• Price When Reviewed: 255 . 199.95 . 149.95

  • Pros: Create or script brand-free presentations with flexible and varied output options. Wizards ensure simple workflow, but you can take a more in-depth approach.

  • Cons: It’s Windows only, and doesn’t support PSD file import. Of limited use outside the corporate and educational markets, and the download of proprietary iO plug-in required for full Web publications.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 6 out of 10We rate this 6 out of 10We rate this 6 out of 10We rate this 6 out of 10We rate this 6 out of 10 We rate this 6 out of 10

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Although billed with the creative tag of an interactive multimedia tool, Opus Pro 04 is clearly designed with the business user in mind. While this may not be everyone’s cup of Java, the corporate space is obviously where the money is, so a tool that addresses this market directly is definitely worth a look. The company promotes the use of Opus Pro as a tool for creating educational CD-ROMs and Web pages as training aids for sales staff, and for that purpose it certainly makes the grade.

Presentations are designed within a page metaphor, and are not output but published. This gives the application something of a PowerPoint feel, rather than say, Director. Furthermore, the elements that make up the publication are not actors or characters but Objects; pages are organized into Chapters, and instead of a library there is a Resource Manager. The term Object covers every element –­­ text input boxes, graphic boxes, buttons and even the pages themselves.

As well as aiding in scripting custom applications (Opus has a JavaScript-compatible language), this allows you to assign everything properties and you can assign actions to control behaviour. An Actions Organizer lists the triggers (mouse over, for example), and actions that you have assigned to objects.

Several wizards are on hand to guide users through the standard multimedia-authoring processes. For example, the Animation Wizard allows you to select an object on a page and then apply effects.

You can make objects bounce around the screen, follow a selected path, fade, rotate, and scale in various ways, or you can apply a number of animated special effects. Timing of objects is obviously a key requirement, so to set objects to appear and behave on cue, there are options such as Initially Hidden, Show After and the Synchronize to Start trigger. You can add a Timeline to view and control your object behaviours in a more traditional manner, then preview the publication on a page or project basis.

Opus Pro 04 is designed with the new user in mind. When you come to choose a new publication type, a Startup Wizard is ready to guide you through the process. There are three different paths to follow. You can create a new blank publication, or create a new publication from a template, while the third option involves opening an existing publication.

Choosing one of the options for a new publication presents a list of templates. The Opus Professional option creates publications that will only work in Opus Pro, DirectX Exclusive is the option to create publications that use Direct X FullScreen Exclusive Mode with hardware acceleration, while Opus Flex creates SWF-based publications for use with Flash.

With the DirectX Exclusive option, you are given further choices by the Wizard – the genre of presentation, the style for the page, and some options concerning how the resulting publication is displayed on the screen. You can set it to scale to the existing screen resolution, temporarily change the resolution to match the publication size, or keep the original size and centre the publication on the screen, surrounded by an author-defined background. This is smart thinking on the part of Digital Workshop, adding to the user-friendly feel of this package.

If, once the wizard has been concluded, you are told that resources are missing from the publication, the resource manager is initiated to find them. Digit’s problem was a missing company logo, which seemed a little strange since this was the first time the application had been used. This may just be a bug occuring in the standalone implementation of the the product – Opus Pro is oriented towards working with a database of ready resources.

Floppy disk-friendly

In common with the other authoring environments on the market, Opus Pro does allow you a choice of output options that are all royalty- and licence free – there is no requirement to brand the publication with a “Made with Opus Pro” logo.

When saving a project, it gives you the option to consolidate resources, copying any external object files into the presentation resources folder. A Distribution Wizard creates a standard Windows Setup program so that users can install a published version of the project on their machine.

This creates an EXE file that can be burnt to a CD using the integrated CD-R Wizard in Opus, and there is an option to split the installer into floppy-sized chunks. Handily, the wizard allows any material on the PC to be consolidated as an installer in this way. Users could for example, install the required project resources from a CD with one click.

The iO Web plug-in allows you to view Opus Web publications over the Internet or intranets – streamed to appear with no change in look or functionality. The 1.3MB iO Web plug-in can be downloaded free, but as lesser known plug-ins are not welcomed by all users, the ubiquitous Flash file route might be more flexible for your workflow needs.

Michael Burns