10 Things Adobe gets Right about Mobile Learning with Captivate 8 [Review]


When comparing the two big players in the rapid eLearning market, Articulate, and Adobe, they approach mobile learning design very differently.

Articulate, for example, has gone the native app route for deploying learning projects to tablets and HTML5 for smartphones like the iPhone and the Moto X. They have a good app called Articulate Mobile Player, which initially was only available for the iPad and now is also available for Android Tablets. The challenge with this native app approach is building and maintaining native apps for a myriad of mobile operating systems, screen sizes, and resolutions, which is a tough task and this strategy may not scale moving forward in my opinion. For the learner is yet another app to download to their smartphone and then there’s the issue of installing apps inside certain IT corporations.

Also while the experience of consuming an e-learning course on Articulate’s Mobile Player on Tablets is great (better on iPad vs. Android), this same course on a smartphone via their HTML5 output is practically unusable and leaves a lot to be desired.

I actually think that Adobe, by embracing Responsive Design principles in Captivate 8, is going in a better mobile learning direction, because it helps users design flexible and fluid m-Learning, that can be consumed on desktops, tablets and smartphones, without the need for installing an extra app.

The Future of the Web is Responsive Design!

If you are new to Responsive Design, it isn’t necessarily a single technology that you can point to, but rather a set of principles aided by a number of HTML5 technologies such as CSS media queries, fluid grids and flexible images and videos.

In the early days of mobile, many companies tried to cater to their mobile users by creating two versions of their website, one for desktop users and a lighter, less powerful mobile version for users coming to their site using a mobile device. This approach quickly became a nightmare because of the need to maintain two sets of code, and the inability to predict where people would be coming from, and as a result often times desktop users would arrive on the mobile version and mobile users would land on the desktop version of the site, creating a complete mess.

Luckily more and more companies are now re-building their websites using a Mobile-first mentality and a Responsive Design approach.

With Responsive Design, the idea is to maintain and point people to a single URL, using a single set of content on the back end, while using the same code, and with the help of CSS Media Queries, deliver great experiences across multiple devices, including desktop and laptops, tablets and smartphones and in the near future, wearables like the iWatch and Google Glass.

This is how we should view the future of learning design and consumption, we should focus on designing learning that is flexible and fluid across multiple screens; intelligent learning, that always points learners to a single URL, and avoid at all cause the need for installing different native apps for different mobile operating systems, in order for learners to access the learning.

Just as the web community has embraced the ‘One Web‘ philosophy, we too should embrace a ‘One Learning‘ design paradigm.

And this is why in my humble opinion, the future of mobile learning design looks brighter for Adobe, and I see Captivate 8 as a great first step toward this vision. With Captivate 8, Adobe commoditizes the creation of best-in-class mobile learning, without having to know much about the technology behind the scenes, and to me this is a game-changer in the transition from e-Learning to m-Learning!

Having said that, here are 10 things Adobe gets right about Mobile Learning with Captivate 8:

1. Responsive Projects

When I worked at Adobe, one thing I always heard from newcomers to Captivate was that it was difficult to get started, because of the lack of templates. This is why I really like the new splash screen you get when you launch Captivate 8. You now have options for starting a blank project, a project based on your own project template or from a PowerPoint file, from a software simulation, a video demo and of course now for designing a Responsive project.

I feel so strongly about Responsive Design being the future of learning design, that I would recommend you to start with a Responsive Project even if initially you may not be thinking about mobile learning.

When you select to start with a Responsive Project, you automatically get three layouts, namely one for the desktop (1024px), a second one for the tablet (768px) and a one for the smartphone (360px). All three of these options can be adjusted in case you want to target your learning to a different screen resolution.

I think this is a good start, but I’d like to see more flexibility in terms of adding more breakpoints, as well as options for when learners rotate their screen. One thing that is obvious to me, by the way, these resolutions are organized from left to right is that Adobe is thinking desktop-first, tablet-second and mobile-last. I’m a mobile-first advocate so I would have put Mobile first, Tablet second and Desktop last. But again, this is a terrific way to get learning professionals thinking about m-Learning, so kudos to Adobe!


2. Relative positioning vs. Absolute

When I teach my m-Learning workshop, I have a slide with big letters that reads

If your design calls for absolute dimensions, you have already failed!

