PS: If you organization is looking for someone to create video tutorials or demonstrations, please feel free to email me.
Using the Forms feature in Adobe Acrobat 9 will not only make your organizations form flow more efficient-but can significantly reduce the amount of paper and time that it takes to complete and route forms. If you haven't looked at the Forms feature in Adobe Acrobat 9, I suggest that you do. You will find it very easy to create forms from your existing paper based forms, electronic forms that you may have in Word, or from a Acrobat PDF template. If your existing form is paper based you can scan it into Adobe Acrobat 9 and have Acrobat convert it to a fill in blank form for completing with Acrobat Reader. The process is very quick and within minutes you will have an electronic form ready to be filled in. If you are not familiar with the process you can use the Forms Wizard to walk you through the process for creating your form. Within minutes you will have your form ready to go. Once your form is complete the next decision you need to make is how are you planning to distribute the form? You have several options-you can distribute it on Acrobat.com, as an email, and to an internal server. Using the free Acrobat.com website makes it a cinch to distribute forms and all of the heavy lifting for distributing the forms is done within Adobe Acrobat 9. You can get a free Acrobat.com account and use it to distribute your forms-however, bear in mind that if you are dealing with information of a confidential nature you should consider hosting the form on your internal server. Once the form is distributed you can email it to select individuals or have it available on your website for completing on line with Acrobat Reader 9. The real beauty of using Adobe Acrobat 9 Extended is the ability to use the Track Forms feature to view the Responses. When you initiate this feature Adobe Acrobat 9 will go out to your server or to Acrobat.com and pull in all the completed forms. If you have never used this feature it is a very fast and efficient way to collect your information without the need to print out forms on paper. This can quickly change your entire work flow and help your organization move towards moving forms in a paper-less fashion. Now imagine the cost saving and just how good you will feel that you are doing something good for the environment!. If you want to try it out you can certainly download Acrobat 9 Trial version from the Adobe web site.
To see what it is like to fill out the form, you can complete this Contact Form and send it to me with the Adobe Acrobat Reader. To download the Contact Form click on the Menu in the Thumbnail below and download the form. After filling in the Form just click on the Submit Form button which is located on the top of the Acrobat Reader.
In this post, I will highlight two very exciting features which I know will change the way we think about PDF's (Portable Document Format) and how we use them. On the top of my list is the introduction of portfolio's and the ability to play Flash assets within a PDF which takes this version to a whole new level. Let me start off by talking about the Portfolio feature which I know will make us all rethink how we create and distribute information that we produce. I'm sure that if you are like me, you often get emails with several PDF attachments. When the email is delivered into your inbox you have no idea which one to open first and once they are opened you then have to save them to a folder and organize them in some way so that they are useful to you. Well all of that has changed with the concept of creating a PDF Portfolio with Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended (Portfolio's can be created with the Standard and Pro editions of Acrobat).
Now imagine that you can now take your existing PDF files, SWF files, Word files, Excel documents, and picture files and create one unitary portfolio which stores all of your documents. When you are ready to share your documents via an email attachment there is only one file to attach. While this is certainly an improvement over the way we used to do it, now imagine that you have the ability to craft the portfolio so that it has the look and feel that you hope to achieve for your communication. Once you begin to create your portfolio you can choose a layout, add a welcome and header, select a color scheme, specify file details, and publish the portfolio. I found it very easy to create the look an feel that I wanted and I was able to add my picture to personalize my portfolio. I choose to use the Revolve layout which gave me a sort of cover flow effect that you might find on your iPod. To add the files to my portfolio- it was as simple as dragging them into the portfolio from my desktop where they were stored. You should note that my PDF Portfolio contains several different types of files, just to show you the power of this new feature. I included a Word document, a Captivate SWF movies, and several PDF files. Acrobat allowed me to use the nice blue color schemes from a large palette of colors. One of the really impressive features is the ability to present your documents in the order you desire when the recipient receives them. By creating an Order field within Acrobat, I was able to place a number from 1 to 6 into the field and then sort the documents so that they appear in the order that I want. As you create your PDF Portfolio there are lots of features that you can change to insure that it looks and behaves as you wish. Before publishing your PDF Portfolio there are lots of ways that Acrobat allows you secure your PDF portfolio. Click here to watch how I created a PDF Portfolio in Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended
What really got me excited is the way Adobe Acrobat 9 handles files within the portfolio. You will see if you download my PDF Portfolio that Acrobat will allow you preview your Word and Excel files right within the portfolio. You will also note that I placed a Captivate 3 swf demonstration video within the PDF file that plays right within Adobe Acrobat Reader 9, without the need of any additional players. This feature alone is huge. Imagine being able to great technical and training guides complete with Flash videos embedded right within the PDF. With Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Extended you can easily embed Flash video within your Word and PowerPoint presentations. Once you install Adobe Acrobat 9 Extended you will now have a new Acrobat menu embedded within Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. By simply using the Embed Video drop down you can insert Flash and FLV videos right within your documents that are automatically converted to Flash when you publish your PDF's. This is truly an awesome feature and one that will change the way we think about how we use PDF's for training and distributing information. Remember you will need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader 9 to view the Portfolio.
