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Multimedia Authoring Systems FAQ 1/3

( Part1 - Part2 - Part3 )
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Archive-name: multimedia/authoring-systems/part1
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
There is a Polish version of this FAQ at
<http://mmc.amg.net.pl/Tech/Authoring/faq.html> -- translated and maintained by
Pawel Olszewski at Multimedia Club <http://mmc.amg.net.pl/index.html> .

 1. What is an Authoring System? 
 2. Why would anyone want to use an authoring system? 
 3. What is an authoring paradigm? 
 4. What is the Scripting paradigm?
 5. What is the Iconic/Flow Control paradigm? 
 6. What is the Frame paradigm? 
 7. What is the Card/Scripting paradigm? 
 8. What is the Cast/Score/Scripting paradigm? 
 9. What is the Hierarchical Object paradigm? 
10. What is the Hypermedia Linkage paradigm? 
11. What is the Tagging paradigm? 
12. What is an Authoring Suite?
13. Can I develop all of my material in the authoring system? 
14. What is the best authoring system? 
15. Given that my subject matter is <> , my delivery platform is <> , and
     my design specifies <> , which authoring system should I use? 
16. What are the names of some authoring systems? 
17. What print magazines deal with authoring systems? 
18. What books deal with authoring systems? 
19. What software titles deal with authoring systems? 
20. What USENET newsgroups deal with authoring systems? 
21. What Independent WebSites deal with authoring systems?



1. What is an Authoring System?

An Authoring System is a program which has pre-programmed elements for the
development of interactive multimedia software titles.  Authoring systems vary
widely in orientation, capabilities, and learning curve.  There is no such 
thing(at this time) as a completely point-and-click automated authoring system;
some knowledge of heuristic thinking and algorithm design is necessary.  
Whether you realize it or not, authoring is actually just a speeded-up form of 
programming; you don't need to know the intricacies of a programming language, 
or worse, an API, but you do need to understand how programs work.



2. Why would anyone want to use an authoring system?

It generally takes about 1/8th the time to develop an interactive multimedia
project, such as a CBT program, in an authoring system as opposed to 
programming it in compiled code.  This means 1/8 the cost of programmer time 
and likely increased re-use of code (assuming that you pass this project's code 
to the next CBT project, and they use a similar or identical authoring system). 
However, the content creation (graphics, text, video, audio, animation, etc.) 
is not generally affected by the choice of an authoring system; any production 
time gains here result from accelerated prototyping, not from the choice of an
authoring system over a compiled language.



3. What is an authoring paradigm?

Also known as the authoring metaphor, this is the methodology by which the
authoring system accomplishes its task. There are various paradigms, including:

     Scripting Language
     Iconic/Flow Control
     Frame
     Card/Scripting
     Cast/Score/Scripting
     Hierarchical Object
     Hypermedia Linkage
     Tagging



4. What is the Scripting paradigm?

The Scripting paradigm is the authoring method closest in form to traditional
programming.  The paradigm is that of a programming language, which specifies
(by filename) multimedia elements, sequencing, hotspots, synchronization, etc. 
A powerful, object-oriented scripting language is usually the centerpiece of 
such a system; in-program editing of elements (still graphics, video, audio, 
etc.) tends to be minimal or non-existent.  Scripting languages do vary; check 
out how much the language is object-based or object-oriented.  The scripting 
paradigm tends to be longer in development time (it takes longer to code an 
individual interaction), but generally more powerful interactivity is possible. 
Since most Scripting languages are interpreted, instead of compiled, the 
runtime speed gains over other authoring methods are minimal.  The media 
handling can vary widely; check out your system with your contributing package 
formats carefully.



5. What is the Iconic/Flow Control paradigm?

This tends to be the speediest (in development time) authoring style; it is 
best suited for rapid prototyping and short-development time projects.  Many of 
these tools are also optimized for developing Computer-Based Training (CBT).  
The core of the paradigm is the Icon Palette, containing the possible
functions/interactions of a program, and the Flow Line, which shows the actual
links between the icons.  These programs tend to be the slowest runtimes,
because each interaction carries with it all of its possible permutations; the
higher end packages, such as Authorware or IconAuthor, are extremely powerful
and suffer least from runtime speed problems.



6. What is the Frame paradigm?

The Frame paradigm is similar to the Iconic/Flow Control paradigm in that it
usually incorporates an icon palette; however, the links drawn between icons 
are conceptual and do not always represent the actual flow of the program. This 
is a very fast development system, but requires a good auto-debugging function, 
as it is visually un-debuggable.  The best of these have bundled 
compiled-language scripting, such as Quest (whose scripting language is C) or 
Apple Media Kit.