Smart multi-device design needs to be fluid in the way water is, whatever container you put water into, water becomes that container. This is why I’m excited about being able to select a percentage value when defining the size and placement of objects in the properties tab in Adobe Captivate 8. As I wrote above about the three main components of responsive design, flexible images is important and by sizing and positioning images using percentage values, you are able to include images that will work everywhere by adjusting their size and position according to whatever devices is used by learner.

relative positioning

3. Mobile Gestures

For too long now we have been designing learning for the precision of the connected mouse and keyboard, however, touch computing turns this paradigm on its head, and we now must design for the not-so precise finger or more accurately, for the ergonomics of the thumbs. Luckily Captivate 8 makes it a breeze to make sure learners can navigate the learning using touch gestures like taps and swipes. Enabling this feature will ensure that learners will not only be able to use the mouse on the desktop but just as easy, use the fingers on mobile devices, which is exactly how it should be.

touch gestures

4. Responsive Project Preview

As you work with Responsive Projects, you will want to preview them in your default browser and here’s something you will really enjoy in Captivate 8, there’s a slider you can drag left and right to get a preview of how the various break points will work across multiple devices with different physical sizes and resolutions.

Here’s a quick animation showing how this works, notice how objects flow across the width of the screen depending on the resolution, especially as I move the slider towards the right. Also notice how the yellow navigation buttons move from the right side of the screen, over to the bottom as we get closer to a mobile resolution. I really like how the Captivate team implemented this functionality!

5. Instantly Preview m-Learning projects on multiple devices with Adobe Edge Inspect

There’s one thing to Preview a project in your desktop browser and use the slider to get a sense for how it will look across multiple screens, and then there’s the ability to actually preview your learning on the device itself. There’s something pretty special when you starting thinking about mobile and you can actually touch your work on a smartphone or tablet, and this is where Adobe Edge Inspect comes in.

The tight integration the Captivate team has built with Edge inspect is simply amazing. Once you have installed Edge Inspect on your devices, you can preview a project in Captivate 8 and the browser itself will send the preview over to each of your devices, so long as they are on the same wifi network and voila you are now testing your work directly on your mobile device. You can even initiate a screen capture session from your desktop browser and it will take screen shots from all your devices, this is great for sharing with your team throughout development. I will record a how-to video later and post here on my blog.

edge inspect image6. Geolocation

Geolocation is a nice feature in Captivate 8 that uses the location-based feature on mobile devices to pinpoint exactly where a learner might be in the world. This could be used to provide personalized learning based on where learners are located at the time he or she takes the learning. I believe this is a good start toward taking advantage of all the sensor superpowers inherent in mobile devices, for learning. I expect geolocation to be the beginning of Adobe adding other similar features like the microphone and camera to augment the learning experience.

7. Responsive Interactions

I’m also really impressed with all the new learning interactions in Captivate 8, which in my testing, most of them are responsive and work on mobile just fine. I’m  especially impressed by the one called ‘Catch AlphaNums,’ which is a game-based interaction that takes full advantage of the mobile device’s accelerometer in order to tilt the device for playing the game. The best way to understand this is to watch the video below, where Adobe’s Dr. Pooja goes over the implementation of this interaction and later uses an iPad to demonstrate the accelerometer in action. This is an excellent use of another sensor superpower inherent in mobile devices.

8. Responsive Screen Capture

This is an impressive update to the screen capturing engine in Adobe Captivate that was much needed, in order to provide an optimal experience for mobile users watching a screen cast. Adobe Captivate will basically detect screen activity in the recording window and automatically pans around those areas in order to create screen capture that is optimized for the tablet and smartphone.

9. Importing HTML5 content

I’m glad to see the Captivate team embracing HTML5 as the future of the web. This is why I’m impressed with the ability to import HTML5 objects directly into Captivate 8. Adobe has a product called Edge Animate that allows you to create animation in native HTML5 format, which you can then import into your mobile learning projects in Captivate 8, via the Media drop-down menu, as illustrated below.

import html5

10. Monthly Subscription

I realize this is not a mobile learning feature per se, neither is this knew in version 8, but I do like the idea of renting Captivate 8 for ongoing mobile learning projects and by now it should also be clear that cloud-based subscription are the future of software. Adobe has been quite successful doing this since launching Adobe Creative Cloud. Other companies like Microsoft do the same thing with Office and I would suspect soon others will follow suit.


There’s no such thing as a perfect software and I’m sure there are flaws in Captivate 8, too. However I believe one should choose software based on the vision behind the company driving the product, and while I wasn’t impressed with versions 6 and 7, I do believe Captivate 8 is precisely the version I have been waiting for a long time for designing m-Learning that can work across multiple desktop computers, tablets and smartphones.

Since leaving Adobe, I have been of the biggest critics of Adobe Captivate, namely because I wanted the team to address important industry web trends, such as mobile learning and responsive web design.