As part of Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended you also get the added bonus of Adobe Presenter 7 which is an add-in to PowerPoint. I must say a very powerful add-in to say the least. I have highlighted the use of Adobe Presenter in a previous post- so if you missed it here is the link.
BSF: Can you share with us a little bit about your background and how you got started developing the MindManager add-in?
RC: QAvantage is really two consultancies that merged in 2006. The first started development in software lifecycle consulting and specialized in testing services on large projects in the corporate IT space. Since 1997 they had developed and refined a very nice tool for requirements tracking, tracing and coverage. The other was consulting primarily to commercial software development companies and had developed some requirement prioritization and management tools for product managers. It didn’t take long after discovering one another that we concluded that if we combined elements of our respective tools we could fill a rather wide gap in the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) Market, where the offerings are either very big, expensive portfolios of tools, or very focused point tools that don’t cover a wide swath of the lifecycle. So we invested, hunkered down, blended and revamped what we had and then started marketing in earnest this past summer, a product called RTIME 5.0.
RTIME uses a structured database at its core (Microsoft SQL Server), so up until our integration with Mind Manager Pro we had no graphically based requirement development facility. Most SDLC tools and the majority of requirement development point tools don’t have a graphically based front end either, and those that do are really purpose built for just a single facet of requirement development, like Use Case Diagrams, so it’s a common problem. We are very excited to be the first company to offer this, but we do expect others to catch on eventually.
BSF: When did you see first see the fit between Software Requirements Management and using Mind Manager?
RC: We think it was back in 2002 that a couple of us got the first exposure to MM and that was by the COO of a software company who used MM for a whole variety of things, including his quarterly meetings presentations. We went back to ask about the tool because it seemed so handy, but being as busy as we all are in the software business, we didn’t have the time to explore it. It’s too bad we didn’t take a closer look then.
Then just eight months ago, a fairly large commercial software company was in need of a tool like RTIME. RTIME really starts with users entering requirements into a structured database so that requirements can be approved, tracked, traced , and then evolved into development tasks, tested etc. But requirements themselves need to be elicited from users and documented in some way and MMs are really just excellent for that purpose because they’re geared to taking thoughts and ideas and forming them into useful visual information with structure. When we saw it used that way we were blown away by how much better this was than the most common tools- which are Word or sticky notes. Yes, that’s actual yellow paper sticky notes.
So we basically raced to understand the Mindjet API to see if we could build an import capability from Mindjet to our system. When we found that we could do that and have it done by our release of RTIME 5.0 we were ecstatic, because we knew that this would help us not just with this opportunity, but that it would give a great strategic advantage.
The richness of the visual interface, the flexibility, the well developed APIs and deep integration to Office tools means that you can carry the primary form of the requirement in a MM, manipulate it and then just export to all the other forms depending on your needs, which is really perfect, especially when requirements are in the formative stages
BSF: Can you share with us how your SQL based Software Development Lifecycle Management system integrates with MindManager? And how does it work?
RC: We have an Mindmanager export plug-in that first examines the mmap file, then allows you to designate various containers and the content thereof for export, does integrity checks, alerts the users to any invalid structures, and then maps it into the RTIME data structure. So when you import a mind map that has requirements in containers at some level, their higher level groupings, descriptions and attributes and assumptions are imported into RTIME. The traditional file and folder format that RTIME presents to the user is consistent with the MM depiction. If the user has relationship lines in the MM, they are translated into dependency links between requirements.
This is just the beginning. We have much more extensive plans for MindManager that we are working on for RTIME 6.0.
