authoring, distribution. Plan to devote a lot of time to it
to get your money's worth.

>--Can a writer produce a professional-looking tutorial in Authorware
without programming proficiency? How would the lack of such proficiency
limit us? (We may have some access to programmers too, in the off-season.)<
Marlene sez: Yes, you can. The lack of programming knowledge means you
can't do behind-the-scenes coding to do things like catch text input and
feed it back, track scores, measure and report performance levels, allow the
user to go anywhere and always know where they've been - things like that.

>--I read everywhere about Authorware's steep learning curve, and that six
to eight months may be required for learning it. Is it that bad?<
Marlene sez: It's bad. It's a use it or lose it app. It was about six
months before I was comfortable (and I still don't know the programming end
of it), but I didn't use it every day all day long. I'm still learning. The
AWARE listserv helps when you get stuck, and they share a lot of modules you
can cut and paste into your own project. They'll help me learn coding when
I'm ready.

>--Does Authorware require vector graphics (as Macromedia Flash seems to) or
does it work well with bitmaps and other basic formats?<
Marlene sez: Supported formats are: PICT, TIFF, LRG, GIF, PNG, BMP, RLE,
DIB, JPEG, Photoshop, TGA and Windows and Mac.

>--How does sound work in Authorware? What sound format(s) does the
application support? What hardware, software and/or plug-ins must a user
have to hear sound?<
Marlene sez: Supported formats are PCM, AIFF, WAVE. User needs soundcard
and speakers on the workstation.

>--How would Authorware's cost compare with that of other applications,
especially considering that there may be seven to fifteen licenses needed
for authoring?<
Marlene sez: Expensive, but comparable to other high-end authoring
packages. I use Authorware 4.0 and we did not upgrade any further because of
the expense and because 4.0 serves our purpose, and because 5.0 was
completely different from 4.0. If you don't need true "tutorials" that
capture user input, track scores, report performance, and allow the user to
be completely self-directed, etc., and can make-do with directed tutorials
and simulations, you might consider a lower-end simulation package like
DemoShield ( - wish we had done that.

>--Is Authorware a product that will allow us to expand into other areas
(Web demos and/or tutorials, etc.)?<
Marlene sez: I produce both runtime executables and Web files (viewable via
ShockWave) for my products.

If you want any more info, I'd be glad to correspond with you directly.

Marlene Miller
Federated Investors
mmiller -at- federatedinv -dot- com

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