Back in November, I got a preview demo of the latest edition of Adobe Connect which I shared with all of you. Over the past week I got my hands on my own preview account so I could kick the tires myself. As someone already predisposed to the product, I was not disappointed.
The first thing you notice is the consolidation of controls along the top menu. Everything from recording to setting up audio/video to layouts to launching specific pods can be done from this top row menu. So you’re no longer hunting around the screen to discover how to control some parameter or another.
I won’t make this review exhaustive but instead mention two standout changes that I found quite cool. The first is drag and drop. Now, any resource you wish to share with your attendees, be it a PowerPoint pitch or a graphic, can be dragged and dropped into the share pod and Adobe Connect will process it and display it. Anyone familiar with my computing habits knows I am a drag and drop fanatic. I believe the whole point of modern operating systems is to manipulate objects, not type commands. So this new capability in Connect really appealed to me.
The second thing that I loved was the way they changed the implementation of the Q&A pod. In prior releases of Adobe Connect, you had to associate Q&A functionality to an existing chat pod. I never understood that implementation. It was not the least bit intuitive so I have to assume they had some technical limitation. Perhaps now that they’ve moved to a Flex architecture they can do things they couldn’t do before? Bottom line, the Q&A pod can now be launched as its own functional entity in addition to any chat pods you may have open.
I encountered only one odd problem during my testing involving Adobe’s automatic translation of my PowerPoint deck to Flash. I tested both a PowerPoint 2007 (PPTX) file and the same pitch saved under the prior release of PowerPoint (PPT). I used two methods with each file. I uploaded the files in the traditional way and I dragged and dropped them. Only the traditional upload of my PPT file yielded the fidelity to the original that I wanted. The upload of the PPTX as well as both drag and drops, for some reason resulted in font problems. I can’t swear I executed what I would call a controlled experiment so I can’t begin to suggest what might have caused the problems.
I also tested a PowerPoint pitch deliberately designed to stretch the webinar capabilities (using multiple slide transitions and animations). Adobe Connect 8 had the same limitations in duplicating these transitions that Adobe Connect 7 had, with one exception of a font that 7 could handle but 8 could not. All this means is that every webinar presenter needs to review their pitch within the webinar platform before going live to ensure that it displays what you intended.
Creating your own custom pod layouts within the product is quite easy as grid lines appear on your screen as you position a pod onto a portion of the work area, helping you get the alignment of pods right.
My only other very minor gripe about the new release is I preferred the rounded corners of the prior release pods to the squared off corners of the new release. That is just a matter of aesthetic taste. Otherwise, I found Connect 8 to be a worthy successor to prior releases of the product.
As I’ve said before, Adobe has finally learned the treasure that it inherited in the old Macromedia Breeze product and they have invested in it to make it that much better. Adobe Connect is still a powerful competitor to the two primary opponents in this space, Cisco’s Webex and Citrix’s GoToWebinar.