Neuxpower creates NXPowerLite, a popular optimization program for Microsoft Office file formats including PowerPoint — Andrew Molyneux leads Neuxpower’s in-house team of developers — and in this Indezine exclusive conversation, Andrew gives us detailed responses on the evolution of NXPowerLite, and more.
Geetesh: Tell us more about how NXPowerLite has evolved – all the new features you add, and the acceptance by users.
Andrew: The original idea for NXPowerLite came from a client for whom we had been doing some bespoke development work. He told us that he’d received a very large PowerPoint presentation which he needed to edit and pass on to several other people, but his organisation’s outgoing email size limit meant that he couldn’t send it out without first reducing the size considerably. He spent hours painstakingly copying the images into Photoshop, scaling them down and then inserting them back into the presentation. He asked us if this process could be automated, and the idea of NXPowerLite was born.
When we released Version 1 of NXPowerLite in late 2001, the response from users was overwhelmingly positive; they were astonished at the huge reduction in the size of their files, the speed with which it could be achieved, and the incredibly simplicity of NXPowerLite.
Over the next few years, we gradually improved NXPowerLite’s performance, adding support for new versions of PowerPoint as they were released. The software was also translated into French and German at the request of our increasingly international customer base.
By 2005, we’d reached the limit of what we could accomplish by automating PowerPoint. Optimizing very large presentations could take a long time, and there was a limit to the size reduction that could be achieved using this method. Customers were also increasingly asking for a version of NXPowerLite that could run on servers, which wouldn’t have been practical with the automation approach. To address these problems, we obtained documentation on the PowerPoint file format from Microsoft and completely rewrote NXPowerLite’s optimization engine. The result was NXPowerLite Version 2, released in late 2005. This offered considerably better compression and was much faster than previous versions. Version 2 also saw the introduction of the Integrated Edition of NXPowerLite, which enabled the software to be easily launched from within PowerPoint itself, or by right-clicking on a PowerPoint file in Windows Explorer.
By the time NXPowerLite 2 was released we had a large and rapidly growing international user community, who gave us a constant supply of ideas for development. In a period of just over a year, in addition to improving the core optimization engine, we added several major features including integration with Microsoft Outlook, batch processing, Spanish and Japanese translations, and a Server Edition, allowing NXPowerLite technology to be integrated with our customers’ server-based applications.
Customers had been telling us for some time that they would like to see NXPowerLite’s optimization technology applied to other file formats. This led to the release of NXPowerLite Version 3 in early 2007. This added support for Microsoft Word and Excel files. We also included Chinese and Italian translations and began packaging NXPowerLite using Microsoft’s Windows Installer (MSI) technology to improve manageability for our larger enterprise customers.
With the addition in version 3.5 of support for Microsoft’s new XML-based Office 2007 formats, the number of supported file formats has grown from the original one (PowerPoint 97-2003) to six (PowerPoint, Word and Excel 97-2003 and PowerPoint, Word and Excel 2007). We’ve also devoted considerable resources to improving NXPowerLite’s core optimization technology. Unique features of NXPowerLite’s optimization engine, developed as a result of sample files sent to us by our customers, can result in files that are over 25 times smaller than any of our competitors can achieve. These features can be found in NXPowerLite 3.6, released earlier this month as a free update for NXPowerLite 3 users.
Geetesh: What’s your favorite NXPowerLite feature that you believe is not too well known or under-utilized?
Andrew: That’s a tough question, because we’ve carefully designed NXPowerLite to make it as simple as possible to use all of its features.
One feature that will be increasingly important, however, is the ability to optimize files specifically for mobile devices. This is already important for mobile workers using the current generation of Smartphones and PDAs based on Symbian, Windows Mobile and other platforms, but will be even more valuable as the next generation of mobile devices evolves, such as the upcoming iPhone 3G.