If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a short demonstration worth? Who knows? There are many instances where being able to show the actual steps to carry out a specific task for an intranet application is far more effective than providing written directions or coaching via the telephone.
Many intranet developers settle for providing written instructions on how to fill out forms or perform certain tasks. They may or may not add screen shots depending on the time available. The time to convert guides and help files into a visual tutorial with animations where the user can see the steps unfold with accompanying audio or written commentary is typically a costly undertaking reserved for only the most important application roll outs or for new product launches on the Internet sites.
Imagine that you could build a short animated tutorial in just a couple of hours. Qarbon has created a tool that is designed to support the rapid development of short tutorials. The program is called ViewletBuilder (www.Qarbon.com/). You can quickly build and create viewlets by capturing the screens, animating cursor and menu actions, and adding on screen notes or audio sound tracks. You can test drive Qarbon by downloading a freeware version of ViewletBuilder2. The viewlets created with this version display a banner advertisement. For bannerless viewlet creation, you must purchase the Professional version ($999 with a 50% discount for accredited schools and universities).
WHAT ARE VIEWLETS?
Viewlets are a method of delivering training content. A viewlet is a short movie that shows step-by-step product demonstrations, presentations, or instructional sessions. Viewlets are self-contained and require no additional software beyond your Web browser to view them.
Qarbon's Viewlets run as Applets in your browser. Anyone who wishes to view an online tutorial requires only a standard Web browser that is Java 1.1-compliant, with the Java settings enabled. Keep in mind that Internet Explorer 6.0 no longer automatically comes bundled with the Java Virtual Machine, so additional steps are required to add it on to the desktop.
Qarbon Viewlets are Unicode compatible, allowing for cross browser and platform compatibility. Users with Macs, PCs, Linux, and Solaris workstations are all able to use Viewlets.
Tutorials or viewlets can be built in a variety of ways and with different tools. Some other tools that are frequently used to develop viewlets are Dreamweaver, PowerPoint, ToolBook2, and Flash.
HOW DO YOU BUILD A VIEWLET?
As a developer using Qarbon ViewletBuilder2, you would start the application and begin by capturing the series of screens/actions that you wish to include in your tutorials. Capturing a screen is easy and requires just a couple of keystrokes. You can capture actions, such as the movement of the cursor to select menu options or typing words you might enter in an online search box. By capturing the screen before and after each action, such as moving the cursor to select a menu option, ViewletBuilder2 will animate the motion. In edit mode, you can easily change the beginning and ending position of the cursor on each frame. Once you have captured the series of screens that you require for your tutorial, you can add voiceovers or on screen notes (in the form of text balloons) to provide the user with additional descriptive information. You can preview or rehearse the show at anytime you wish. When you have finished editing the viewlet, you can save and compile it as a viewlet.
HOW CAN YOU DISTRIBUTE VIEWLETS?
Typically, short tutorials like view-lets are hosted right on your intranet Web server and relevant Web pages have hyperlinks directly to them. In the case of Qarbon Viewlets, they are designed to run over a network bandwidth connection although, with care, they are also viewable over low bandwidth Internet connections. If bandwidth is a major consideration, you'll need to consider the length of the tutorial, size of the screen shots, and perhaps the audio files. …