BSF: What are the benefits of using MindManager and RTIME together?
RC: When you step back, the whole process of developing software from conception to final product can be summed up in just two notions. One, it’s the stepwise crystallization of (sometimes rather wispy) thoughts into the very brittle stuff that software is- and Two (ever so important Two) being sure that what you created consistently does what you originally conceived it to do.. without breaking.
Notion two is RTIME’s turf. Any SDLC tool worth its salt needs to have extensive prioritization, reporting, traceability, test coverage and process management components. Those are best supported by a system where just one databases, is used to drive these components. So we have constructed RTIME as an affordable product that has a straight forward single database structure with a broad set of capabilities. We even have a single user version called MyRTIME.
Notion one is where everyone needs even more help. How do we develop better requirements to begin with? How can we speed up the crystallization process? How can we do this without having to learn complex specialized tools that take big investments in time and money just to put in place? This is where MMs have so much value. When requirements get really complex and there are a lot of interrelationships, Business Analysts and Product Managers need requirements tools that will help gather, reveal gaps, optimize structure and quickly convey those requirements and to others.
Now that we have both of these bases covered in the overall solution, we have a front end tool that helps us cover this most challenging area and integrates in a nice clean fashion to what RTIME handles well. But using a MM can help whether or not you use any SDLC tool. As far as I know, the most structured text documents out there contain requirements and specifications that describe some sort of technology. Whenever they get large, a MM can help you make them better.
My case in point: I worked for many years at HP Software as a Solution Marketing Manager where a good portion of my time was laboring over really huge requirements documents that came in to our group in the form of RFPs for complex telecom database systems. When I saw early this year how easy it was to import one of those highly structure Word documents into a mind map where it could be viewed and reorganized in MM form, then exported into a better Word document, I wanted to cry. All I could think of was all the mind numbing hours I spent scrolling and searching through those monster documents when I could have viewed, drilled into and modified them in a far easier way.
BSF: Who is presently using RTIME and MindManager? What are your users saying about the tie in with MindManager
RC: We’ve had extremely enthusiastic response back from our first users. I think it’s because everyone that’s used it so far has been sort of blindsided in the same way we have. Here’s a gush from a Business Analyst at a New Jersey based Medical Marketing group that is now using the new 5.0 RTIME:
The integration between MindManager and RTIME is awesome. It gives an excellent visual representation of requirements making it easier to recognize gaps. It's a huge time saver and simple to use. I'm addicted!”
And from Mike Tilman, COO of IDRT, a company using 5.0 to help with their development of a very cool hardware and software system to translate American Sign Language into English text and speech.
“Being able to map out our requirements in MindManager Pro® speeds both the process of capturing our requirements as well as communicating them clearly across our internal and external team members. Equally importantly is once we import them into RTIME™ we can manage them through the entire development and delivery cycle. ”
And the initial reaction from that fairly large company I mentioned earlier is very positive. We expect we’ll be importing hundreds of Mind maps that they have accumulated over the last several years as they formalize their entire development and test process.
For more information about RTIME click here
Having created Flash based software tutorials in Captivate 3, I could easily embed them in my PowerPoint slide presentation with complete control of how they behaved with the controllers. When thinking of the future of training, I for one am very excited by the fact that I can now embed Flash based videos directly into a PDF file which can be viewed with nothing other that the free Adobe Reader 9. This is a new feature with the release of Adobe Acrobat 9 this spring. Think about that for a moment. That is very powerful! With nothing more than Adobe Acrobat Reader 9, your students or clients will be able to take advantage of video and audio with the confidence it will just work. As long as you have Flash installed on your computer you can be sure that your presentation will deliver the content. According to the surveys more than 98% of all computer users have Flash installed. This is very exciting for me just thinking of all the possibilities of building engaging and interactive environments for others to learn new skills.
