Adobe Captivate 2019

06 September 2018

Just a few weeks after writing up my recent experience with Adobe Captivate 2017, Adobe has announced and released Adobe Captivate 2019. I decided to download the trial and take a look at some of the new features.

Adobe Captivate 2019 is a very solid update that brings in some fantastic new features, updates some of the older features with better UI/UX, but still at times proves frustrating. That said, it is well worth the upgrade.

I feel like I need to begin with a disclaimer. It is only recently that I got back in to using Adobe Captivate substantially (as I discuss in this article) after a few years, for many reasons, and that was on a work PC. So some of the things I point out below may have already existed in previous versions of Captivate, but I missed them. This article is as much about what is new in Adobe Captivate 2019, as what is new to me.

VR/360 Learning Experiences

So first the big news (unfortunately tinged with the fact that I don't really have the need for it at the moment) is that Adobe Captivate now has the ability to create VR learning scenarios…wow! From what I see, this looks really amazing…but also some refinement is needed. It may be that the refinement in question is simply creating better VR experiences, but there are tweaks I would like to see happen also.

When I think "VR", I think of VR headsets that I (frankly) find amusing and not that practical (I'm the sort of person to stand and point at someone wearing a VR headset rather than want to wear one)…but the ability to roam through a virtual location has huge potential. Well over a decade ago a colleague of mine created a QuickTime VR simulation that let real estate students all evaluate the same property (which meant that every student could be evaluated on the same property rather than what had happened previously, where every student used a different property). Captivate has just made the development of something like that so much easier. It doesn't create the VR movie, but how you can work with it is superb.

My first reaction was to think of things like Health and Safety simulations, where (as part of an induction, for example) you ask a participant to 'walk' around a virtual representation of the building they have just started working in, making sure they've picked up what you'd shown them previously in your Health and Safety induction (a fairly typical event these days in my experience). So you can get the staff member to confirm that the have picked up where the fire escape is, the first aid kit etc. This would be huge! Or think of someone training to be a ambulance paramedic or an ambulance service buying a new model of ambulance...where people need to learn where things are in this ambulance. Bringing that into VR or even just a 360 web-based browser experience would be fantastic. And then, the hotspots themselves could lead into other connected learning, like (as with the ambulance example) not just knowing where the defibrillator was, but then learning how to use it within the Captivate lesson.

Wei's apartment project
The "Wei's Apartment" sample VR project included within Adobe Captivate 2019

The trial comes with an example project (Wei's Apartment) and whilst it gives a good taste of the potential for the software, I did find some oddities to it. Keep in mind that this is effectively (or should be) an exemplar project by Adobe to highlight the new features...and so I was surprised to find it oddly lacking. I found that it was hard to tell whether I could in fact walk around the apartment (you couldn't as far as I can tell) and one of the pop-ups seemed near impossible to dismiss (I'm still not sure what caused it to close in the end).

Overlapping pop-ups
Pop-up text (that isn't dismissed by you) can cause display problems

Although I appreciate it is meant to be a VR experience, I would have liked to have seen the pop-ups adjust to my viewing rather than the need for me to adjust to it.

Onscured questions
Here I have triggered a question that was off to one side. I both understand (and find it frustrating) that I would need to turn to view the question, rather than have it present itself to me.

There was also an odd choice for the location of a hot-spot...

Unusally placed hotspot
Adobe chose to put the exit hotspot in an odd place in the VR demo I think

...which then led to a screen where the quiz results simply wouldn't go away, no matter how many times I said I wanted to continue.

The hotspot pop-ups tended to overlap and whilst the focus is probably to deliver this via a VR device, I found it hard that a question could sometimes pop-up in such a way that I needed (in my browser) to spin around to face it. OK, I know you're thinking "but that makes complete sense in a VR environment", but what I'm trying to say is that I wish there was a positioning option that let you centre the view on the pop-up, or aligned the pop-up not with the environment it was in, but put it front and centre in front of you. VR is great, but not when a question is floating in such a way that it's hard to read.

I've seen Captivate projects where this walk-through experience has effectively been faked, using clever transitions between slides, so it's fantastic to see that Adobe have made the functionality a reality. I can see this being embraced by many. The only thing I would say to my learning colleagues, is don't overdo it. Don't implement 360 walk-throughs when they aren't needed. I have seen examples where such behaviour wasn't necessary and proved distracting.. Use it for true, valuable learning experiences, and not as a learning gimmick.