7. What is the Card/Scripting paradigm?

The Card/Scripting paradigm provides a great deal of power (via the 
incorporated scripting language) but suffers from the index-card structure. It 
is excellently suited for Hypertext applications, and supremely suited for 
navigation intensive (a la Cyan's "MYST" game) applications.  Such programs are 
easily extensible via XCMDs and DLLs; they are widely used for shareware 
applications.  The best applications allow all objects (including individual 
graphic elements) to be scripted; many entertainment applications are 
prototyped in a card/scripting system prior to compiled-language coding.



8. What is the Cast/Score/Scripting paradigm?

The Cast/Score/Scripting paradigm uses a music score as its primary authoring
metaphor; the synchronous elements are shown in various horizontal "tracks" 
with simultaneity shown via the vertical columns.  The true power of this 
metaphor lies in the ability to script the behavior of each of the cast 
members. The most popular member of this paradigm is Director, which is used in 
the creation of many commercial applications.  These programs are best suited 
for animation-intensive or synchronized media applications; they are easily
extensible to handle other functions (such as hypertext) via XOBJs, XCMDs, and
DLLs.



9. What is the Hierarchical Object paradigm? The Hierarchical Object paradigm
uses a object metaphor (like OOP) which is visually represented by embedded
objects and iconic properties.  Although the learning curve is non-trivial, the
visual representation of objects can make very complicated constructions
possible.



10. What is the Hypermedia Linkage paradigm?

The Hypermedia Linkage paradigm is similar to the Frame paradigm in that it
shows conceptual links between elements; however, it lacks the Frame paradigm's
visual linkage metaphor.



11. What is the Tagging paradigm?

The Tagging paradigm uses tags in text files (for instance, SGML/HTML, VRML, 
3DML <http://www.flatland.com/> and WinHelp) to link pages, provide 
interactivity and integrate multimedia elements.  



12. What is an Authoring Suite?

Currently, an authoring suite is a single program that combines multiple
authoring and tracking views, as well as pre-authoring, instructional design,
and project management functions. The current offerings in this type of tool are
optimized for CBT production, and include BGW Multimédia's Tactic!
<http://www.bgw.ca/english/survol-e.html> or Allen Communications' Manager's
Edge <http://www.allencomm.com/software/manager/> .



13. Can I develop all of my material in the authoring system?

Yes, but you probably shouldn't.  Although most packages allow you to create
content using their in-built tools, these tend to be rudimentary when compared
with those available in dedicated programs.  For more professional output, you
should use software dedicated to the creation and editing of that medium, and
then import/integrate the content into your multimedia program.

Major content-development packages are likely to include:

     Paint programs for still images (photos, original digital artwork)
     Paint effects programs
     Illustration (draw) programs for still images (modeled and rendered 
          objects)
     Modeling/Rendering programs (for 3-D objects)
     Video digitizing/editing programs
     Video effects programs
     Audio sampling/editing programs
     Word processors 
     Text Editors
     Database programs
     Animation programs
     Asset-management programs
     Pre-Authoring programs; to date, there's only one,Allen Communications' 
          Designer's Edge <http://www.allencomm.com/software/designer/> .
     Computer Managed Instruction (CMI) programs</b> ; it is recommended that
          you choose an AICC-compliant program. <http://www.aicc.org/>
          


14. What is the best authoring system?

This is the most impossible question you could ask.  It's like asking what's 
the best hammer -- it depends upon the job you're trying to do, and sometimes 
(like when you're working on plumbing), there is no answer.  Qualify your 
question, and there'll be a prayer of answering it.



15.  Given that my subject matter is <> , my delivery platform is <> , and my
design specifies <> , which authoring system should I use?

This is a question an authoring specialist can answer (just as soon as you fill
in the blanks, and add any other qualifying data).



16. What are the names of some authoring systems?

Players require authoring on a "full" platform, then a port to the player
platform.


DOS Authoring Systems:

GLpro <http://gmedia.net/glpro/dosspec.html> : G-media
<http://gmedia.net/glpro/index.html> ; DOS, Windows 
GLpro is a scripting paradigm authoring system.

Microcosm <http://www.multicosm.com/microcosm/index.html> : Multicosm, Ltd.
<http://www.webcosm.com/> ; DOS, Windows 
Microcosm is a Hypermedia Linkage authoring system.

Neobook <http://www.neosoftware.com/nb.html> : Neosoft
<http://www.neosoftware.com/> ; DOS, Windows 95, NT
Neobook is a frame paradigm authoring tool currently in version 2.1.
     
Question Mark <http://www.questionmark.com/infosheets/dos-info.htm> : Question
Mark Computing Ltd <http://www.questionmark.com/> ; DOS, Mac, Windows, WWW (via
Perception)
Question Mark is optimized for Electronic Assessment production.

