Monday, March 26, 2007

Using Acroflip

I've been experimenting with Acroflip quite a bit for creating page-turning documents on the web, for free. It is a highly frustrating experience, although it also has great potential. To call it buggy would be a great insult to bugs everywhere, who clearly are designed better than this application. Still, I am excited about what the future might hold for this service. I love the flip-book type of document reading, although I'm not sure how widely held that affinity is.

So far I have TRIED to use it 14 times. Seven failed attempts at creating a usable document and seven successful attempts, although the documents were not always usable as I continued to learn by trial-and-error what works well and what doesn't.

My first four attempts at uploading files to their server were met by fatal errors resulting in nothing but an empty folder in my acroflip file manager. The next three attempts worked as they (acroflip) intended, but not necessarily what I had hoped for. The next three attempts were on another day when the server was apparently broken, and finally four more attempts yesterday and today were successful, and got closer to my intended outcome.

My first successful upload can be found here. The outcome is really quite lousy. When using the Acroflip Upload Wizard, it tells you to upload either PDF or JPEG files. I wanted to use JPEGs so I uploaded 5 photos trying to illustrate how to straighten a crooked picture and add a colored border using the Picnik photo editing tool. The five photos did upload and the resulting flipbook ended up with 16 pages of various versions of those 5 photos in a somewhat random order. If that wasn't bad enough, it took these 5 photos that were in a landscape (horizontal) orientation and squeezed them into a portrait (vertical) orientation. Not at all what I was shooting for. Apparently portrait orientation is the one and only choice.

My second successful upload contained 7 photos that were in portrait orientation (fool me once, shame on ???? me/you/him/GeorgeW?) from my trip to Vietnam. This was better because I really like the way that the JPEG file completely fills the page on the flipbook. HOWEVER, the 7 photos turned into 28 pages in the final document. So of course, I'm the one who looks like an idiot because of all the duplicate photos.

So now I'm learning something with each attempt. My third attempt was to upload a PDF that I made using the Picnik editing photos from the failed first upload. JPEGs seemed to be a problem, so how about a single document saved as a PDF. So I took the five photos and added text to them in Word to make a step-by-step document on how to edit the photos. I saved the Word document as a PDF and uploaded it to Acroflip. This was the best effort so far, but there were still some problems from which I could learn something useful. For some reason (mistake) there was an extra blank page 8 on the PDF when only 7 pages were needed. In Acroflip that blank page 8 actually looks transparent when you turn to page 8 so that you still see page 6 on the screen. Not really a big deal, but something worth noting. Also, I had three web links on page 7. Little did I know that the links would actually be live in Acroflip (very cool, I think!) However, in my haste, I mistyped two of the three links which meant that the links in the document were wrong. At this point a couple of the current failings of Acroflip became obvious. It is currently not possible to delete a document from your Acroflip account, not can you replace one with a new upload. I just wanted to correct the PDF and then upload it to replace the incorrect one. No can do.

So, I uploaded the new document and just had another flipbook added to my account. Now the corrected one lives right next to the incorrect one. I also took the opportunity to add a graphic to the front page and to add another link to page 7, although I forgot to eliminate the blank page 8. This is now my "best" document showing how to use the Picnik editing tool, but it's still not really the way I want it.

I wanted to try again with some of my Vietnam photos, so I created a new PDF this time using PowerPoint as the base application for creating the document, then saving it as a PDF. I changed PPT to the portrait view (which seems so unnatural in PowerPoint) and just added a little bit of text to each of the 26 pages of photos of the People of Vietnam. While writing this post, I decided that I wasn't really happy with the way those pages looked so I replaced the plain white background (in PPT) with colorful backgrounds. I saved the PPT again as a PDF and then uploaded once again into Acroflip. This also gave me the opportunity to fix a misspelling on page 7 of the document. So now, after several trials and tribulations, I'm pretty happy with the last version of this particular flipbook.

I wasn't quite ready to quit just yet, so I wanted to see what would happen if I saved a regular landscape PowerPoint slideshow as a PDF and then uploaded the PDF to Acroflip. I guessed correctly that it would change the landscape orientation into portrait, but I wasn't all that disappointed with the way the final product looked. Yes, it is squeezed a bit to fit the new orientation, but it doesn't seem too ugly to me. This was from a previous presentation about the Online Student Mentors at Lake Superior College.

In conclusion: Positives: (1) FREE!! (2) flip effect is visually appealing, (3) pages print nicely, (4) zoom is nice.

Negatives: (1) portrait only, (2) JPEGs not working yet, (3) very buggy, errors are common, (4) can’t delete failed attempts, (5) can’t tag for searchability, (6) can’t replace a document with an updated one, (7) almost no instructions or help available.

My bottom line: I'm excited about the possibilities for this service. As they state on their homepage: "Please be patient as elements of the system are still in development." Okay, I admit it, that's hard for me to do. I'll try.

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Bryan said...

I just tried this service as well. I'll agree that it seems to have great potential. If they can polish this product, they have a winner on their hands. I'd be interested to see what their pricing structure is going to be. I'd have a zillion uses for something like on a business level and a personal level.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys,

I know what you mean. Acroflip is very buggy...

Found a much better one, easy to use and looks great... .

Upload your PDF without having to create a user and you get your page turning document sent stright to ya