Interactive video and overlays

This new feature has huge potential and I think is somewhat of an e-learning trojan horse (meaning its use may start of slowly, but in fact will grow) so I look forward to examples of this more in the future. This is particularly true in the fact that it will allow you to easily enhance many existing videos that are out there. Indeed, in my testing, I enhanced a certain "Never gonna give you up" music video via a direct connection to the published version on YouTube.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't new functionality...just something new to Captivate, and it's fantastic to see it included. Anyone familiar with H5P will be familiar with interactive video - https://h5p.org/interactive-video. The simplest way to describe the feature is that Adobe Captivate can take a video and create points in its playback that triggers a halt to the video and another slide within the project to 'overlay' the video with a question, whose response determines future playback. If the question is answered incorrectly (for example) you can force the user to return to the point in the video (via the use of a bookmark feature) to watch that part of the video again and re-answer the question. If it is answered correctly, you can (for example) allow the video to continue, or jump the user to another video. Wow!

What this means is that you can take somewhat passive video and turn it into something you interact with and need to respond to. Even taking old training videos (if you have them) and making them interactive, is going to be a quick win. And whilst there are other tools out there that do this, it's great to see that it is now part of the Adobe Captivate arsenal.

The down side for me was (as I mentioned in my previous article) once again, performance. I linked to a YouTube clip of Rick Astley's "Never gonna give you up" (cheesy I know) but once the video was on the slide, playing it in the Captivate timeline was challenging. The audio played fine, but the video didn't update at all (on another day it updated the image about every 5 seconds whilst playing the audio smoothly)…making inserting hotspots at the point I wanted very challenging. I had to keep stopping playback to let the still image catch up. Using a local copy of a movie was better, but still not great.

For reference, I am working on a Retina 5K Late 2015 iMac, 3.2 Ghz with 8 Gb of RAM. According to the tech specs from the Adobe website, I meet the "System requirements". I quote that phrase, as nowhere does that page suggest these are minimum requirements.

Back to creating an interactive video...there's some language learning that you will need to do here. I tried to create the interactive video without looking at any help material (to me this gives you an indication as to how intuitive a product is). My instinct was to put the video clip at the point I wanted and go up to the toolbar and try to insert an interaction. This was wrong. Instead in "interactive" video terms, you don't add an interaction, you add an overlay. Noted.

Even then I ran into problems. I had created a quiz slide to use as an overlay, but Captivate started telling me (I think) that I didn't have a slide that I could use as an overlay. But the feedback from the application wasn't the most intuitive...

Overlay prompt
In order to add an overlay there must be a slide that can be used as an overlay. This is a warning from Captivate that's only barely helpful.

I kept reading the message and thinking "I know! I've done what you have asked, so let me proceed!".

Ironically, you'll see later in the article that I express concern at how many ways help information can be found within Adobe Captivate. But here is an example where Captivate isn't being that helpful at all. There's no link to further information (which would have been an ideal part of this pop-up warning) and even "This project does not currently contain a slide that can be used as an overlay" would be a bit more specific than what it was saying.

By way of an example of a more useful warning, let's look at this one...

Overlay prompt
An example of a much more helpful warning from Captivate...although it
should be "Don't remind me again" as no question is being asked :-)

In the above warning, you clearly understand what the issue is or what is going to happen.

So I thought I had done what was asked (because I had added a question that I wanted to use as the overlay) but Adobe wasn't having it. It ends out that a quiz question isn't the correct type of slide to add (even when you want to add a question) but instead you need to add a "Knowledge Check Slide". You could spend hours debating whether a "Question Slide" and a "Knowledge Check Slide" are the same thing...in Adobe Captivate's eyes, they are not. But this is an example of where Captivate isn't as intuitive as you hope. How many times am I going to create interactive videos in the future, think "OK, I'll just ad a question now" and then end up choosing the wrong slide type?

Quiz options
I'm not convinced that the difference between a Question Slide and a Knowledge Check Slide is the easiest thing to understand

I know it may be a matter of semantics for Captivate, but I consider a Question to be something that checks knowledge…so the terminology here is confusing. I would rather Adobe have a "Create Overlay Slide" option that then asks you what type of overlay you want to add, or has a sub-menu of options. It frustrates me that I couldn't find an answer to this at first (even on the Adobe website) but in the end I just happened to watch a tutorial video where they happened to say they were adding a "Knowledge Check Slide".

The other problem I ran into was that whilst a preview in a browser (via the option in Captivate) worked, it failed when I decided to publish the project locally to my computer...

Unavailable video
Some forms of Captivate projects need a server - either a localhost option or publishing to a genuine webserver

It kept telling me that the video could not be loaded...in other words, it was not pulling the video I had linked to on YouTube to my local computer. I confess I had a bit of a brain fade at this point (forgetting this is not a new Captivate issue) but when I FTP'd the output to my personal website, the project ran fine. This problem isn't a new thing with Captivate. If you look closely when you use the option (for example) to preview using "HTML5 in browser", you'll notice that when your browser loads, the URL includes the term "localhost". The simplest way to describe this is that Captivate is creating a temporary local webserver to display the project for you.

Localhost webserving
Captivate makes use of localhost webserving for some previews

So what if you are going to be creating local copies of project on a number of occasions and want to be able to test them without relaunching Captivate? Well the answer is to set up a localhost server. I'm not going to detail how to do this in this article (as there are multiple approaches and it can be complex) but a simple solution on the Mac is to move the project to the "Documents" folder located at /Library/WebServer/Documents. You may find your Mac asks you for authentication to move the material there.

After that and another hiccup (with a post to the Adobe site as I thought I had done something wrong, but in fact hadn't) I finally got my test example working. My idea was to take the classic chorus from Astley's song and ask a question, which (if you got it wrong) jumped you back to the chorus. If you got the answer right, the demo allowed to you play the rest of the clip.

In the end (hiccups aside) it really was incredibly easy to implement!

Interactive video questioning
I guess I "Quiz rolled" instead of "Rick rolled"? :-)

I do also need to stress that you can jump between bookmarks on various slides, so it doesn't even have to be as linear as I made it. In another project, I was able to insert two YouTube clips onto separate slides and have the correct answer in the middle of one video, jump you to the other clip. This is really powerful, and again, will let you take previously recorded clips, drop them into Captivate and make them far more interactive and responsive.

This is one of those features to me that I always knew was 'doable', but I've never bothered exploring until now. Now when I see how Adobe has made it so easy to implement, it's not only something I want to do, it's something that I keep coming up with further possibilities for constantly. It's taken Adobe to implement this in Captivate for me to want to explore this functionality more.

Live Device Preview

I find it slightly amusing that a few weeks after complaining about a lack of a live preview function in Adobe Captivate they released such a feature…although I have to temper that with saying it isn't quite what I was meaning (or wanting) but it's a great start. Their live preview is more for testing previews on devices, by 'linking' (more on that in a moment) to the preview you've generated on your Mac or PC. As mentioned previously, Captivate is capable of creating an instance of a webserver on your local computer (a localhost instance) and although typically you then look at this preview using a browser on the same computer, you can in fact allow any device on the same network to see that preview. And this is what Adobe has achieved...set up a localhost webserver preview (running from the computer with Captivate on it) and provide an easy way to then associate any device to that preview via a URL or QR code.

With a URL you can easily email it to people on the same network and ask them to test the output on their device. Or with the QR code, you could grab multiple devices or have people wander over to your computer and use the QR code and instantly see the preview on their own device.

It's superb! I found it incredibly easy to preview a responsive project on my phone in seconds. But, I'm fussy (if you've not noticed already) and I found a few things odd…like the use of speech marks on the page prompting you to use the QR code. What are they there for?

QR codes and device preview
Not sure why the speechmarks are there? Perhaps it's an output typo from Adobe?

The other thing that surprised me was the end result of the included Responsive learning sample. Take a look at how it appeared on my iPhone 6...

Device preview on an iPhone
When you're trying to show off a responsive project, I would have thought a flawless example would have been best?

To be clear, I simply opened up the available responsive learning sample, saved it and then previewed it live on my iPhone. I made no adjustments to it. Again, this might be seen as being fussy, but I consider this to be an exemplar project from Adobe, highlighting how superb Captivate it...so I was surprised when I saw text boxes having their contents cut off (ironically, one of the text boxes that got cut off was a comment about how great the new responsive features of Captivate are).

If you're Adobe and you want to highlight how incredibly responsive your projects can be, I would have thought you'd want the provide a sample where the output looks perfect on any device? Don't get me wrong, I know that I can work through myself and correct the issue (and that in Captivate itself the responsive layout for an iPhone 6 looks perfect)…but on an actual iPhone 6, it didn't look as effective as I expected. To me this seems to suggest that Captivate isn't considering the true real estate that is available on devices or the example project wasn't tested fully.

Again, why is this an issue? Well if this if the sample project that Adobe is providing is intended to say "Look at how amazingly responsive your Captivate projects can be…and look at this shiny example", you don't want the example to highlight issues….you want it to be the gold standard. I hope perhaps in an update they fix the issue.

On the subject of previews

Whilst I think the live device preview feature is superb, I still wish that in the future, previews could be something that simply happened in the background of Captivate as you worked…and that the localhost server was always being updated as you worked on a project. This would allow you to see the changes immediately as you applied them. I do appreciate that this could create significant load on the computer, but it could be well worth it.

To explain what I mean (and I should have done this in my last article) what I was trying to describe is something that Dreamweaver calls Real-time preview, as opposed to live preview. You can learn about it here or watch this great video showing how it works in Dreamweaver (jump to 1:50 if you are impatient)...

I know that HTML rendering is more straight forward than a Captivate project, but I still find having to end a preview, make a correction, reload the preview, keep testing etc...a laborious activity within Captivate. I'm fussy about errors, so I want to fix them immediately. What I find I do at the moment (to stop such a circular process) is that I write down all the errors I spot in the preview (working through the whole thing) and then go and correct the project. At least it means I'm not stopping and starting as much, but it does mean that I'm not seeing the instantaneous fix that I would prefer.


Smart Video recording (webcam and screen)

Wow! This one really caught my eye and I'm really pleased to see it included in the new version of Captivate….but I also find it intriguing. What Adobe has done (I think) is to take some of the functionality within the Adobe Presenter (a product I loved and miss using a lot) supporting application Adobe Presenter Video Express, and put it into Adobe Captivate. Many of you reading that statement will say "No, not really", but what I mean is that the new functionality in Captivate clearly has its lineage associated with what has gone before. It's a fantastic new feature that will benefit many.

What I did in the past (particularly at Massey University) when I needed to provide some rapid support for people using Adobe Connect, was fire up Captivate for a screen recording session, talking live over the capture as I explained how to do something. I then published those recordings up to the Adobe Connect server and made them available. Now, with this new functionality, that whole process could be enhanced and look a whole lot more professional, with a video of the person speaking included…if only I wasn't so camera shy :-) But don't get me wrong, this is a superb enhancement!

In testing, I was intrigued by an odd warning I noticed saying that I couldn't capture the audio of my Mac...

Disabled audio capture
This may not be new issue with Captivate, but I wasn't impressed with where it led me.

The hyperlink took me to this page, stating that in order to capture Mac audio you need to install something called Soundflower. Now I usually don't like installing apps to make other apps work…and when going to the download page for Soundflower, it doesn't look like (no offence to its developers) that there is much maintenance going on. In fact, High Sierra just gets a workaround mention at the beginning of the page - https://fluxforge.com/blog/soundflower-os-x-10.11-10.12-macOS-sierra/

This really surprises me. For a major company like Adobe to point to what looks like not-so-well-maintained software as a needed install, caught me off-guard. I use multiple screen capture tools that can capture Mac audio without needing to install additional third-party software (SnapzPro X for example), but I think it's even more prudent to look at companies with more high-end screen capture functionality and take a look at how they handle the situation. Screenflow (which I have used for around 5 years now) does it more eloquently than Captivate does, prompting users to upgrade their driver (not a term that is typical for Mac users) and then explaining how to use that driver in the future.

Screenflow software prompt
Telestream's Screenflow prompt to install additional software for sound capture is a lot more reassuring than the one for Adobe Captivate

The reassurance for me here is that I know and trust Telestream…I'm not so keen (even if Adobe is asking me to do it) on installing a third-party driver whose maintenance I am questioning. Maybe Adobe could create a fork of Soundflower and maintain it and build it into the app? Then again, why does Snapz Pro need neither of those things? Curious. I guess it's really about the 'spit and polish' that Adobe puts on the product. To me, the hyperlink and suggestion of Soundflower almost feels like an afterthought as opposed to a an eloquent solution. It wasn't a reassuring thing to come up against, so at that point I decided not to proceed.

Chroma key effects

I was really impressed by the chroma key effects and how simple they were to set up. I was incredibly lazy in testing, not even bothering trying to have a consistent background colour behind me, but even then the outcome was far better than I expected. Once I completed the screen capture and the webcam recording, I couldn't find a way to easily replace the web-cam recording without starting all over again though. Perhaps I am missing something?

I think it's vital to be able to replace the web-cam capture in the timeline. It could be for many reasons...you've fluffed your lines, that chequered shirt you decided to wear causes camera flare, you discover that the cat crunching on her food nearby was far louder than you thought (this happened to a colleague of mine when she recorded in her house), you just want to do your voice and camera part over again, or maybe you want someone else to sit in front of the screen and be recorded? I wanted a way to go back, have Captivate play the screen capture back to me, whilst allowing me to add in a new webcam capture, but I couldn't see it. Surely there's an easy way to do this?

In fact, I often do a similar thing in reverse when using Screenflow. For one organisation I worked at, I found the best method was to write an actual script, record the entire script as audio only, and then I would go back to the beginning of the project, have the project play back the audio to me, as I captured the associated screens I was working through. Another way to put it, I just followed my own instructions as they were read out to me, by me :-)

For Captivate, I'm saying I hope I can do the opposite. Capture a live screen and webcam talk at the same time, but that the most important of those two things is the screen capture. I'd love to be able to go back, strip out the webcam footage and play the screen capture back to myself, as I re-record the webcam input in a more professional way. As far as I can tell, this can't be done?

Import of questions by CSV or CSV template

This is one of those features that someone who doesn't use Captivate will think "meh", whilst my thought was "OMG…this is going to save so much time!" It seems such a simple idea, but it has huge ramifications. In a large organisation Instructional Designers are often provided with Word copies of questions, develop the Captivate project and then publish…being asked to revise the questions as people test the project out and come back to them. Having the ability to share and re-share a CSV version of all the questions not only is going to save a lot of time, but it's something you could easily pass on to clients to have them specifically work on whilst you take care of other things.

Just take a look at the feature on the Adobe website. It may seem slightly complex at first...and mostly spreadsheet-based, but the simplicity of doing all this work in Excel first is huge and will ultimately save so much time. Just import these questions into Captivate and you're done (mostly)!

In testing this process worked really well, even if (as the video on the Adobe site shows) it's a little more complex on a Mac when exporting the CSV file. If I am being picky (and hey, I know I am) I found that I tripped up on the buttons on the second tab of the Macro. I was interpreting "Add Question" as "I want to enter another question on to this form" when it fact it is more like "Add the current question to the CSV dump that it going to be exported". The reason I spotted this was I kept noticing that my final question wasn't appearing in the CSV export. This was because I needed to click "Add Question" after entering in all the text of the question before proceeding.

CSV form buttons
"Add question" does not mean you want to enter the next question into the
spreadsheet, but add the current question to the spreadsheet to be exported.

I'd like to see this made a little more obvious, even if the first button could be changed to "Add question to list" or "Add question to pool"? I understand how the process works, but I repeatedly kept forgetting to click that "Add question" button at the end. The other thing I kept causing to happen (because I was forgetting to click "Add Question") was that I would click "Clear Input Form"…at which point there was no macro prompt to say "Hey, you haven't added that question to your pool…as you sure you want the form cleared?"…and so I kept clearing everything I had just typed. So, it's a matter of getting used to how the template works before proceeding and not wondering why or where your questions have disappeared to.

PowerPoint to responsive eLearning

Testing this feature started off as slightly confusing for me and then came to an abrupt end. I thought "OK, great…it will take PPT files and let you add them to a project as responsive slides, as per the video example…so I guess I need to start with an empty responsive project?" So I created a responsive project and saved it. Problem is, this blank responsive project wouldn't let me insert a PowerPoint slide. It seemed odd that if the ideal vision was that of importing slides and making them responsive, that my responsive project wasn't letting me add them to it.

No option to add a PowerPoint slide               No option to import a PowerPoint slide
PowerPoint Slides can be converted to responsive slides, but not it seems, by trying
to add them to a Responsive Project. The options were greyed out for me.

Update - 11 September 2018

The cause of the above problem may be (as I wondered) that I don’t have Java installed (and sorry, I'm not prepared to install it to test) but I found this video showing (admittedly from a Windows PC and not a Mac) that you clearly can do an import that way into a Responsive project - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnFAbDLO7ks

Instead, I had to create a blank project (not a responsive one) to then import these slides into them. And that unfortunately is as far as I got…or more precisely, as far as I am prepared to go.

As Captivate began importing the PowerPoint slides from a PowerPoint file, I received prompts telling me that if I wanted to use the Java command-line tool (which I don't, but I suspect Captivate must) then I need to install a Java Development Kit.

Java Development Kit prompt
Hmm, not great news for those of us that like our Macs to be free of Java. If you do, you won't be able to convert PowerPoint slides.

From searching the Internet this is not a new issue with Captivate. Apple doesn't release their macOS with Java installed any more, and I have managed to avoid having it installed on my Mac for the last 3 years at least. So, sorry...as much as I would love to test this feature, I like my Mac 'Java free'…so testing this feature ends here. It did keep saying it was importing the slides, but at the point that I was asked to select the slides I wanted to use, the interface wouldn't respond. Clicking "Cancel" had no impact, so I had to force-quit Captivate.

Import slide prompt fault
Without Java, the PowerPoint import process comes to a sticky end

Fluid boxes and automatic device preview

Fluid boxes and responsive design was a big step forward with the previous release of Adobe Captivate, but I think it's fair to say that it wasn't the most intuitive or easy-to-use approach/interface. Take a look at the video concerning the changes in this version of Captivate and you can see that Adobe has spent a lot of time making responsive design development (I almost wanted to say "responsive design design" there) more manageable. UI tweaks in Captivate make working in responsive mode that much easier, so I'm really impressed to see the work that Adobe has done here. They've really refined the UI to make this a more productive tool. I guess this harks back to my previous post, where I think there are some older sections of Captivate (like the preferences section) that I think are long overdue for this kind of UI/UX review and attention, so it's great to see even a relatively new feature continue to be refined.

I think the automatic device preview is really neat…and a bit of a go-between if you don't want to jump to a Live Device Preview or browser-based previewing. As touched upon earlier, the exemplar project that Adobe supplied worked well and looked superb using this feature...but that wasn't what I had experienced earlier when using the device preview option. So clearly there is a a mis-match here between what you see and what the final version may be, but it's a superb tool for giving an overview of how your project adapts itself as part of responsive display.

Automatic device preview
For a rapid review of how your Responsive Project behaves, Automatic Device Preview is a superb tool and concept

The real benefit of this feature is that it is less of a chore than other preview methods within Captivate, whilst covering off numerous device resolutions in one go. Very quickly, without having to launch a web browser or link to a device, you can have the question answered "What impact did that change I just made have on my project?" and you can repeat that process quickly, making rapid changes and testing. Superb!

Revisiting my last article

A few weeks ago I published an article about using (what was then) the most recent version of Adobe Captivate as part of a 9-month contract at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Most of the article was focused on frustrations with what I consider to be a superb application. I thought I would review the points I made and see if any changes/improvements have come along with Captivate 2019…

  • Performance - No improvement. My contract with Foreign Affairs has ended, so I can't doing a true comparison of performance on the PC that I was using, but I do find Adobe Captivate on my Mac to be sluggish, as it has been in the past when I have tired trial versions. I know a faster and more capable Mac would improve my experience, but my current Mac does meet the System requirements.
  • Preferences layout - No change
  • Instances of projects - This appears to be a PC issue (I am back on my Mac at home) and I have not experienced it on my iMac.
  • Undock panels - There is in fact a solution to this that I had missed. Read the update just after these bullet points.
  • Font management - No change
  • Spell checking - No change
  • Realtime preview - Not quite, but the new live device and atomic device preview features are amazing!

Update - 11 September 2018

I'm both pleased and incredibly frustrated that there is in fact a solution to this...and it appears to have been around since 2016. I tried numerous ways to get the customisation of the tabs I wanted, and a lot of time searching the net for a solution...but then I just happened to spot a setting in the Global Preferences that I had not spotted before...

Enable custom workspaces
It's a well hidden feature, but when activated, it's a useful feature

You can read about what this option lets you do on this page - https://helpx.adobe.com/captivate/using/customizing-workspace.html

However I'm frustrated that such a superb feature was so hidden away in the Preferences...an area I've already stated, needs an overhaul. So...I got there in the end, but boy I wish it had been something I discovered earlier.

Help! It's confusing!

No, I don't mean that using Adobe Captivate is confusing...I mean that the way Adobe has opted to integrate Help options into the product is confusing. It's as if they just decided to throw consistency and intuitiveness out the window. Here's what I mean.

But first - Interface design, usability and end-user computing (or these days, UI/UX) was part of my PostGrad Computer Science studies, so it holds a special interest to me when using software. Hopefully this explains why I picked up on some of the following...

1) A "Community" button on the toolbar

Take a look at the "Community" button. Look where it is. It's placed on the toolbar, as though it is something that you add into or use with a project...

Community button
Adobe appear to have thrown consistency out of the toolbar to promote their community site

Why is it even there? Well, I personally think that it's because Adobe want to promote their great new Community portal, and they want to make it prominent within Captivate...but in doing so, they've set aside the user experience and consistency. If you're going to have Help buttons there, why not have them all (something I don't want to see, but it would be consistent)?

Next, what happens when you click the button. Does it launch your web browser? No. It launches what you might mistake for another project (because a new project tab called "Community" appears") and displays the community site from Adobe. But why here? And why like this? It is causing Captivate to behave in an atypical way. If the Community button needs to stay where it is (and I actually don't think it should be in the toolbar) then why not have it behave the same way every other link works, by launching the user's browser?

Community page
The Community button launches a web page, but not within the user's browser, but within Captivate!

And remember the word "Community"...we'll come back to it.

2) Live chat and UI inconsistencies

Take a look at the following 3 images...

Sample Projects/Tutorials button

Access Adobe Resources button

Live Chat button

The first thing I noticed was that only 2 of the 3 buttons let you know what they are by hovering your mouse over them. Then, one also clearly indicates that you click it to "Access" something, so why don't the other 2 buttons use the term "Access" also? And look at the second icon for a moment...it's an envelope. When you see a button represented by a envelope icon, what do you think it means? You thought email, didn't you? Yet this is in fact a link to a web page.

At the end, there's a "Live chat" option...but why here? Those first two options are to access additional resources and material, and the final one is to get help. To be completely honest, I thought at first that maybe Adobe had introduced the ability to add live chat functionality into Captivate, as I didn't think a chat support option would be sitting there. It's in an odd location. If it is about getting help, why isn't it under the "Help" menu (it's not...it's missing) just like other options are?

3) Resources, Resources and Resources

I understand Adobe wanting to promote the resources available to support you. But is a resource a sample project or a tutorial? Ends out it can be either. In fact it also appears that a resource in Adobe's eyes, can also be a weblink.

When you then download sample project resources, they become available within Adobe Captivate. But the"Resources" tab in the window where you can access them, not only contains these sample projects, they contain what look like other sample projects, but are in fact tutorials videos.

So are these local video or videos you download to this section (like sample projects)? No. The tutorials listed there are in fact just links to tutorial videos on a website. It's getting messy folks!

Even more bizarrely, once you realise these "Resources" are in fact simply links to tutorial videos, you are then greeted near the end of that list with what also looks like another tutorial video icon, but in fact is a link to more sample projects. It's really inconsistent.

What about the difference between "More Sample Projects" and "More Resources"?

You could possibly argue that everything is a resource...but the term is used so broadly here, it gets quite confusing. This is then further confused by the fact that when you interact with something Captivate calls a "Resource", the way in which Captivate behaves can vary.

