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December 1996 Reviews This Month

12/96 Reviews SW: Adobe Persuasion 4.0

You Won't Be So Easily Persuaded

By Joel T. Patz

Persuasion 4.0 clearly shows its Adobe origins, with the look and feel of the company's sibling applications. Its graphic tools are useful for graphic artists building Web pages, but business professionals who want to pull together simple bullet charts or create templates will want wizards and other assistants to simplify their work. They won't find them here. Nor does this version facilitate the creation of occasional presentations. The overwhelming emphasis on graphics makes this less a presentation tool and more a tool for kiosks

Persuasion borrows most of its new features from Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. Layers are one of the most welcome adoptions. You simply set objects on user-named layers, and then view the layers in any combination-most useful when you want to use a single file to create two presentations for different audiences.

You can drag and drop elements, such as graphics, to a slide from other applications or from your Desktop. Version 4.0 even lets you import native Photoshop files directly with layers intact. You can also import Illustrator files. It supports Web-used .GIF and JPEG formats and, at long last, TIFF images.

Another impressive feature is the eyedropper tool's precise color control. You can sample colors from imported graphics or objects on the Desktop, then apply the color to other objects.

Adobe says it has improved its autotemplates, which incorporate coordinated colors, backgrounds and buttons for overheads, 35-millimeter slides, on-screen presentations and Web pages.

With the multimedia improvements, you can add movies and sounds to your presentations. The final product should also arrive with 500 editable color clip-art, movie and sound files.

Adobe uses its Portable Document Format (PDF) for Web publishing, instead of HTML. This technique creates PDF files that you can open directly in Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer. PDFs can also be opened by Adobe's Acrobat Player, which is available free.

By incorporating the Adobe Distiller program to create the PDFs, the application supports anti-aliasing of text to eliminate jaggies. Unfortunately, the early beta I tested didn't have a fully functioning installation program.

You can incorporate hyperlinks on your pages during design by dragging the URLs into your slide; or you can select an object and create the hyperlink manually. You can set hyperlinks to files on your intranet, to a PDF file or to another slide. The Links dialog box keeps track of all hyperlinks; you can view and modify the location, size and version of linked graphics, and movie and sound files.

Many of Persuasion's other offerings get buried under the weight of the Web and graphics features. Although Adobe's descriptions make you think they're state of the art, there's plenty of room for improvement. For example, variable-speed transitions are strictly limited to slow, medium and fast settings, and you can't specify the length of the transition. The short list of transition effects is also disappointing. You can choose text animation, but it's strictly first-generation effects, providing simplistic "enter from right" and "exit to left" options rather than letting you display text that follows the path of a Bézier curve, a feature that Astound offers.

Helpful tools include the ability to view a list of fonts used in a presentation, then globally change them from a single dialog box. Persuasion's import utility can convert PowerPoint files in batches or individually. Some features, such as slide masters, keep Persuasion on a level playing field. Other features go a step beyond. For example, you can now easily combine more than one master template in your presentation.

Still other tools are more archaic: You build a table by using a separate spreadsheet rather than directly editing the table cells within the slide view. The Chart module offers reasonably good control over graphing elements, but business users who want a quick-and-dirty bar chart to illustrate a point will find it daunting.

The Text menu (for formatting text) is now called Type, and Draw commands are now on the Object menu, more in line with other Adobe products and Windows conventions.

While Persuasion provides the standard presentation-package features, such as outline view and thumbnail slide sorter, this program is clearly aimed at users with graphics experience or those who need more precise control over what appears on a slide. Persuasion is simply too complex for building a simple bulleted-list presentation in an hour. Our Recommended products, Freelance Graphics 96 and ASAP WordPower 1.95, better focus on getting your message across.

-- Info File --
Adobe Persuasion 4.0
$395; upgrade, $129
Pros: Advanced graphics controls
Cons: Difficult to use
Platforms: 3x, Win95
Adobe Systems
800-685-3505, 408-536-6000
WinMag Box Score: 2.5

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