Tuesday, August 24, 2004

FlashPaper is the first software I’ve been seriously impressed with in quite awhile. Maybe not all that surprising, as it’s from Macromedia, and the last time I was really wowed by new software was when I saw Shockwave demoed sometime in 1995. And yes, I thought Flash was cool, too. In fact I thought it was cool back when it was FutureSplash and before it was bought by the mighty Macromedia. But by the time I saw Flash multimedia on the Web no longer startled.

With FlashPaper you can convert “printable files” into Flash documents or Adobe PDF files. “Printable files” is in quotes, as the only files I’ve converted at this point have been Word documents. FlashPaper did a bang-up job converting my
profile flawlessly into both Flash and PDF formats with all formatting and hyperlinks intact. I did have to go to Macromedia’s FlashPaper support page to find out that you need to convert directly from the Word document in order to keep hyperlinks – drag-`n-drop loses the links – but with that minor problem solved the conversion was simple and perfect. If you look at my profile, note the toolbar that allows you to zoom on the document, search, copy text, and so on. Text was a little fuzzier both on-screen and in the print in the Flash document versus the PDF, as could be expected.

Macromedia seems to be positioning FlashPaper as a complement to, rather than replacement of, Adobe Acrobat, with their thinking something along the lines of “FlashPaper for reading on the Web. Acrobat for printing”, But I think it’s more of a competitive product, especially for people who don’t need high-quality print output. Flash is near-ubiquitous. You have to download the freeware Acrobat Reader to view an Acrobat document. With the $79 FlashPaper you can create both PDF and/or Flash files. With the $299 Acrobat you can only create PDFs.

As I said, if you’re doing high-quality PDFs for print, you’ll probably move to – or stay with – Acrobat. But FlashPaper is a cool alternative for the rest of us (to coin a phrase) who want a quick and easy way to get documents on the Web.

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