Want a dynamic, interactive slideshow of your pictures...one you can use on the Web or in presentations? Flash slideshows, when done right, are lively and compelling, and can be very attractive. A remarkably easy program for creating a Flash show is Wondershare Flash Gallery Factory ($50, watermarked demo).
The startup splash screen has two options: Gallery Mode or Slideshow Mode. Whichever one you choose, you can easily switch to the other, as you work. However, the show you create using the templates from one mode can't be edited in the other. The most obvious difference between the two modes is the number of tabs in the interface. The Gallery mode has three tabs: Browse, Template and Publish, while Slideshow mode has five: Browse, Template, Effect, Decorate and Publish. But even in similarly named tabs, the functionality varied depending on your mode.
Both modes start out the same. In Browse, you use a Windows Explorer-like folder tree to select the photos you want to use in your slideshow. You can import BMP, JPEG, PNG or GIF images. The Templates tab is where the two modes diverge.
In Gallery mode, you can choose from among two types of templates: Advanced and 3D. Advanced, which is somewhat misnamed, has 14 attractive templates, for interactive photo galleries. But it's the 3D that are the most eye-catching. Options are limited. You can choose to use your own background image or select a background color.
You can add more than one song (MP3, WMA, or WAV), set when each will play, select to loop the music automatically (or not) and whether or not it should fade in/out. However, to coordinate your music to your show, you have to refer to the slideshow itself to figure out what pictures will play at what times, then input your times for the music in the Edit Music dialog. In Wondershare Flash Gallery Factory's Slideshow mode, the Template tab has twenty options, divided into two tabs: Simple and Theme. A third tab is Custom, where you can save templates that you design using Customized. The Custom options are not extensive, but can be effective and are very easy to select, preview and use. You can set the Background to use preset Dynamic or Static images, a selected Color, or your own image. In Appearance, you can select frames for your pictures and thumbnails, transition effects, and from among a variety of Control Bar styles. Again, the Appearance presets are limited, but can result in some very fun and funky, or pretty presentations. The Text section can add as many captions as you wish (setting font, size, color, opacity, shadow, and whether it is normal, bold, italics or underline). However, there is no justification for multiple line text, nor can you set different attributes for specific characters, words or lines within a single caption. Text can enter the screen using a variety of effects, such as Fade-In, Wipe Left, Zoom In, etc. Finally, in Customize, you can add click art, some of which are animated.
You can't use Customize on the preset templates. That's the job of the Effect and Decorate tabs. In Effect, you can select both Transition and Motion Effects for individual images or for the show as a whole. And in Decorate, you can add text (with the same options as in Gallery), Clipart, Animation or Sound. The biggest difference between Customize and the Effect or Decorate tabs is that you can't save your edits to a new custom template in the latter.
In the Slideshow mode, you can easily designate text, clip art and photos clickable links to URLs. In addition, you can add music in the same limited way as in Gallery mode.
Given the far greater versatility of the Slideshow mode, the only reason we can see to use the Gallery mode is for the 3D templates, or if as specific Advanced template strikes your fancy. For instance, while Gallery allows you to add a "Loading" video, if you want an Intro or Credit slide at the beginning and end of your show, you need to use Slideshow.
The Publish tab in both modes offers the same options: Create SWF (Flash) movie, Publish HTML File, Create Executable, Send via E-mail or Make Screen Saver.
Wondershare's Flash Gallery Factory is remarkably easy to use, so much so that most people probably won't bother with the generally useful Help menu or the scanty online text-based tutorials. However, if they had simply gone just a bit further--such as by allowing users to customize template presets, or to move a slideshow-in-progress from Gallery mode to Slideshow, so you can add to or edit those templates--the program would have been a knock-'em-dead application. As it is, Wondershare Flash Gallery Factory is noteworthy for how easy it makes creating dynamic Flash photo galleries.
Note: The trial/demo version publishes with a watermark splashed across your pictures, stating "Evaluation Copy: Created by Wondershare Flash Gallery Factory." The price given here is for personal use. Business users must purchase a commercial license, which provides the right to use your Flash photo gallery for business purposes, such as for exhibition show and Web site, as well as a Flash banner for a commercial website.