Captivate 8: Is it really a game changer?

Captivate 8 reviewAdobe has been throwing the phrase “game changer” around to describe Captivate 8 but will this release really change the face of e-Learning?

Having spent five (at times painful) months working with Captivate 4 my eventual graduation to Captivate 7 was honestly one of the best days of my working life. So much so that I thought that Adobe couldn’t possibly improve Captivate enough to make investing in the upgrade worthwhile. I was wrong.


Responsive Design – “Well Played Adobe”

Captivate 8 has introduced responsive design meaning that your e-Learning can be optimised for mobile devices of all shapes and sizes, well rectangles at least.

Captivate 7 had scalable HTML5 content which did the trick for tablets but as soon as you watched content on a phone you needed to invest in a microscope. I was very sceptical about how well responsive design would work with eLearning but this feature alone makes upgrading worthwhile.

Captivate prides itself on ease of use. I often find this limiting but Adobe’s approach to responsive design was both simple and elegant. Using a parent, child, grandchild approach to development you create your content in the same way as normal for laptops/desktops. Unlike genetics, you then get to select what you want to be inherited in the tablet and phone versions.

With a switch to relative sizing your images already look great in each version. If you want an element to not appear for a certain version you just drag it off stage. I say again simple and elegant. Fonts and now ‘even smarter’ shapes automatically rescale exactly how you would want them. Throw in the ability to add touch gestures and your eLearning is almost impossible to not engage with. With a well set up responsive theme, creating three iterations of your project is so easy.

With the responsive design comes a whole new way to preview your project, the Edge Inspect powered multiscreen preview. With multiscreen preview there are three buttons displaying the max-widths that you have chosen for your outputs. This means there is no need for the endless resizing of your browser window; all you need to do is click a button. Although this is sounds like a small thing, as a web developer with experience testing responsive sites, I appreciated this more than anything else.

User Interface-lift – “Meh”

The renovation to the UI was expected. Captivate 6 and 7 look identical and Adobe always likes to make software look new every couple of updates. I didn’t get enough time to truly appreciate all the nuances but the simplicity and logic that was seen in versions 5, 6 and 7 remains. I do still find advanced actions too idiot proof and restricting but I have had to come to terms with this, although I think somebody should petition for a name change.

The new integration with Kuler and/or Photoshop for colour schemes means that you can adjust the colours of your whole project at the click of a button. This is a real time saver if you produce the same project for different clients, less relevant for one-off projects.

Edge Animation Integration – “Alleluia”

As much as the responsive design will get the headlines, this is the feature that I wanted the most. The ability to create HTML5 content was great in Captivate 6, and improved in 7, but the void left for users of Flash Professional was almost unfillable. Although you could import GIFs from Photoshop allowing animations that work in all outputs, this lead to a loss in quality and lacked interaction. With Edge integration this is not the case. Now you can have fully responsive and interactive animations, be it a simple slider or something more complex like a mini game. The ability to use Edge in conjunction with Captivate also allows you to get around some of Captivates restrictions. For those of you who like to play around with code you can do it in Edge and Captivate can’t stop you. This means you can make much more detailed and unique interactions and you can actually nest functions, which is probably the main issue I have with advanced actions.

To put it simply, the Flash void has finally been filled. The HTML5 tracker will tell you that there are still a few gaps, most notably roll-overs effects. I have never been that much of a fan of roll-overs as an interaction anyway. Mainly because learners intuitively click on hover areas so there is no harm in making them. So there is no real loss there.

The Downsides – “Could do better”

So far I have been pretty positive about the Captivate 8, but there are some things I would have liked to see them introduce. One of them is the ability to customise effects. This can be done manually but this is slow and annoying. Having to hunt down the XML file, and then edit it, and then save it somewhere different because of privilege issues, and then copy it back into place, and then bring it into Captivate is not fun, particularly if you name them 1-20 and then can’t remember which is which! I often reuse old effects which do the job but I would love to see a simple field where you type how many pixels you want an object to move. I can see myself using Edge to get around this but that still involves opening another program.

I am still slightly on the fence about using Captivate to record video demos and there were no marked improvement in this area. The inability to use the text to speech function with this is another example of Captivate being illogical. Also editing the recorded video can be painful.

It is also worth mentioning that sharing advanced actions between projects is not as slick as it could be. This feature is so good in principle it is a shame that they still haven’t got it right.

To Summarise – “I like”

The question at the start of this post was “Is Captivate 8 really a game changer?” My answer is potentially. Despite all the hype around mLearning I am yet to see a genuine change in the tides.  As an eLearning developer I have great problems persuading clients to make the switch to HTML5/mobile versions. I don’t know why. It has almost no downsides unless you use IE8 or below and the upsides are countless.

Despite my reluctance to call Captivate 8 a game changer I still think it is a great release and I am looking forward to developing with it for the next 12 months.

To view samples of Armada’s e-Learning see our e-Learning samples page.

For Adobe-Certified Captivate 8 training see Armada Training.

Captivate 8: Is it really a game changer?

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