Authoring Applications

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					               International Scientific Conference Computer Science’2008



    Comparative Analysis of Authoring Tools for Multimedia
                 Applications Development

                             Gospodin Jelev, Yoana Minkova 
                                TU-Sofia, NBU, Sofia, Bulgaria



    Abstract: The article presents a comparative analysis of the most often applicable and pro-
fessional authoring tools for multimedia applications development: ToolBook Instructor, Director
and Authorware. Advantages, limitations, problems during the design, development and delivery
of multimedia educational applications are evaluated.
    Keywords: E-learning, multimedia authoring tools.


1. INTRODUCTION
    The development of multimedia applications of great importance requires use of
professional software, so called authoring tools. Such tools are Toolbook Instructor,
Macromedia Authorware, Director, which are used for elaboration of games, encyclo-
paedias, touristic guides, marketing multimedia inquiries, educational applications etc.
In education through multimedia systems variety advantages are attained compared
with the traditional educational methods:
    • New information could be added fast and easy;
    • The developed educational applications could be used for self-education, self-
    control and self-assessment of the acquired knowledge;
    • The teacher (and learners, as well) could evaluate the quality of mastering the
    educational material and to manage it to a certain extent (e.g. to change the teach-
    ing tempo).
    Authoring tools provide integrated environment for designing an application, com-
posed of multimedia components. These components are organized as a whole. The
main functions of authoring tools are:
    • Import – text, graphics, images, sound, video and charts;
    • Create – text, images, design, navigational tools;
    • Integrate – in terms of sequence, duration, links and scripts;
    • Delivery – as an executable file or through plug-in.
    Each multimedia project has its specific purposes and target audience. According to
the preliminarily defined project’s aims and functions, the author must decide which au-
thoring tool to select in order to be able to realize his conception more effectively.
    The present article aims to compare the authoring tools Toolbook Instructor, Direc-
tor and Authorware, in order to help the author (teacher) in taking the decision when
choosing the necessary software.

2. MAIN CONCEPTS IN MULTIMEDIA AUTHORING TOOLS
   There are different structural and organizational approaches for development, which
could be used for multimedia application development.
   The authoring tools fall into one of the following categories, based on using:
   • Slide, page or frame;
   • Icons;

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             International Scientific Conference Computer Science’2008



    •   Timeline model;
    •   Object-oriented model;
    •   Script languages;
    •   Combination of above mentioned categories.

 2.1. ToolBook Instructor
     Toolbook Instructor is an authoring tool, based on page. It combines the standard
graphical Windows interface and software environment for development of applications,
called “books”. They for their part are divided into objects, called “pages”. On each page
different objects, such as buttons, graphics, text fields, are placed. Each page could be
seen separately as a part of a book and it is tied together with the rest ones in an organ-
ized sequence. But in contrast to a printed book, the user could pass through different
parts of the book and to call pages from other books as well.

 2.2. Macromedia Authorware
    Authorware applies a development model, based on icons (Fig.1). It uses objects,
called icons, which are bind to the multimedia components. Icons contain the contents
of the application. Different types of icons contain different types of objects, such as
graphics, text, sound, digital movies, or a set of instructions. The arrangement of icons
forms the logic of the application, which is organized and presented as a flowline. Thus
the structure and navigation in the multimedia application is easily visualised. The
graphical visualisation of the multimedia application’s algorithm is very important for the au-
thors of educational software, a tool that unfortunately could be found only in Authorware.




                                       Fig. 1: Icon model.

 2.3. Director
    Director uses a development model, based on timeline (Fig. 2). It operates under a
movie metaphor. The Director movie, just like in a movie production, is the end aim of
the author – a complete multimedia application, ready for exploitation by the end user.
The stage is the physical and logical scene where the movie action takes place. In Di-
rector’s interface the stage is the working window, where the multimedia elements are
disposed at their exact position. Just as in a movie or theatre production the director (or
the author of the application) needs actors for the performance – in Director these are
multimedia elements. They appear in a particular moment at the timeline, arranged ver-
tically (frames) and horizontally (channels) for different media. On the timeline the time
is presented at x axis and channels – at y axis. The developer could move objects to
the left or to the right, in order to change the information sequence, to prolong or
shorten the duration.



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                                             Fig. 2: Timeline model.


