By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2006-01-23 Print this article Print

Calling SoftSim a software simulation tool is sort of like calling Microsoft Corp.s Visual Studio a code editor. But, come to think of it, a high-end development environment is a pretty good comparison because SoftSim provides similar features, including check-in/check-out, embedded reviewer comments and shared content servers.

Instead of creating applications, of course, SoftSim creates training and learning management simulations for applications. And, while the product can be difficult to learn—and its many features, buttons and menus can be somewhat overwhelming at first—SoftSim will almost certainly meet high-end business needs.

Like most software simulation products, SoftSim 2006 runs only on Windows platforms. SoftSim simulations, however, can take several formats, including Flash, Java applets, or even a series of static screens with text explanations in a Word or HTML file.

SoftSim is part of OutStarts larger portfolio of learning management products and is priced accordingly. Starting at $4,000 per named author, SoftSim is much more expensive than demo-oriented products such as Camtasia Studio 3.1. But for organizations that need SoftSims robust feature set and are used to learning management costs, the product is actually something of a bargain.

Click here to read the Labs review of Camtasia Studio 3.1. As with most simulation products, everything in SoftSim starts with recording.

When we fired up a new project, the product recognized all running applications on our system. After selecting the applications we wanted to record, we could choose to capture only the application screen or the full desktop. We could also choose to launch the recording using hot keys or as soon as the Next button in the SoftSim recorder was hit.

At this point, simulation developers can access a whole host of capabilities to customize and build their simulation to meet a variety of needs. Several step transitions can be added throughout the simulation; customized notes fields and icons can be inserted; application-development-type items such as radio buttons and drop-downs can be added; and detailed quizzes and tests can be created and associated throughout.

Audio also can be added to a SoftSim application simulation, although we couldnt record audio as we recorded the application. Audio is instead added later and associated with steps throughout the simulation. The audio can be created in SoftSim or in a third-party tool.

When generating and outputting content from SoftSim, the products training and learning management focus is really apparent. The product includes a content server component that handles publishing and management of simulations, and we could output content in a review mode suitable for testing the simulations.

SoftSim can output content that meets SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) 2004 and 1.2 requirements, as well as Section 508 requirements for accessibility and several other industry standards.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr RapozaÔÇÖs current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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