NOVEMBER 04, 2002
Interactive QuickTime Authoring, Part 2
iShell, therefore iAm
by Kevin Schmitt

Welcome to Part 2 of our Interactive QuickTime Authoring series (as I now belatedly realize the title already told you). From now until we just don't feel like doing it anymore, we're going to spotlight various programs from various vendors that use QuickTime in some way or other to help developers author their interactive projects.

With that as the stated goal, we're not going to get as down and dirty as we might in an actual product review; indeed, the very fact that we're including programs in this veritable cattle call means that they inherently have something to offer in this area. So, as promised in our introduction piece to this series, we're going to summarize for you what each one does, how each uses QuickTime and, finally, where to go for more information. First up on the list is TribeWorks' iShell. [an error occurred while processing this directive] What it does
I must admit that before February of this year I had never even heard of iShell, what with me being wrapped up in my cozy Director cocoon for so many years and all. And while I'm in the sharing mood, I can't even recall how I stumbled upon Tribeworks' multimedia production program in the first place, which I'm sure is a very helpful statement as far as Tribeworks' sales and marketing people are concerned.

My personal brain lapses notwithstanding, at the time, it only took about five minutes of reading up on iShell at Tribeworks' Web site before I had registered as a member (for free), downloaded a non-commercial version of iShell, had fired it up and was learning how to use it. The relative ease by which I got started as an Tribeworks member and iShell user speaks to the ease of actually being able to quickly develop powerful multimedia projects with iShell itself, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

So what is iShell?

iShell, which by the time you read this should officially stand at version 3.0, is a powerful, yet simple and very complete multimedia authoring program for either online or offline projects. By Tribeworks' own admission, "iShell competes with Macromedia Director and Authorware, but promises much faster development times and more stable end results." Bold statement, but after taking iShell 2.5 (initially) and the new version 3 (more recently) for a spin, I was not at all disappointed. iShell is a very viable Director alternative not only in its own right, but especially so for those who may be looking for most of Director's features without 1) Director's learning curve and 2) Director's (sometimes prohibitively) expensive cross-platform authoring and publishing scheme.

iShell offers one of the most intuitive and easy to learn and use interfaces I've ever seen in a multimedia authoring program (and I'm probably dating myself by including HyperCard), but it also boasts a lot of advanced features. As the name suggests, an iShell project is constructed around shells or containers. Each image, movie, text document, etc. is defined as an element and can either be the root of a container or an element of another container (fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Containers are what iShell is all about. Here we have a background image serving as a container for another empty container that holds my project's interface images.

In fact, the root document itself is nothing more than an empty container that holds other containers. Each container can "talk" to all the elements in its own container as well as other containers and their member elements as well. This approach makes project organization very simple (fig. 2), and Macromedia Flash users will quickly become comfortable with this way of working, since it's very similar to the Movie Clip concept that Flash uses.

Fig. 2: The container metaphor means your projects are easily organized as outlines, as shown here.

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