Use the Web for inexpensive videoconferencing

I'm tempted to call it the poor man's videoconferencing system. You just build a
presentation in ActivePresenter, publish it to your LAN or Web site and invite others to
come browse it.


Add a telephone conference call or a RealAudio broadcast, and you essentially have
videoconferencing. It's not a bad way to build an impromptu Web page, either. As long as
each member of the audience has a local Internet provider, the entire presentation can be
live without a single long-distance call.


If you're familiar with Software Publishing's superb presentation package, ASAP
WordPower, you'll be right at home in ActivePresenter. Build your presentation within the
program's outline editor, work directly on the presentation slide or import a Microsoft
PowerPoint slide show.


As with ASAP WordPower, you can customize the basic presentation by changing palettes
and styles to get literally millions of different looks. Then ActivePresenter generates
the Hypertext Markup Language code and adds the file to a designated presentation center
on your intranet, posts an HTML file on your LAN or uploads it via File Transfer Protocol
to a Web site.


HTML-savvy users can customize the show even more with extra code or Java applets. You
could add glamour with frames, though in practice these tend to overwhelm the actual
presentation.


ActivePresenter sometimes overdoes its helpfulness. Sometimes you can hardly see your
work for all the help screens. They really aren't necessary because just about everything
is self-explanatory.


The package can integrate with a RealAudio track, or you can arrange for the audience
to view simultaneously while you narrate via conference call. Presentations can be live or
stored for on-demand viewing. A moderator can control page-turning for the live
presentations and speed up, slow down, skip or branch to other slides.


Password-protect the presentations if you wish to keep out unauthorized users.


Audience participants must have a free browser plug-in to view ActivePresenter shows.
Download the plug-ins from Software Publishing's Web site for Internet Explorer or
Netscape Navigator, or they will download automatically when users log into a live
presentation.


On the server side, the software sets up a presentation center complete with virtual
lounge and a list of available presentations. Software Publishing offers the use of a
dedicated Web server for presenters who don't have a site. It is free for the first 30
days.


Elizabeth Vogler is a free-lance computer reviewer in the Washington area.


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