FlashSpring Pro 2.0

Reviewed by: Paul Schneider, Ph.D., April 2007
Published by: CPS Labs
Requires: Windows 98 through XP and PowerPoint 2000 through 2003
MSRP: US$199.00

In our web-enabled world, distribution and easy online consumption of materials is extremely important. One of the most common ways people communicate information, especially in business, is through Microsoft PowerPoint. With PowerPoint you can create presentations that include animation, actions, sounds, pictures, words and notes all with relative ease. But PowerPoint files themselves are not particularly web-friendly and can be quite large. This is where a product such as FlashSpring Pro really saves the day.

I previously reviewed FlashSpring Pro 1.5 and was quite impressed with its thoroughness, ease of use and technical support. Early in 2007, CPS Labs released FlashSpring Pro 2.0. In this review I'll focus on what has been done to enhance the product, so if you haven’t read the previous review you might want to check it out before you read further.

CPS Labs added several features to FlashSpring Pro 2.0, many of which will be well received by most users. The changes revolve around four primary areas: animation conversion, media conversion, image conversion, and enhanced player capabilities. FlashSpring Pro 1.5 did an admirable job of converting many animations, but I did find it lacking with the more advanced animations and transitions. Version 2.0 makes a huge step forward in addressing this area. In the latest release, support for 180+ animation effects and all PowerPoint 2002 and 2003 slide transitions have been added. In my own tests of these new features I was duly impressed. While I didn't try every conceivable animation, I did convert several fairly complex PowerPoint animations along with several transitions and was pleased to see every one of them play successfully. All in all I had only two minor quibbles


The first problem occurred with some very complex animations. The animations played exactly the same, but they actually ran a bit slower than the native PowerPoint format. That being said, these were quite complex combinations of animations. The second problem was related to adding slide transitions and then converting the slides into individual Flash files. When this was done, the visual part of the transition was fairly accurate and the audio was right on target. However, the problem occurred when you used a different transition for a subsequent slide. When you choose individual Flash files for your output, the first transition in the sequence isn't replaced with subsequent transition selections. While this is a problem, it only occurs when you chose single Flash files with no player. It should also be noted that CPS Labs has reviewed this problem and will be fixing it in a maintenance release.

While the advanced animation conversion capabilities will certainly win over some PowerPoint users, it is the media improvements that most of my clients will like. The biggest change in the audio department is the ability to use PowerPoint’s own narration feature to record audio and then retain the narration in the converted Flash files. This is especially nice for less technically inclined users because adding narration within PowerPoint is easier than utilizing an outside program to create the necessary audio files.

While audio does a terrific job of communicating your message, sometimes it’s really video that you want. With video support in FlashSpring Pro 2.0 you can take advantage of PowerPoint’s ability to add video and be assured that clips will be retained in your converted presentation. Both of these features worked extremely well for me. With the narration option, the only adjustment in my recordings I needed to make was to ensure I left a little bit of silence at the end of each slide, as FlashSpring cuts the audio quite close when converting the presentation into individual Flash files.

The video conversion also worked beautifully, but be forewarned that the video files might actually increase in size from the original (unlike the PowerPoint slides which invariable decrease dramatically). In one case my WMV file almost tripled in size when using the default compression options. That being said, FlashSpring does enable you to make your own adjustments to video compression and I suggest you explore these options on your own.

Improvements continue in the area of image conversion. The primary change is with vector representation. To put it simply, vector graphics are one of the primary reasons Flash files are so small. In version 2.0 FlashSpring Pro has been optimized for PowerPoint 2002 and 2003 files so that all standard PowerPoint shapes are now represented via vector technology. The end result is that when PowerPoint shapes are used you retain high quality image and get a very small file size. The second improvement is the support for images as list bullets. Although I had not used customized images for bullets in the past, this can be a key component to styling a presentation. Suffice it to say that if you're using them, FlashSpring will convert them perfectly. Both of these new features performed extremely well.

The last area of improvement is the player technology. In v1.5 the full player was fairly basic and you had little control over the look and feel. In v2.0 you have new options which include player customizations, converting slides into individual Flash files or a single large Flash file, and combining any of these options. Best of all, each of these output options looks great. The customizable player allows you to include thumbnail view, outline view, slide notes and presenter information, or variations of these options. You can also adjust the hue, which is basically color shade and the color saturation or lightness. The presenter option lets you add a presenter photo and personal information such as a bio, email or web site.

What I liked best about all of these options was the flexibility and ability to combine them in different ways. However, there were a few downsides I did notice. While customizing the color of the Flash player was quite easy, the controls and naming of them probably make more sense to those who are familiar with graphic design. Personally I would like to have seen something more straightforward like a color picker with a couple options for lightness or contrast. I was also surprised to find that the published Flash version of the presenter web address and email address were not clickable and would not activate or launch their respective targets. This seems like an obvious need which could be addressed in a maintenance release.

FlashSpring Pro 2.0 makes a strong move forward, adding key functionality and improved conversion support in the areas of animation, sound, movies and images. While there were some minor shortcomings in some of these new features, the overall leap forward is quite strong. I was also pleased to find that CPS Labs' excellent technical support remains stellar. Helpful, timely responses to queries and problems can make all the difference when using software. FlashSpring Pro 2.0 is becoming a product to beat in the area of high quality PowerPoint to Flash conversion technology. Highly recommended.

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