by Tonya Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Look around on the Web, and you'll see Web pages that experiment with video. Although much of this experimentation leaves much to be desired, I believe that movies on the Web will eventually improve. Files sizes will decrease and the appropriateness of video to the topic on hand will increase. Also, we'll see more tools that make it cheap and easy to create movies. One such tool, awkwardly spelled Gif*gIf*giF, creates animated GIFs of actions that occur on your Macintosh screen. Gif*gIf*giF is a $28 shareware program from Pedagoguery Software. It comes in 68K and PowerPC versions (as well as Windows 3.1 and 95 versions) and the download weighs in around 150K for either Macintosh version.
What's an Animated GIF? GIF is a graphics format universally used on the Web, and usually GIFs appear as simple graphics. The GIF 89a specification includes details on how to create a single GIF file that contains more than one image, sort of like a movie flip book, but with timing controls for how quickly frames go by. Web browsers (primarily Netscape Navigator 2.0) can interpret the animation portion of the GIF 89a specification and display these movies. GIF animations have their pros and cons: on the plus side, they compress well, they don't require a plug-in, and the software for creating them is becoming widely available (an excellent choice would be Yves Piguet's friendly, freeware GifBuilder). On the minus side, poorly conceived, gratuitous GIF animations tend to clutter Web pages, turning them into visual distractions and causing endless hard disk clatter as the movies loop endlessly. (If you want to know more about animated GIFs, check out Royal Frazier's excellent GIF Animation on the WWW home page.)
Gif*gIf*giF helps you make animated GIFs of things happening onscreen and thus may encourage the creation of genuinely helpful animations for tutorials on Macintosh use. To use Gif*gIf*giF, you define the screen area in which you wish to record and then start mousing or typing. Your actions are recorded in the movie. Gif*gIf*giF offers a few controls, including the ability to set whether the animation will loop and how many frames you want to record per second.
If you need Gif*gIf*giF, I think you'll find it an effective tool. I have two monitors attached to my Macintosh, and Gif*gIf*giF 1.0 insisted on recording on my secondary monitor, the one that does not show the menu bar. Jeff at Pedagoguery Software sent me a beta of Gif*gIf*giF version 1.01, and the problem went away in that version. Gif*gIf*giF enforces its $28 shareware fee by putting an "unregistered copy" banner across animations created in an unregistered version.