My previous post to compare Adobe Captivate 6 vs Articulate Storyline received a fair attention.
As the Adobe Captivate7 released with a decent buzz, I have decided to take a closer look at it and compare its strengths and weaknesses against its prime competitors Articulate Storyline and Lectora Inspire.
I know I am late in writing this review. But I had to spend lot of time to play with Captivate7 and gather necessary details. This is probably going to be one of my lengthiest posts. But I promise, it will be worthy of every minute of your time.
It is no surprise; Adobe Captivate7 tries to follow the success path of Articulate Storyline in so many aspects (so did Lectora Inspire). Many of the new features introduced are nearly carbon copy of what was implemented in the Storyline (like insertion of youtube video, variables, triggers etc.).
Let me walk you through some of the important aspects about Captivate 7, one at a time.
Captivate7 Interface is very similar to Captivate6. Looks like Adobe decided not to follow MS Office Style (Ribbon) Interface implemented by Storyline and Lectora Inspire. The Captivate7 interface is very similar to other Adobe Tools like Adobe Flash and Premiere. E-learning professionals would find this very comfortable, but for non-technical users this style of interface is will take a decent amount of time to get used to.
Captivate7 ships with same 9 themes existed in Captivate6. Nothing new; if I try to download more themes, it lands on the Adobe’s website with the message ‘Stay tuned to this page for New Captivate Themes’. It’s funny; it stays as is since Captivate 6! I don’t know if adobe would ever consider bringing in some nice themes here.
Captivate7 also comes with lot of templates under each of the theme. The templates not producing a nice looking/finished output and customizing them consumes a lot of effort.
As mentioned in my previous Captivate6 vs Storyline post, Storyline themes/templates are way better in design and usability. Captivate 6/7 themes wastes a lot of usable space, not well finished. Lectora Inspire at least gives some decent number of themes but reminds of very old style e-learning UI designs.
If well-designed built-in themes and templates matters to you then storyline scores the highest among the three.
Variables, Actions and Advanced Actions
Variables and Actions (or Triggers in Storyline terminology) concept introduced last year with Articulate Storyline first. Now Lectora Inspire and Captivate7 implemented the same functionality with some slight variations.
Variables (Storyline/Lectora/Captivate) – You can use them to store and process values (such as user inputs) on runtime
Advanced Actions (Captivate7 only) – Captivate7 brings in a concept called advanced action. Advanced Action allows batch execution of multiple actions. Advanced actions can be reused across Captivate projects. This is a nice feature and a similar functionality can be achieved through Storyline or Lectora Inspire by doing some work around.
Storyline and Lectora Inspire allow assigning actions into images directly. But Captivate7 does not support this. For e.g. if you want an image to launch a website, you will have to add a hidden button around it and assign an action to that to call an URL (this may not be a big deal though)
Widgets and Interactions
If you have used Captivate 6 you might be familiar with ‘widgets’. Widgets are small pluggable interactions we can insert into captivate slides. Captivate7 introduces a term called ‘Interactions’ along with widgets. Widgets and Interactions do the same. Some of the good widgets given a preview interface and named as Interactions. For e.g. you can insert the youtube video into a Captivate slide as a Widget or as an Interaction.
So the terminology here might slightly confusing. To simplify,
- Interactions are of .wdgt file types.
- Widgets groups both .wdgt file types as well as .swf (adobe flash format widgets) files.
- Widgets option allows browsing and insertion of files directly and does not offer any preview of the widgets. Interactions displayed in a preview window that you can select and insert.
- Interactions (.wdgt) supported in Flash as well as HTML5 outputs. But .swf widgets not supported in HTML5 output.
These ‘interactions’ being a major advertised feature for Captivate7, I have a lot to talk about them as well.
There are some new interactions introduced in Captivate7 (labeled as ‘new’) and some reused from Captivate 6 (labeled as ‘updated’)
The newer Interactions come with slightly better interface and controls (on the authoring front).
There are some flash based games available as Interactions as well, looks suitable to use in e-learning for kids.
Captivate7 Interactions/Widgets (just like Captivate 6) offers very limited customization options,
- Very limited text formatting options available. Within an interaction/widget you cannot format text on a word level. For e.g. you can bold the entire text of an interaction, but not a single word separately (is that too much to ask??)
- Web links/Links cannot be inserted into text (no hyperlinking support)
- Limited layout options – for example, you can insert inline image on the left or right of text but not to bottom or top of text
- Interactions on the PC creates text distortions on the HTML5 output (refer that on the video below)
- You can paste the text inside an interaction not the image
Overall both widgets and interactions lacks finishing and usability. You need Adobe Flash to create and customize widgets. I don’t see Captivate7 supports any HTML5 made widgets, I don’t know if Adobe would be interested in doing that either on already sinking flash market!
There are many other issues/bugs I have noted with the built-in interactions and widgets, i am not trying to list every one of it (I will be seen as a Devil by Captivate Geeks if I list them all ), but the bottom line is, just like Captivate 6, It is still difficult to rely on the Interactions and Widgets to build solid e-learning content.
The good news is, instead of relying on the widgets and interactions, you can still build your own custom interactions (like templates) using variables and actions feature introduced with Captivate7 and overcome some of the limitations of widgets and interactions.
So when you want to build a tabbed page, you can create some actions to show/hide group of elements on screen and assign them to different controls/buttons.
But even with this option, it is still going to be very difficult to build moderate/complex interactions (imagine a page with 10 tabs and each tab consists its own text/image/audio). This is because Captivate7 does not support the concept of ‘layered contents’.
Storyline does a fantastic job here with the Layering support and easy to use templates (I don’t see Lectora Inspire Supports Layering concept as well). With storyline, the templates/interactions are not externalized much (like widgets). You can just use the storyline itself to build reusable storyline templates. They are integral part of the tool itself which brings in much superior usability, finishing and performance.
A quick demo of some of widgets/interactions from Captivate 7. The Captivate7 source file used for this demo can be downloaded from here
Captivate7 packs the same character libraries from Captivate 6. There are some decent photographic options to choose from. Lectora Inspire offers lot of photographic characters as well. But Articulate Storyline offers only one free photographic character and other free libraries are illustration based. Additional character libraries can be purchased externally for all the tools.
(continued in next page…)