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General Delivery

You can put multimedia in slide shows, you can stuff it into books, you can make movies out of it … or you can put it into boxes.

iShell. A highly evolved descendant of Apple's old Apple Media Tool, Tribeworks' iShell 2 (www.tribeworks.com) handles the multiple personalities of multimedia by letting you arrange it in containers and then put these containers into other containers. You can control your containers by scripting them to handle events such as mouse clicks. The interface is drag and drop: You drop both media and event handlers on containers. iShell supports both CD-based and Web-based projects, and can handle many media types, relying upon QuickTime extensively to do so. It can also extend its capabilities with add-on modules, available from Tribeworks when you become a Tribe member. iShell is free, but the company offers yearly subscriptions at various levels and costs. A Silver Membership costs $975 for the first year and gets you tech support, manuals, and a run-time license; a $2,750 Gold Membership gets you a software development kit, unlimited run-time licenses, and much more extensive technical support.

The Web. Maybe you've heard of it: the World Wide Web. It began as a way for particle physicists to share scientific articles and within a decade became by far the most popular integration and delivery platform for multimedia.

The Web is built upon pages but is hardly booklike in its arrangement: Each page is independent and only connected to other pages by explicitly supplied links. At the same time, the Web is the most textual of all multimedia: Each page is nothing more or less than text--text users can read; text that tells the Web browser where to find and how to present graphics, audio, video, and other interactive media; or text that forms scripts to handle events.

How to build a Web page is a topic much too broad to handle in this chapter, but an author must keep a few general points in mind when creating multimedia Web pages. First, the bit budget is critical; more than half the Web users in the country still connect to the Internet with a modem, so you must keep the amount of media on each page small enough so your audience can open it in a reasonable period of time. Second, what kinds of media you can use depend on what your viewers have installed on their machines. Most browsers can display text and graphics, but other media rely on particular plug-ins. QuickTime, Real, and Windows Media Player all require plug-ins. Third, the fonts you use for text (and ultimately the languages you can display) depend on what fonts your viewers have on their machines and how they've configured their browsers. In short, because so much of multimedia on the Web depends on the audience and not on the author, ultimately you should design your Web pages only as a suggestion, not as an order. Within those limitations, you have extraordinary expressive freedom and a potentially enormous audience.

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