The much touted and anticipated PageFX VRML authoring tool from Cosmo
Software has finally shipped. I got my shrink wrapped copy this past week
and aside from the usual Win95 annoyances it's really a cool package or
as I like to say "it's so simple to use even I can handle it."
I call PageFX a 2nd generation authoring tool because you really don't
of that let's you concentrate more on content development than the mechanics
of the language. Objects are placed in a world and the timing and interactions
are placed along a timeline. Objects can be easily directed to travel
along complex paths. These motions can be triggered easily from other motions
start of stop events and it's straightforward to build up a collection
of sequences. All of this can be accomplished without hand scripting or
looking at VRML code.
I must confess that I was predisposed to a favorable opinions from my
first exposure to PageFX in it's beta incarnation. My gut level test of
most software is a two stage test 1) can I install it without problems
and 2) can I actually do anything cool without reading the manual. The
install gets a grade of B because you're presented with the option to install
CosmoPlayer 2.1 (CP2.1) AND PageFX but there was no obvious option to install
just PageFX without CP2.1, which I already had. In reality the install
process was smart enough to recognize that I did have CP2.1 so everything
was fine, but it was annoying. For stage 2, doing something cool without
reading the manual, PageFX passed with flying colors. I was able to create
flying text and simple objects that traveled along complex spiral or helical
paths with practically no effort.
So on to the released version. The good news is the product is a typical
Win95 application. The bad news is the product is a typical Win95 application.
The obligatory collection of incomprehensible icons was present. Actually
that's a bit harsh and the icons aren't that bad but the Cosmo folks got
a bit too cutesy with the icon for importing another VRML world represented
as a teapot (the teapot is a historically significant object for computer
graphics insiders) and the joke/cuteness gets old after the first click.
Another nit I have to pick is that there is no simple one button icon to
create a link from an object to a URL. I wanted to set up some links between
the objects and some places on this site so I almost gave up 'till I found
the magic which was to create some mouse events and then route the button
press to a "Load URL" effect. Not bad once you figure it out but it's not
documented in any obvious place, and is such a fundamental great thing
about VRML that it should be made more prominent.
But enough criticism overall I really like it! Some of the cool features
are: a smart timeline on the bottom of the interface that aligns events
and triggers quite easily, a preview feature to see the whole animation,
a large assortment of clip art built into the installation directory, asset
management that treats objects and events in a coherent manner, the ability
text. It's a flying logo creator's wet dream.
When you're all done your masterpiece PageFX allows you to simply export
in a expanded ASCII readable form, or as a compressed file. A really handy
feature is the "HTML Tag" command with pops up a display with the EMBED
HTML tag and appropriate VRML browser detector (sniffer) code that you
can simply copy and paste into your HTML page. Unfortunatly the sniffer code
is not present for this page because The Mining Co.'s navigational container
the Cosmo folks.
The VRML embedded on the top of this feature was (duhhh) created with
PageFX in about an hour, on a lousy laptop. PageFX certainly gets two cyberthumbs