Articulate - There's a lot to be said about simplicity - Pt 2

18 September 2019

During my time using Storyline, Articulate implemented a superb new feature to the software – the Media Library. I'd suggest you watch the introductory video here. I was incredibly impressed with what they had done when the library first came out. The ability to see all your assets in one location, to easily swap or amend images (without having to visit slides) was superb…and the team asset library features make it even more powerful. But they weren't done!

And this is an example of the power of an agile, iterative approach to software development (that I'll touch on later) that shows how useful it can be for users. Articulate continued to refine and add superb new functionality to the Media Library over the next few months. One update in particular, caught my eye – "Enhanced: Use the media library to add alternate text to assets in your project and manage closed captions for videos and audio clips."

This means that you no longer have to visit each individual slide to check or add 'alt' text to an image. Even better, you can apply an 'alt' text for an image in the Media Library and have that 'alt' text applied across every instance in a project where that image is used (if you want). That is fantastic! I also suspect (in the future) that it will change the way I work on accessibility tags for a project. I suspect that from now on I will first go into the Media Library and add 'alt' text to the items I see there, and then secondly, visit each slide and use the "Tab Order" feature to then do a final check whilst removing or ordering the items that I want a user to tab through when using a screen reader.

Another nice touch in this area is the ability to add notes to the images, such as noting the original source of the image or publication limitations (for example, "For internal use only. Not to be used outside of the organisation.") or comments that would help when reviewing the project in the future. These notes don't get published but will prove remarkably handy for someone working on the file later on.

The Media Library window
In the media library here's just some of the things you can do - (1) View all the images used in a project, their dimensions and how many times they are used. (2) Search for images to a fine grain level throughout the project. (3) Review or add alt text to one instance of an image or have that alt text applied to every instance. (4) Add notes related to the image as a reference for later on. This information is not published. (5) See and jump to slides in the project that make use of the selected image. (6) Insert an image, replace an image across the whole project, edit the image, open the folder where the image is located, export the image or delete it ...all without having to go to the slides where the image is used!

Many users have complemented Articulate on the Media Library and it's great to see people offering suggestions as to how the functionality of the feature could be extended. One suggestion I added my voice to is that it would be great if this library (or some other location) showed a list of all external hyperlinks used in a project (and that they could be exported to a CSV file) to help with ongoing checking and maintenance of links.

Other bits and pieces

Here are some other things I came across whilst using Storyline that I wanted to note in the article before I went further into my thoughts on the software…

Help material and support

There are some superb tutorials on the site created by Articulate, with source files included. I found this amazingly useful to get up to speed with Storyline very quickly.

Staff are actively assigned to the discussion forums and I've not come across a piece of software with such an active support network for some time. That said, I will be touching upon concerns I have regarding support later in this article. As a positive example, I posted an issue and received responses in less than 24 hours when I spotted a bug and had that bug confirmed. I was really impressed.

On another occasion, I came across a technical issue that I posted about in a discussion already occurring in the forums. I was advised to submit a ticket and was impressed that the ticket I submitted was responded to in less than 2 hours (2 hours folks!!) and that subsequent responses were relatively timely also. This is really impressive given the fact that I'm in New Zealand and the support staff are on the other side of the planet. I also loved the fact that the Customer Happiness Specialist (sorry, I find titles like that a bit naff) who had told me to put in a ticket, then posted a comment in the forum saying she was following along with the ticket I had submitted. That was a really, really nice touch and showed an effective support approach between various groups at Articulate. It was kind of like Articulate saying "Don't worry…we've got you", which was awesome!

The HTML5 player

The player that your content is 'wrapped' in when publishing comes in two forms – the classic (Flash-based) version and the modern HTML5 version. Obviously, you need to start using the Modern Player with the death of Flash happening soon. The player has some great features that help you restrict progress (showing or hiding the forward and/or backward buttons), locking or hiding the menu etc. Customising this player is relatively easy, but it has some limitations. Many have asked for the ability to customise every colour within the player, but this is currently not possible.

