The successor to Promethean’s ActivStudio 3 software is known as the ActivSoftware Inspire Edition… although hopefully it will just be called ActivInspire or something less wordy. The first Beta release of Inspire is now available and Promethean is encouraging people to download, install and play with it, no doubt to try and identify as many bugs as possible before the production release, due in late March.
While I was writing the IWB book, I was fortunate to have been invited to a sneak peek at a very early Alpha build of this software, and it’s certainly come a long way since the buggy, crash-prone demo I saw a few months ago. For a Beta, this is actually quite stable, although there are still some unusual behaviours and unexpected interface issues to iron out in the next two months.
To give you a bit of an insight into some of the most obvious new features, both good and not so good, I’ve recorded this screencast about the new Inspire edition. It’s about 20 minutes long, but if you use Promethean software I hope you’ll find it useful in helping you get your head around the changes. And there are some major changes too… the team behind Inspire were aware that ActivStudio had a number of legacy issues that needed to be addresses, so they decided to start with a clean slate and develop the new version from scratch. This is not an update on ActivStudio, this is a whole new codebase and a complete rethink of how an IWB interface should work. The interface is certainly cleaner, and there seems to be less clicking to get things done. It’s still not perfect, especially in the area of video handling, but it does seem to be a step in the right direction. It appears to borrow some interface ideas from other tools like PowerPoint and Smart Notebook, but reinterprets them. My first impression is that, although it is certainly a big improvement on AS3, it still needs quite a bit of work before the final release.
You can get your own copy of the new beta from the Promethean Planet website. You need to be a Planet member, but it’s free to join.
In a nutshell, some of the new features worthy of a mention are…
- Profiles for task-centric tool palettes
- Browser pane for easier access to common functions
- Cleaner, more streamlined interface
- Support for multitouch and dual pens
- Elimination of the familiar edit panels that appear when you double click an object
- Non-modal action pbjects
- New connector tools
- More familiar use of a standard menu bar at the top of the screen
- Better drawing tools
- ActivStudio and ActivPrimary both optionally available within the same application
- Customisable tooltips on objects
- Better 4:3 Flipchart support for widescreen computers
- Much better implementation of templates
It’s not all rosy however… there are still some notable ommisions, such as the ommision of a tool for creating tables, something their competitor Smart Notebook 10 actually does very well. Tables really need to be in here.
The other notable point is the lousy way it seems to handle video and media. This has been my biggest complaint about ActivStudio 3, it just does a really crappy job of managing digital video. It needs to be far less fussy about what media type you throw at it, it needs to render video really well, and it needs to allow the embedding of video into the page rather than just creating links to it to open in a new window. Although Inspire has attempted to improve this aspect of the software, it still has an awfully long way to go in my opinion.
There is plenty to talk about in this Beta release, and I think I might make a couple of other video reviews in the next couple of weeks. But take a look for yourself… in the interests of making sure the final release candidate is everything it should be, I’d encourage you to download it, cast a critical eye over it and tell Promethean what you think.
I’ve been pretty critical of ActivStudio 3 in the past, and have complained loudly about its woeful usability and lack of standardised interface design. I have even been whinging directly to Promethean over the last six months or so, and I’m pleased to see that this new version seems to be the start of finally getting it right.
Not bad so far, but Just fix the damn video handling issues!
Get Inspired by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.