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Feature: Graphics & Multimedia

Salasaga burns brightly at its start

By Bruce Byfield on March 24, 2008 (6:00:00 PM)

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One of the remaining gaps in the GNU/Linux desktop is an editor for producing Flash content. When viewing Flash files, users can limp along with Adobe's proprietary player or the still-incomplete although free Gnash player, but the best they can do for Flash creation is employ the limited ability of OpenOffice.org Draw to export to the format. Considering the often trivial uses to which Flash is put, this lack is not entirely lamentable, but the fact remains that nothing remotely comparable to Adobe's Flash CS3 Professional. Salasaga, which until recently was called the Flame Project, is an effort to fill this gap by providing the functionality of Adobe Captivate for producing Flash computer tutorials and animations. However, at version 0.7.7, it is focusing on bare functionality more than a polished interface.

Salasaga is a cross-platform effort available for GNU/Linux, BSD, Solaris Nevada, and Windows. You can install it on GNU/Linux from source code, or by downloading packages for Gentoo, Fedora, or Ubuntu. Its dependencies include at least version 2.10 of Glib and GTK+, version 1.16 of Pango, version 2.6.30 of libxml2, and version 0.4.0.beta5 of Ming, which provides the Flash capacity. Installation by any means adds a menu item to the Graphics menu on the GNOME desktop.

Opening Salasaga, you could easily think you are in a slide show program. Individual slides display on the left, and the current slide appears on the bottom right. On the top right is information about the layers on the current side.

Menus are logically laid out across the top of the editing window. From the editing menu, you can set the defaults for new projects, including the default display size of finished projects, the preview width, and the default background color. After adjusting these settings, you proceed logically from the right as you develop a project, progressing from Screenshots for importation through Slide and Layer to Export. This progression is so logical that few viewers should have trouble teaching themselves the basics of the software and producing a test project in less than 20 minutes -- and saving it in native .flame format or exporting it to Flash or SVG formats.

Still, along the way, you can't help but notice a lack of finish. The only major problem with functionality is that the screenshot-taking capacity doesn't work immediately with the X Window System, and requires adding Option "AllowDeactivateGrabs" "true" to the Server Flags section of your xorg.conf file, then pressing the keys Control-Alt-/ before each screen shot, as detailed in the project documentation.

Other restrictions show the lack of flexibility that might be expected in a project under heavy development. For instance, the name of each screenshot must begin with the project name, followed by a sequential number. No file selection program is available, although as you use the tool to import screenshots into the project, Salasaga does conveniently delete them from the folder they came from.

Even more noticeably, little can be done with the mouse (you might at first miss the fact that you can adjust settings for layers by clicking them). Mostly, you position slides and their contents via dialog windows and menus. Slides must be arranged via the menu, and renamed in a dialog. You add text and graphics to the top left corner of a slide and maneuver them into position by setting their X and Y coordinates in a dialog. This last feature means that arranging slides is largely a matter of trial and error; it is also a major annoyance when you are trying to add more than one image to the same slide.

Nor is there the time-line you would expect in an animation or video program. Instead, you set the duration that each slide displays through a dialog, a process that requires constantly moving between slides to ensure that you don't lose track of how frames are used. A graphical display would vastly simplify the building of a project, especially a large one.

Also missing are features that those familiar with Flash Professional or Adobe Captivate might expect, such as drawing tools, a scripting language, and support for sound and video.

Surprisingly, even under these primitive conditions, Salasaga remains relatively easy to use and to produce output in. However, as the software moves closer to completion, advanced features and usability need to be given greater attention if Salasaga is to be a complete replacement for its proprietary counterparts. For now, it is a promising start, but definitely a work in progress.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for Linux.com.

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on Salasaga burns brightly at its start

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Don't forget Wink

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: unknown] on March 24, 2008 07:52 PM
Wink (http://www.debugmode.com/wink) already provides a decent-sized chunk of "the functionality of Adobe Captivate for producing Flash computer tutorials and animations". It runs on GNU/Linux and Windows, though the Windows version has more functionality at this point.

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Open Dialect

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.205.5.1] on March 24, 2008 11:18 PM
Another new flash related project is Open Dialect, which has a more Flash IDE-like interface with a timeline. It is under GPL v3 and is coded in C#, but is being ported to Mono/Gtk+

http://dialect.openmodeling.net/wiki/OpenDialect

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Re: Open Dialect

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 129.177.138.109] on April 15, 2008 08:46 PM
Hey Open Dialect has come out with a version that supports linux check it out at http://dialect.openmodeling.net

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New development snapshot of Salasaga released!

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 121.44.180.1] on March 25, 2008 03:53 AM
Hi all,

Just released a new development snapshot of Salasaga with major usability improvements over the version that Bruce reviews above. :)

25th March 2008 Salasaga Development Snapshot
http://downloads.sourceforge.net/salasaga/salasaga-0.8.0.dev-200803251321.tar.bz2

Among the improvements in this release are that most layer manipulation is now done with the mouse (rather than typing values into a dialog), and the screenshot naming problem Bruce mentioned has been fixed too.

There are also several swf export enhancements and bunch of other small improvements throughout as well. :)

Regards and best wishes,

Justin Clift

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No Gentoo ebuilds available

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.220.186.171] on March 25, 2008 07:13 AM
Sorry Bruce; you shoulda done your homework. There are no ebuilds available for Gentoo Linux. Heck, there don't even seem to be any RPMs available for Fedora. Only an extremely outdated .deb for Ubuntu users. And apparently they shouldn't even use that. The Salasaga documentation indicates that everyone should compile it from source.

According to the <a href="http://www.salasaga.org/index.php?page=to-do-list">ToDo list</a>, the developers plan to create a Gentoo ebuild, but have not yet done so. Too bad, considering that they say Salasaga is developed using Gentoo.

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Salasaga burns brightly at its start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 121.44.180.1] on March 25, 2008 11:23 AM
Hi Anonymous,

It's "development snapshots" tarballs for the moment, so that means compiling from source until the proper releases happen. Compiling from source works fine for Gentoo.

If you want, there's an older ebuild (contributed by Yohan Fidzri) available here you should find fairly easy to update to make work:

http://downloads.sourceforge.net/salasaga/flameproject-0.7.7.12.ebuild

It hasn't been updated yet because I'm unsure on how to get a recent Ming ebuild into portage (it's a vital dependency), and prefer to keep focused on getting the main code base to its first decently usable release.

Regards and best wishes,

Justin Clift

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Salasaga burns brightly at its start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.205.149.203] on March 26, 2008 06:32 PM
What about openlaszlo? it can output to Flash.

http://www.openlaszlo.org/

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Hmm

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 68.175.34.68] on March 26, 2008 11:12 PM
Flex 3 is open source, supported by Adobe, and runs on linux. While Flex targets developer-types more than artist-types (like CS3 does), claiming that OpenOffice is the best a user can do is wrong.

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Salasaga burns brightly at its start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 59.167.157.218] on March 28, 2008 06:14 PM
Flex 3 is NOT open source. It's SDK is.

"Adobe Flash Player, the runtime on which Flex applications are viewed, and Flex Builder, the IDE used to build Flex applications, remain proprietary."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adobe_Flex

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