An experiment with the common .IWB file format in Smart/Promethean (and now Easiteach/Mimio)

A new feature with the latest version of ActivInspire is the ability to export your files as the Becta-driven .IWB file format. This is an interesting step for Promethean to take since previously they’ve removed the ability to move your files out of their own flipchart format – even removing the old ActivStudio/Primary feature of being able to export to PowerPoint. For teachers who don’t want to be “locked in” to one particular file format if they ever change schools, the need for a common whiteboard file format is quite important, as is the need to be able to move from one brand of whiteboard to another. You could also use this to create files for Easiteach.

There’s been discussion about the .iwb format over on this thread on Promethean Planet, with teachers asking about which features survive the export to .IWB. So I decided to run a little experiment seeing as a whiteboard trainer I am lucky enough to have both Smart Notebook and ActivInspire on my computer.

I created a simple file with many of the basic features in ActivInspire. I exported that file as the .IWB file format and then import it into Smart Notebook. To do this yourself, in ActivInspire go to File -> Export -> Becta (.iwb) and then in Smart Notebook go to File -> Import and then choose .iwb as the file type.

My first page was a basic plenary circle that I’ve used many times before. Lots of words around a simple shape. Here’s how it looked before the export as an .IWB file.

And here’s how it looked once imported into Smart Notebook.

Basically as you can see it moves all the words up into the top left hand corner and loses text formatting. With a little work it would be pretty quick to move everything back into place.

Here’s the same file imported into RM Easiteach:

Plenary in Easiteach

The next page I tried used lots of the simple features that I would often use in an ActivInspire flipchart. I grouped some shapes with text, added a text hyperlink, attached a sound to a shape.

The page in Inspire looked like this:

Promethean page

And in Smart Notebook looked like this:

Smart Import

Most of the features transferred OK, again the text needs to be rearranged and restored to its original positions. The red circle still had the hyperlink to a sound file. And once I’d retrieved it from the top left corner the text with a hyperlink to the BBC website worked fine. Images and clipart pictures moved across fine. And the yellow background was kept intact.

The Drag a Copy/Infinite Cloner feature of the yellow arrow had been lost. The biggest problem was the grouped shape with text, which became this:

Grouped Object

The shapes and text were still grouped together, but the text had been moved a long way away from the original shape. Again with a quick ungroup and regroup it could be fixed.

Here’s the same page imported into easiteach:

Easiteach page

In Easiteach the infinite cloner works, but the hyperlinks to sounds and web pages are lost. Grouped object works fine though.

I then tried a page with some shapes and a grid background. Not surprisingly the grid was lost on the transfer, although the curve was kept.

But a page with a background image from the Promethean Resource library kept its background when transferring.The page below looked identical in both versions.

So I decided to try something more complicated, but still using basic shapes. Here’s one of the pages from my 5 Lesson Start ideas files.  The page uses a graduated blue and yellow rectangle as a background, locked in place, then several pieces of clip art with a line and a shape grouped together hidden behind a clip art boy.

Lesson Starter Promethean

This file, once exported and imported becomes this :

Lesson Starter Smart

Basically quite a mess. Again, it’s fixable, but you’ll need to invest a little time in ungrouping, rearranging, regrouping and resizing everything on the page.

The other pages in the file were affected in the same way. All would need work to become useable again, but not insurmountable.

I also tried importing into RM Easiteach – the files did look a lot better. Here’s the same page for comparison:

Easiteach

Which suggests that maybe the text issues is more a problem with the Smart Import than the file format.

So from what you can see, although the possibility is there to now export files from Promethean into Smart (or Easiteach) via the .iwb file format, the format itself is very limiting. You can have shape, text, hyperlinks and grouping. But more advanced features will not survive the move.  I haven’t even attempted to try some of the page actions that you will find in Promethean, they just won’t move across as they’re Inspire-specific. Also if you are doing this be prepared to have to rearrange every single piece of text. I do wonder if it’s almost quicker to build the files again from scratch.

With the demise of BECTA I doubt there is any drive  to work on the .IWB file format and make it a more robust standard. At least being able to remove the need for rebuilding would be useful. Hopefully someone will pick up the project.

If you’ve had any more luck with a similar experiment – or have any other questions, please let me know in the comments below!

Update 1 – you can also get a IWB file Board Viewer applet via this site.

Update 2 – I have since tried this with Mimio v8 and v9. Mimio doesn’t handle the .iwb files very well – they end up looking very similar to they did in smart Notebook, which was not very good. But I was impressed to see that Mimio Studio opens Smart .notebook and ActivInspire .flipchart files really well. This is quite impressive – but you will need a mimio device to unlock the software – I don’t know if you can purchase a licence for the software separately. Can anyone advise?

Update 3 (July 2012) – Looks like with Smart Notebook 11 the exported .iwb file format no longer works in other software – I’ve tried to open a file in Easiteach and it won’t open at all :( Notebook 11 still can’t open an .iwb file properly and renders it as badly as Smart 10 did.

Update 4 (Jan 2013) Latest version of Smart Notebook 11 still finds it impossible to cope with an IWB file and opening one looks awful.

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Author: Danny Nicholson

Danny is an author, Science teacher, ICT Consultant, PGCE lecturer and computing / interactive whiteboard trainer. He has delivered training courses across the UK, in Europe, and in Canada. Please get in touch with your training requests.

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6 Comments

  1. Thanks for this rigorous testing of the .iwb format Danny. As you say, it removes the need to start a brand new file if you are moving from one board to another, but fancier stuff does not survive the import. I suppose we had best be grateful that the .iwb format reached this stage, and it’s going to last longer than BECTa did!!

  2. Thanks for testing. I wonder how sank ore would handle the exported .iwb file.

  3. Just tried with the lesson starter file Neils and it wasn’t pretty. Only the text survived the transfer – none of the images or objects made it into Sankore.

  4. Thanks for doing this! Very helpful for teachers trying to save time (which is almost everyone, right?)!

  5. Absolutely Lisa :)

  6. I have since tried this with Mimio v8. Mimio doesn’t handle the .iwb files very well – they end up looking very similar to they did in smart Notebook, which was not very good. But I was impressed to see that Mimio Studio opens Smart .notebook and ActivInspire .flipchart files really well. This is quite impressive – but you will need a mimio device to unlock the software – I don’t know if you can purchase a licence for the software separately. Can anyone advise?

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