In the presentation that I created you will see how all of these elements have come together. I was able to include video from my webcam, audio from a lapel microphone, and Flash video tutorials, along with some training PDF files. What I'm most impressed about the product is just how well it wraps everything up and when you are finished you get a very professional looking presentation to share with the world. I found Adobe Presenter 7 easy to learn to use and without so much as a manual I was creating this highly interactive eLearning materials. Adobe Presenter 7 is a wonderful integrator, helping you to bring all of the pieces together to make for an exciting and interesting elearning experience. I for one really enjoyed putting this project together. Click here to view the presentation, right within your browser or if you want you can download the presentation as a PDF file here. The PDF file is 11 megabytes and will take a little time to download. This will give you some idea of the power of Adobe Acrobat in its current release. You will need to download Adobe Acrobat 9 Reader to view this presentation. Adobe Presenter 7 also allows you to create quizzes for the purpose of assessment, with a variety of different types of question formats that can be integrated into your learning management system (LMS). I will tackle this feature in another blog post later next week. You can download a trial version of Adobe Presenter 7 from the Adobe website.
Here is an example of a Mead Map with an attachment:
For the past several years I have been using Camtasia Studio 5 extensively to do my screencasting work and find it to be an outstanding product to get my work done. Camtasia Studio 5 lets you record your screen and then provides you with post editing tools to fine tune your screencast. Camtasia's approach to screencasting is similar to that of taking a video camera and pressing the record button. With this approach every screen and all of the audio is continuously being recorded. Any mishaps or errors while doing the recording will need to be post edited or in some cases need to be re-recorded. Adobe Captivate 3 takes an entirely different approach to capturing your computer screen which has some real benefits. Adobe Captivate 3 captures individual screen shots only when you move the mouse, click on the screen, or type some text. When you are finished capturing your screens Adobe Captivate 3 pulls all of the screen shots together and builds a Flash video of your demonstration. You also have the opportunity to add audio to your demonstration while you are creating your video or after the process is complete. One of the really nice features of Adobe Captivate 3 is the ability to not only create demonstration-but you can in one fell swoop also create simulations, training, and assessment videos. You can watch my screencast to get an idea of how Adobe Captivate 3 works.
I have found that using Adobe Captivate 3, I can create custom demonstrations videos very quickly, with Adobe Captivate 3 doing a lot of the work for me. What do I mean by that? When I am creating a video demonstration Adobe Captivate 3 will automatically include captions when I am selecting menus, dialog boxes and clicking on the screen. Watch the video to see what I mean. In the demonstration video you will see a number of captions that have been generated by Adobe Captivate 3. All of the captions can be edited and formatted if you need to. Having Adobe Captivate 3 generate the captions saves a lot of time when producing these videos. I have chosen not to use audio in this demonstration but if I wanted to I could always go back and add narration to the demonstration video. As I work with Adobe Captivate 3 I I find it an outstanding tool to work with to create video demonstrations and training scenarios. I will over the next couple of weeks share with you some other tips and tricks that I have learned about Adobe Captivate 3 - so stay tuned.
While reading the Acrobat Blog I came across a couple of tips and features that I wanted to share with you. First off, if you don't have an Acrobat account sign-up for one- you will find it very handy. If for no other reason, just so you will have another online repository for your files-but it can do a lot more than that. In this tip you can upload or create a PDF file if you don't own Acrobat Standard or Professional right on the Acrobat.com website. Once you have your PDF file uploaded you can click on the Copy Embed Code which will then allow you to post the PDF to your website or blog in a widget. By simply pasting the code into my blog, I am now able to generate a widget that displays my PDF file. You can see the result of this technique below.
Using Acrobat.com gives you the freedom to post and share your PDF files using the embed feature without using a lot of overhead. It is a simple and easy way to share your information in the ubiquitous PDF format. From the widget, individuals can zoom in on the file and download it if they like. Take a look at this feature-with it it is now even easier to share PDF files than ever before on your website or blog.
Rumor has it that Dell will finally release the Dell Inspiron 910/Mini Inspiron later this week. There has been a lot of talk about this netbook since the spring. It will finally be nice to see the specs when it is released. Some sites on the web are reporting that it will have at least an 8.9 inch screen and use the 1.66 Intel Atom processor. The only thing we haven't yet heard is the pricing. Stay tuned to find out more once it is released.
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Friday September 5, 2008 – 9am Australian EST
(USA: Thurs 4 Sept – 4pm PDT; 7pm EDT)
Join us for a free webinar and learn the basics of business decision
mapping (BDM) with cognitive scientist and Austhink founder Dr Tim van
Gelder. Using bCisive we will work through a simple business decision,
discussing key principles along the way.
Other topics to be covered briefly include:
* the benefits of BDM
* the kinds of decisions for which it is most suited
* introducing BDM into an organization
Please contact us to register for this free event: