An Honest Assessment of Adobe Captivate 6 [First Impressions]

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.

Haphazard Effort

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.

Conclusion

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.

Share your thoughts and ReTweet this post if you get a chance!

Update: I also published a post on what I would have liked to have seen in Adobe Captivate 6 for true mobile learning development.

 

  • An honest review here RJ and one that I’m sure will generate some ‘heat’ around the subject, given your background, but I for one appreciate the honesty that has gone into it.

    Perhaps with a little more time to explore, you may be able to find some benefits from this version?

    Maybe 😉

    Craig

  • An honest review here RJ and one that I’m sure will generate some ‘heat’ around the subject, given your background, but I for one appreciate the honesty that has gone into it.
    Perhaps with a little more time to explore, you may be able to find some benefits from this version?
    Maybe 😉
    Craig

    • rjacquez

      Hi Craig, thanks for the comment. I shared my honest thoughts and will welcome the heat. I wasn’t going to post a review but I felt I’d be remissed if I didn’t share how I really felt about the current state of Adobe Captivate. I love the product and I hope Adobe is listening and in some way they listen to us in the community and hopefully good things come from doing so.

  • PTS_Bregenz

    Hi RJ, great post.
    First of all I want to say I love Captivate – I love it since Macromedia Times. Captivate 6 has some really nice Features like the “real” screencasting (zoom&pan – even it’s a little bit unhandy), the new interactions and the shapes.
    In the past I would have purchased the upgrade without thinking. But now I know Storyline and I think like you, that most of the features in Captivate were made to copy Storyline – but they are not a good copy (e.g. Actors, publishing to html5).
    But what made me to decide that this will be the first upgrade I will not purchase, is the price. The last upgrade was about € 250.- but now we are at € 430.-.
    I always “hate” it that Europeans have to pay more, but this is to much. Like you cite a few weeks ago:
    Is more always better? Sometimes, only better is better.

    • rjacquez

      Hi PTS_Bregenz, many thanks for your RTs on Twitter and for your comments here. I appreciate your support very much. Thanks for bringing pricing up. The pricing model for people outside of the US is another thing that drives people crazy about Captivate and it drove me crazy too when I worked for Adobe. I never quite understood the logic behind it and was always told to “just go with it.” 
      Check out this post http://cybertext.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/adobe-pricing-sucks/ from my friend Rhonda Bracey @cybertext. Again, it makes little sense to me. I still think that a great move would have been to throw Captivate 6 into the Creative Cloud for the same monthly subscription fee, as well as include the extra extensions in the eLearning Suite and EOL the Suite. 
      Speaking of subscriptions, accordingly to Adobe’s site, a month-to-month subscription plan for Captivate is $29.@cybertext:disqus 9USD, which is precisely what I’m@cybertext:disqus 
      paying for the entire Creative Cloud, which includes 14 apps I think and Adobe is charging the same thing for just one product? Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Even with an annual commitment, which brings the monthly subscription to $19.99, that’s still only $10 less that all 14 apps in the Creative Cloud. Thanks again for your comment.

      •  Hi RJ,

        thanks for the link and giving me back the feeling that there are more critical persons outside as I thought 😉
        You bring in another aspect: the ELS. I am a user of the Master Collection for years (and now of the Creative Cloud) and I never understood what is the bonus of the ELS, which costs the double in Europe than in the US?
        To get an non greyed button to use Audition which allready runs on my machine?
        To get Adobe Presenter, a tool which doesn’t change for years (except the AS3 support)? To get Quiz-Templates in Flash which where part of Flash for a very long time without extra charge? Or the CourseBuilder Extension in Dreamweaver which I could download for free in the past? Or is it only the SCORM-Packager?

        I see that the ELS is a great bundle for people they don’t use other Adobe products but to pay for tools you allready own (or didn’t change for years) doesn’t make sense to me.

