I wrote about datasoul for the first time in 42: Datasoul – Free Open Source Church Presentation Software.
Today was the first time I have used it live. It was at 42: Launching Hope 10 in Thrapston and I was running the latest development source code within NetBeans and so had a number of improvements from version 1.3 (remote presenter, ui improvements, initial support for image displays).
As St James was setup in cafe style we used three projectors and screens so that people could sing without squirming around in their seats. I was running on Ubuntu 9.10 and besides the songs had a dvd to play.
I did not have the songs entered into datasoul before I arrived but it was extremely quick to copy and paste the words in. In fact much much quicker than it is in SongPro, Powerpoint or OpenOffice Impress. The main reason for this is that you don’t have to paste each verse/chorus in separately. Instead they go into a single text block with the slides separated by === which are nice and quick to add. The simplicity of datasoul also helps, you don’t have to specifically mark choruses and bridges, instead you repeat them as you actually want to sing them (you can modify this for a specific service after adding the song).
I still think it would be good to provide a syntax to identify song elements such as verses, choruses and bridges (partly for display purposes). But I would need to find a really simple way to do this that would not make things more complicated because that would lose this really time saving feature of Datasoul.
Another feature that works better than any other service presentation software I have used is the preview of songs and control over what is actually on the projector. I have not used anything which so reliably allows you to preview the slides for the next song while still moving through the current one. It is an area we have been discussing on the mailing list but this afternoon made the advantages of the current system very obvious. In the same way switching the projector display on and off is really simple and reliable.
Configuration of multiple screens is a little more fiddly (you have to type in co-ordinates and resolution) but the result is much more reliable and resilient than other methods I have used. The display and focus just work correctly all the time even when switching between datasoul and other software using the projector (such as the dvd player).
So while datasoul does have a few limitations at the moment (lack of image support probably being the most significant) there are other things besides the price that make it stand out against others. In particular
- Speed of adding and editing songs
- Control over what is on the projector and preview
- control over multiple monitors
- multi-platform (Windows xp, vista and 7/Mac/Linux etc)
- A development team that welcomes contributions
As a result I highly recommend datasoul.