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Macromedia updates e-learning tools

The software maker plans to announce on Monday a new version of Authorware, its application for creating computer-based learning programs.

Software maker Macromedia plans to announce on Monday an update to Authorware, its collection of tools for creating computer-delivered educational content.

Authorware is one of Macromedia's oldest product lines, initially used to produce educational CD-ROMs for corporate and academic settings and later expanded to include extensive support for online delivery. The software lets designers combine text, images, video and applications into an interactive learning experience.

The new version, 7, includes a number of enhancements intended to streamline the process of putting together such presentations, most notably the ability to import files created in Microsoft's PowerPoint software. Many professional e-learning modules begin as PowerPoint slides created by co-workers, said Miriam Geller, product manager for Macromedia.

"There's a lot of customers who have told us they have content from PowerPoint they'd like to reuse," Geller said. "We want to make the application easier for people to get going with."

Macromedia earlier this year introduced a new line of Breeze products for business workers who need to create basic educational presentations based on PowerPoint.

The new Authorware also includes support for creating applications in the JavaScript programming language and tools for integrating courseware with corporate data systems, so test scores and other data are automatically sent to the right department.

"It's not just a matter of creating the content," Geller said. "Being able to track the results is critical."

Courseware created with Authorware 7 can also be played back on systems running Apple's OS X operating system, although the tools themselves will remain Windows-only.

Authorware 7 is set for release in mid-June, priced at $2,999 for the full version of the regular product and $499 for the academic version. Customers upgrading from version 5 or 6 will pay $899, and those upgrading from Authorware 6.5 will pay $399.

The new Authorware will also be available as part of the eLearning suite, which packages the software with Macromedia's Flash MX application for creating animated Web content and Director MX for CD-ROM authoring. The regular version of the package sells for $3,499,while the academic version is priced at $600.