        I also agree with you in your thoughts about subscriptions. The Creative Cloud is
        € 59.03 (even for Europe a fairly price for what I get allthough it’s much more as in the US), Captivate is € 24.59 – for only ONE product.

        Thanks again for your honest opinion – hope that in between the “Captivate 6 Hype”  people – specially at Adobe – are open minded for your thoughts.

        • rjacquez

          You are most welcome. I always thought that at some point Adobe should just take all of the extras you mentioned that are currently in the eLearning Suite and at least make them available to people purchasing the entire Master Collection, it makes sense. I think people expect everything Adobe makes to be in that Suite. While we are at it, throw them into the Creative Cloud, including Captivate and call it a great deal. Unfortunately I don’t see this happening because the business unit that runs Captivate and the eLearning Suite are pretty much operated like a different company, very disconnected from the rest of Adobe.

  • Very interesting indeed!  It’s such a shame when development gets derailed.

    What would be your recommendation for someone starting out in eLearning?  Storyline is your current preference?

    • rjacquez

      Hi Victoria, thanks for stopping by and chiming in. Storyline is an excellent product and I also shared my thoughts on it in a previous post. I recommend people starting out should also take a look at other eLearning solutions, such as Lectora and ZebraZapps, just to name a few. Having said that, if someone is picking a tool and the choices are between Storyline and Captivate and I would have no hesitation recommending Storyline, in my humble opinion is a far superior all around solution. Thanks again and btw, your newsletter on Lightroom has inspired me to start my own. I’m setting up MailChimp right now and should be able to go live this week 🙂

      • Excellent, I look forward to signing up for your newsletter then!

  • Thanks for the review, RJ. I can see most of your points, especially about mobile learning. I ahd similar thoughts and thought no mention of designing interactions so they are truly usable on mobile devices?

    All that being said, There is still no better alternative for those companies who are looking for 1 stop shopping with authoring tools. Most of us will never have the budget for several tools, and Captivate is the most robust.

    • Christian

      “Captivate is the most robust”
      Have you ever tested Storyline, Jenn? Give it a try and you’ll overthink this.

      • rjacquez

        Hi Jenn, thanks for stopping by and commenting on my post. I see your point about Captivate being a one-stop shop for developing eLearning and I think this was true at least until Articulate launched Storyline a few months back. For a while Captivate enjoyed being the only tool that could do what it did, but now things have changed. Competition is great and just like PTS_Bregenz above, I’d also recommend that you take a look at Storyline as a way to compare the two applications side-by-side. If you choose to do so, please let us know what you think. Thanks again!

    • Tallis Lockos

      Agree with Jenn. I create all of my own assets in Photoshop and Flash. Captivate is the best tool for this type of producing. I would love to have Articulate too, but can’t afford it, and can’t get my company to purchase it. In the end, using PS and Flash allows a user to customize a course better. 

  • Fassbender

    Dont know about Captivate, but this Review seems half-baked and almost rushed.

    ( A honest reply to a honest assessment )

  • Grumpty

    A very honest assessment that will be appreciated by many, Especially given your background. You will take some heat on this RJ but adobe needs to hear it.

    • rjacquez

      Hi Grumpty, I appreciate your comment. My intentions in writing this post wasn’t to offend anyone in any way, I was merely sharing how I really feel about a product that used to be great and had a lot of potential but unfortunately has lost it since it was moved to India. For the record I felt this level of frustration even when I was still employed by Adobe, but now that I have left I can share openly how I really feel. As I said toward the bottom of my review, my thoughts aren’t necessarily directed at this particular version, but rather at the overall lack of vision Adobe continues to show, including not having included Captivate in the Creative Cloud. Thank you again!

  • It’s really too bad that you left (and I think forced to leave?) Adobe. Your innovation, passion, and experience are an asset to any company. I appreciate the review although it is hard to hear, since I do love captivate! Products can always be improved upon and Adobe should listen to you as you do have an inside and now outside perspective. 

