What is it: a system for distributing information among company employees or other groups of PC users
Applications: announcements, policy statements, company news, security alerts, events, employee guidelines or any similar information. The product includes tools for creating, sending and displaying messages on recipients' screens
Finding a way to broadcast time-sensitive information to employees has always been difficult. If you rely on email or paper memos, messages can be easily missed or buried in paperwork. At the other extreme, a Tannoy announcement is hard to ignore, but far too intrusive.
Netpresenter tries to solve this problem in a novel way - by hooking into the Windows screensaver mechanism. The concept is simple. Messages are composed on a central computer and sent across the network to users' PCs. When a recipient's machine is idle for a given period, the Netpresenter 'player' kicks in, displaying the message on screen. When a user starts work again, the message disappears.
In theory, the system is not intrusive because it takes over only when users are not actually working on their PCs. It occupies the entire screen, so the message is almost impossible to ignore.
Messages are not limited to just text. The system includes a special editor which creates eye-catching slides. A message could consist of several slides, complete with colourful text and graphics, linked by a series of transitions, such as fades or wipes. You could also include multimedia files to play a soundtrack while slides are being displayed, for example.
The editor is easy to use, and within half an hour of installation, you can create fairly sophisticated presentations. But the interface lacks 'tooltip' or status bar messages which show the features of the various buttons.
Once the message has been created, it is automatically downloaded to the hard disk of an individual user. If a message needs to be updated frequently, you can arrange for only the new or changed items to be downloaded, keeping network traffic to a minimum. Either way, items are transferred behind the scenes.
As well as working as a screensaver, the Netpresenter player can be kept permanently open in a small window on the screen. This allows users to keep an eye on it as they work, giving it their full attention whenever a new message arrives.
Verdict: Netpresenter is easy to install, requires no special training and is straightforward to use; and the editor creates stunning visuals. However, by connecting to the screensaver mechanism, the messages could flash on screen at awkward times and become intrusive.
Contact: Accurate Technologies on 01189 773889
Price: starter pack costs #249; extra players cost between #5 and #8 each
User report: Philips Sound & Vision uses Netpresenter to distribute information to staff at its consumer electronics development labs. It notifies employees of management decisions, product and general company news.
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