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Hardware Considerations
The 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 Requirements
Right off the box, the minimum requirements for authoring with Authorware 7:

  • Intel Pentium processor or higher
  • Microsoft Windows 98se, 2000, or XP (XP is preferred)
  • 64mb of available RAM for one open instance of Authorware.
  • 120mb of available disk space.
  • 800x600 monitor resolution or better

Authorware 7 release notes


eLearning Chef


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.
Our experience indicates an Intel Celeron, AMD Athlon or AMD Duron processors work just as well as an Intel Pentium, but don't skimp on the Mhz. Regardless of the type, you'll want at least a 550mhz CPU to author without any aggravating delays. With the speed of processors reaching ever-higher ratings these days, a 1Ghz CPU or better is certainly recommended.

Update 2014: -- Of course, those specs are now way outdated.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...
Unfortunately, it doesn't work on newer versions of the MacOS. With the removal of the Rosetta, the Authorware Mac Packager no longer works (the last supported MacOS that'll work is SnowLeopard).

At the time version 7 was released Windows XP was the newest OS version from Microsoft, so it is the recommended platform for Authorware development. However, many authors are still using Windows 2000 and Windows 98se without any problems. But there comes a time when old Operating Systems must be abandoned, and thus with the release of Authorware 7, versions of Windows prior to 98se are not supported. You can still try to author on older systems, and many do successfully - but as newer features are implemented (Powerpoint conversion, javascript, etc.), such users will likely encounter problems.

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.

Delivery Platform

Adobe's recommended playback platform, again directly from the box, is pretty sparse. Recommended are simply:

Microsoft Windows

  • Intel Pentium processor or higher
  • Windows 98se, 2000, ME, XP, NT 4 - or later
  • 32mb of RAM


  • PowerMac G3 or higher
  • Apple Mac OS X (10.1 or later recommended) or 8.6 or better with Carbon Library
  • 32mb or RAM

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.
If your target platforms are older machines, stick with an older codec. MPEG 1 is still a favorite for many developers due to its ubiquity. It demands far less CPU attention than the more modern MPEG 4 codec variants and most systems come equipped with the necessary codecs and drivers to playback such movies without requiring additional software to be installed.

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 QuickTime.
QuickTime has the benefit of being native to the Mac, so implementation is simple. On the other hand, delivering a product with .mov's to the PC can be difficult as such machines rarely have QT installed. This will require forethought during development to detect if QuickTime is installed, and if not, how to provide an installation option for the user.
Real is also produces quality codecs, but the likelihood of the required software being installed on either PC or a Mac is even less than any of the above solutions.

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.
As Authorware continues to grow and add new capabilities, the demands on both types of systems will only increase. Thus it is important to keep at least the development systems at a workable level. Fortunately, prices for most computer upgrades are continually dropping.

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.
Fortunately, shopping and comparing prices to get the best bang for your money has never been easier. A few of our favorite links are below which we use regularly for our shopping and upgrade needs.

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'.


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