Powerbullet

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Powerbullet can create animated flash presentations containing text, graphics, and sound.

It features a drag and drop interface and a host of pre-packaged animation and transition effects. Results can be viewed in a browser or exported into a self-running executable playable on any computer.

The learning curve: spend some time experimenting with this software and you’ll figure out how to do most of the things you are interested in in very short order. Powerbullet has a very different feel to it from MS Powerpoint, though (using Powerbullet feels somewhat like working with a word processor).

The user interface: there are a number of toolbars with buttons stacked on top of the page; however, you can right click on an object to instantly edit its properties, set animation effects, create an HTML link, or even edit an object’s HTML. This makes interacting with objects extremely easy, and really makes a world of difference in the user-friendliness department.
If I could change anything I would give this program a bit of a makover in terms of how the interface looks. For being essentially a design software it needs to be a little bit more sleek-looking, in my opinion.

Creating a presentation: in puttting a presentation together you have to be mindful and manage the timing of events; for example, if you want a certain bulleted text to appear after a bunch of graphics have settled on-screen, you will have to look at the time offset from the beginning for the first event (the graphics), and make sure to set the subsequent event (bulleted text) to start after the first one has run its duration. This is mostly a matter of trying things out and tweaking them until they work, but the program does not provide any bird’s-eye view of the events across a timeline that would make this process much easier.

Animations: One of the Powerbullet’s strengths is the range of pre-built animations that can be applied to any object (I counted 41, excluding ’none’). For example, you can set your list of bullet points so that it flies in from left hand side or bounce around the screen before settling into their final resting place.

Transitions: there are 4 pre-defined transitions that can be used whenever you exit a slide and enter another one (you can set different transitions for the outgoing and ingoing slides).

Other tools: Powerbullet provides a voice recorder tool and can aquire images from a scanner straight from the application itself.

Wish list (or how this program can be even better): what this program is missing is tools that allow you to manage the project from a macro-level, as follows:

  • It would be great to have a thumbnail view of all created slides that would allow you to drag and drop these to change their order, delete them or duplicate them, etc. (Similar to what exists in MS Powerpoint).
  • An event timeline tool that lists all events within a slide and their duration within a graphical representation of overlapping bars or some-such. It would be even cooler if this hypothetical tool would allow you to change the timing (beginning and duration) on the graphical representation itself.
  • My final wish list item: the ability to preview slides within the application rather than having to export to SWF first.

The Verdict: I like this program because (a) its powerful, (b) its free, (c) its fairly easy to come to grips with, and (d) the flash animations are application independent, and can be run as executables on any computer or OS. Powerbullet could be significantly better, but until that happens I can still say that this is competent freeware that, in a pinch, is good enough to get the job done.

Version tested: 1.35

Compatibility: Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP; also requires Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher.

Go to the download page to get the latest version (approx 2.7 megs). Also visit the program home page.