ActivInspire for all IWB Users?

I’ve been thinking over the last few days about the implications of the ActivInspire launch for users of other boards. And I think it’s pretty big news for everyone who uses an interactive whiteboard.

The launch of the Personal Edition of ActivInspire is quite a major thing and is an interesting development by Promethean to open up their resource library to everyone, something I’ve always felt that they wanted to protect for their boards only.


I have always been a big fan of both Smart Notebook and ActivStudio/Primary. I am less of a fan of the software that runs on other interactive whiteboards. They just don’t have the useability that I am looking for. I have also found that these the makers of these boards have not really invested in developing banks of resources for their users. Try looking for a Hitachi flipchart anywhere online and you’ll see what I mean.

The solution for users of these boards was either to struggle on with the software provided with your board or purchase a third party piece of software such as RM Easiteach. The third option was to use Smart Notebook or ActivSoftware in breach of the user licence – which is not something you should really be doing.

Now it should be possible for the user of any interactive whiteboard to download and run ActivInspire Personal Edition on their board legally. This gives them the basic whiteboard tools, plus more importantly access to open and use all of the Promethean flipcharts available on Promethean Planet, and on other websites (such as mine).

ActivInspire also opens (and converts) Smart Notebook files (for now). So whiteboard users running ActivInspire can pretty much get access to the majority of IWB files available on the Internet. For example on my site I have files I produced only as Smart – those files can now be used by any ActivInspire user. How long it will be before Smart releases a update patch that stops Promethean from opening their files, only time will tell. I hope they don’t – I’d like to see resources made more open for teachers, not locked into proprietary formats.


For teachers in schools that have mixed platforms, and I have been in many, it can be a real problem to have materials you have written to use on the Smartboard in your classroom only to find the room you are now timetabled in has a Promethean board – or a Hitachi board etc. Schools could now put the personal version on all computers to give teachers a common platform which they could use if they wish.

It’s worth making clear that the Personal Edition of ActivInspire is a cut down version. It does not have all the tools that the full version has. You can see a comparison chart here. It does not have design mode, or desktop annotation, or screen recorder. There’s no handwriting recognition, or dice tools or on-screen keyboards. But these are often tools people can do without. And if you do llike the software the school can purchase the full version of the ActivInspire anyway.

So it’s an interesting move. There’s no reason now why every school computer connected to an IWB can’t be running ActivInspire – and the teachers can be using Smart and Promethean flipcharts on every board.

So what’s in it for Promethean? Schools could now buy cheap boards,  and run their software? I guess the first thing is that if they can get teachers used to a common format  they may be more inclined to buy Promethean boards in the future. It’s also a good way of making the Promethean brand more prominent. Promethean can also make money from selling the full version of ActivInspire to these schools.

I think the important thing is that the whiteboard is almost becoming commonplace in schools. Most schools have made their choice about smart or promethean (or Hitachi, or Cleverboard etc) and the market is getting saturated. But the next step is the “extras” that come with the boards – voting kits, visualisers, tablets etc. If a Hitachi school has standardised themselves on ActivInspire then they are more likely to purchase Promethean accessories since they just work within ActivInspire. This is the next big market – and Promethean look like they are getting themselves in at the start of the game. This is not a bad thing. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

What will be interesting is seeing how many schools take up the Promethean software. I have been in schools recently that are still using ActivPrimary version 2. They haven’t even upgraded to v3 yet. How long before they take up the new version? Will schools that don’t have Promethean boards realise they are legally allowed to use this new ActivInspire software? Will Smartboard schools install it as an additional piece of software?

I do need to stress, I am a neutral in all this. I am happy to plug and promote Smart or Promethean (or others) when I think they are doing good stuff. I do not work for Promethean.  The above is my opinion only. But I do think this release could be a very good thing for users of all interactive whiteboards.

So….. what do you think?

Update May 2010: Looks like the terms and conditions around the use of this personal version have been changed quietly by Promethean. You now need to apply for a Teacher Consent Licence to use this software elsewhere. More details here.

