ONE cannot deny that Macromedia's Director is still an unbeatable multimedia production tool, with a high degree of control over graphics, video and sound. Unfortunately, its interactivity is handled through the scripting language Lingo. It usually takes users some time to get the feel of the software, but after they have learnt the language they can make it perform a wide range of tasks. With Authorware, an authoring package introduced by Macromedia, multimedia developers who engage in creating and designing interactive applications can save valuable time in developing their projects. Authorware is especially useful in interactive learning applications, including courseware, training, on-line help, testing or in any situation where tracking user response is needed. Because the functions are automated, development is quite speedy. As a result, the release of Authorware is good news for those who already know the content but who do not want to dedicate their valuable time in development. With a host of new and handy features as well as modifications and improvements to previous versions, Authorware 3.0 is more powerful and easy to use than earlier releases. Users can now optimise CD-based application performance. Version 3.0 adds the capability to create hyperlinks between multimedia elements and to import RTF (rich text format) text. The upgrade allows users to integrate Macromedia Director movies into their Authorware applications, to convert Macintosh pieces to Windows and Windows to Macintosh, and to create custom buttons with a button gallery and editor. The new version also comes with about 1,000 high-quality smart clips; from backgrounds, sliders and buttons to bullets. Users can directly import any of these clips into Authorware. Interface enhancements, such as a new toolbar, a colour chip on the icon palette and object alignment, a debugger and comprehensive on-line help are additional features. Version 3.0 ships with several functions for controlling sound in Director movies. By selecting the 'load' function from the Data menu, you get four functions for sending and receiving lingo strings back and forth from a Director movie. Comparing Authorware with Director, it emerges that animation, transitions, and special effects are where Director shines; while Authorware excels in user interaction, training and informational titles, and it is easier to develop with than Director. Director is a useful application for object-oriented scripting language and transitions, and for special effects in creating animations that Authorware cannot handle like distortions, blending and rotating. Those efects can then be played back in Authorware as movies. On the other hand, Authorware is much better for training and educational titles, kiosk and anything that requires a lot of interactivity. It is relatively easy to develop in, and has an integrated hypertext-navigation system. If you have been looking into the possibility of getting authoring tools for cross-platform development, Authorware 3.0 is highly recommended because it seems to be the most promising, reliable and practical authoring package for trainers, educators and multimedia developers. The media-integration tools are a product with a lot of potential, especially version 3.0 which offers better quality control and is more stable than version 2.0. Macromedia's authoring tools, Authorware and Director, are the most commonly used tools for CD-ROM production. On the downside, Authorware 3.0 does not specifically support the Panasonic laser disc but does support Pioneer and Sony. However, on Windows, you could control the Panasonic with MCI commands as long as there is an MCI driver available from Pioneer. On the Mac, you would need a similar XCMD to get the job done. It is likely that Pioneer has written one, or there may be one available in the various libraries on CompuServe, on other on-line services or even the Internet. Although Version 3.0 supports the loading of custom functions as an extension to the authoring environment, it does not have any tools to compile these functions. For this you still need to use a C compiler. To use Authorware 3.0 for Macintosh, you should have a Macintosh with a 25 MHz 68030 processor or better, System 7.x, a 640x480 or higher resolution colour monitor, eight megabytes of RAM, and 40 MB of available hard disk space. For the Windows version, the minimum authoring system requirements are a PC installed with a 486/33 MHz processor, eight MB of RAM, 4-bit (16-colour) VGA graphics card, 40 MB of hard disk and Windows 3.1. If you just want to play with Authorware products, your Macintosh system should be installed with a 16 MHz 68020 processor, four MB of RAM, System 6.0.7 or later, 32-bit QuickDraw, and 10 MB of available hard disk space. For your Windows system, it should be equipped with a minimum of a 386/20 MHz processor, eight MB of RAM, 4-bit (16-colour) VGA graphics card, hard disk and Windows 3.1. If not, you will be unable to run anything created in Authorware on your Windows system. The product is being distributed in Hong Kong by PacRim Technologies. Commercial Authorware 3.0 for Windows and Macintosh is available at most software outlets at a suggested retail price of $38,960, which includes the free Director Multimedia Studio (DMS). Registered Authorware Professional 2.0 commercial customers can upgrade for $7,760. Those who bought Authorware 2.0 between February 1 this year and the shipping of version 3.0 can upgrade for a $500 handling charge - and will also get the DMS bundle.