As in, I’ve literally forgotten how to use it. And that has me concerned.

Last night as I was waiting for selected music to upload to my new Amazon Cloud account for a trial run, I was browsing through all the programs I have installed on my laptop. One of them is Adobe Director 11, a product that Adobe assimilated when it acquired/merged-with Macromedia (the others were Flash, Dreamweaver, ColdFusion, Breeze, the RoboHelp suite, and more).  It is now it its 11th iteration and still sold and supported. Many years ago, when I first became a multimedia developer, Director was my tool of choice. This was before Flash grew from just being a animation creation program to becoming a full development tool.

I opened it and saw the familiar layout: the score, the cast box, the stage, all laid out differently, but their functionality was obviously still the same.

There was a problem, though. As I stared at the layout, I realized I don’t remember how it works!

I’d forgotten how to do transitions. How to code in Lingo, Director’s scripting language. How to insert keyframes. How to tween animations. None of it. It was if I was to teach a course on Catch-22 and opened the book and realized I’d forgotten how to read.

I learned Director 13 years ago.  The company I was with at the time was looking for a way to distribute its sales and training videos without having to send out massive packages of videocassettes.  The solution was to convert the videos into .avi files and put them on a CD.  I had the idea of building something interactive around them.  Some of my tech writing colleagues were making noises about interactive user guides and marketing pieces, and the name of the program to create those was Macromedia Director.  I made a proposal, got management backing, and spent a November week in Chicago learning the basics of Director.  From then on we developed a new interactive CD each year featuring company history, links to the videos, and PDF versions of our brochures.  They were handed out at trade shows and sent to prospective customers. 

I left that job eight years ago, and I can’t remember the last time I used Director. 

To be sure, Director is a complex program to learn.  However, what I learned about building multimedia with it easily translated to learning Flash (even though I still have a love/hate relationship with ActionScript) and, ultimately, Adobe Captivate.  So more was gained than lost. 

I dug through the box where I keep CD backups of old work files and found the one containing the set used for the interactive CD.  I don’t have to do a project in Director, so there’s time to maybe reverse engineer something I made years ago to help me remember.  The last book I bought on Director was for version seven, and that was 10 years ago.  That book is long gone.   

But I hope to never again get that mildly panicky feeling when I open a program I haven’t used in a while.