Microsoft is spanning the divide between its high-end Web development tools and pedestrian Office applications with a new program, Vizact 2000 ($259), that Web-enables documents.
Vizact 2000 is a "document activation" application and the newest addition to Office 2000 (though only available separately).
"Vizact delivers the dynamic nature of the Web directly into people's documents," says Karl Jacob, product unit manager of Microsoft's Document Activation Group.
Basically, Vizact 2000 funnels Web authoring capabilities into the familiar Office environment. You can integrate dynamic features such as drop-down menus, scrolling text and table highlights into standard Microsoft Office documents. You also can control when objects appear and how they react to mouse movements.
And the Vizact 2000 back end handles the scripting and HTML manipulation. The Vizact user interface resembles Microsoft Word, with many of the same toolbars, buttons and menus. But it is not a full-blown Web design program like Microsoft FrontPage.
"Vizact introduces new concepts in a very Office-friendly manner," Jacob adds.
The program is not, though, browser-agnostic. Vizact 2000 is optimised for Internet Explorer 5.0, and many of its advanced features don't work with Netscape Navigator or earlier IE versions.
Vizact 2000 does however, offer some pretty nifty moves.
For example, you can hide large chunks of text within an interactive bullet. When you move a mouse over an interactive bullet, Vizact prompts you to click on the bullet for more information. The effect resembles a drop-down menu with HTML functionality.
Other features include table highlights, AutoMotion, and a visual timeline that lets you choreograph when elements appear and disappear in your document. "It is a great way for people to take control of their Vizact documents on a more granular level," Jacob says.
The visual time line appears as a horizontal toolbar above a Vizact document and displays a linear history of dynamic objects in your document, such as changing colours and incremental enlargements. You can adjust start time, stop time and duration of an element by dragging or resizing the time line toolbar.
Table highlights work with any HTML table in an Office application. Using Vizact, you can integrate an effect that highlights specific rows and columns in a table as you pass the mouse over them. You also can freeze table highlights and send the changes to a colleague.
Vizact's "send to" feature enables you to port entire Vizact documents into Microsoft Word or vice versa. You can't transport Excel and PowerPoint documents, because Vizact conflicts with the individual workbooks and slides.
Vizact 2000 comes with four wizards designed to walk you through the basic functions. Microsoft plans to add more wizards to future releases. Experienced Web developers can access Vizact's wizard architecture and customise proprietary wizards.
While Vizact 2000 is compatible with Office 97, it is a stand-alone application developed in concert with Office 2000.
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