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Entrepreneur’s Guide to Small Business Software: In-A-Flash Animation Suite

YOUNG MONEY asked Troy Byrd, co-founder of Bryant College’s Global Entrepreneurship Program, to review several software products intended for small business owners. This article is the fourth installment of a four part series featuring such products.

Product: In-A-Flash Animation Suite

Manufacturer: Avanquest (www.avanquestusa.com)

Cost (website orders):

Standard Version – $49.95

Upon inserting Avanquest’s In-A-Flash Animation Suite software program I was prompted with an installation option asking me which of the three items in the suite I wished to install. Included are: In-A-Flash Pro, FlashLAB, and PowerFlash. I chose to install all three.

As In-A-Flash Pro finished installing it prompted me to register by giving my name and email address. I complied and hit enter. After a moment I noticed that the program had crashed, I waited another minute, just to make sure and then I was forced to quit the application. Upon restarting the program it prompted me to recover what was lost in the crash, I selected to do so.

Flash Lab ran through a similar install process, ending with another prompt for me to register and then another to download the expansion pack of flash animations. In order to gain access to the flash animations it was required that I provide a working email address where the link to the downloadable file could be sent. A moment after completing the registration I checked my e-mail and received the link.

The download process was unclear, but I soon realized that one only needed to “un-zip” the contents in order to use the extra flash animations within the program, but I will get to that later. PowerFlash is simply a toolbar extension (another item you can click in the menu) for Microsoft PowerPoint. It allows you to insert flash content created with either of the two flash publishing programs into your PowerPoint slide show. Installation of this extension was carried out seamlessly.

Starting a Project

By default, when one opens In A Flash Pro the program opens up with a project wizard. This wizard gives the user the option to select a project type; the main options include a banner ad, greeting card, photo album, or website intro. Depending on the project type selected the options range from choosing the style from a list of four options, to the type of animation that will be used in the project.

After one moves through these three easy steps one click on “generate” will assemble the project and display it on the right side of the window. It can then be published, either to the Internet, or to your hard drive as a shock wave flash file. An option is also given allowing further modification using the programs full set of options.

After creating a banner for my Web page, I brought my project into the application to further enhance it. Options are given to add audio files, images, graphics, or additional text. Options are also enabled that allow changes to be made to the duration of the banner’s scene changing and the type of motion that will animate it. Changes can be previewed on the side of the project window.

Many of the options given look as if they give you the power to make a fairly impressive display, but changing them all would take too long to make it worthwhile. Options that were particularly helpful were the position options, allowing one to choose where the animation is to be placed on the work area. As for the “special effects,” they were all fairly unprofessional, generating an animation similar to that of a personal Web page created by an 8th grader. After some tweaking, I was able to make an introduction banner of an acceptable caliber, it just took some time adjusting the different settings.

Using FlashLAB

FlashLAB is simply a database of animated flash images. After the install is complete it is required that additional images be downloaded. These two additional libraries of images are what make this program worth having. The libraries include animated flash images of a wide variety of items, from basic background scenes of water to animated office supplies. I cannot really see a place where I would need to have an animated stapler, but perhaps there is someone out there who would find a use for such an item. The program acts as a type of catalog for all these images and displays them to the right of the navigation pane. Using any of the animations in your project or Web page is as simple as inserting the file.

Summary

The In-A-Flash Animation Suite, in my opinion, did not live up to its name. It took nearly a half hour of fooling around with the stripped down wizard to find this out. While I was eventually able to create a fairly high quality banner, it took longer than I would have expected. The installer crashed while I was attempting to register the product; that in itself should be cause for alarm.

Overall, it would be of value to anyone who publishes his or her own website for personal or business use and wishes it to include some basic flash animation. Personally, I would be very hesitant to include many of the animations this program allows one to generate, but that is ultimately left up to personal taste.

Hardware used for this review:

IBM ThinkPad R51

Windows XP Professional

512 Megabytes of RAM

PROS:

  • No knowledge of Flash programming required (which is a major plus, as Flash is fairly challenging to learn)
  • Easy to use
  • Tutorial available to view upon starting the program

CONS:

  • Overly simplified, user cannot stray too far away from the basics
  • Not very intuitive, user must click “apply” after EACH modification to the scene; this is something that should execute automatically; or at least allow the user to change this option to be included as part of an automated process
  • Cumbersome installation process, program crashed while attempting to register with Avanquest’s servers
  • Unpleasing interface (by 2004 standards)
  • Not enough templates in the default wizard
  • Does not render very professional looking results

© 2008, Young Money Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

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