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SIMA Report on Multimedia Toolbook


down Upgrading from ToolBook 1.5
down Upgrading from ToolBook 3 to Multimedia ToolBook 3
down Upgrading to Release 3.0a
down Long-term Upgrade Path
down Database Connection
down CBT Edition

There are several versions of ToolBook. Developers need to ensure they have the most suitable version.

Upgrading from ToolBook 1.5

ToolBook 3 is NOT binary compatible with ToolBook 1.5. To upgrade an existing ToolBook book requires you to run an upgrade utility included with ToolBook 3. The resultant new book can not then be loaded back into ToolBook 1.5 and so if a parallel development approach to upgrading is planned, it will be necessary to maintain both 1.5 and 3.0 versions of your books. Within the Economics Consortium we judged parallel development impractical to configuration management with such a large volume of courseware being developed by a geographically distributed team of programmers. We therefore approached upgrading as a permanent commitment to the new version and as an irreversible step. A high degree of certainty about the feasibility of upgrading existing code was required because of this.

Experimentation with upgrading a variety of non-TLTP ToolBook 1.5 books has shown that in most cases the upgrade is fairly straight forward and often requires no manual editing to make the new version work. However, books with advanced OpenScript techniques - particularly those involving DLLs - often report a successful upgrade only to then cause a Windows General Protection fault when run. In the case of the Economics Consortium, this has made it impossible to upgrade a single module to-date. This is due to the fact that all of our courseware is built around a template which employs several advanced Windows and ToolBook programming techniques. All the problems are associated with making our custom tools DLLs written in C to work under the new system (largely due to a change in the meaning of "" and NULL parameters). Fortunately, none of the problems which have arisen in the template have taken very long to solve and it is reasonable to assume that once the template is working, the courseware modules themselves will take relatively little effort to upgrade as none of them directly employs complex programming techniques - all complex programming is encapsulated in the template.

Once the template is upgraded to run under 3.0, it is then possible to replace a number of our custom tools written in OpenScript with the in-built system ones supported by ToolBook 3 (e.g. graphics buttons, bitmap resources and editing enhancements). The cost of doing this is restricted to the cost of taking advantage of these new features within the template itself; no substantial changes to the existing courseware modules is required to take advantage of these new features. Such an upgrade would be far more extensive in its scope for projects without a core template and would reduce the feasibility of fully embracing the new features during the upgrade process.

Upgrading from ToolBook 3 to Multimedia ToolBook 3

  • It is possible to run ToolBook 3 books under Multimedia ToolBook 3 but the reverse is not true.
  • The first time a TB3 book is run under MTB3 there will be a delay while the book is automatically converted. This process is not, officially, reversible.
  • Objects can not be cut and pasted between MTB3 and TB3 in either direction.
  • An unsupported utility, called MTB2TB.EXE, to convert Multimedia ToolBook 3 books to ToolBook 3 books is available off the Asymetrix FTP site (see "Appendix E - Internet Resources"). Obviously, not every book can be converted and the program comes with a "use at your own risk" warning.
 ftp:	//
 file:	 MTB2TB.EXE

If you do use MTB2TB it is a good idea to then use MTBXFER (from the same ftp site) to clone a fresh copy of the book after the conversion. This will ensure that the internal data structures are all correct and that no accidentally corrupted objects are introduced.

Upgrading to Release 3.0a

Older copies of ToolBook will be 3.0 rather than the later and far more stable and slightly enhanced 3.0a.

To upgrade to 3.0a it is necessary to download a patch off the Asymetrix ftp site.

 ftp:	//
 file:	 TB30A.EXE

or, for Multimedia ToolBook

 ftp:	//
 file:	 MTB30A.EXE

An extra help file installed when this patch is applied describes differences between 3.0 and 3.0a.

Updates for system books and DLLs are also available in these directories.

Long-term Upgrade Path

Developers should consider the risks and costs of periodic upgrades before adopting ToolBook. ToolBook, in common with other popular authoring tools, is not an open standard and Asymetrix can make and have made arbitrary changes from version to version. These changes can make it difficult to upgrade legacy code or to switch versions in mid development.

On the plus side, ToolBook is Asymetrix's flagship product and they appear committed to its continued development. Although by no means guaranteed, Asymetrix have stated that they wish to retain high levels of backward compatibility to the previous version in each future release of ToolBook.

Database Connection

ToolBook Database Connection is an add-on for ToolBook to simplify accessing third party database tables. The feature highlights quoted by Asymetrix are listed below.

Create database structures without any Structured Query Language (SQL) programming.

  • Visually link database records with fields on forms.
  • Use built-in ODBC drivers for Paradox 3.0/4.0, dBASE.
  • III+/IV, Btrieve (5.0 or later), Excel and formatted text.
  • Access other databases using database vendor or third-party ODBC-compliant drivers.
  • Share data concurrently over a network.

Create sophisticated database forms.

  • Display and manipulate data by dragging and dropping built-in data-ready objects, including fields, combo boxes, list boxes, check boxes, grouped buttons, frames, stages and Hotwords™ hypertext links.
  • Specify data to retrieve by simply setting properties and picking from lists.
  • Navigate, insert, delete, and filter database records without scripting, using the data-ready control panel.

Use rich-text format (RTF) to provide appealing database displays.

  • Simultaneously display text and multimedia data.
  • Format text for display in data-ready fields using multiple fonts, styles, colours, inline graphics, and superscript and subscript capabilities.
  • Create data-ready Hotwords hypertext links to connect data to external applications.

Comprehensive support for multimedia.

  • Store references to MCI and non-MCI multimedia data, including wave audio, Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), .BMP, .DIB, .WMF, .GIF, .PCX, TIFF, Video for Windows, and QuickTime formats.
  • Play back multimedia data at the click of a button using the data-ready stage object.
  • Display graphics embedded as Binary Large Objects (BLOBs).

New OpenScript functions for faster query and manipulation of data.

  • Use over 80 database-specific OpenScript functions to query and manipulate data even faster.
  • Execute SQL statements directly from OpenScript.
  • Control transaction processing and multi-user access.

In ToolBook 3.0 Database Connection, the product is let down by not supporting grids. This shortcoming has been corrected in the update for 4.0 but the add-on feels like an add-on and lacks the slick database features of a dedicated database product like Access. Certainly, creating a relational database is easier in Access than in this add-on.

The sample applications which accompany the Database Connection are not particularly impressive and the fact that over 80 database specific functions are added to OpenScript somewhat negates the claim on that this tool "requires no programming".

CBT Edition

Although marketed as a separate product, Multimedia ToolBook 3.0 CBT Edition is actually Multimedia ToolBook 3.0 plus a number of system books and DLLs which extend its capabilities to simplify the development of Computer Based Training (CBT) applications. The major feature of the CBT Edition is its computer based assessment with a light weight course management program to record the student results.

Asymetrix have taken the approach of providing developers with a large catalogue of assessment widgets (e.g. multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, click on the answer) to be used to hand craft each and every question in a student test. In practice, this is an labour intensive method for developing large scale tests and is, in the opinion of this report's authors, best suited to small scale one-off assessments rather than the high student numbers and large tests which occur in Higher Education (the maximum number of students is 500 and it is not easy to enter lists of students in a single step).

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