3. COMPARATIVE ANALYSES OF AUTHORING TOOLS FUNCTIONALITY
    Functionality features can be listed in the following groups [1]:

 3.1. Presentation of different media types
    Two of the main functions of each authoring tool are creating and import of different
types of media.[2] All three authoring tools provide possibilities for creating and format-
ting text and basic geometric primitives. In Director there are tools for creating bitmaps
and vector shapes. All three authoring tools could manage external files (Tab. 1).
Tab. 1: Support of different media types.
Supported                             ToolBook                               Director                    Authorware
file formats
Text                                     txt, rtf                      txt, rtf, HTML                          txt, rtf
Graphics           bmp, dip, rle, wmf, gif, tif,    bmp, gif, jpeg, xResLRG, psd,           wmf, pict, gif, jpg, png,
                jpg, pcx, tga, cdr, cgm, drw,             png, tiff, pict, targa, pics     psd, tga, tiff, emf, bmp,
                        drf, dxf, eps, photo cd                                                            xResLRG
Sound            wav, mid, rmi, aif, cd audio        aiff, wav, mp3, swa, au, wma        aiff, mp3, pcm, swa, vox,
                                                                                                                  wav
Video                          avi, mov, mpeg                    avi, mov, wmv, rm                avi, mov, mpeg,
                                                                                                  asf,asx,wmv,ivf;
Animation                          flc, fli, mmm      gif, shockwave flash, shock-       bmp sequence; flc/fli, cel,
                                                                         wave 3D                              dir, dxr


 3.2. Presentation of test questions and their assessment
     Both Authorware and ТoolBook provide possibilities for constructing tests in the ap-
plication by using so called question objects. In both products the common test ques-
tions are available: True-False, Multiple choice (with one or more correct answers), Fill
in the blank, Drag and Drop objects (dragging a graphical object dropping it on a prede-
fined “target area”).
     Comparing with Authorware, ToolBook provides greater variety of test questions [2],
e.g.: “Order text” - allows author to define an ordered list of words or phrases as the
correct response to a question and test the user's ability to reconstruct the list in proper
order; “Select text” - allows the user to highlight text to choose an answer; “Match Item”
and “Definable Match Item” - allow the user to drag an arrow from an answer field to an
object on the page, such as a graphic; “Slider” - allows the user to drag the position in-
dicator on a slider to answer a question; “Rating” – provides answer choices based on a
graduated scale of agreement.


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              International Scientific Conference Computer Science’2008



    Specific test questions in Authorware are “Hot Object” – the answers are presented
by “hot graphical objects”, which could be clicked by the user; “Hot Spot” – the answer
is a predefined hidden area, a part of whole image.
    In the settings of these objects the following properties could be set:
    • maximum number of tries allowed with a question;
    • the maximum time allowed for the user to answer a question;
    • score weight of selected answers;
    • specifying if the question is to be scored;
    • assigning a feedback to the user, through sending messages about the answer
    (correct/wrong), the user’s score etc.
    In both authoring tools the test results could be stored in a text (log) file or in AICC
compatible learning management system (LMS). But in Authorware there is additional
possibility – the information to be stored in an ODBC database. In ToolBook it is possi-
ble great number of log files to be analysed automatically and simultaneously, by using
the tool LogReader. The result is statistical information about the tests done.
    In Director there aren’t pre-prepared question objects. When there is a need for
constructing tests, they have to be created through the built-in programming language –
Lingo.

 3.3. Programming
    Both ToolBook and Director have their own object-oriented script language (Tab. 2),
called respectively OpenScript and Lingo. Both languages are event driven. E.g. when
the user presses the mouse button – this is an event. ToolBook sends a message to the
target, which is the object directly affected by the event. This message is caught by a
handler that executes predefined statements, i.e. what to happen after the mouse but-
ton is clicked. It is possible one and the same handler to be used by more than one ob-
ject.
    In contrast to Director and ToolBook, Authorware doesn’t have its own programming
language. Instead it uses system functions and variables. Each function performs a
specific task, e.g. scoring test answers, tracking the user’s progress, setting the pause
duration etc.
    A significant feature of Director and Authorware is their possibility to interpret
JavaScript code. In ToolBook it is possible JavaScript functions to be written and exe-
cuted, but only in an application, which will be distributed over a network.
Tab. 2: Programming possibilities.
                         ToolBook / OpenScript                 Director и / Lingo                      Authorware
 Variables                         local or global                local or global       system, which could be
                                                                                           global or specific to a
                                                                                                  particular icon
 Data types                    int, long, real, word,     Integer, float, boolean,       Numerical, Character,
                            dword, string, logical,                            list        Logical, List, Symbol,
                                  point, stack, date                                                 Rect, Pointer
 Operators                        arithmetic, logical          arithmetic, logical     arithmetic, logical string,
                           string, assignment, bit,           string, assignment                       assignment
 Conditional branching                 if / then / else             if / then / else                if / then / else
 Multi-way branching      conditions / when / else                             case               if /else / else if
 Loops with known                                  step                 repeat with                     repeat with
 number of repetitions
 Loops with unknown                            while                 repeat while                    repeat while
 number of repetitions                      do / until


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 Arrays                     one- and multidimen-          one- and multidimen-            one- and multidimen-
                             sional arrays, which       sional arrays, available                  sional arrays
                            could be fixed-size or              only when using
                                          dynamic                      JavaScript
 Functions                  arithmetic, string, file,   Director provides a set                system functions
                            control of multimedia,      of methods: Arithmetic,
                              devices, FTP, DLL.           string, file, control of
                                                           multimedia, devices


