Sophie – multimedia authoring for the masses?

Bob Stein (from the Institute for the Future of the Book) gave a great lecture in the IOCT this week that Bruce Mason has blogged here.

Aside from the obvious enthusiasm Bob has for thinking about the issues around how people read and interact with multimedia texts, I was struck by the latest version of his multimedia authoring software, Sophie – “designed for reading and writing next-generation electronic books”. Although Bob only had a short period of time to demonstrate how Sophie works, it is clear that the software will be much much easier to use than (say) Flash, despite using similar authoring concepts (e.g. timelines). There has clearly been a lot of intelligent thought put into the interface: Sophie uses contextual menus that popup when you need them, rather than the omnipresent toolbar across the top; files can be easily drag-and-dropped into your ‘book’, etc.

I was initially a little surprised that Sophie produces its own standalone files rather than being a browser-based software, but there are lots of benefits to this, not least that you aren’t subject to the kind of changes that IE7 implemented that rendered many flash movies inoperable without a laborious permission-setting process.

It is difficult for any multimedia authoring software to be both instantly accessible to new users and still have a wide range of features and possibilities, but Sophie seems like a fantastic step down that path.