Today I’m happy to say that my faith in the Adobe Captivate team has been restored, and I’m looking forward to working with the team and with Captivate users, in an effort to help move this product forward, especially as more instructional designers and managers continue to look for ways to mobilize their learning.

In closing I’d like to congratulate my old team for a job well done, and encourage everyone interested in designing mobile learning to download the trial and take it for a responsive spin.

UPDATE. Here’s the Slideshare version of this post:


  • mark2741

    Glad to see you back posting again! I have been using Captivate 8 daily for the past ~5 months. It is a phenomenal release, very stable and lots of small improvements that add up to big time-savers (SmartShape buttons is my favorite). However, I caution everyone about using Responsive Projects unless:
    a. They truly will be designing their content to appear and act differently depending on the device, and…

    b. They are willing to work through lots of issues, gotchas, and limitations.

    As in just about every Captivate release, when a big feature is first unveiled it is often a very risky thing to use for production purposes.

    99% of the e-learning that people are developing today is better served up via a Standard Project, published to HTML5 with the ‘Scalable HTML5’ option selected.

    I agree the future is the Responsive Project and am looking forward to the next release to see improvements in that area, but unless you are going to make distinct changes to your content (i.e., larger buttons for mobile versus desktop breakpoints, or perhaps even omitting some portions of the course for the mobile version and just going with a checklists/job-aid/resources approach, etc.), then it is better to stick with HTML5 standard project in my opinion.

    Also, a few other opinions based on my experience working with Cp8:

    a. Mobile gestures are not practically useful unless you are publishing a strict page-turner/linear-navigation scheme. This is atypical. Also, the gestures are “all or nothing” – you can’t enable pinch to zoom without enabling all the others.That’s a showstopper for me.

    b. The Learning Interactions are so poorly designed, aesthetically, that I am very hesitant to ever use them. At least colors, fonts, etc. can be modified, but even with that they are still quite ugly and mismatched unless someone is using the stock themes (which are also hideous).

    c. Edge Inspect integration is pretty iffy still. It often doesn’t work, or stops working. It’s so unreliable that I and others have given up on it.

    d. On a positive note – the external HTML5 integration/support is phenomenally good. Being able to import an external HTML5 project and or an Edge .oam file works fabulously well and that alone makes Captivate 8 a big step forward for me.


    • rjacquez

      Hi Mark, thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate that! Thank for sharing your experience with Captivate 8. Regarding your comment “99% of the e-learning that people are developing today is better served up via a Standard Project” I actually think that we should start doing more than simply creating the same ol’ e-learning and thus my excitement about Responsive Projects. We have to take mobile learning serious and thus far there hasn’t been a practical tool to do this until now. It’s ok to ‘work through lots of issues, gotchas, and limitations’ as you mentioned, so long as we are pushing the enveloping with our learning design. The worst thing we can do as an industry is to keep producing the same thing, thinking that our learners aren’t ready for mobile, they are! We need to take some steps to meet them half way. This is why I believe every Captivate customer should step out of their comfort zone and experiment with Responsive Projects, they have nothing to lose and lots to gain. This is the future and the sooner we embrace it, the better off we will be.

      • cgator41

        I agree that we need to innovate when it comes to e-learning design. But currently, the HTML5 output in Captivate (8.1) is not good enough to reliably run even simple projects, much less ones that push the envelope. Simple interactions (e.g. clickboxes) lag or just don’t work at all. Audio gets out of sync or takes 2-3 seconds to play after the slide changes. These are more than just little “issues, gotchas or limitations.” They ruin the user experience so much that I end up giving up on interactions and just publishing to YouTube via .mp4.

  • Didier

    Thanks RJ for that review! I share your vision about all the advantages related to responsive design and HTML5 when talking about m-Learning and I’m currently discovering these interesting Captivate 8 features.
    But what about offline capabilities? Connections and bandwidth issues are common when learning mobile. My personal user experience as a mobile learner is that an m-learning content should always be usable in offline mode as well. Mobile apps seem to better manage offline capabilities than HTML5 can do right now witth AppCache. It would be really great to have your thoughts about that. Thanks again!

    • rjacquez

      Hi Didier, thanks for stopping by and I’m glad to hear you are using Captivate 8. I hear you on the offline capabilities and while Captivate doesn’t yet have these, I’m pretty sure the Captivate teams is already thinking about it. Like I said in my review, the m-Learning features in Captivate 8 are a great start and it sets the foundation for many things to come, so stay tuned. Also, good point on today’s mobile apps, but I still believe that using the web is a better approach to deliver mobile learning experiences vs. native apps. I’m already working on a follow-up post where I will talk more about this.

