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SIMA Report on Multimedia Toolbook


down Sound
down Video
down Digital Video Producer
down Other

There are two different versions of ToolBook 3.0; these are ToolBook 3.0 and Multimedia ToolBook 3.0. Multimedia ToolBook 3.0 is a superset of ToolBook 3.0. As well as multimedia features it adds a number of extra features to the basic ToolBook engine.

Multimedia ToolBook 3.0 has higher system requirements (see chapter 2, "System Requirements") and a much higher price (see "Appendix A - Purchasing") than the ordinary non-multimedia version.

The additional features of the multimedia version are listed and briefly described below. Then, in chapter 6, "Versions and Upgrades", the restrictions in upgrading from ToolBook to Multimedia ToolBook are discussed along with the problem of being unable to step back in the opposite direction.


Unlike graphical images, which are stored within the ToolBook book, sound files are stored in external files and merely referenced from within Multimedia ToolBook 3.0. Small sound files can be played directly using the playSound command. However, the most flexible way to refer to and play sounds is to define them as ToolBook clips. Clips provide an easy way to isolate physical file locations from the OpenScript coding which plays the sound files and at the same time allow developers to easily specify sub-ranges of the media file to play (with one or two options). A clip is essentially an internal reference to a sound file (or a video file). Clips are defined, edited, renamed or deleted using the Clip Manager in conjunction with property dialogs (alternatively, these operations may be performed in OpenScript).

A small set of commands, the "mm" commands allow sound clips to be opened, played, paused, stopped, rewound and closed. The usage of these commands is the same for both sound and video clips.

There is support for all popular MCI sound formats - including:

  • WAV
  • MIDI

Volume control and sound mixing are easy to implement and samples of these functions are included in the New Features demonstration book in the samples directory. Autoscript code is also provided to play sounds and allow sound synchronisation to Path Animations.


The same clip mechanism as used in playing sounds can be used to play video clips. Also, the way in which the "mm" commands are used is exactly the same. However, video clips have a much wider choice of options than sound clips. In addition to specifying start and stop positions, effects and scaling can also be specified. This can be done using either OpenScript or the properties dialog box for the clip.

Multimedia ToolBook 3.0 includes support for all popular MCI formats, including:

  • AVI
  • Director Movies
  • MPEG
  • QuickTime

The support for Video for Windows includes its runtime on the Multimedia ToolBook 3.0 CD.

The basic method for positioning and playing a video clip is through stage objects. A "stage" rectangle can be drawn on the page and then, still or multimedia clips can be displayed in this stage. A stage can display any MCI and non-MCI multimedia in a single window and automates the process of positioning and sizing visual media without the need for scripting. A few Autoscript scripts are included to support the use of stages but, in practice, a fair degree of OpenScript expertise is required to produce a finished, usable product by this method.

An alternative to manipulating a stage object directly is to use one of five multimedia widgets which allow the inclusion of video and controls to play it without any OpenScript programming by the developer. Each of the widgets consists of a stage and, usually, a number of control buttons to play, stop, pause, etc. Some also have a slider to indicate progress through the video clip as it is playing and to allow the user to use it to move through the clip quickly. These widgets are very easy to use and all parameters may be changed at any time by invoking the property editor dialog for the widget. (Note: there is a bug which makes Path Animations crash when there is a multimedia widget on the same screen).

By and large, video support is excellent under ToolBook. Unfortunately, the one major failing is that the video is played in a borderless window floating on top of the ToolBook window; video is not properly integrated into the ToolBook imaging engine. This means that screen locking such as sysLockScreen does not have any effect on video, making it difficult to cue a video clip before entering a page and have it appear on the first frame without a nasty flicker or flash. Also, it is not straight forward to superimpose ToolBook objects, such as lines or text, on top of a video clip. To do this requires creating a transparent window (a viewer) over the clip and then displaying any superimposed objects in that window rather than the main one; this is not too difficult, but is error prone and lacks the elegance of having video behave just like a bitmap or a rectangle or a text field.

Digital Video Producer

Digital Video Producer is a program Asymetrix acquired the rights to and then bundled with Multimedia ToolBook 3.0. It allows the recording and editing video and audio files in a drag and drop fashion. This is a powerful program in its own right and a very useful addition to the overall package.


  • Text search and indexing. Allows the semi-automatic creation of a full hyperlinked index to a ToolBook application.
  • Chromokey colours. Allow a transparent colour to be specified for any bitmap so that "blue screen" techniques can be used to superimpose or combine graphics without ending up with rectangular edges.
  • A few more widgets in the sample widgets book (e.g. simple graphing).
  • Kodak Photo CD Support, plus all other popular non-MCI formats (eg. BMP, DIB, PCX, WMF, GIF, PICT) so that still images from external files can be displayed in a stage.
  • Embedded TrueType Fonts - so target machines do not need equation fonts etc. installed. However, this does not resolve copyright problems of redistributing third party fonts. Many fonts self protect against inclusion in this way.
  • Path Animation Tool - draw lines and curves for animated objects to follow. Requires no scripting but does not allow simultaneous, synchronised definition of multiple paths or multiple objects; they all must be defined separately and then set off playing one after the other. This severely limits the utility of this otherwise useful tool.
  • Media Packager - automatically checks all media links, gathers and assembles all multimedia files for a given application, compresses the files, and packages the application in preparation for distribution through the bundled Set-up Utility (which is supplied with TB3 and MMTB3).
  • Spelling Checker (Although why this should be classed as a multimedia extension is beyond understanding!)

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