Summit Authoring System <http://www.insystem.com/summit.htm> : Intersystem
Concepts, Inc. <http://www.insystem.com/>

TenCORE <http://www.tencore.com/authtool.htm> : Computer Teaching Corporation
<http://www.tencore.com/> ; DOS, Windows 
TenCORE is actually two products: TenCORE Producer, which is a frame paradigm
authoring system, and TenCORE Language Authoring System, which is a scripting
paradigm authoring system. TenCORE LAS has discernable Plato roots.


Macintosh Authoring Systems:

ClickWorks <http://www.pitango.com/mn-cw.html> : Pitango
<http://www.pitango.com/> ; Mac, Windows player
Clickworks is a card/scripting system that has a high amount of 
object-orientation. There are now two versions: Delight and Pro.  The Pro 
version provides the most complete handling of text available, comparable to 
a desktop-publishing tool.

CourseBuilder <http://www.discoverysystems.com/Pages/CB-Soft.HTML> : Discovery
Systems Int'l. <http://www.discoverysystems.com/> ; Mac, Windows Player
CourseBuilder 5.0 is an iconic/flow control paradigm authoring system optimized
for CBT delivery.  Allows scriptless interactive courseware construction.

Digital Box Office <http://www.powerproduction.com/dbo/dbo.html> :
PowerProduction Software <http://www.powerproduction.com/> 
Digital Box Office 1.5 is a frame paradigm authoring system.

Director <http://www.macromedia.com/software/director/> : Macromedia
<http://www.macromedia.com/> ; Mac, Windows95/98, NT, WWW (via Shockwave) 
Currently in version 7.0, this popular general market product follows the
cast/score/scripting paradigm, which makes it the tool of choice for animation
content.  Its roots as a cel- and sprite-animation program are unmistakable; its
inclusion of Lingo, its object-based scripting    language, has made it the
animation-capable program to beat.  The AfterBurner compression Xtra creates
Shockwave files, allowing Web playback.

Emblaze Creator <http://www.emblaze.com/creator.htm> : Geo International 
<http://www.emblaze.com/> ; JavaScript, Mac, Win95, WWW
Emblaze Creator 2.5 is a cast/score/scripting tool which is designed for 
Web-based playback of interactive multimedia.  

Flash <http://www.macromedia.com/software/flash/> : Macromedia 
<http://www.macromedia.com/> ; Mac, Windows95, NT, WWW (via Flash Player)
Flash 3.0 is a cast/score/scripting tool, which primarily uses vector graphics
(and can create vector graphics from imported bitmaps). It is optimized for Web 
delivery, and is especially common for banner adds and small interactive web 
deliverables.

HyperCard <http://www.apple.com/hypercard/> : 
Apple Computer <http://www.apple.com/> ; Mac, WWW (via LiveCard!)
HyperCard is a card/scripting authoring system currently in version 2.4.1.  It 
runs natively on both 68K and PowerMacintosh machines, and is widely used 
because of its easy availability at $99.  Its largest drawback is the lack of 
integrated color; current color implementation is via the ColorTools XCMD set 
(included) or via third-party XCMDs.

HyperGASP <http://www.calibanmw.com/hg30.html> : Caliban Mindwear
<http://www.calibanmw.com/> 
HyperGASP is a card/scripting authoring system currently in version 3.0; the 
newest version no longer requires HyperCard.  Supports export to HTML for Web 
authoring.

HyperStudio <http://www.hyperstudio.com/> : Roger Wagner Publishing 
<http://www.hyperstudio.com/> ; Mac, Windows 
HyperStudio is a card/scripting paradigm authoring system, optimized for and 
focussed on the educational market. 

iShell <http://www.tribeworks.com/Public/Content/Technology.html> : 
Tribeworks <http://www.tribeworks.com/> ; PowerMac, Windows 95/98
iShell is a frame tool, derived in largest part from Apple Media Tool. 
It's most 
prominent feature is unparalleled interactive QuickTime support.  IShell is 
freeware, with licensing available for commercial applications.

Katabounga <http://www.abvent.com/intl/katabounga.html> : 
Abvent <http://www.abvent.com/> ; PowerMac, Mac Player, Windows95/98 Player
Katabounga is a Hierarchical Object authoring system, currently in version
2.0.  

Lexicographer <http://www.abiogenesis.com/AbioDocs/Products.html> : Abiogenesis
Software<http://www.abiogenesis.com/> 
Lexicographer uses the Tagging paradigm to produce viewable electronic
references from text or RTF files.

mBed Interactor <http://www.mbed.com/html/mbdframe1.html> : mBed
<http://www.mbed.com/> ; Java, Mac, Windows95, WWW
mBed Interactor is a cast/score/scripting authoring system optimized for WWW 
delivery; it comes in Lite, Standard and Professional Editions.