Templates and images

The software has a lot of nice templates available to use and it's great that there are often a suite of templates that all use one theme style. It means you can pick a look and feel and have various presentation and quiz templates on hand to use throughout your project. Articulate also have a superb team collaboration feature allowing everyone in a team access to shared templates as explained in this video. Access to images and artwork from within the application means you have a massive and easy-to-use content library available. Articulate appear to make use of Unsplash's API, giving you an ever-expanding list of images. Ironically when I first started using Articulate, I got a bit confused by this…

Screen recording

I didn't have any need for screen recording in the project I was involved in. In my brief testing I found screen capture very easy to use and quite intuitive. Coming back to my oft-used word, I found the capture process quite simple compared to Adobe Captivate, which I think can be overly complicated…especially the difference with how each application differentiates screen grabs versus a complete video capture. Articulate makes adding overlays and interactivity to recordings simple, and I particularly liked the clean interface when using the feature called "Action fine tuning" to adjust the screen recording more.

Font replacement

A feature I became slightly fixated with was font replacement…the ability to find and replace a font used within a Storyline project. It's a great way of removing stray fonts from your project…but be careful, you'll need to review the text on the slides as some odd things happened to me. We had decided to use one font (Open Sans) across all projects, and when I spotted Webdings showing up in the 'find and replace' font list, I replaced all instances of it…only to realise 24 hours later that any tick I had used in a list, was in fact a Webdings tick, and I needed to work my way through the project to fix these instances up.

Font replacement
Font replacement lets you find and replace fonts that you have used in a project.

This was complicated further by the fact that there is no simple "find" option for fonts…just find and replace. I'm not the only person in the forums to ask for the ability to simply "find" the next instance of a font in use, be implemented. At the moment you have no idea where the fonts are in use unless you manually search every single slide. Keep in mind also, that if you cut and paste slides from other project files, or download and use a template, you shouldn't be surprised when your project suddenly seems to have more fonts in it than before.

Publishing Options

In a "blink and you'll miss it" moment, I discovered that there are in fact options you can select during the publication process that I hadn't seen mentioned anywhere. I'm sure that Articulate do in fact mention these, but I had never noticed them. They give you the option of (for example) just publishing one slide or scene to Articulate Review, or adjusting the quality of the video and audio bitrates to affect the size of the final project.

Storyline publishing options - 1
It was months of using Storyline before I realised that these properties here are actually clickable, and can then be adjusted, as you see in the two images below.

Storyline publishing options - 2

Storyline publishing options - 3

Slide Notes

A nice feature we didn't use (but could be handy) is the ability to add notes in a slide for future reference. It would be great for keeping track of development or handover notes for someone. My concern though is that there is no visual indication of when a slide has notes associated with it…so you could easily miss the fact that you are working on a project file where someone has added notes. To me, this makes it a nice feature that I would never consider using.

Slide notes with no visual indication
Slide notes - A great feature that is poorly implemented. Just look at the image above and try and figure out if this slide has any notes associated with it.

Slide notes
The answer is yes - But you would never have known without checking. There is no visual indicator that notes are present.

Because of concern that these notes wouldn't be noticed by anyone else, I tended to add hideous text boxes with yellow highlight on to a slide (for my colleague to see) when trying to comment about something. In short, I had no faith on the effectiveness of the Notes tool as it is at the moment.

Simplicity can be great, but sometimes you want complex

One of the things that I like so much about Storyline is that the simplicity of approach is also one of its greatest strengths. When there are times that you just need to whip up a very quick module, then Storyline is a superb application to use. The simplicity also belies the fact that it is a very powerful application, with powerful features. Some of the example projects out there are truly impressive and make use of some of the amazing features of Storyline…

But as my opening to the article suggested, simplicity doesn't always make things easy. For example, one of the criticisms I would have of Storyline is that it can be difficult to do animations. The software mostly relies on the creation of animated GIFs (I went from not having made a GIF in a decade, to making them more times than I wished for) or using PowerPoint-like slide transitions or motion paths to achieve what I wanted.

Although these functions are reasonably powerful and simple to use, I ran into issues. The software didn't like animated GIFs that were too large, complex or resized…so I found myself (on a project with slides set at 1920x1080) often creating two images…a static image minus the portion of the image I needed to animate, and a second image, which was the GIF animation. I would then insert both images onto the slide and align them to get what I wanted. It wasn't the best approach, but it meant more control over the animations that I produced.

