7 features your slideshow maker should have

Slideshow is a series of still images delivered one after another. Slide shows in their original meaning were the series of slides shown using slide projectors. But in recent years slideshow is mainly associated with computers. Slideshows have become the important part of web design. It's not surprising because slideshow is a great way to turn common digital images into an eye-catching "movie". Nevertheless, slideshow can be not only eye candy. It can be a marketing tool, an educational method, a way to attract attention to one's blog or social network profile. And, of course, it remains one of the most popular ways to save memory about the brightest moments of life.

The main things you need to create your slideshow are a great idea, a batch of digital photos, sound track (either music or voice record) and a good slideshow creation software. Regardless of what your slideshow is designed for, your slideshow maker should have the following features:

· Slide transitions. This feature may be unnecessary for an educational slideshow, but if you create a slideshow for your blog or profile, slideshow of your child's birthday party or honeymoon - transition effects will be of great use. They make slideshow more vivid, add personality and dynamism to your "photo story".

· Text. Text comments, titles or even date the picture taken on give more details to a slideshow, especially if it has no voice comments. Maybe your wedding slideshow doesn't need titles on each slide, but it's difficult to imagine promotional or educational slideshows without a text.

· Hyperlinks. This feature is indispensable for creating promotional slideshows. For example, you create a slideshow of your company's products. It's great if you're able to assign hyperlinks which will redirect users to the products' web pages. As you see, it's better if your slideshow creator allows to assign not only a total URL to the whole slideshow, but also to assign different URLs to each slide.

· Navigation buttons. Great feature which can be of use for every slideshow type. It gives your audience more control for better perception of your slideshow content and for its convenience.

· Sound. Adding background sound is an important feature regardless of slideshow's aim. Event slideshows can't be perfect without a corresponding music, educational slideshows and business presentations are mainly accompanied with sound (e.g. voice comments).

· Timing control. Timing control means that your slideshow creation software allows you to control how long each slide displays. It's really necessary when you add a background sound with voice comments or narration. In this case timing control helps you to synchronize pictures with comments. Even if slideshow has no background sound, timing control is very useful - it enables you to show one image longer than another, choose how long a transition should last, etc.

· Speaking of web design, we must consider not only how to create a slideshow, but also how to embed it into a web page. Thus, your slideshow creator must allow both easy creating slideshow and easy publishing it to the Web. And its key feature is making web-ready slideshows which can be embedded in a web site without programming skills. Usually, slideshow for web publishing is created in Flash format (.swf file).

My favorite slideshow makers that meet all requirements are:

FlashSlider (Flarium) $29
IncrediShow (IncrediTools) $69.95
CoffeeCup Photo Gallery (CoffeeCup) $39
Flash Gallery Factory (Wondershare) $49.95

Download free trials, make your choice and share your impressions in comments!

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Flash Graffiti Creator

Do you want to create graffiti-styled logotypes and texts? Try The Graffiti Creator. This Flash app allows to create and customize your graffiti with a few mouse clicks. Really great and easy to use tool. Only thing that I miss is ability to save the graffiti as an image file, now The Graffiti Creator has only Print option. Nevertheless, it's a great flash fun!

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Adobe Media Player 1.5 is available

Adobe Inc. released Adobe Media Player 1.5 - a cross-platform desktop application designed to play back streamed or downloaded FLV or MPEG-4 video content online or offline. Adobe Media Player offers new great features both for viewers and content publishers. Viewers will enjoy enhanced features for discovering, subscribing and sharing video content, notification and video management features. Content publishers will appreciate improved publishing, validation and reporting tools, enhanced content protection etc. Also, Adobe Media Player 1.5 allows playing SWF files from a hard drive without opening browser and in a full-screen mode. Adobe Media Player is completely free to download and is available for both Windows and Mac platforms.

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Flash myths and Flash facts

The more popular Flash® technology becomes, the more rumors and myths are born about it. I want to disprove 5 widespread Flash myths which annoys me most of all.

Myth #1 Flash files can’t be indexed by search engines, and thus can’t be used for SEO.

This myth is very durable and many people believe it to be the holy truth in spite of all the information about Flash indexing. The truth is that the attempts of indexing flash were made back in 2004. And now, textual content and URLs in the Flash files can be indexed by any search engine by utilizing Macromedia's Flash Search Engine SDK. Google has been using a new technology from Adobe® to improve Flash indexing for almost two months and Yahoo! is next in turn. Read Google’s post to its Webmaster Central Blog and Adobe’s press release to learn details about the improved Flash indexing. And what about a non-textual content: if a Flash file includes images with text, search engines don’t index this text (as well as they don’t index text in images of other file formats). So, indexing Flash content is not too much behind indexing other content. And a few words about SEO and SEO-friendly content. Each SEO specialist knows that content itself (i.e. text) isn’t the key factor of high search engines rankings. The more important factors are targeted keywords, meta tags, title and the most important criteria used by search engines to rank your web page – inbound links which can be successfully built both for websites with Flash and without it.