    • rjacquez

      Hi Anita, many thanks for your comment, I really respect you and enjoy our chats over on Twitter. Sorry if it was a bit too harsh, it was hard for me to write it but I felt I needed to. I will always have a warm spot in my heart for Captivate and in fact I still believe Adobe could do great things with it but only if they think “revolution” and not “evolution.” It wouldn’t be too difficult to pull off a great turnaround for Captivate, in fact the team just has to look around them, at other Adobe products that are doing great game-changing things. For example adding Captivate 6 to the Creative Cloud would have been a great start because it would be expose the brand to millions of Adobe customers who may otherwise not come across it. Also, if they take a look at what Dreamweaver CS6 is doing around “Fluid Grid Layouts” they could learn so much about how to really design great mLearning experiences for multiple devices through Responsive Web Design. And then there’s Adobe Shadow, which in my mind is one of the very best things I’ve seen from Adobe in a while. This team is doing great work around testing and debugging web design across multiple devices. The inDesign team is always doing great work around mobile with their new flexible, alternate and liquid layouts. Now that is innovation to me that fits today’s mobile landscape. Just my two cents.

      • Alfred Norwich Other

        I was wandering as well why Captivate is not part of the cloud and wandered whether it is to protect the revenues for the elearning team?
        My logic is that Captivate is a small market if they become part of the cloud they would have to fight for their revenues with the big guys like premiere, ps amd f. The upside would be maybe some new users, but they cant quantify how many . By making it separate they know their revenue and can protect it by creating firewalls such as forcing you to but the elearning suite to get round tripping.

        • rjacquez

          Hi Alfred, I think your assessment for why Captivate isn’t part of the Creative Cloud is spot on. Thanks.

  • I think every tool has a lot to offer. Those that don’t, tend to die in the marketplace or have a very low market share. Storyline is an excellent product. I wish it were available for Macs as well as that is my preferred platform, but I can pull out my Windows laptop when necessary. 🙂

    CP6 feels like a major step forward to me though there are always shortcomings to any tool, and not every feature I wanted made it into CP6. I am happy that Articulate and Adobe have both stepped up because competition leads to better products always.

    You and I are rather in the same boat now, RJ. Neither of us is beholden to any one tool vendor now that you’re not at Adobe anymore. Both of us believe in choosing the right tool for the job. I for one will never respond to the question, “Which tool should I use?” with a pat answer. Like you, I say, “It depends.” I work with several products and each has a place in my quiver of arrows and it’s rather exciting for me to weigh the pros and cons of each tool when looking at new client project needs.

    It’s good to know you and have your expert opinions known!

    • rjacquez

      Hi Joe, it’s great to see you hear and I really thank you for your comment. Competition is awesome, it makes for better innovation and ultimately customers win. I’m all for that. Considering where we are today in the market, I had very high expectations for Captivate 6 but unfortunately all we got from the team was a somewhat mediocre ‘copycat’ version of Storyline. It’s not that the features they added are bad is just that they probably would have been nice had they (we) released them two years ago in Captivate 5. As I said in my review, we need innovation that caters to what’s important today and I just don’t see any killer features in Captivate 6. Thanks again for your comment.

  • Frederic

    I agree with you.
    I just tested to import a Powerpoint in Captivate and published it to html5.
    I’m so disapointed : the html5 export was one png for each slide. Not even one animation made it to HTML5.
    Storyline as it’s not perfect, published the same PPTX to html5 with animations, voices, and interactions, with almost no errors.

    Adobe, with this Captivate 6 is 1 year late behind Storyline.
    This is NOT serious.

    • rjacquez

      Hi Frederic, thanks for your comment. I’m with you on your findings wrt importing PowerPoint and publishing it to HTML5. I’ve also been doing some very simple software simulations with audio and when playing them back in HTML5, often the audio repeats itself endlessly. It really feels like they should have waited a while before releasing Captivate 6 and as I said in my Review perhaps they should have stuck with their initial convictions instead of trying to mimic Storyline.

