ISSUE 489: The high tech office- March
Local firms offer improved
that bring Web sites to life
Two local companies are offering interesting
ways to put pictures and movement onto your Web sites,
screensavers and corporate presentations.
Aptly named Totally Hip Software (685-6525; www.totallyhip.
com) produces WebPainter -- with its newest version, 3 --
for both Mac and Windows platforms.
WebPainter is perhaps the best product around for
producing those little animations to spice up Web pages.
Like the classic Disney cartoons, it's based
the idea of using cells -- transparent layers that allow, for
example, your talking mouse to move across a static background.
You can use the program with both vector and bitmap images,
ing you to start with pictures made in most types of graphics
ware and import them in-
to WebPainter and make them move.
WebPainter is about as easy to use as possible in a
still-complex process, al-
lowing the user to get up and running quickly. At the same time,
it offers high-end features, such as fancy transitions and SMPTE
special effects for combining sound with your artwork.
The program lets you preview your animation in the
browser of your choice, and export it, either as an "animated
gif" file (the standard used in most Web pages) or in Apple's
Quicktime video format. One thousand ready-made animation clips
are included and can be used, royalty-fee, in business
presentations or on the Web.
The new version includes support for up to 32 layers
and new tools for working with vector images.
There is also an export preview function, which allows
you to see how your animation will look as you shrink it to
different file sizes. This nicely lets you balance file size
(small files display faster on your Web page) against image
quality. New autotransitions offer a wealth of fancy special
effects when changing cells.
The application costs about $110. If you want to try
it out, Totally Hip's Web site offers a free version that works
for 20 hours before self-destructing.
The company is also still selling older versions of
its product, for prices dropping as low as $45 for WebPainter
SE. Users of older versions can upgrade to the new version for
about $60. *
As digital cameras and scanners become more and
more common, there's always the question of what to do with all
those digital photographs. You can print them out or use
individual shots on the Web or in a PowerPoint presentation.
InMedia Presentations (893-8955; www.inmediapresents.com)
fers more possibilities with its series of Slides & Sound products.
The top of the firm's line is the new version (2.0),
called Slides & Sounds Plus. It makes it easy to combine
digital photos, scanned images or most other bitmap images into
a multimedia slideshow. Most digital cameras come with software
to produce such slideshows, but InMedia's products (available in
both Windows and Mac versions) offer many more power and
You can add your choice of 160 transitions between
slides and, as the name suggests, it's easy to add music --
either your own, from CDs or other sources, or the royalty-free
cuts included in the package. Individual photos can be enhanced,
cropped or colour-adjusted. You can also add video clips in
QuickTime, AVI or MPEG formats (so, presumably, you could make a
clip in WebPainter and add it into a Slides & Sound presentation
for an all-Vancouver production).
An especially nice feature is that you can save
presentations as standalone files in your choice of Mac or
Windows formats, so you can send them to other users even if
they don't have their own copy of Slides & Sound.
On the downside, files tend to be pretty big -- too
big to fit on a floppy disk (maybe Apple is right in leaving the
floppy drive out of their recent models) -- and pretty hefty to
send as an e-mail attachment.
One way to get around this is to burn the file onto
CDs to distribute to clients or potential customers. Or
slideshows can be converted into screensavers, so your loved
ones (or company images) will always be popping up on-screen.
Slides and Sounds costs $60, with a free 30-day trial
version available directly from the company's Web site.
A more limited Express version is available for about
$25 (Windows only), which includes many of the transitions of
the full version, along with the ability to add sound and video
clips, but lacking the standalone export features.
Another version adds the screensaver export function
to the basic Express version for about $30, while a version
limited to producing screensavers from your photos is a mere
$15. (All these prices are approximate, since both these local
companies list prices in U.S. funds only).
InMedia was offering a nice perk -- the ability to
post your slideshow on its Web site for free for 10 days and to
keep them there for less than $10 a month thereafter -- even for
shows created with the free trial version. But that's no longer
mentioned on InMedia's site.
Even without the ability to use its Web site to show
your photos to the world, this remains an easy-to-use,
And since both Totally Hip and InMedia offer fully
functional, free trial versions, and both products are available
in both Windows and Mac flavours, you may want to check out
Postscript (September 7 2003): This column
was published in 1999; since that time, InMediaPresents, along with
many small technology companies, has apparently vanished, taking its
product Slides and Sounds,
with them. The product seems to have gathered its share of fans-- a
number of whom have emailed me asking if I know where they can purchase
Unfortunately, all I can suggest is a generic sort of answer-- to check
(perhaps several times) on eBay, or at websites specializing in older
software such as OldSoftware.com.
If anyone successfully tracks down a place selling this product, I
would be happy to hear about it.