 3.4. Interfacing other programs
    As no authoring tool will provide all the functionality required, at least not at an ap-
propriate speed, it is necessary to be able to call other executables to perform special
functions such as animation, data file analysis, or control special devices. All three au-
thoring tools provide possibilities for extending their functionality (Tab. 3) by using Xtras,
MCI, custom controls, and database connectivity. Custom controls are objects, devel-
oped by third party in order to implement specific tasks. They are built in the applica-
tions and become part of them.
Tab. 3: Interfacing other programs.
                                        ToolBook                          Director                   Authorware
 Custom controls           ActiveX, VBX controls                          ActiveX                        ActiveX
 Plug-ins                  Neuron – for distribut-       Xtras (for creating new        Xtras (for manipulating
                           ing ToolBook applica-          objects in user mode;       3D objects in user mode;
                            tion over the Internet      for transition effects; for    for transition effects; for
                                                         Shockwave Audio etc.)           converting in different
                                                                                                    formats etc.)
 Media Control Inter-      Functions for referring       Method for controlling          Functions for referring
 face (MCI)                   MCI commands for          multimedia peripherals.              MCI commands for
                           access and controlling                                       access and controlling
                                      multimedia                                       multimedia peripherals.
                                     peripherals.
 Data base                  dBase, Paradox, As-           There isn’t support of                    ODBC, SQL
                              pen Learning Man-         data bases but it’s pos-
                                agement System              sible if using Xtras.


 3.5. Packaging and distribution of multimedia application
    The final stage in development of a multimedia application involves its preparation
for distribution. That’s why it is necessary to think carefully in advance on what kind of
bearer it will be distributed and which will be the distribution method, because these
considerations impose some limitations. These limitations are: limitations towards the
audience and available peripherals, limitations regarding file size and quality of used
multimedia components etc.
    All three authoring tools provide possibility for distributing the application as execu-
table file and as an application, which will be delivered via Internet (Tab. 4). For facilitat-
ing the preparation of the final product, authoring tools provide tools which package the
multimedia project together with additional files, bounded to it.

Tab. 4: Packaging and distribution of a multimedia application.
                                         ToolBook                    Director                      Authorware
Tool for packaging ap-              AutoPackager             Publish Settings                        Package
plications for CD-ROM
Tool for packaging ap-             Web Specialist            Publish Settings                  Web Packager


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plications for Internet
Application for CD-               Executable file, ac-    Executable file, called     Executable file, with /
ROM                          companied by runtime        projector. All audio and    without runtime. All au-
                             files, needed for view-        video files are exter-     dio, video files, DLLs
                                   ing the application               nally stored.        could be internally
                                without ToolBook in-                                                   stored.
                            stalled on the user PC.
                           All audio and video files
                               are externally stored.
Application for Internet   - as DHTML with limited         As a Shockwave file,        As an Authorware ap-
                                functionality (scripts   which could be open in        plication, which could
                              aren’t executed, addi-     a browser with the help       be open in a browser
                                       tional windows        of the plugin Adobe          with the help of the
                                  couldn’t be shown)         Shockwave Player.       plugin Authorware Web
                                - as native ToolBook                                                  Player.
                                    application, which
                                   could be open in a
                              browser with the help
                               of the plugin Neuron.


4. CONCLUSION
    Toolbook provides the best support for producing basic resources containing text
and still graphics with basic navigation options. Director and Authorware are the next
best, with Director providing good support for the presentation of information and Au-
thorware for the provision of navigation.
    Toolbook and Director provide the best capabilities in the use of additional multime-
dia elements. Toolbook and Authorware provide good support in the use of video and
MCI control. Director provides particularly good support for using animations, videos
and transition effects.
    Toolbook provides the best capabilities for the provision of questions with feedback,
allowing fast and easy creation of tests and scoring of responses without scripting.
    Authorware is the only other tool to provide any support for questions with feedback,
without requiring scripting. It does not, however, provide as much variety of test ques-
tions as Toolbook. The generation of feedback for given learner responses is also not
quite as easy in Authorware as it is in Toolbook, and the degree of support for scoring
and for control over the number of attempts allowed is also not quite as good.
    Director allows questions with feedback to be created, but extensive scripting or
programming is required.


5. REFERENCES
    [1] Dalgarno, B. (1998). Tools for Authoring Constructivist Computer Assisted Learn-
        ing Resources: A Review. In Flexibility, Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Con-
        ference of the Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education.
        Wollongong: University of Wollongong.
    [2] Jelev, G., Dimitrov L. - Multimedia technologies, - Multimedia with Toolbook, vol.
        I and II, NBU, published by Lidik, Sofia, 2001;




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