  • Good read RJ. It is unfortunate that Captivate appears as a reaction to features from other apps. I’m hoping the next update is a little more solid and that future releases will show the vision of the product. Even with Flash, there are things missing and the export to HTML5 is very restrictive. To get a Captivate course to run on an iPad now, I basically bring the Captivate file into Flash and then publish it as an iPad native application. I can also take the same file and publish it Android and Playbook. Why can’t this be done within Captivate. Hmmm there’s an idea for Captivate 6.5.

    Cheers

    • rjacquez

      Hi Phil, thanks for your comment my friend and it’s really too bad we won’t get to meet at mLearnCon. I couldn’t go due to some health issues I have. Next year for sure. Now on to Captivate. I agree with you in that Captivate 6 appears to be a total reaction to features from other apps. I feel just like you that there’s so much the team could have done to make this release the mother of all releases. Now we wait…

    • Hi Phil, FYI you can use Adobe AIR to package Captivate-based .swf files into apps for both iOS and Android; WITHOUT needing to import Captivate into Flash first. AIR is command-line driven and not very intuitive, but it does work fine. I do agree though, it would be nice to have that ability built into CP.

  • Really RJ, you found enough time to sift through layers and recover a dialogue with question misaligned…but couldn’t find a single benefit with the version? Sour grapes perhaps? I’ve been an ardent follower since the TechComm days, and have benefited from your keen insights and your enthusiasm for new technology. However, I have noticed a complete change in tone and attitude since you left Adobe (or were asked to leave). Possibly reflect the interest of your current paymaster..do spare a thought for your followers who put their money where your mouth is…

    • rjacquez

      Hi Richard, many thanks for stopping by and commenting on my post. I really appreciate you following me since my days as a TechComm Evangelist, that means a lot to me. I assure you there are absolutely no hard feelings from how I left Adobe, I’m actually thankful the team decided to let me go because this way I can embrace great Tech beyond Adobe and share my feelings about it openly with whomever wants to read and listen. I love other Adobe products and always try and share my honest feedback whenever I post about them. If you go back, you will find a Review I did on CS6 and the Creative Cloud, where I raved about how well Adobe executed those products. I encourage everyone to give Captivate a try and share their take accordingly. This was my experience trying out the new features and was very disappointed in general and thus this post. Again, this is just one review. Thanks again, Richard!

      • RJ, I know you are trying hard to paint a picture of an honest, well balanced, unbiased reviewer – who only has the interest of his readers in mind. But if you were so honest and professional, why did you remove your old glowing reviews of Captivate 5.5 and ELS from your blog. I would rather prefer following someone from Articulate or Adobe who atleast don’t claim to be independent… and end up providing completely biased information. Best of Luck.

        • rjacquez

          Hi Richard, my apologies that you couldn’t find my post back when we launched Captivate 5.5 and eLearning Suite 2.5. Here you go: http://rjacquez.com/read-all-about-it-introducing-adobe-captivate-5-5-and-adobe-elearning-suite-2-5/ People can most definitely follow who they prefer and my post is just one of many posts on the web that will share thoughts on this release of Captivate. Vendors will obviously sing the praises of their latest tools because it behooves them to do so, I worked for eHelp, Macromedia and Adobe, so trust me I know that as an Evangelist one has to look everywhere to come up with great compelling stories that will yield sales. I did that for many years. My point is that now that I’m not employed by anyone, I have no hesitation speaking openly about how I really feel about a particular technology. I’ll admit I’m still learning things as this independent thing is very new to me after being employed by companies for many, many years, but I like the freedom I now have, which allows me to express my honest feelings. I’m having a lot of fun doing what I’m doing these days and I hope people can appreciate the time and effort it takes to Blog and tweet and everything else that goes into sharing. Thanks!

    • For what it’s worth: I develop training materials. Ive been using Captivate 7 for quite some time. I’ve probably spent a solid 30 hours developing various training courses. I’ve put it through its paces. I’ve never used version 6, but I can tell you that Captivate 7 is a janky, half-finished, P-O-S. And my company is now looking for another solution.

  • Brienne Ambrose

    Retweeting the same article again and again every hour, not sure what to think of this and questions the credibility of the article when the article is about a rival product. Not sure whether your current employers ( Articulate ) want you to do this or you are just pissed at Adobe for some reasons no one seems to know about.

    • rjacquez

      Hi Brienne, Thank you for your comment here. ReTweeting the same article several times is something I often do between posts because I find that my followers are active on twitter at various times, but there’s really nothing in there in the way of a strategy from my part I assure you. Second, I’m currently independent doing many things, including consulting work so I don’t have an employer and I like it like that. I could have done a standard, typically feature-by-feature review but I find that sharing my thoughts frankly is what my readers appreciate from me and thus my approach to how I review new products. If there’s something inaccurate you feel I said I welcome your feedback and I will gladly edit my post. Thanks again!

      • Brienne Ambrose

        The thing is, your whole post just has negative comments. They’ve just released a new version and you havent even written a single positive comment in the whole 3000-words-odd post. This doesn’t seem like a review to me. A review is made of both the worlds. I actually wanted to see your reviews on the previous versions of Captivate which i couldn’t find either.

        • rjacquez

          Hi Brienne, the search on my Blog could be better, perhaps that’s why you couldn’t find my post on Captivate 5 but here it is: http://rjacquez.com/the_wait_is_over_adobe_captiva/ As for your comment on my post, I assure you I looked for something to be excited about, but I couldn’t find much. As I said in my post, most features appeared to be just there in order to add another bullet on the marketing virtual box. The UI on the surface is better but the team didn’t follow through all the way throughout the rest of the dialog boxes, the Actors are just images that are outsourced from outside companies but this isn’t really a feature, it’s just an image you import and something you need to manually swap if you need a different pose or expression, the HTML5 is practically useless for any real mLearning application. Not sure if you tried the new Interactions, but just replacing the title seems to be a frustrating chore, you have to figure out the exact place to double-click in order to make it editable. I’m really not making this up and anyone who tries it will most likely see what I mean. I do apologize if my post in any way offended you and believe me, I will be the first to rave about the next release of Captivate if Adobe brings out a product that is worthy of praise. Thanks!

  • I was hoping you’d say that this version of Captivate was better than what you posted. It’s definitely going to make me think twice about purchasing Captivate. I’ll wait for further reviews on the subject.

    • rjacquez

      Hi Ricardo, thanks for your comment. I would recommend that everyone take the product for a spin like I did. This was just my honest take after I tried it. Let me know what you think of the new features when you try them out.

  • CaptivateDev.com

    IMO, RJ commands respect for the simple fact that for years, he’s been at the center of the eLS and Cp world and was keenly aware of the challenges and pains that faced the Adobe Captivate Team during his time at Adobe. As for myself, who loves and has been using Cp since 1.0, I too have also noticed a decline in the product’s quality and lack of innovation. My business, CaptivateDev.com depends on it’s very survival. But I’m worried… very worried that the lack of innovation and vision from the Adobe Captivate Team over the past few years is killing this product. Those of us who have been there from the beginning, have seen the evolution occur over the years. You must admit that Cp could be a much better product if they led by vision vs. trying to maintain the status quo among their competitors. Converting desktop eLearning to mLearning shouldn’t even be a topic of discussion. They’re asking the wrong questions on mobile. Mobile is an entirely different animal that deserves it’s own development workflow and publishing outputs… not “conversion”. Where’s the responsive web designs or native mobile app output? Granted, there are some really nice features, but it’s insanely obvious that it was rushed out the door to one-up the fast growing pressure that Articulate put on the product. I am a software developer myself and I can honestly say, this release was a clown job bro! They should have taken their time and polished the HTML5 output/compatibility at the very least. The UI is a Frankenstein of 5.x and the new 6.0. Do I like the new features?… hell yes… but I was expecting so much more, especially for the ridiculous price tag just to upgrade. I would suspect a lot of other Cp community contributors feel the same but are hesitant to say so. It’s sad to see, but their complacency has opened up a HUGE opportunity for Articulate Storyline to gain market share. I think the Cp Team was hoping to stop the mad flow of people flocking to Storyline, but I’m afraid to say that their lack of craftsmanship has just reinforced Storyline’s position.

