In this final part, we look at tools for special occasions:
There is nothing trivial about creating animations and this is usually a job for specialists. Those who don’t count themselves in this category can still produce quite decent results in PowerPoint, but this will only be of benefit if you are going to deliver your end product in PowerPoint or you are working with an authoring tool that will convert your work – including the animations – into Flash. Specialist animators will almost certainly choose to work with Adobe’s Flash Professional software, which is designed specifically for the job. As the name implies, this outputs to Flash, which means you can use the animations in most authoring tools and embed them directly in web pages.
If video is part of your mix then, at very least, you’ll need the ability to import all your video clips into a project, select the ones you want to use, trim them and place them in sequence. You may also want to add music or a voiceover, superimpose captions, and apply effects or transitions. Luckily, all of this can be accomplished quite easily with low-cost or free tools such as Windows Live Movie Maker or Apple’s iMovie, as well as the budget versions of professional tools such as Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro. Like audio, video is surprisingly easy to work with and it should not take more than an hour or two to become familiar with all the most common operations.
Desktop publishing tools are normally used to lay out high-quality print publications such as brochures, newspapers, magazines, books and reports, but these days you’ll probably want to make this content available online as well as in print, almost certainly in PDF format. If so, although you can get by with standard word processing tools, you will almost always get much more professional-looking results with a specialist desktop publishing package, such as Adobe InDesign, Quark Express or Microsoft Publisher. Where these score over normal word processing packages is the compete flexibility you have over how you lay out text and graphics on each page. Look at a typical magazine and compare it with a typical Word document and you’ll soon see the difference.
We could go on. There are tools for creating cartoon books and for building 3D models; tools for developing games and for capturing screens from software packages. Some tools you will use every day, some just once. But to get started you certainly do not need them all. Kit yourself out with the basics and add to your collection as your skills and your creativity grow over time.
First published in Inside Learning Technologies, January 2012