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GoldMail Free is a useful program and Web service (the two are inextricably linked) which allows you to create, and then share, slideshow-style messages complete with voice-over. Creating, posting, and sharing messages is easy, surprisingly so, and there are many situations in which creating messages this way can add a great deal of impact to whatever it is you're trying to say.
GoldMail includes a brief (90-second) video and audio tutorial. I appreciate the brevity. There is little more annoying than having to listen to someone take ten minutes to say what you could read in sixty seconds flat. Once the quick introduction is over, the actual creation of a message is simple. First, you select slides. These can be from an imported PowerPoint presentation, or from images on your disk. For each slide, you can record audio--you will need a microphone to do so--or you can attach pre-recorded sound. In the free version, total audio per message is limited to 3 minutes, divided as you see fit. Once you're done, you can preview the message, then, when you're ready, it is posted to your GoldMail account and a link is provided for you to send to recipients.
To aid in recording, when creating the slide show, you can enter notes in a sidebar, which is not part of the slide and does not become part of the message. These notes are shown when you record, so that you have a convenient script to read from. This works well; you click "Record,, you read the script, you click "Stop."
As is often the case, the price of ease of use is a small feature set. Image editing within GoldMail Free is very limited--you can add an arrow and/or a box, precisely one of each per slide. Each slide allows you to enter (in any font) a heading and a caption. You can center the image, or place it on the left hand side of the screen, with text to the right. That is, more or less, it. There are no fancy dissolves or transitions between slides, no Photoshop-like tools to edit or manipulate the images, no way to add blocks of text. You can add a "Text Slide", which allows you to pick a single font and size for the slide.
Of course, it's been well-proven that giving powerful graphic design tools to non-graphic-designers is a recipe for communications disaster. GoldMail's target audience isn't the art department, it's general business users, especially marketing and sales. Limiting their ability to be "creative" is probably a feature, not a bug, and the cleanness and simplicity of the interface means fewer calls to tech support.
A recipient does not need a GoldMail account to view your message. All they have to do is follow the link.
The free version allows for up to 5 messages of up to 3 minutes each. (You can delete old messages to make room for new ones.) You cannot package or send the final message file; it must be hosted on GoldMail's site. You can embed the player in a blog or web site, but the actual file is hosted at GoldMail.
GoldMail Free provides a very easy way to create "text and pictures" message, for business communication or for sending Grandma an animated slideshow of the cats being adorable. The free version is fine for casual users. The upgraded versions are clearly aimed at business, with more features to brand your messages and track viewership.
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