Even the pre-set animation effects were challenging. I struggled to understand why objects travelling along a motion path sped up at the start and slowed down at the end and assumed "Oh well, that's just how it is". It seemed really odd and it wasn't until I went to investigate that I found that there is a solution…but it's slightly hidden away. Why Articulate opted to set up their motions paths with "easing" (as it is referred to) as the default animation approach confuses me….and is very unlike other animation software I have used. To me it's like Articulate taking control and varying the speed of your animation path before you even asked it to. I'd love to see "easing" disabled as a default. I know that might seem such an odd thing to focus on, but as mentioned, I had assumed for months that this odd animation style was simply something that I had to live with. To me a normal, simple animation path should be the default…and if I want to go off and investigate how I can better control that animation timing with some fancy easing, then it's at that moment that I would discover the options possible.

Unlike other software, you can't mark keyframes to help you with animations. By this I mean that something as simple as rotating an object requires using the "spin appear" PowerPoint-like effect rather than being able to set a start and end point of an object and tween keyframes to generate the required spin animation. I really miss that ability. It would have saved a lot of time and attempts with the various approaches I took.

This leads on to the other issue with animations (which was discussed in part one of this article)…the timeline doesn't really work like any timeline that you might be accustomed to in other animation or video editing software. There is no ability to 'scrub' the timeline, and even the option to play through the timeline (by pressing the spacebar) is inconsistent and poorly implemented. Unfortunately the ability to scrub the timeline has been a feature request by users for over 5 years at the time of writing and there appears to be no progress concerning the feature.

It's not all plain sailing

One of the problems around a rapid or agile software development strategy is that bugs can be easily introduced and might not be noticed due to the pace of development. Another problem with frequent updates is that there's an expectation from users of frequent fixes…and that isn't something that Articulate always delivers. I was somewhat surprised in my first 4 weeks of using Storyline, to come across 3 separate bugs...none of which had earth-shattering consequences but did require some rejigging by me. I struggle to remember the last time I experienced a similar situation with Adobe Captivate.

But what surprised me more was that some of these bugs had been known and acknowledged for quite some time (i.e., a year or two at least) and had not been resolved. With a rapid software approach, you'd expect these to have been fixed by now. In defence of Articulate (before I talk further on this issue) one of the 3 bugs (which had been first reported a year ago) was resolved about 5 months into using Storyline.

Articulate is clear on how they tackle bugs and feature request, and their posts frequently point you to this page. But whilst being so open about their approach, as I used Storyline more and more, I was surprised to find posts that were well over 4 years old where an issue was acknowledged, a workaround suggested, a feature request (or bug report) was submitted…and then nothing had happened.

Take the following example - We came across an accessibility issue with several question activities such as drag and drop or matching drop-down. The issue arose when you came to a slide with one of these activities on and then immediately submitted your response. Whilst most activities had a built-in layer on the slide for "Correct" or "Incorrect" that you could customise, they did not have a built-in layer for "Invalid Answer" that you could alter. Instead Articulate uses a browser-based pop-up dialogue box that (a) doesn't look like any other layer that you might have created, (b) can't be customised in any way, and (c) caused accessibility issues for us and the JAWS software reader.

Here's one of the most useful forum posts about the issue. But look at that forum post…it's 7 years old and ongoing! It's great that a workaround was discussed at around the same time of the initial post, but later in the thread you see a feature request to resolve this was submitted over 5 years ago! Even now the problem still exists…and the most recent response by Articulate has been to (once again) suggest you submit a feature request.

For me, because I was required to produce accessible modules, I had to ultimately state the following in my hand-over notes….

  • I had done as much as I could to make the module accessible
  • There was an issue with some quiz activities that were part of a module created using Storyline
  • Articulate had acknowledged the issue over 7 years ago but had not resolved it
  • Whilst some workarounds were providing (supposedly accessible) question types, some workarounds also failed
  • Therefore, the software could not be used to resolve the issue and it would have to be left as a "known accessibility issue" until such time that Articulate provided an effective, inbuilt solution

It is of my opinion that I shouldn't have to be writing statements like that in my work, particularly concerning something that has been known as an issue for over 7 years.