      • Lieve Weymeis

        Sorry to pop in, but you can create an app directly from Captivate, isn’t that what you mean by ‘offline’?

        • rjacquez

          Good point, Lieve. Although I think that Didier was referring to offline capabilities via Responsive projects. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you are well, Lieve!

          • Lieve Weymeis

            Publish to an app is possible from a responsive project.

          • Didier

            Hi Lieve, by “offline” I did not mean to publish the content as an app. In the project I am working on we do not want to make an app install as a prerequisite for accessing the content. We want it to be usable without any installation.

  • JoeReason

    Thanks, RJ, for your review. I agree with everything you wrote. The more I use Captivate 8’s responsive design features, the more I love it. The one quibble I have is that the mobile gestures should be individually selectable rather than all or nothing. The reason is that I would normally not want the swipe option as my learning is rarely linear but is usually case-based scenarios with lots of branching. Other than that, yep, it’s a great offering!

    • rjacquez

      I appreciate that, Joe. I hadn’t thought about the gestures bit until now, but you have a good point. Anyhow, as I said in my review, my faith in Adobe and Captivate has been restored and I’m excited to be able to recommend Captivate to my customers and the world. Happy belated New Year!

  • KA Kuehn


    Great article. I landed upon it by doing a search regarding using right clicks on an iPad via captivate development. Has this been resolved in CP8? I haven’t been able to crack this one yet.


  • Melissa

    Thanks RJ – really enjoyed your article.

    What are your thoughts on using Adobe Edge to create an elearning course independent of combining it with Adobe Captivate? Does Edge have major limitations making it so that wouldn’t be a reliable experience for the user? I have read great things about Edge, but it is always in conjuction with using Captivate.

    • rjacquez

      Hi Melissa, glad to hear you enjoyed this post. I really like tools like Adobe Edge that promote the adoption of HTML5, and while it could be possible to building learning with it, I think it may simply be too difficult. I think it lacks many of the functionality that is needed for creating viable learning, like quizzes and interactions that promote learning, plus integration with Learning Management Systems, etc. I would actually recommend using Adobe Edge in conjunction with Adobe Captivate 8, especially through the use of the new Responsive Projects. Thanks again!

      • Didier

        Yes Adobe Edge Animate seems to be really great to create very nice animations that can be imported and used with Captivate 8. I’ve already tried and it works really nice in responsive projects.

  • Mary Schenck-Ross

    I enjoyed your thoughts. Thank you so much!

  • tjc360

    Hi RJ:

    As an eLearning/Video and Motion Graphics Designer for a huge restaurant chain, we are currently in the process of trying to choose either Captivate or Articulate.

    Me, I have and always have been an Adobe fan. When everyone was using Final Cut and Avid, I always kept my faith in Premiere/AE. Like Captivate, it came full circle.

    Captivate went through some rough times (v5,6), but I see more future potential in the new Captivate 8, more than anything out there. The fact that the workflow between all the Adobe products is there makes it even more inviting.

    I loved Flash, but know it is not suitable for eLearning anymore so Edge Animate would be a great addition for animations combined with Captivate also.

    This was a great article that I sent over to my manager to review, thanks for the input!

  • Thank you for granting my wish from several months ago. Great review!

  • Thomas Abrahams

    Hi there
    My name is Thomas Abrahams
    i wanted your advice on tablets
    i need to do a simulation in captivate, but i cant save it as a swf file
    seeing that flash does not work on tablets, is there something else
    i can do ? if i publish to html5 will this work


    I have found so many issues using captivate to build courses. For starters, if you purchase let’s say Captivate 8, did you know that adobe won’t continue to update Captivate 8 when Captivate 9 comes out, even if you purchase Captivate 8 less than 90 days ago. If you purchase any version of captivate as soon as the next version releases you will NEVER get another update on that version of captivate again. Which could be critical if a browser like Chrome changes the way it reads HTML5 coding, you are stuck with the old version that doesn’t show up properly in the new released browsers since captivate doesn’t update the old versions. Basically Adobe will never update any version they have made including their previous version if they released a newer version. THINK TWICE BEFORE BUYING CAPTIVATE! OR BE PREPARED TO SPEND HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS TO KEEP UPGRADING TO EACH NEW VERSION TO GET UPDATES!

  • raj

    I am really tired of using captive….feel like trying to tie a horse that does not know where it is going….I alwas get swf compilation error….dont know what to do…

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