eZediaMX 3.06, by eZedia, Inc
Posted: 14-Apr-2003

2.5 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: eZedia Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Robert Hanno Class: MULTIMEDIA

Description
eZediaMX is a cross-platform multimedia authoring environment that incorporates graphics, text, sounds, movies (including virtual reality), and animation to create presentations, lessons and other communications for business, education or the home. Both the eZediaMX application and the player run on Macintosh OS 9.2/OS X 10.1.3 and Windows 98/Me/2000/XP machines with the OpenGL, JRE and QuickTime requirements.

Price: Single - $169 US/Canadian.


Requirements

  • Power Macintosh, G3/500 (350 in Release Notes)
  • 128MB RAM
  • 380Mb free disk space (all manuals, samples and tutorials)
  • MacOS X 10.1.3 or higher
  • OpenGL 1.1 or later
  • Macintosh Runtime for Java (MRJ) 2.2.4 or later
  • QuickTime 5.0 or later, with QuickTime for Java
  • Adobe Acrobat for reading the reference manual and tutorials.

Review Machine

  • B&W G3, 350mHz, 896 MB of memory
  • Mac OS 10.2.4


Review
eZediaMX 3.06 is an authoring environment allowing the creation of multimedia presentations using graphics, movies, text, sounds and animation. The drag and drop interface and lack of scripting enables a wide range of users --- from computer-savvy gradeschoolers (with their teachers) through business professionals --- the ability to easily create complex interfaces for academic and business usage.

eZediaMX installs from a CD or download, occupying 380 Mb of disc space. The install includes the application, the eZediaMX player, resources, sample applications, a dozen tutorials and a 300+ page manual (PDF) and a host of tutorials (also PDF) and sample presentations.

The application environment consists of a desktop with a pallette of 17 objects: Movie, Record, Graphic, Shape, Text, Link, Goto, Button, Control, Container, Branch, Menu, MultiChoice, Path, Placeholder, Reporter and SpeakMe.


eZedia Toolbar

A document is initiated by creating a Frame which may contain any of these objects. The frame is sizeable through a dialog or by dragging. The frame size may also be locked and a setting allows the viewer to use a mouse click to advance to the next frame in documents which have no other navigation method. Guides (vertical and horizontal lines) may be set up on the frames to maintain formatting throughout a project. A configurable grid may also be over- or underlayed on the frame. Navigational controls are defaulted to show at the bottom of the workspace. These also contain a button which allows for preview of the frame in the eZedia player

While only one frame may be viewed at a time, choosing View->Show Thumbnails creates a dialog box of thumbnails for the frames in a project and these may be used as navigation devices while working on the document. More than one document may be open in the workspace at a time. Minimized documents appear at the bottom of the workspace. The Object Timer window may also be opened to view all of the eZediaMX objects which may be activated by a timer. Start and stop times may be set here by dragging the object's time bar or entering the time in a dialog box. The maximum length of time is nine minutes and the minimum is 1/60th of a second. Rearrangement (layer) of objects may also be accomplished here. A number of Object Wells --- library windows containing graphic, movie and other support files --- can be added on the eZedia work space and these objects may be dragged onto the frame. A number of sample wells (.wel files) are included and others may be created as needed.

New documents are saved as .zoi files which open in the eZediaMX player by default. These may be shared with others by creating a folder containing the .zoi file and an optional sub-folder named Support Files containing the graphics, movies and other files used in the project. These support files may be pulled in as needed or the folder may be set up beforehand. The Preview and Preview Frame process automatically saves the current document. The Mac OS X eZediaMX Player download is 1.8Mb. Player versions are also available for OS 9.2 and Windows 98/Me/2000/XP (846Kb).

Object information boxes allow for visibility, color, file, action and other attributes. Text may be saved as a graphic (helpful if a font is used that might not be on destination computers.) An Alignment Specifications dialog box allows a view of object rearrangement choices. Objects may be vertically or horizontally aligned or may be distributed in either direction. There is one level of undo/redo.

