The Digital Signage Insider

Useful Tools for Digital Signage

Published on: 2004-06-25

Firecast kiosk and digital signage software takes an interesting approach to content creation and manipulation -- namely, it doesn't do it. FireCast has great scheduling tools, powerful reporting features, and a world-class remote management and content synchronization engine, but it has no tools for creating content from scratch.

In reality, we certainly could put together some top-notch software for simple content creation-- the kind of things that often show up in elementary kiosk applications and digital signage displays. However, we prefer to focus on our core competencies -- powerful remote management and a rock-solid operating system -- and let the experts handle the content creation tools.

Honestly, it would be hard to compete with a complete web development tool like Macromedia's Dreamweaver, or their extremely powerful (and popular) Flash MX application development environment. Dozens of books have been written about these products, and thousands of developers around the globe are already experts with them.

For developers who crave the power and flexibility of these applications but fear the steep learning curve, there are hundreds of other options available. These are great tools for the kiosk application developer or digital signage content artist looking for an easy way to add attractive, powerful media to their systems.

First, there's the full line of products from SwishZone, a company that makes products to build Macromedia Flash animations and applications. From their powerful Swish Max authoring environment to their amazingly useful royalty free template library, Swish is great for people who want Flash but are intimidated by Macromedia's tools.

An even easier approach for users looking to create powerful animated graphics in little time is to use one of the many online content generators. These websites often charge a small monthly or per-piece fee and allow you to build animated graphics from inside your web browser. Flash Banner Now is one such tool provider. And because FireCast's dynamic Flash scaling can be used to scale a Flash banner ad to fill an entire screen (typically with no loss in quality), these tools are a great choice, especially for digital signage owners who want a quick and easy way to turn out content.

Those interested in working with still images will be happy to know that any GIF, JPEG or PNG graphic created in PhotoShop, Paint Shop Pro, The GIMP, or practically any other photo editing tool will feel right at home inside of a FireCast playlist. Of course I could go on for hours about Adobe's full line of products for creating and editing videos, web pages and graphics. These tools enjoy great popularity among artists and developers, and can all be used to create content to output onto a network of FireCast devices.

Finally, for those looking to develop and deploy full-fledged applications onto FireCast, we certainly feel that web-based is the way to go. Whether using a commercial development tool like JBuilder to create Java applications, or a web application rapid application development (RAD) tool like Omnis Studio, DbNetGrid, or HalloGram, there are many options available depending on how much hand-holding you'd like and what your end goal is.

Use the right tool for the job. FireCast is designed from the ground up to make sure systems run forever and content and applications get to where they're supposed to be. While a lot of our competitors seem to think that it's a better idea to get users to work with proprietary (and often very limited) content creation tools, our customers continue to produce first-rate materials with the software they already know and love.

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