At other times, what seems like a straightforward feature request has sat as a forum post and discussion for over 6 years! How useful is that post? Wouldn't it be better for Articulate to say "Yeah, we're not going to do that"? Or perhaps post a message that they'll consider it, but it isn't considered a high priority?

I've recently been communicating with a developer of a Mac app that I was considering buying. It didn't do exactly what I needed it to, but it was very close. It got to the point in discussion with the developer where I asked "I'm not asking you to say that it's never going to be implemented, but please give me an indication if it is likely. That way I can either consider a workaround whilst I wait or know that I am better off looking at alternate software". Wouldn't a response like that to a question sometimes be more open and useful?

One poster on a forum (where he had requested quite a simple feature be implemented) came back to the thread when I posted in support, with him stating…"This thread is a good indication of how long it takes to get a feature authors need." To their credit (and our disappointment) they did in fact finally indicate that the feature wasn't on the roadmap. I think that's decent…I'd rather be knowledgeable and disappointed, than pointlessly hopeful.

Or this example, an over 4-year-old discussion where someone is asking for a basic feature (to set the corner radius of an object using a value) that someone joins and mentions that discussions like this can be found elsewhere on the forums from over 6 years ago. Or this, where someone submitted a feature request for the ability to display slide numbers on screen…and four years later it was implemented as a feature.

Unfortunately, I'm getting used to seeing or receiving the standard response from Articulate...and I have no doubt that the staff in the forums have these ready to paste in. They tend to go as follows…

  1. Thanks for the feedback, or sorry for the issue, here's a workaround
  2. You're welcome to submit it as a feature request
  3. By the way, did I mention this page on our site about how we manage feature requests?

An agile approach to software development and bug fixing

Updates (that include bug fixes and new features) roll out far more regularly for Articulate compared to Adobe Captivate. Adobe tend to do a substantial new version every one or two years, but often don't introduce new features between these major versions. That said, this year saw the release of Adobe Captivate 2019 Update 2 (Update 1 really was just a couple of bug fixes) that saw some major changes to the application. So much so, that they even announced the update as "The BIGGEST Ever Free Update To Adobe Captivate". It would be great if Adobe could perhaps commit to a more frequent update cycle for the software as you see with Storyline.

That said, you need to look a little deeper into the Articulate releases. First, many releases are in fact just bug fixes, often based upon reports by users within the very active Articulate forums. That's not to say that major changes aren't released at times, such as the Media Library that I have discussed earlier. But despite the frequent releases, I started noticing people vent their frustration online at Articulate. Many of these people were very polite but pointed out that they had been paying a subscription for the software for a long time and that issues that had been reported many years ago were not being prioritised by Articulate.

I get that in the immediacy of trying to resolve a problem, Articulate suggesting a workaround is useful…but it's not the solution to the problem. In fact, having to do a workaround highlights a fault or a gap in the functionality of the software. Sometimes these workarounds are so complex, that people post them to their own site to benefit others. Here's an example of someone posting externally about a complex workaround to solve an issue with Storyline where you can't easily customise drop-down options in questions.

Workarounds are a solution to a problem, not a feature

Often the response to having to do a workaround and people saying "I wish this feature was in Articulate" is for Articulate staff to point people to this page related to how they manage feature requests. I'm going to say it's a poor attempt at transparency. Posting that information doesn't indicate the different weighting that Articulate places between workarounds and feature requests. I thought Cara summed up the dilemma that users and Articulate face eloquently in a posting on this forum discussion…

"Hey Articulate, Is it possible for you to be more transparent about your process of adding features? We've received the stock response that you're listening, considering, and you'll get back to us when/if a feature is added. This thread started six years ago, and over the subsequent six years, many users have taken the time to add their voices to this request. What is the threshold for the development team? What is the current priority? Is there a response from the development team as to why this is not a priority? This feature has implications for students who speak English as a second language, who are studying dense content, for those who need accessibility, and for those of us needing to create a product that is well received by students. We are delivering materials in different formats as a result of Articulate not being nimble enough to respond in a timely way."

That's a superb series of questions by Cara, that not only indicates the significance of the need for the functionality being discussed, but the impact that the functionality not being present is having. And let's break down the response from one of the company's Customer Happiness Specialists…

I can understand you feeling like you're in the dark about what features we're working on and when certain features might be released. While we don't have a public roadmap…

To be clear, we're not feeling like we are in the dark, we *are* in the dark about new features and when they are to be released. You just indicated as such by saying there is no public roadmap. I'm not suggesting that all software companies should publicly declare timelines of new functionality releases, but Articulate's forums are a positive area that welcomes user input. If you're going to actively encourage that sort of discourse (which Articulate does) you need to be more transparent.

…we're committed to giving you the best information we can at the time…

And here lies the main issue. In a few instances I've seen Articulate say "this isn't actively being worked on"...but I have seen multiple forum threads where there is effectively radio silence…for years! Users are left to guess whether the issue or bug is being addressed, is not a priority or indeed just what priority has been assigned to it. The "best information" is sadly not being provided.

…and we provide targeted release dates when possible.

Well I've not seen many targeted dates at all. I must have missed something.

We've seen firsthand that this is a highly-requested enhancement for Storyline 360, and that's something we consider as we plan ahead for new features.

What does this even mean?! It's both acknowledging how much users want this feature (and have wanted it for 6 years!) whilst at the same time giving absolutely no guidance as to if and when it might be implemented. At best, the entire post from the staff member can be summed up as the company saying "will consider the feature".

While this one isn't currently on our immediate roadmap, we're discussing it's importance with our Product team.

Finally, clarity…kinda…and the answer is (basically) "this isn't happening"…unless you want to spend hours reading way too much into the vague expression "we're discussing its importance". But the paragraph that this is mentioned in is obtuse. It didn't need all the extra supportive commentary to then simply say that the feature isn't planned at this stage whilst giving false hope at the end.

As we know more, we promise to keep you updated.

And I do need to add here, that to their credit, the company is exceptionally good at coming back to threads and following up when a feature or a fix is finally released. It's exceptionally good customer service….but often comes at the end of a process that can be lengthy, frustrating and invisible to end users.

Another example - here's someone asking (6 years ago) for Articulate to provide a list of known issues. Their response is to say "If you have an issue, you might find it in the forums, or you can report it" which isn't what the person is really asking. Compare this with Adobe Captivate, that has a page fully acknowledging all issues. I'm not saying that Adobe's approach to user support is better…it isn't. It's common to feel alone and unsupported at times in the Adobe Forums (that may have changed, it's been a while) whilst Articulate's community is vibrant, active, supportive and engaging. I've found myself simply jumping into the Articulate forums sometimes for no other reason than to see what people are saying, and if I have had time, support those asking questions (including supplying example files). When a community forum gets me involved for no other reason than I want to be involved, then they are doing the right thing.

Compare that with this recent commentary by Paul Wilson concerning Adobe's updated eLearning Community website. Paul is a staggeringly talented Adobe Captivate specialist who has built up a stunning library of tutorials that we all benefit from when using Captivate. But one of the things I also like about him, is his practical and no nonsense approach to his work. Read his thoughts on what should be a lively and active community website for Adobe and you feel and agree with his frustrations. He shouldn't have to spend time pointing out what are effectively basic mistakes that make the Adobe community site unusable. And as a side note...I thought I should login at that point and check what has changed...and wow! I signed in and then was immediately presented with a screen requiring me to give Adobe my contact details and agree that I could be contacted by Adobe after supplying that information. That's not how you do community....that's how you try and generate further business in the guise of a community site. I quit out of the Adobe eLearning Community website at that point and don't intend to return.

Adobe's ominous details request when entering their community site
Come on Adobe - This isn't how entering a community site should be! Adobe makes it clear from the get-go that their eLearning community site is more about getting your contact and business details than supporting you.

What worries me most is that the Articulate forum is often the place you go to, not so much for a solution, but for the workaround or for the standard response from Articulate staff that, even after 10 months of my using Storyline, is starting to make me groan and say to my colleagues "I've found a post that discusses the issue and there's just a standard Articulate response".

How does this affect our work?

I want to make it clear that Articulate's rapid approach to software development (an update released almost every month) is impressive and an incredible advantage compared to its competitors. Even in the months of use so far, they have rolled out some fantastic new features. Compare that to Adobe Captivate, when new (admittedly usually huge) new features can take 12-18 months before they appear (this year being an exception).

