SLIDE SHOW PROJECT
By MIKE PASINI
The Slide Show
The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter
Review Date: May 2004
Our on-going Slide Show Project has been reporting different ways of creating a slide show of still images for several years. It's a bit like a recurring dream in which we find ourselves in a familiar predicament, try a new approach but, in the end, still wake up screaming.
C O N T E N T S
This week, however, we ran across Envision (http://www.opendoor.com/envision) from Open Door Networks, a unique approach that, while still in beta (and thus fitting our budget), runs like a dream. At least for Mac OS X users.
Envision caught our eye for several reasons. It can, like Beholder from Mesa Dynamics (http://www.mesadynamics.com), scour a Web site (or any local folder) for image files. Unlike Beholder's thumbnail view, though, Envision can present the images it finds as a slide show, even with dissolve transitions. But unlike other saved slide shows, these shows are based on a location rather than a fixed list of images. So they can be different every time you run them.
We had to think about that a moment.
Open Door deftly describes Envision as simply a new way to experience the Web. "The Web has evolved into such a visually rich place that users need tools beyond their Web browser to fully experience it," said Alan Oppenheimer, Open Door's president and a creator of the original AppleTalk Network System. "Envision provides Mac users with one of those tools."
For example, one of the included sample slide shows, CNN.sshow, displays images from CNN's site. You can leave the small window running in a corner of your screen and get CNN image updates every few seconds, complete with captions (culled from ALT tags or the link text). Curious about one of the images? Double click it and Envision will take you right to the story using your default Web browser.
|CNN on the Desktop
Point Envision to a museum site and you can get a nice slide show of the current exhibit. Instead of scrolling around the site and clicking on thumbnails, the images come to you. Which is a pretty nice way to view photo galleries and portfolios, too.
But even if you don't have a broadband connection to the Web, this is a useful utility for viewing images in folders on your hard drive. If you use Image Capture to copy images from your digicam to your Mac, you can set it to automatically display the new images by running a slide show pointed to your download folder.
There's some intelligence at work here, obviously, but you appreciate just how smart it is when you study all the options Envision lets you fiddle with. You can set a number of criteria for where to look and what to retrieve, as well as how to show it.
In a nutshell, Envision offers automatic scanning of locations for images; full screen, window-based and thumbnail displays of the images; automatic, manual and shuffle play modes; multi-window, multi-show capability; a high degree of user customization; and scriptability with AppleScript.
We thought this enterprising technology was worth a closer look.
INSTALLING THE PACKAGE | Back to Contents
The downloadable public beta, which expires Aug. 1, includes the application itself, release notes, the beta license, a users guide in HTML and a collection of Web shows.
There are dozens of Web shows but they'll be among the smallest files on your drive. We looked at two randomly: 992 bytes and 4,517 bytes. With no need to store the images themselves, the show files can be pretty small.
You'll need OS X 10.2.8 or the recommended 10.3.3. Also recommended are a broadband Internet connection, 1-GB free disk space for cached images and a Web browser for getting more information about the images.
Installation is as simple as copying the files on the disk image to your Applications folder.
THE BASICS | Back to Contents
Launch Envision and the Envision, File, Edit, Show, Window and Help menus appear on the Menu bar.
The Envision menu includes an About box and Preferences. The File menu lets you create and run slide shows. The Edit menu is the basic Cut/Copy/Paste/Delete/Select All with Undo/Redo. Show lets you control the slide show behavior (Pause/Refresh/First/Next/Last, Poster/Shuffle) and its display (Hide Status Bar/Info). Window Help is provided via the Mac's Help Viewer. An HTML user guide provides the same information.
|The Document Window
But most of the time you are living in an Envison document window. A Previous and Next button (like any of the iLife applications) sit to the left of the URL/location text field. To the right are a Play/Pause button, a Settings button, an Info button, a Thumbnails button and a Bug Reporting button.
Below the controls is the display area.
WATCHING SLIDE SHOWS | Back to Contents
To get a feel for the Envision experience, just run one of the many slide shows included with the beta. Sample shows cover a wide array of topics including art, astronomy, coins, comics, maps, news, posters, sheet music, stamps and more.
Like any slide show, Envision runs automatically, displaying each image in sequence. But you have some interesting options, too.
Menu commands are complemented by key commands and often by buttons on the display window. The buttons provide a handy visual reminder of what you can do and for full-screen playback, the key commands are essential.
If you click the Info button, an Info drawer slides out from the bottom of the window. The drawer displays the image's URL, the URL with a link to the Web page containing the image, the caption text and the image's size in bytes and pixels. We suggested photographers would love to see data from the Exif header of digicam JPEGs and Alan expressed some interest in that.
|The Info Drawer
You can jump to the Web page containing the image by clicking on the link displayed in the Info drawer or just by double clicking the image. You can also use the Info from Web option in the Show menu. Envision always gives you several ways to do things.
Captions are derived from either the ALT tag or the text of the link to the image. Envision shows the caption in the Info drawer, but it can also draw it over the image. You can tell Envision to never draw it, always draw it or draw it only briefly, too.
You can navigate the images 1) automatically (letting Envision run the show using an interval you can adjust), 2) with the Previous and Next buttons, 3) the Menu commands or 4) using the Thumbnail button.
Because the images are cached on your hard drive, you can easily navigate back a few images. Just press the space bar to pause the show and click the back arrow to find the image you want. Pressing the space bar again resumes the show.
If you enable Shuffle Play, Envision displays the show in a different order each time, much like Random on your CD player.
You can save a displayed image simply by dragging it to your Desktop.
And you can run, if not watch, more than one slide show at a time.
CREATING SLIDE SHOWS | Back to Contents
Making your own slide show is as easy as pointing Envision to a folder of images with the New From Folder command or to a Web site with the New command. You can also display just a single image.
Save the show as a .sshow file to double-click when you want to run it again.
The default settings (which you can customize using the Preferences dialog) are well chosen. But you'll no doubt want to customize your own show. Envision lets you filter unwanted images as well as change how images are displayed. Let's look at each in turn.
CHANGING CONTENT | Back to Contents
When pointed to a Web page, Envision downloads the page and scans it for images and links to images. It follows links to other pages for more images, too, to a depth of two levels by default. But you can change that, of course.