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Enabling Technologies

Enabling Technology can often be an empty buzzword that encapsulates other just as empty buzzwords that only an old school marketer could love. On the other hand, it can also describe useful technologies that truly empower users and let them accomplish new tasks they couldn’t do before or help then do things easier, faster and with more positive results than before. The reason I’m bringing this up now is that I discovered such enabling software last week that really got me excited.

Recently, I had been looking for a way to implement photo galleries with easy navigation and thumbnails both for this site and a new client site I’ll start designing soon for a local artist-painter. I’ve been looking at many photographers and painters’ sites to see how they were doing it and I was baffled to discover that many of those sites had very poor implementations of this kind of feature which is very important for that type of site. There had to be a better way.

My first inclination was to build some kind of gallery feature in Dreamweaver myself using DHTML. I have never been too keen on using Flash probably in large part because my Flash skills are not very extensive. I learned Flash 3 very well at the time but haven’t “updated” my Flash skills much as the app has evolved into the deep and complex application it has become today. I have preferred to improve my knowledge of other Web design and development related subjects instead of Flash.

In any case, last week I stumbled onto a newsgroup posting that recommended SlideShowPro for building this kind of functionality and after trying it for a few minutes that’s when the term “enabling technology” popped into my head. Talk about a powerful piece of software for a very small price. I got so excited about it that I wanted to share it here.

SlideShowPro is a very full featured Flash component that does a lot more than its name implies and all that for a measly $ 20. Most of its competitors cost 3 to 4 times as much and do not offer the sophisticated navigational and organisational features that SlideShowPro offers. It may not automate the creation of the XML file it uses to load pictures but third party developers have create some very sophisticated admin web apps in PHP ($5.00) and ColdFusion (free) that seem to do the job really well. I’ll be trying the ColdFusion one soon when I implement a gallery of my own photographs on this site. The new section will be called pixel gallery and I should have it up within a week or two. More on that and other great software I’ve discovered later…