Myth #2 Using Flash on a web page means slower loading and larger file size.

This information is completely out of date. Less and less users are on slow connections such as dial-up, most of us have broadband access. Rapid development of data transfer, storage and processing also makes Flash applications faster from day to day. Large size of the file is a myth for people who’ve never created their own page in Flash. Size of an HTML shell is small, and size of a Flash file itself (without built-in audio and video) is not much larger than the size of comparable HTML content. Of course, if you want to have audio and video instead of raw text, the size of your web page will increase. But it’s natural and it has nothing to do with the Flash itself.

Myth #3 It’s impossible to navigate within a Flash movie using Back and Forward buttons.

Yes, we’re used to see Flash pages without an internal Flash navigation. But it doesn’t mean that this navigation is impossible. If you still believe this myth, you’ll be surprised hearing that this problem was solved in 2001(!) by Robert Penner. Here’s his explanation:

Normally, pressing the back button on a Flash page takes you out of the movie. I don't like that! In order to use the browser back button, you have to generate a history of web pages. I use a hidden frame to store HTML pages that generate a browser history... I created one HTML page for each section of the movie that I want in the history. On each HTML page is a little piece of Javascript that sets a variable in the Flash movie. After the HTML sends the signal to Flash, it's up to you to notice and navigate to the appropriate section…

Myth #4 Not everyone can experience Flash content and that decreases your audience size.

That’s true, not everyone has Flash® Player installed – 1% of all Internet users doesn’t have it and can’t render SWF. However, I think 99% of Internet users is enough for you to find your target audience :). Adobe® Flash® Player’s penetration rate is immense, view the Adobe’s statistics below and don’t worry about your audience any more.

If you’re still anxious about it, you can create an alternative non-Flash content. For example, SWFObject library helps users without the Flash plug-in see a working HTML page. Creating and alternative content is also great for people who are still don’t sure about Flash indexing – HTML content will surely be indexed by search engines. Also, use Flash Player Detection Kit to detect the version of Flash Player installed on a user’s computer, and, if needed, to then install the latest version of Flash Player. Use Flash Player Express Install to seamlessly upgrade users to the latest version of the Flash Player without leaving you site.

Myth #5 Flash means annoying ads, banners and sites with irritating music or videos.

Blaming Flash for ads and banners is the same thing that blaming jpeg for ugly pictures or mp3 for music you don’t like. Flash is only the method of delivering content. And what content is delivered is up only to its developers, not to technology they use.

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Flash CS4 Professional Trial Download

Flash CS4 Professinal Trial is available for free download. At last the download link is really working. Remember that you should be registered at Adobe website to download the products.
The first thing that surprised me after starting download was the Java applet (Akamai Download Manager) used to download files. I seemed it to be a little improper for Adobe. But I understood their choice after having seen the file size - 888,9 Mb (!!!). This download manager lets pause and resume download, that is very important with so huge files.
If the download through the Java Downloader fails, simply download this URL without Akamai with any other download manager (for example, DTA for Firefox), but register at Adobe first:
http://trials.adobe.com/Applications/FlashPro/CS4/Win/ADBEFLPRCS4Win_LS1.7z (Adobe Flash CS4 Professional Download Link).
Have fun trying Flash CS4 and share your impressions with me in your comments.

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Best places to download flash tools

I have some favorite directories of flash tools (or swf - shockwave flash - tools) where I download flash software - both free flash tools and paid ones. I use and recommend the following software directories because of their smart system - all tools are divided into categories and you can easily find what you need.

ALL Flash Tools – comprehensive flash directory with an extensive list of flash tools, flash components and even a few articles and flash tutorials.

Flash Wanted – this flash directory offers flash components, JSFL extensions, SWF applets, FLA sources and flash related software downloads.

My Flash Soft - flash software: flash design, presentation and slideshow makers, game creators, animating, sounding and other flash development tools.

SnapFiles – all software is handy divided into shareware and freeware to simplify searching. Contains lots of web authoring tools including software for flash development.

Swftools – the ultimate directory of flash tools, apps, utilities. Here you can find flash software, flash freeware tools, flash sitegallery and flash tutorials.

Download.com – probably the most popular software downloads directory. Of course, it has flash tools section. Squeeze yourself through sponsored links and you'll find lots of useful flash utilities.

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