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Illuminatus OPUS web authoring tool reviewed


Title: Illuminatus OPUS
Publisher: Digital Workshop (
Cost: Single use £99.95 (special upgrade also available)
Multi-user site licenses also available: details from Digital Workshop.

A few weeks ago I reviewed Seminar4web from Information Transfer and compared it with Digital Transfer's Illuminatus authoring tool which I had got a year or two ago as a free cover disc.

Well, the good news is that Illuminatus is back on a PC magazine cover near you (as of June/July 2001). But, the even better news is that the latest version, re-named Illuminatus OPUS, is available for £99.95. In fact, it will cost less if you download from DT's site or have a copy of PowerPoint, Corel Presentation, Astound or any other presentational/educational authoring programme to qualify for an upgrade license.

So, what do you get for the full asking price? Well, basically a boxed set with a well produced manual (418 pages, all of which you'll need) and two CDs, one with the actual programme plus useful utilities, the other a resource disc full of extra backgrounds, graphics, buttons etc. The manual includes a useful set of self directed tutorials to help- you get started... then, just in case you can't get motivated, there are a number of examples of just what you can achieve with OPUS . (annoyingly they don't always make it clear just how some of the tricks were achieved... how do I get the dissolving map and magnifying glass effects?)

So, how does OPUS perform?

Well, this is what really sets one programme against the other. IT's product offers limited capability and a minimal need for training. OPUS offers a fully developed presentation tool able to do everything that Seminar4web can and much, much more besides. This means everything from straightforward presentations, as per PowerPoint etc, via more sophisticated audio/video interactive multi-media sessions to full-blown CBT material, complete with progress tracking, reactivity, question sets, scoring etc.

OPUS's interface is pretty simple and inviting and starting off new presentations, adding pages, text, buttons, clips etc is all fairly straightforward. However, once you get past the basics, the learning curve attached to OPUS is pretty steep to a relative novice like myself. Whilst the tutorials help, the only real way of learning a programme like this is to use it for a real-life project. This is where the manual and the usual wizards come into their own. Even so, after three pretty intensive sessions I feel that I have only just started scratching the surface and at times felt that I could kill for the relative ease of Seminar4web.

Part of the problem seems to be initial impression that you need to create each page from scratch. In fact you can define a master page layout or simply copy/clone pages. In fact, it would be useful to set up your own bank of templates for various types of standard pages and question types... or even easier if DT offered some as an extra resources or as downloads from their website.

Somehow, I can't help feeling that as more and more of us get drawn into web-authoring and producing interactive materials there will be many like me who need to start off with simple tools (idiot-proof to some, high productivity to others) before moving on to the more sophisticated features on an as-needed basis. And that is really what your choice is about. How much time you can invest versus what you want the programme to actually do. In the meantime, you pays your money and makes your choice... at the very least tracking down a cover disc is a fairly safe way of trying out a previous version of OPUS.


Illuminatus OPUS was reviewed by Neil Wellman, NetWork Associates.


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