That said, it's disheartening to come across a forum post about an issue, think "Oh thank god, they are aware of the problem"…only to find that the postings started between 3-5 years ago and haven't been resolved to date. In the case of a colleague who had completed a substantial amount of work (multiple project files) and had a deadline fast approaching, she discovered an accessibility issue with a feature of Storyline and couldn't get sign off for her work…so she was left with only one option…a substantial re-working of every slide (and there were a lot!) where the feature had been used. The frustration was palpable, but also magnified when it was clear that it was a known issue that hadn't been resolved by Articulate for some time.

The flow-on effect even just across our organisation was significant…remove any instances where we had used that feature and avoid that functionality like the plague. Even 9 months later I've not bothered to check if the issue has been fixed and won't consider using the functionality, because of the impact using it could have if it was clear that the issue hadn't truly been resolved. Ask yourself…how many regularly updated software products do you use where you purposely avoid a feature, because an issue related to it has never been resolved? Somewhere, Articulate has got the mix of bug fixes versus feature requests wrong.

I don't know what might be happening in the company, but I wonder how many times the staff members responding to community posts get the opportunity to go back to a bug list/feature request meeting and say "Hey, that issue from 5 years ago came up on the forums again today". I don't know the mechanics of how they rank their bugs/features, but to me a simple formula might help….something like this…

  • Severity of bug (out of 100) * number of years open
  • Importance of feature request to resolve issues (out of 100) * number of years open
  • Significance of new feature (out of 100)

That's just me playing with an idea…but if you look at the above and said "anything scoring 75 or greater gets worked on (by rank)", as the years tick over, less severe bugs or "nice to have" feature requests that resolve issues, start jumping up the queue (as they age) and get to the point where they can't be ignored. By way of an example, a bug that only scored 25/100 around 6 years ago, would now be scoring 125 points (25 * 6 = 125) and absolutely should be a top priority to be addressed.

Anyway, just a thought…I am worried that "Here's a workaround. Submit a feature request" is causing people to become more vocal to try and get long-standing issues resolved and that the priority on bug fixing might be favouring quick wins over long-standing issues, with new features almost a priority over anything except severe bugs.

Wish list

In writing this article and using Storyline, I have come up with some things that I would like to see improved, both from the software itself and from the company. If I've not mentioned them already, here's my wish list of changes:

  1. Export to PowerPoint. Adobe Captivate integrates with Microsoft PowerPoint far more robustly than Storyline does, with round-tripping features available. Storyline on the other hand won't allow you to do that, and the ability to export to PowerPoint is non-existent, unless you want to use a complex workaround. Even as I check this article before publishing, a colleague in another project has emailed me and said that they like two of my modules so much they are going to use them in face-to-face teaching (yay!) and would I mind converting them into PowerPoint slides (boo!). Wow that's a lot of work…and if you want editable PowerPoint slides, a hell of a lot of cutting and pasting!
  2. Monthly subscriptions – As a contractor the work I do is often determined by the software that the organisation I am contracted with wants me to use. I currently do not have my own subscriptions to either Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline, and simply cannot afford to pay for an annual license for these in the hope I get a years' worth of contracting work out of them. Having a monthly subscription (even if it worked out as slightly more than an annual one) would be a godsend for me.
  3. The company needs to make all known bugs visible by way of a list. This page should show the date the issue was noted, information on the issue, a link to any thread discussing a workaround, and if work on each bug is in progress with an ETA for a resolution. The ETA is crucial when you have people posting, clearly indicating they can't meet a deadline because of the roadblock.
  4. Added to this - it shouldn't just be in forum posts where people can vote up a feature request. Articulate need to make it possible to add a vote to a list of features being asked for directly (Vote Up/Down). Many systems have this option available.
  5. The Preview button needs to have a "From this slide" option. I know it's what Adobe Captivate has…but get over it…it's incredibly useful.
  6. I have joined the chorus of voices asking for a warning when publishing a project with objects set to "Hidden" on the timeline. I often would turn objects off during testing and then forget to turn them back on…only for a reviewer to tell me something wasn't working.