MediaStorm <http://www.incwell.com/SuperCard/MediaStormBasic.html> : IncWell
<http://www.incwell.com/>
MediaStorm is a frame authoring system.

MetaCard <http://www.metacard.com/pi.html> : MetaCard
<http://www.metacard.com/> ; 
Mac, Windows95/98, NT, Solaris, UNIX 
MetaCard is a card/scripting authoring system, currently in version 2.2.  This
is one of the more powerful tools of its paradigm; the scripting language is
especially robust.

MocKingbird(R)CBT <http://www.mockingbird.com/products/cbt/index.htm> : 
Warren-Forthought, Inc. <http://www.mockingbird.com/> ; Mac, Windows, NT 
MocKingbird is a Performance Support System following the scripting paradigm.

QuarkImmedia <http://www.quark.com/quarkimmedia/> : Quark 
<http://www.quark.com/> ; PowerMac, Windows Player 
QuarkImmedia is a frame paradigm authoring system, designed for re-purposing 
print (QuarkXPress) documents.

Question Mark <http://www.questionmark.com/infosheets/mac-info.htm> : Question
Mark Computing Ltd <http://www.qmark.com/> ; DOS, Mac,
Windows, WWW (via Perception)
Question Mark is optimized for Electronic Assessment production.

Special Delivery <http://www.imcinfo.com/SD2.0DataSheet.html> : IMC
<http://www.imcinfo.com/index.html>
Special Delivery 2.1 is a frame paradigm authoring system.

StorySpace <http://www.eastgate.com/Storyspace.html> : Eastgate Systems
<http://www.eastgate.com/> ; Mac, Windows, WWW (via HTML) 
Hypertext authoring system, uses "Writing Space" links, corresponds pretty
closely to the frame paradigm.  The newest version supports export of a 
complete story space to HTML.

SuperCard <http://www.incwell.com/SuperCard/SuperCard.html> :  IncWell
<http://www.incwell.com/> ; Mac, WWW (Mac and Win32 via Roadster) 
SuperCard 3.5 shines among the card/scripting authoring systems.  With built-in 
support for 24-bit color, hypertext, and external media handling (QuickTime, 
PICS, Filmstip, PICT, AIFF), this is the best of its paradigm. This is an 
excellent tool for hypermedia implementation. 


NeXT Authoring Systems:

HyperSense <http://www.thoughtful.com/hypersense/index.html> :  Thoughtful
Software 
HyperSense is a card/scripting authoring system, which allows import of 
HyperCard stacks.


OS/2 Authoring Systems:

Creative Course Writer <http://www.caicbt.com/ccwos2.html> : Creative 
Approaches, Inc. <http://www.caicbt.com/>


Solaris Authoring Systems:

Digital Chisel 
<http://www2.pierian.com/products/authoring_tools/digital_chisel3/dc3.htm> : 
Pierian Spring <http://www.pierian.com/> ; Windows95/98, NT, Solaris, WWW 
Digital Chisel has been rewritten in Java for delivery to most platforms. It 
has moved from its card roots to a frame paradigm. 

Gain Momentum <http://www.gainsoft.com/gm/> :  Gain Software, Inc. 
<http://www.gainsoft.com/> ; Windows 95, NT, Solaris, UNIX
Gain Momentum 3.5 is a hypermedia linkage authoring tool.  Its GEL scripting 
language and multiple views (including timeline and an object browser) provide 
a large amount of development power.

IconAuthor <http://www.asymetrix.com/products/iconauthor/> : Asymetrix
<http://www.asymetrix.com/> ; Windows, NT, Solaris, UNIX, WWW (via Windows) 
IconAuthor follows the iconic/flow control paradigm.  It is notable for
its SmartObject editor, which tags content files (still graphics, RTF text,
etc.) for interactivity.  It has the option to either embed content files or
leave them external in specified directories.  The biggest strength of this
program is its included data handling, which makes it unparalleled for CBT data
tracking.  The latest version should also provide WWW porting of existing
content.  Avoid its internal "Move Object" path animation feature due to jerky
response -- use a .FLC or .AVI instead.

MetaCard <http://www.metacard.com/pi.html> : MetaCard
<http://www.metacard.com/> 
; Mac, Windows95/98, NT, Solaris, UNIX 
MetaCard is a card/scripting authoring system, currently in version 2.2.  This
is one of the more powerful tools of its paradigm; the scripting language is
especially robust.


End part 1 of 3
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