Clicking "Resources" can...

  • Bring up a widow within Captivate to download resources (I had to chuckle at the typo present that states that Adobe is "not conducting a survey" as you can see in the following image)
  • Bring up a web page external to Captivate that may or may not link to any actual resources
  • Bring up a web page external to Captivate that is in fact the Community site

Resources can appear in their own window

Resources can appear in a tab or sometimes relate to other things
Go looking for Resources within Adobe and it becomes a bit of a gamble as to what you will
be presented with, and how it will be presented to you! Resources often means multiple things.

Just look at the second image above again and the button "More Resources". I said I would come back to Resources and Community. Well that button is in fact a link to the Community site...and do you notice the icon of two people? It is in fact the same icon used for the "Community" button on the toolbar. So since it looks like Community and takes you to Community, why not label it "Community"? It's really confusing!

My suggestion to tidy Help up

I think many of the items discussed should be moved out of the layout and back into the Help menu. I know Adobe probably want them to be more prominent, but not when it's causing usability issues and inconsistency. I also think the window that appears when you start Captivate up should be tidied up. A new tab "Sample Projects" should separate those and the awesome Tutorials that Adobe also want to have there (as an aside, please also create a separate "Tutorials" link in the "Help" menu). Then use this area to better promote the Community portal, rather than awkwardly having it in the toolbar. The current placement there is poor.

So here's what I suggest...

  • Remove the "Community" button from the toolbar. Have "Community" accessible from the Help menu and the window I'll discuss below
  • Get rid of the buttons I mention in (2) above (Sample Projects, More Resources, Live Chat). It's messy having them there.
  • Move most of these items to the Help menu, as well as adding one specifically for Tutorials
  • Make the window (discussed below) more sensible and consistent
  • Get rid of the confusing term "Resources" as it is used at the moment to represent different items and links to different places

So, here you go...my version of what Adobe should do...


Sample Projects is now in its own tab. The projects listed can be downloaded from here directly,
and once downloaded the icon is replaced with a view icon. Note in the bottom left of the
window that the link to the Community site is now worded correctly and clearly is a button.

 


Tutorials are now in their own tab and no longer mixed in with sample
projects. It's also clearer that the items are links to a tutorial on the Internet

I hope Adobe brings some consistency into the Help system and isn't afraid to delegate a Help link to the Help menu (rather than as a visible button). I hope they do give some thought to these issue.

Summing up

Reviews often ask if the new version of a piece of software is worth the upgrade. Categorically, with Adobe Captivate, the answer is Yes! This is due to a combination of existing Captivate functionality, the amazing new features...and the improvements that Adobe have made to some existing sections, most notably fluid boxes.

That said, there are issues with the software that I would like to see Adobe resolve. About 6 years ago I felt that Adobe Captivate was becoming too big a beast and suggested that it might benefit from there also being a smaller version which I dubbed Adobe Captivate Elements. This was really in response to the fact that the complexity in Adobe Captivate could in fact be refined by Adobe rather than the software becoming a behemoth of an application to use.

Performance of the software remains an issue for me (or at least Adobe should list more realistic minimum specs) and attention to reviewing the interface needs to be carried out. I feel like it is almost time that Adobe did a "No new features" update similar to Apple's approach with Snow Leopard, focusing on UI/UX and under-the-hood improvements.

It's great that Adobe has done so much to develop the support material and community website for Captivate. It's something I wish they would do for my other favourite Adobe product, Adobe Connect, where the community site hasn't had anywhere near that much attention (https://www.connectusers.com), but they also need to refine the UI to make accessing support material less confusing, including developing consistency in terminology. The same can be said for using Adobe Captivate, where it sometimes isn't clear why or what the difference is between (for example) a "Question Slide" and a "Knowledge Check Slide", or why converting a PowerPoint to a responsive project can't start with a blank responsive project.

It is astounding all the things that you can achieve with Adobe Captivate...and the '2019' release takes that even further. I'm looking forward to seeing what developers do with this release, and to spending the next few months guessing what Adobe might have in mind for future versions.

Updated - 11 September 2018


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Philip Roy - eLearning specialist. Former owner NZMac.com, NZ Macguide writer, Adobe Education Leader & NZ Flexible Learning Leader.