And before I proceed, I just also want to give a shout out to this article and the associated YouTube video that I found did a great comparison between Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate (although it is a bit dated).

Why I won't be considering Articulate Storyline

I've been an Apple user for over 35 years. I have never owned any PC other than a Mac running Windows under Bootcamp. I've had the fortune to be in a role for over a decade where I was allowed a Mac, but now I use work PCs when required to do so. I have occasionally used Parallels to allow me to open the Windows environment whilst still logged into the Mac side of my home machine. Both Bootcamp and Parallels (or equivalents like Fusion or Virtual Box) are superb…but I have never used any of them to run a PC application on a regular basis from within the macOS…and I wouldn't consider it. There is no application that I regularly use that can only be run from within Windows. My Windows 10 environment is mostly for testing and the rare app that I can't get on a Mac (like one Steam game I wanted to play and one Java game, because I refuse to have Java installed under macOS).

Adobe Captivate certainly gains a lot of kudos for having a Mac version....but note that I have also raised concerns in a previous post about the current performance of Captivate under both a Mac and Windows environment. As a side note to this side note, I recently upgraded my RAM in my iMac from 8Gb to 24Gb so I don't know how well Captivate would now run. So while there is a lot about Articulate that impresses me, their lack of true Mac support is a brick wall I've hit my head squarely against. I'm sure I'll have an opportunity to use Storyline again in other roles, but it's not something that I want to consider for myself at home until there is a Mac version.

Summary – It's not so simple

I've thoroughly enjoyed every moment using Storyline 360. It's a fantastic piece of software that allows you to create interactive, engaging and accessible content easily. It's part of suite of applications from Articulate that is ably supported by an active and vibrant online community, with support staff thoroughly engaged in keeping that community humming. I also have to give a shout out specifically to the Review 360 site and features, as it is something that we have made extensive use of.

Storyline is astoundingly easy to use, but sometimes disappointingly so. There are times when you use it to create quite complex interactions easily, and there are times when complexity requires workarounds and new ways of working that shouldn't be required. It's probably unfair to say that I could see Articulate as a gateway application for moving on to Adobe Captivate (if you so desire) at a later stage, but this is because I certainly recommend Storyline as the first port of call for those wanting to get into developing interactive eLearning content. That leap to Adobe Captivate is one that you may neither wish to make or need to, in the future.

There will be times when you say "I wish Storyline could do this…" and you'll find (frustratingly) that the solution is a workaround or possibly keeping fingers crossed that Articulate will introduce desired features as part of their oft-updated approach…an approach that is both impressive, confusing and perhaps (to be fair) placing too many expectations on them. But…to see issues being discussed on their forums sometimes for 5, 6 or 7 years without a resolution in sight, shocked me. They need to address their lack of transparency (or 'faux' transparency) related to how they truly deal with bugs and features requests. Hiding behind a standard, stock approach in forum posts started to get to me after only 6 months of use. And yes, to their credit their responses are more transparent than Adobe's…but the Adobe community forums are not the ones to be measured by in this instance.

If you want to extend beyond the simplicity and power that Articulate has to offer, then that may be the time that you consider Adobe Captivate. But Captivate also has many issues to trap those new (or even experienced) that can lead to frustration. To paraphrase, when discussing Adobe Captivate…with great power comes great complexity…and it may be something you simply opt to avoid and choose to stick with Storyline. Keep in mind though that Captivate allows you to do things Storyline can't, including truly responsive projects and Virtual Reality scenarios. But Captivate's interface has become confusing and dated, the performance of the application sluggish and its approach to community support sadly lacking.

Despite all this, I'll be happy to use either of these applications in the future…it's one of my favourite eLearning things to do! I know which is my preferred application (hint – it will never be the one that is a Windows only application) but I'll get great results from them both. If I'm contracted to use Storyline again in the future, bring it on! Storyline was astoundingly easy to use and working with it was fantastic. The speed in which I developed content was (if I am allowed to say so myself) impressive. Its simple approach to eLearning development was a pleasure to experience. And after all, simple is often the best and most productive approach to take.

 

Note – Thanks to ACC for allowing me to use the work that I did in these articles. The graphics used in modules were not created by me, but were from a suite of images that we were required to use in order to match with ACC branding.


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