Re: authoring tools

Subject: Re: authoring tools
From: Jeff Jungblut <jeffmj -at- CRASH -dot- CTS -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 1994 21:29:12 GMT

In Article <Pine -dot- 3 -dot- 07 -dot- 9401060935 -dot- B7092-b100000 -at- dante>, Stephen Bernhardt
<sbernhar -at- nmsu -dot- edu> wrote:
>Ken d'Albenas wrote:

>> Would anyone care to tell me what the term "authoring tool (or
>> system)" means to you? It's appeared 3 times in my mail today.

>I think of an authoring tool as a mid level language using some sort of
>script and some already written objects that can be assembled easily. An
>authoring tool for educators might have pieces of code for developing
>computer assisted instruction. The person doing the authoring would not
>have to code from scratch in a programming language, but build their
>application out of pre-existing modules and functional objects. I use
>Toolbook from Asymetrix, a "Windows construction set" and I'd consider it
>an authoring tool. I t makes it simple, for example, to create hypertexts
>and to do things like constructing new menubars tailored to an application.

Some other popular authoring tools are HyperCard and SuperCard for Mac, and
Authorware Pro for Mac and Windows. I'm not sure about Macromedia Director
but I believe it also probably falls into the authoring tool category. I
know my company has developed algebra and geometry courseware apps using

My current project involves writing documentation and online help for a new
authoring tool that our courseware developers are now using to develop the
next generation of Jostens courseware. It's in use now on Windows and is
being ported to the Mac. It's completely object-oriented; everything is
done by placing icons on the authoring window and connecting different
"ports" in the icons with "wires". For example, to have a push button
display a bitmap, you'd wire the "Button Up" output port on the push button
icon to the "Visual On" port on the bitmap's icon. Creating a lesson of any
moderate complexity results in a confusing spiderweb of wires on the screen.

The authoring system is pretty powerful. It provides full support for DVI
video, sound, bitmaps, RTF text, for/next and while loops, variables,
arrays, timers, standard Windows interface components, vector graphics, DDE
client/server support and so on. The visual, object-oriented approach is
supposed to be simple for non-programmers to use, and it is -- but it has
its limits if you want to create complex lessons. Another component that's
been added recently is the scripting language, which lets you create custom
ports for icons and attach scripts to them. The script language itself is
standard Smalltalk. (The authoring system itself is written entirely in
Smalltalk.) This is the most difficult part of the doc project --
explaining to an audience who may or may not have any experience with
traditional programming languages how to use a radically object-oriented
language with hideously bizarre syntax.

(Side note: For those who have never heard of Jostens Learning, we're the
nation's largest educational software provider. We're a subsidiary of
Jostens Inc., the ring and yearbook people.)

Jeff Jungblut Tecnhical Documentation Group
jeffmj -at- crash -dot- cts -dot- com Jostens Learning Corporation, San Diego

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