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New Use for CityDesk?

I came across a reference to CityDesk by accident while doing a search on google.com--but was immediately intrigued by its possibilities.  My main interest is not websites, but  "e-learning" (or whatever the coinage is at the moment).

E-learning tutorials tend to run into hundreds of HTML pages (much like larger web sites);  consequently they wind up with a much larger index (or indexes), and require systematic naming patterns if they are to be handled efficiently.  Indexing also requires many more sequential linkages than do web sites.

Well, OK, websites sometimes have the same problems.  Regardless of differences in approach, I have successfully adapted CityDesk to my project.

If you preview the tutorial DEMO on my website (http://www.techlearningnow.com) you'll see that most of my presentation slides are just a combination of a Title, a Graphic, and blocks of Text, followed by a set of navigation Links.  I've used setTimeOut liberally to sequence the media elements on the slide timeline (including individual paragraphs), and thanks to Microsoft Internet Explorer's filters, they have their own Transitions as well. The timing requires hand tuning, but that would be true no matter what software I employed (even Flash and Director users will admit this, I think). The transitions are pretty standardized for each element.

The reasons that I found CityDesk useful are as follows:

1. Editing Text is a snap with CityDesk's editor, without the hassle of hand-coding bold or colored text, etc. Each paragraph is given its own timing and transitioned in the following order:

    1st  paragraph        .body
    2nd  paragraph        .teaser
    3rd  paragraph        .sidebar
    4th  paragraph        .about
    5th  paragraph        .extra1

2. Graphics are easily loaded into an iframe simply by inserting a filename (*.gif, *.jpg, etc.--even *.html) into the .extra2 field. The Graphic can be animated using either animated GIF files or, more typically, a Dynamic HTML sequence using Astound Presentation, version 7.0 (no plugins required!).

3. The Menu (my version of Index) automatically generates a list of links in proper sequence, using the Sort function of CityScript.

4. Using a single set of standard templates means there are no "accidental" variations in layout to distract the learner or produce unintended results.

5. Keeping track of ongoing and completed work is a piece of cake, given that an entire section is kept in a single .cty file.

6. The price is right.  Actually, I'm using the freeby download, since I rarely encounter a situation where I'd try to deal with more that 30 or 40 files at a time; the idea is to develop the tutorial in sections and chapters, not all at once.  The complete tutorial is published to my hard drive, not to the web (it will be deployed on CD-ROM), so all the sections will eventually be consolidated into one folder.

My hope is that CityDesk will someday have a sister application designed for e-learning; most of the elements are already in place for success in this area, at least for an entry-level authoring tool.  The database technology used in CityDesk also suggests that encryption and other issues for this type of application may have simple solutions.

I believe FogCreek is wise not to go head-to-head with established "big iron".  For cottage industry developers like me there is a paucity of truly useable applications priced in the $100-500 range.  If you build it, we'll buy it.

Jim McCarty
Friday, July 26, 2002

That's a very interesting use of CityDesk! Great work.

Darren Collins
Saturday, July 27, 2002

Thanks, Darren.  And thanks, too, for maintaining your "Pool-room" website.  I found it very useful in getting acquainted with CityDesk.

Jim McCarty
Monday, July 29, 2002

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