First off, congratulations to my old team at Adobe for launching Adobe Captivate 6. It has now been 6 months since I left Adobe and this is the first version of Captivate that I get to explore from the outside.
I did not participate in the beta program, nor was I invited by my old PR team to be part of the press tour, so my very first look at the new Captivate 6 was the day it was announced, after downloaded a trial copy.
Like many of you, I too watched some of the sneak peeks the team was showing off in preparation for the launch, but other than that, I had no idea what to expect.
Well, actually I did have an idea of what to expect, or at least I thought I did, since I was part of the initial talks for what would be in the next release of the product, right before leaving the company.
The thing is, almost nothing I thought would be in the product ended up making in Adobe Captivate 6. In fact there was one killer feature related to mobile learning (mLearning) that we had talked about as a team, but its nowhere in Captivate 6.
I can’t tell you what that is because of confidentiality, but I can tell you that it would have been revolutionary and a real game-changer and without this, it’s tough for me to pick that one killer feature that I believe every product launch should come with.
After playing around with the trial, my first impressions unfortunately aren’t positive, to me the product feels half-baked, almost rushed (perhaps just in time for mLearnCon?), some of the new features feel disjointed and out of place and if you want my honest opinion, it feels like in the middle of development, the team changed directions most likely because Articulate launched Storyline. I feel like the team quickly scrambled to make sure the next version of Captivate could include some of the same features that Storyline users have come to love since the launch, for example Interactions, Themes, Actors, etc.
One thing that always frustrated me working on Captivate at Adobe was that we were always very “reactionary,” for the most part features were added just to make sure we looked good when reviewers compared us to other products, it was that need for a feature in order to get that coveted check-mark when put side-by-side against one of our competitors.
This is precisely what Captivate 6 feels like to me, Storyline introduced Characters, so the Captivate team says we need Actors to compete; Storyline introduces lots of interactions, Captivate introduces Smart Learning Interactions, Storyline introduces slide templates, Captivate comes out with Themes, Camtasia has Zoom-and-Pan, no problem we will add Video slides in Captivate 6 the team likely said.
I’m a bit surprised there are no Triggers, States, Slide Layers and oh, where’s the Captivate Mobile Player iPad app?
I wish companies would be original in their development plan and stuck with it all the way and not waver just because one of their competitors comes out with something cool in the middle of their development cycle.
In looking at most features, it seems to me that most features could have easily been extended all the way. Here are some examples.
Whether you like the new User Interface or not, on the surface we have to admit it’s much better than the old plain, color-less UI in Captivate 5 an 5.5. However the changes are only on the surface, if you dig deeper, almost every dialog box I’ve seen is still plain and color-less. Take a look for yourself at the Questions dialog box, as well as Advanced Interactions, Advanced Actions, Skin Editor and pretty much all other dialog boxes.
And then from time to time you find message boxes that someone in QA just missed it completely, such as this one (notice the out-of-place question mark on the second line).
And then there is the new Actors feature in Adobe Captivate 6. I feel this could have been so much more than just bundling multiple stock photos of the same person in different poses. For the record, I’m still not convinced the future of eLearning is crowding slides with a bunch of photographic characters of people in different poses, but for the sake of argument, Storyline beats Captivate 6 hands-down here.
In Storyline, Characters is a real feature, you pick your Character, position it where you want, adjust the timing accordingly, manipulate it via Triggers and you’re done. Then if you need to change its Expression, Pose and or Perspective, you don’t have to disrupt the timing or the triggers that affect it, and it just works. You simply double-click the Character and up come options for character, expression, pose and perspective. Not so in my experiments with Captivate, the Actor appears to be literally an image and thus if you need a different pose or expression, you must replace the image you inserted initially and potentially have to readjust the timing via the timeline. Again just a half-hearted effort here.
DOES ADOBE EVEN UNDERSTAND MOBILE?
I don’t mean Adobe as a company, clearly the Dreamweaver, Shadow, inDesign and the Edge teams do, I’m talking about how the Adobe Captivate team thinks about Mobile and Mobile Learning. In following their tweets, they claim that ‘real’ mLearning is pausing a course on the desktop and continuing from there on the iPad is where it’s. Really, isn’t that something we have been doing for years via SCORM for desktops at least?
What about creating unique mobile experiences, that are radically different from their desktop counterparts and that delight mobile users?
My initial tests of the new Publish to HTML5 were so bad that I doubt any company out there, that is serious about delivering a powerful mobile experience to their Learners would even consider this functionality a viable mLearning solution. And I’m not even referring to all the features that are unable to make it across to HTML5 (see question types no supported below). Even if every single feature in Captivate could get published to HTML5, I’d still question the idea that mobile learning is simply about converting your desktop eLearning courses to HTML5. Oh and where’s Tin Can support for tracking mLearning?
I could go on an on talking about how I feel about how convoluted and disjointed new features are in Captivate 6, such as having to go out to a separate video editor in order to apply zoom-and-pan, but I really wanted to get this out now while my first impressions are fresh.
I will continue to make short posts and/or video screencasts highlighting my feelings about all the other new features.
Sadly I’m very disappointed with what I’ve seen out of the new Captivate version, and I say sadly because for years this product was my baby, from my early days working at eHelp, later Macromedia and more recently Adobe as a Senior Product Evangelist for Captivate and the eLearning Suite.
It’s not even this particular version that disappoints me; it’s the overall lack of vision that Adobe has clearly shown in this release. There’s nothing in there that addresses real solutions for today’s trending topics, such as Cloud computing, Mobile Learning, Responsive Design, Adaptive publishing, Mobile Apps, etc.
Having said, I cannot recommend this version of Captivate nor would I recommend relying on Adobe as the future vendor that can deliver innovating and breakthrough eLearning and mLearning experiences for the 21st Century.
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Update: I also published a post on what I would have liked to have seen in Adobe Captivate 6 for true mobile learning development.