Movies may be imported as object or frames. A large number of formats are supported (AIFF, Audio CD, Flash, MIDI, MP3, QuickTime and others). Conversion of some files is automatic when added to the document. Non-destructive editing of movies allows the use of an existing movie file for viewing in an alternate order or with interruption. Recorder Objects allow input from the microphone. Graphic Objects support another set of image formats (Windows Bitmap, GIF, JPEG, Photoshop, PNG and others). Color and graphic opacity properties as well as draggability and roll-over effect may be set. Shape Objects can be ellipses, rectangles or polygons with line and fill properties. The Text Object consists of text with color, font, style and size properties. The Button Object provides for user interaction. The Control Object allows the user to manipulate a movie. The Link Object ties the other objects together and provides a further bit of animation. The GoTo object sets up a hyperlink to other eZediaMX documents, data files, or other applications.

The Container Object allows the display of date, time, timecodes, frames, etc. or the user input of text. The Branch Object allows the input linked from another object (timecode or text input from the Container, menu item selection from the Menu Object and choices from the MultiChoice Object via the Container) to then be linked elsewhere. The Menu Object allows the creation of simple single-level menus. The last Logic Object, MultiChoice, allows for single (radio buttons) and multiple (check boxes) correct answers to questions.

Animator Mode allows for easy (but simple) animations effects. Objects may be dragged and resized, text may be changed in Text Objects, and keyboard shortcuts may be used while in this mode. A new frame is created for each movement. The Path object allows for animation by linking another object to the (visible or invisible) path and setting the path to loop or single step and adjusting the delay. Paths may also be created from a file of text coordinates.

Thumb Print allows the frames in a document to be printed at a selected frame/page rate and optionally with space for notes.

The following screen print shows a single frame application with one image file, five sound files, two text objects, a button object, a number of shape objects, and six paths with links, branches and containers. While this might have been performed on multiple frames and could be a poster child for a bit of planning, it does show that complex interaction may be obtained with this application.


eZedia document frame

A decent amount of sample files and tutorials are provided to assist the new user. Reference manuals are well-written.The eZediaForum is populated by helpful employees and enthusiasts who quickly answer most inquiries (though not posted from Safari due to a bug) or provide helpful advice. While it was relatively easy to create simple slideshows and other presentations, a full exercise of the features proved this software in need of another version of bug-fixes and enhancements.

Major problems encountered included the complete disappearance of a lengthy document while running a preview when the player "unexpectedly quit" and somehow affected the underlying application. eZedia saw the file as now empty though it appeared just fine. Closing that document (a mistake in retrospect) left no evidence of the file on my drives. The GoTo Object failed to start an application for GIF, JPEG or PDF. The Choose Effect for objects failure is caused by a QuickTime bug. Crashes or shutdowns of the eZediaMX application itself occurred only three times during my review.

Minor problems included the failure of the SpeakMe Object, the failure of the Reporter Object (this makes its use in quizzes somewhat less than ideal), and the failure of the Annotate movie feature.

Interface anomalies include the close window button on the workspace causing the application to close, many of the dialog boxes having a decidedly Classic look, and resizing the workspace is limited by the toolbar width. The eZediaMX Player window lacks the usual close/minimize/maximize buttons.

Needed enhancements include more than one level of undo, rulers on the frame, View menu tracking of open documents, the ability to zoom and Thumb Print dialog box closure after printing. Animator Mode should not require the setting of timeouts and a "Go to frame" or use of the mouse click.

The curious discovery with ease of use is that many behaviors which seem simple in a more complex authoring application become complex in this application. An example of this is contained in the document above where an attempt is made to hide the objects upon restart which requires a masking object to be situated over the final location of the path traverser.

A 15-day
demo version of eZediaMX is available from the eZedia website.

Summary
While this software appeared to have a great deal of promise as a successor to HyperCard and as a tool for educators, its non-working features and bugginess relegate it to second string. As a tool for elementary students, its ease of use does lend it merit and a determined teacher might find this an acceptable application for multimedia reports and even for on-line quizzes. It is cross-platform, although eZedia player files created on the Macintosh did not perform as well on a Windows machine. Any attempts to move beyond the basic feature set would belie its advertised facility. The requirement for a player download is also a detriment. In my experience, I found that
eZediaMX is a non-standard and under-performing tool, and I cannot recommend this tool in its current version.

Pros:

  • Ease of use
  • Many objects and behaviors provided
  • Good reference manuals and tutorials

Cons:

  • Interface anomalies
  • Buggy
  • Missing features
  • Requires player download


Overall Rating:

2 1/2 out of 5 Mice