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Initial release March 1997; 20 years ago (1997-03) (as PandA)
Stable release
3.7 / 2008
Written in Visual Basic 6
Operating system Microsoft Windows, Mac OS

Activstudio is a software application designed specifically for teachers and presenters who use an Activboard Interactive Whiteboard, Promethean's interactive whiteboard. Activstudio and the derivative product Activprimary were designed and implemented by Nigel Pearce together with a software development team at Promethean (Blackburn, England).


  • Promethean released its first commercially available interactive whiteboard application 'PandA' (an acronym for ‘Presentations and Annotations’) in March 1997. PandA (also designed by Pearce) was based loosely upon the Windows multimedia authoring software Creator.
  • During 2000, PandA was renamed Activstudio.
  • The first version of Activstudio was released in the UK in February 2001. This version replaced and expanded upon the features of PandA.
  • Activstudio v2 was released in March 2004.
  • Activstudio v2.5 was released in February 2006.
  • The derivative application Activprimary (similar in functionality to Activstudio but offering an interface aimed towards the younger learner) was released for the primary education sector in January 2004.
  • Activprimary won the Worlddidac award for Software Innovation in 2004 and again in 2006.[1][2]
  • Activprimary 2 won Best Education Technology Solution for Productivity/Creativity at The Software & Information Industry Association’s (SIIA) 23rd Annual CODIE awards in 2006 [2][3]
  • Version 3 of Activstudio and Activprimary were released in January 2007.
  • A number of prototype, simultaneous, multi-input whiteboard techniques were developed in June 2006. These ideas were first exhibited at the NECC, Atlanta, in July 2007 and many were included under the product name 'Activarena' within Activstudio and Activprimary versions 3.5 (released Sept 2007). New features included shared concept mapping and dual flipcharting.
  • Version 3.6 of Activstudio and Activprimary were released in December 2007.
  • Activprimary 3.6 won the Worlddidac award for Software Innovation for the third time in 2008.[1][2]
  • Version 3.7 of Activstudio and Activprimary for Windows were released in August 2008.
  • Promethean Learning and Activstudio 3 were both finalists for Best Professional Development Solution and Best Education Technology Solution for Productivity/Creativity at The Software & Information Industry Association’s (SIIA) 23rd Annual CODIE awards in 2008 [2][4]
  • ActivInspire, the successor to (and the redesign of) Activstudio, was released in March 2009. ActivInspire contains most of the functionality found within ActivStudio and ActivPrimary, including both user interfaces in one product. It also adds support for the ActivExpression learner response system and the ActivArena Dual User mode. ActivInspire runs on Windows, Mac and Linux platforms.


Activstudio provides a suite of ‘interactive whiteboard centric’ tools. The main feature is to allow the user to prepare and present files known as flipcharts, an electronic document that can contain a combination of vector and raster object data including lines, shapes, rich text, images, video, FLASH media and other third party document types.

The use of the term 'flipchart' in describing these electronic documents derives from the similarity in the way a physical flipchart is commonly used, effectively starting with a set of 'blank canvas' pages upon which to present. The very early versions of Activstudio had a much reduced functionality set, comprising simple pens, highlighters and page turning and hence the analogy with 'flipcharts' was born and has remained.

The flipchart also captures and stores any notes (termed ‘annotations’) which may be written on the surface of the interactive whiteboard using an electronic pen. Additionally the program allows the user to write (or ‘annotate’) directly over other applications, WEB Browser content and live video clips.

On the Windows platform, Activstudio also comprises the program Activmarker. This product allows for pen annotations to be written over Microsoft Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations. The subsequent markup is then automatically committed into the content of the Office document for storage.

Activstudio includes integrated tools to centrally manage additional interactive inputs including remote annotation and telepointing using wireless handheld Activslates and Activote Student Response Devices.

Activstudio incorporates many of today’s standard ‘whiteboard centric’ concepts, including the spotlight, revealer and zoom functions, a sound recorder, resource library and the interactive protractor, ruler and compass tools. A large selection of editable Restrictors, Properties and Actions that can be edited on screen through simple clicks enable the creation of interactive multimedia.

Activstudio version 3 added point and click object authoring capabilities, gesture recognition, an optional Windows style interface and integrated links to Promethean Planet via a digital dashboard.

Activprimary is virtually identical in functionality to Activstudio but is aimed at the younger learner environment, differing only in its user interface.

Other derivatives of the applications:

  • Activstudio SE (Student Edition). A reduced functionality version.
  • Activstudio Viewer. A flipchart viewer having an Activstudio skin.
  • Activprimary Viewer. A flipchart viewer having an Activprimary skin.

Activstudio and Activprimary are both available in 32 languages and for most versions of the Windows and MAC operating systems.

All authored flipcharts will work in either program and there are many freely available flipcharts uploaded to the internet. A quick search should provide a good starting point for any teacher just starting out with an Activboard.

Whilst Activstudio and Activprimary were originally designed for use on the Activboard Interactive Whiteboard, the programs can also be used with the standard computer mouse for preparation purposes and are also suitable for running with any other type of pen input device or on any other make of interactive whiteboard.

File Format[edit]

ActivStudio and ActivPrimary use a proprietary 'flipchart' format ending in the file extension '.flp'. This utilizes PKZip compression technology to reduce flipchart file sizes. This technique is also employed in other applications, such as the Microsoft PowerPoint pptx file format.

In 2009, Promethean released ActivInspire which can be used for free.[5] This software package now uses the new 'flipchart' file format ending in the file extension '.flipchart'. ActivInspire can open the older '.flp' format but it can only save in the new '.flipchart' format. This results in ActivInspire's files from no longer being backwards compatible.[6] In other words, Activstudio (and Activprimary) cannot open the flipcharts created by ActivInspire.

The ActivInspire 'flipchart' file uses a proprietary compression format. Accessing these files in a hex-editor you will find the file header information for this format is 'Bamboo'. One of the consequences of using a proprietary file format is that it makes it difficult for third-party software to use pen flipcharts.