Don’t forget, for Promethean training check out my Think Bank website.

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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  1. Great post Danny. I am in the middle of a training session with fifteen teachers who are using ActivPrimary 3 at the moment. I hope when they see how teacher-friendly the ActivInspire is, some if not all, will upgrade. I’ll certainly be recommending it to the many principals I personally know who (because of lack of funding) have invested in cheaper boards.


  2. Thanks Ban.

    Like you I’ll definitely be recommending it to most teachers I see.

  3. This is good news. It is a shame that no full open source software has ever been developed for the IWB. The protection of the proprietary formats has always bee one of the biggest problems. An open source solution would really open up the market for all the boards and allow freedom of movemement between manufacturers.

    The more flexible attitude your article refers to is the next best thing. Let’s hope it continues and is extended rather than curtailed.

  4. There have been some attempts at open source IWB software, I think Kindle is the one I’ve heard about the most

    In the UK there is an open source format that Becta were looking into to get a common file format for all boards to use. I don’t know exactly how far that project has got yet.

    I also still wonder what would happen when Microsoft realise that a few tweaks to PowerPoint could give it a proper IWB-mode – basically a hybrid of the slideshow view and design view… would be interesting.

    But for now – if everyone can get ActivInspire then it’s the way forward.

  5. I am very happy that Promethean’s software can work on any IWB. At our school (don’t ask me how it happened cause it was done before I got here), we have Polyvision, Promethean, and Smart boards in our high school. The poor traveling teachers are not able to create anything because in their day, they have come across three different IWBs! They are forced to use powerpoint and miss out on the learning experiences they could be having with their students. Now, they will all be able to create a flipchart and use it on any board in the school! Yes!

    Plus, for sharing reasons, like you stated above, is wonderful. Teachers working collaboratively together! Excellent!

  6. Thanks Heather – for mixed platform schools it’s going to be a brilliant addition

  7. WOW! What a great resource. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Hi Danny,
    Thanks for appreciating the release of Inspire and your thoughtful comments. We hope that every teacher will take advantage of the thousands of lessons that have been submitted for any teacher to share on – now any teacher can. They don’t even have to have an IWB to use those resources with Inspire Personal.
    (I am a Promethean employee, but always a teacher at heart!)

  9. Hi Danny,
    I think, not 100% i think BECTA have had a hand in making the soft open to be used on other bits of kit. They didn’t like the fact that if you had a board you were tied to the soft that came with it. So i don’t think SMART (in the uk) will be able to stop this

  10. Sounds like Smart are going to be doing the same too, with the release of Smart Notebook Express

  11. Recently we have had some trouble in Australia with sourcing Promethean boards with a shift in Wholesale supplier. This meant the company we had always purchased the boards from could no longer get supply. This was/is very frustrating for them and they were concerned about loss of customers. Needless to say we were happy as well as the supplier when the ability top operate the software on alternative boards became available. Now we are able to purchase another excellent whiteboard for our school without the loss of the activinspire software. A great gain for us and our supplier. I would love to see them with access to the Promethean boards again.

  12. Thanks so much for this great post. As you pointed out ( and several of your readers verified) this is a bit problem in a lot of schools. As someone who is trying to encourage others to have a go at using the boards the software compatibility problem you described is often insurmountable for lots of teachers. This definitely shows a way forward. Fingers crossed no-one decides to change it!

  13. @Danny PowerPoint combined with Pointofix ( ) (free) can be used on every iwb. Not with al the fancy features from Active or Notebook, but still usefull.

  14. cheers bernard. Got a english version of that website? Thing is, it’s the features I find useful… nothing really matches up to Smart or Active…. One day Powerpoint will realise this and add features to make it comparable, but not yet.

  15. Has anyone come across the following. When using ActivInspire on Smart boards if the pen is moved quickly the page changes. Doesn’t always do this but is frustrating when it does.

  16. Wondering if this is a Page Turn Gesture? Might be able to turn that off in ActivInspire settings.


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