SWF 'n Slide v1.104

Reviewed by: Mark Goldstein, September 2004, send e-mail
Published by: Vertical Moon Software, go to the web site
Requires: Windows - Pentium processor-based PC or compatible computer, Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, 128MB RAM, 50MB of available hard disk space, Apple QuickTime 4.0 or higher, Macromedia Flash Player 5 or higher (free); Mac - Power PC 400MHz G3 or faster, OS 9.x, OS X or later, 128MB RAM, 50MB of available hard disk space, Apple CarbonLib 1.6 extension (OS 9.x), Apple QuickTime 4.0 or higher
MSRP: $39.95 (as of August 2004)

What's the most fun you can have with your digital photos on a rainy day? How about loading selections into SWF 'n Slide, applying special effects, sound, text and a bit of editing, then automatically exporting or publishing the whole thing in half a dozen different formats, including a couple that can be put up on your personal web page? Think not? Think again. That's what SWF 'n Slide does and that's a brief description of one of the easiest and most useful slide show creators available.

SWF 'n Slide (pronounced Swiff & Slide?) is a small program we've had sitting around our office for quite a while now - several months actually. Why I didn't review it before now is anyone's guess, but I'm glad we did because the program is a nice little surprise. The SWF in the program's name denotes the Macromedia Flash movie file format, and creating Flash movies out of slide shows is what SWF 'n Slide does best. However, it's also capable of publishing or exporting slide shows as HTML documents, MOV files for playback in QuickTime, SCR files for use as Windows screen savers, and two different types of EXE files (a Windows Projector executable and a screen saver installer - very handy). Windows Projector files can be installed under almost any newer version of Windows - it's just another self-contained media format.

Installing and using SWF 'n Slide is straightforward. There are no special configuration settings required, the Flash program is not required (your SWF creations will play perfectly in any recent version of Internet Explorer and any other browser which incorporates free Flash plug-ins), and the software is almost totally usable via point & click with a mouse. I installed and used SWF 'n Slide on a basic home computer: Celeron 1.7GHz with 512MB RAM, ATI Radeon 9000 video card and not much else. I didn't do any preparation of the digital photos used to create the slide shows, relying instead only on the built-in controls provided by SWF 'n Slide. I selected 95 photos from a huge general interest collection in my personal archives and used the selections to create four different slide shows including one really boring version which incorporated all 95 photos (I just wanted to see whether or not SWF 'n Slide would choke on a big number—it didn't, although it sure did slow down some—and I hasten to point out that creating real slide shows of that size is idiotic in the first place). The slide show I created for public consumption consisted of 25 photos taken on my last vacation (at Lake of the Woods and on Manitoulin Island) and set to a pair of Nora Jones songs: Sunrise and Humble Me, both from her album Feels Like Home. I dumped the completed SWF into Macromedia's Dreamweaver web page software, updated my personal web page, then sent e-mail containing the URL to the family. I received a couple of minor complaints over the size of the slide show, but since Flash is a streaming format it was only the 56K modem users still stuck with dial-up Internet connections who complained. Vertical Moon designs and sells a number of related programs and we're dying to try out the company's Text-Osterone utility to enhance the text in our slide shows.

Cons: Using the phrase "new slide" instead of "get image/photo" in the Edit menu is mildly confusing when you start adding photos to create a new slide show (some users may wonder how they can load a slide before actually creating one). Even though I often deride the overuse of special effects, they have their place (kids slide shows, marketing presentations, etc.), so a few more beyond the six provided would be welcome. The preview window does not always display the whole slide. The only major gripe I have is that the display duration control is located on the image tab of the configuration dialog rather than on the FX tab alongside the transition and effects duration controls, meaning you have to switch back and forth between tabs to make those adjustments. This is all very light criticism and should not detract from any decision to use SWF 'n Slide.

Pros: Ridiculously easy to use. You can apply any current selection (effect, transition or music) to one slide, all slides or a selected group of slides. Apply a sound or audio file to one slide or select an song (MP3, WAV, etc.) to run under the entire slide show. There's even basic audio file editor to adjust the length of clips. Large selection of transitions all of which can use custom duration settings. Web integration via the ability to embed URLs in any slides in the show. Full preview window which shows each slide along with all the effects, text, transitions and audio. Twenty four image editing controls for everything from brightness & contrast to blurs, swirls, sharpens and painterly effects, as well as a handy crop control for getting rid of unwanted portions. Text layout controls (top, bottom, left, center, upper left, lower left, etc., etc.) are well thought out and work as you'd expect. Best of all, and unlike many other low cost slide show creators, SWF 'n Slide contains an absolutely solid set of file filters. Whether you're grabbing MP3, WAV, JPEG, TIFF or any other compatible files, the program does not complain about encoders or format versions or anything else. It just loads your selections and lets you quickly put them to creative use. Publishes six output formats (SWF, HTML, SCR, SCR/EXE, PRJ/EXE and MOV individually or all at once if you choose). With very little effort I was able to create an appealing, well laid out slide show in under an hour. Nice program. Highly recommended.

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