Wednesday, July 15, 2009

GE Tour Editor: Snoovel

Via GEB I learnt of Snoovel, an answer to my lazy web suggestion that GE Tours would really be a lot easier to put together with a graphical editor. I've been in contact with Andy Schweiger from Snoovel about the development.

Pros: They've done some good things:
  1. Draggable Controls: the timeline has some advanced drag and drop and draggable boundaries to objects which is really helpful.
  2. Slick looking interface which is stylishly put together.
  3. Audio: Ability to add audio files is very useful. I have spent hours trying to hand code audio into tours and its a pain.

Cons: I have lots of little grumbles like the lack of a play head showing you where exactly you are on the timeline, but its a little unfair because this is a beta release. So I'll concentrate on some more fundamental issues:
  1. No ability to add or control KML content: Being able to turn Features on and off like Placemarks, Overlays, Screen Overlays and (especially) pop up Balloons is a key part of tours IMHO. Andy tells me that they plan to add this later but that there is an issue with the plugin then getting overloaded and crashing which users would then blame on Snoovel. Some kind of dash board indicator to show how overloaded the plugin is getting is the solution?
  2. No help files: Its disappointing that there's only a screencast to show you how to use the service. You may think this is forgivable since its a beta release - well that's a fair point but I think documentation is usually thought of only as an after thought in projects like this and its key to the usability of the service.
  3. Scenes and Points of Interest: The system Snoovel uses to control the look direction in the tour is to have what are termed camera views and to organise these into scenes. A scene is associated with a 'Point of Interest' (POI), Andy says this is to enable copying of scenes. I think users would be quite happy with copying scenes and from their point of view the POI just makes the process of producing a tour more complex.
Conclusion: Overall I think this a good service and I'm glad to see it out there, as Frank mentioned in his review, its the most sophisticated tour editor available to date. A good thing to experiment with if you're happy with beta versions, I look forward to seeing it develop.

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