Hardware ConsiderationsThe multimedia products you create with Authorware can be demanding on your computer hardware. Here we discuss the various aspects of hardware as it applies to Authorware projects. From development machines to delivery platform specifications, it's covered here. These are just recommendations, not to be considered gospel truth.
A'ware Requirements - Development Platform - Delivery Platform - Upgrades/Cost-Benefit - Links
Authorware 7 release
Recommended Development Platform
Adobe's processor recommendations are light on detail. While a
Pentium CPU is certainly better than an old 486, don't assume a Pentium
133 is going to be an acceptable processor to work with. Perhaps for
very simple applications, that would be fine. But keep in mind Authorware
is all about integrating multimedia content.
Update 2014: -- Of course, those specs are now way outdated. Good news is Authorware 7 continues to work fine on newer systems. We've developed a couple new Authorware projects under both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 and, boy, with the CPU speed and memory of newer computers, Authorware responds incredibly quickly. You may need to enable UAC if you encounter any issues running Authorware on newer systems, and it isn't multi-CPU aware...but overall, working with Authorware on modern systems continues to be trouble-free and fast. However, once 64bit becomes defacto and 32bit support is dropped, that's when Authorware will truly be unusable (at least without some sort of emulator or VM). --
Authorware 4 was the last version to have a PC and Mac authoring environment.
Starting with Authorware 5, a Windows PC is the only available development
platform. But fortunately, there was enough demand for cross-platform
applications that Adobe has continued to support playback on Macintosh
systems. With Authorware 7, there was a native OS X packager and player...
Adobe recommends "64mb of available RAM." Note this means 64mb of available memory, not 64mb of RAM for your whole system! 128mb of available memory is recommended for smooth development. Our recommendation is your system have a minimum of 256mb under Windows 2000 or XP. And with A'ware 6.5, the 1gb memory problem has been solved, so load up on the RAM!
Adobe also recommends "120mb of available disk space." Authorware itself does not require that much room, but installation of all the ShowMe's, KO's, and support files will require the additional space. Also note that Windows (any version) can require large amounts of free hard drive space for its 'swap file'. The rule of thumb is always have at least twice as much free HD space as you do total RAM - so if you have 128mb of memory, you should be sure to have 256mb of free HD space at all times. With hard drives growing in capacity almost as fast as CPUs are with speed, it should be affordable to have gigabytes of available HD space on your system.
Finally, a 800x600 screen resolution is a unfortunate restriction for target systems, much less a development one. It is recommended your have a system capable of at least 1024x768 for optimal workspace. Even better, two monitors provide an exceptional environment for Authorware development - go dual if you have the choice! Windows 98se, 2000, and XP all have support for dual-monitors, whether it's two separate video cards or a 'dual-head' card. The most expensive aspect is buying a new monitor - but it's a worthy investment that will surely shorten your development time.
Adobe's recommended playback platform, again directly from the box, is pretty sparse. Recommended are simply:
Of course, as multimedia CBT, WBT, e-learning, etc. developers, we don't always have a choice when it comes to target platform specifications. While the above specs may work for low-end media projects, we recommend delivery platforms specifications come close to the preferred development platform.
Unsure which computer memory upgrade you need? The Crucial System Scanner takes the guesswork out of upgrading.
Which brings up an important point. Before you get too far along in the design phase, and certainly well before you begin development, you must determine the target environment. It would be very disappointing for both the client and the developer should an intense multimedia product be developed - only to discover the client computers cannot handle the media. Next to a sloppy interface, nothing upsets a client more than stuttering video, banded images, and slow animation.
The biggest demands on a product's playback computer are usually from
movies. The more 'exotic' the codec a movie uses, the more likely that
movie will require significant performance from the host computer to
decompress and play the movie smoothly.
Of course, if your audience machines are capable, then going with the more recent codecs can certainly offer a much sharper looking result, especially with video that contains a lot of movement. Microsoft's MPEG 4 releases, under the Windows Media banner, are all very capable and produce sharp, clear movies. Using these codecs comes with the added benefit of target Windows computers likely having the codecs pre-installed.
However, the Microsoft codecs are not well-suited for cross-platform
delivery as their support of the Mac platform tends to lag significantly.
If you're delivering to both PCs and Macs, consider either MPEG 1 or
Flash is also increasingly being used within Authorware to deliver distinctive animation and other content. Keep in mind any media playing through Authorware is not going to perform as smoothly as it does on its own, as such implementation provides another software layer the computer must handle. However, such integration is certainly done on a large basis with exceptional results.
Update 2014: -- Of course, nowadays with mobile-delivery being a concern, the most popular video codec is h.264/MP4. However, finding a format and player that will work with Authorware will be a challenge. You can still try to implement the Windows Media Player ActiveX control but that may be a challenge to get working smoothly. Best bet may be to implement the IE control and play the video through the browser (i.e. create an HTML5 page with a [video] tag to the MP4 and load that HTML page through the IE ActiveX control). --
In any such situation, just keep in mind that the more types of media
your program contains, the more demanding that program will be of the
playback computer. There is no hard and fast rule - much of these determinations
are borne of experience and testing.
Upgrades and Cost-Benefit
Each version of Authorware contains improvements, some small, some large.
With Authorware 7, several new methods of media support and structuring
have been included. With these improvements come heavier demands on both
the development and target systems. Functionality such as Powerpoint
conversion require the Microsoft Java VM to be installed on the system
- something many folks have problems with as the recommended development
operating system, XP, initially shipped without a Java VM.
Recently, our systems were upgraded to meet these growing demands. Additional hard drives were added, memory was increased, one computer got a processor upgrade, and another now contains a dual-head video card and two monitors. All of these have certainly led to increased productivity.
There's never a 'right time' to jump into the upgrade process - whatever
is bought new today will quickly be outclassed in a mere few months.
However, it is important to bite the bullet at some point to get better
productivity out of your systems, and yourself.
One last word of advice, don't buy refurbished or reconditioned equipment.
For a simple system, such items may be fine and save you a few pennies.
But for systems you depend on for your income, it's just not worth the
savings to purchase a piece of hardware that has a higher probability
of failure and likely an inferior warranty.
AnandTech's Ratings - yet another vendor rating site - a good one to compare against Reseller Ratings.
Crucial - Makers of quality RAM. If a stable system is important, Crucial-branded memory is the stuff to have.
NewEgg - An excellent, well-rated 'e-store'.