  • Alice Acker

    RJ, given your recent past closeness to Adobe and the professionalism you had always demonstrated, I would have expected you to recluse yourself from comment for this release.

    • On the contrary, it would have been remiss if RJ didn’t comment. IMO, he commands respect for the simple fact that for years, he’s been at the center
      of the eLS and Cp world and was keenly aware of the challenges and pains that
      faced the Adobe Captivate Team during his time at Adobe. If anyone should comment about the products viability, vision and future, it would be him.

    • rjacquez

      Hi Alice, many thanks for your comment. When I saw the announcement I thought about sitting this one out, but then the more I explored the features and watched and read Adobe’s marketing stuff I decided that I really needed to share my thoughts in order to add some balance to the claims Adobe is making about this release. I realize my post was a bit harsh but I really think Adobe can do much better than this for their customers.

  • RJ, I’m glad that you are free to express your opinion now, because you bring valid issues that Captivate simply does not address… cloud computing, true mobile learning, responsive web design, adaptive publishing… these are very pressing problems that need attention. I really wish that at the very least, the Cp team would have finished or polished the HTML5 publishing/compatibility before release. As is, the HTML5 output remains fairly static and IMO, is not able to produce production worthy HTML5 interactive experiences yet.

    • rjacquez

      Hi Jim, many thanks for your support and for sharing your own thoughts considering your long history with this product. I knew going in that I would take some heat for posting my most honest thoughts on this but I decided to go for it anyway. I stand by everything I said and have no regrets. I think today we need more bold reviews about products we use and love as I think people appreciate honesty vs. a feature-by-feature traditional review. I love Adobe Captivate, the product, and I believe Adobe can do and should do much better than this.

  • rjacquez

    Powerful stuff, Jim. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jay

      Just discovered this thread.

      Frankly it is just refreshing to hear some honest opinions (and inside knowledge) from a respected Adobe employee (even if we have to put the ‘ex-‘ in front of that).
      Why people suggested you were being ‘negative’ I have no idea – given the amount of work you put in over the years and then being ‘let go’ would have entitled you to be far ruder I would have thought.
      I’m sure you raised all these points inside Adobe – and met with silence or lousy excuses, all the while maintaining a public loyalty.
      The real issue here is that Adobe has many good people like you working for them who are equally fed up with the direction the company has taken – but who stay silent, even when they have left (probably because they hope to be re-hired – I hear that Adobe can be a pretty easy place to work in, provided you ‘fit in’)
      When you come to write your next eBook, it might be worth making it about your time at Adobe and what goes on behind the scenes. I’ve met many great Adobe people over the years, but there also seems to be a growing rump of mediocre yes-men there. Hence the half-baked products being released.
      Good luck with your new endeavors.

  • GG

    RJ, you’re doing Adobe a great service by this candid review. They seem to be moving in the right direction, but mostly by playing catch up. I had the unfortunate experience of trying Adobe Connect Pro / Acrobat.com – What expensive, awkward monstrosities! I’m much happier using GoToMeeting for meetings, and Litmos.com for my LMS. The prices are better and the performance superior. I would guess that Adobe suffers from the same weakness I’ve encountered at other formerly great companies like Autodesk and eBay: Attractive product managers with freshly minted MBAs but absolutely no passion for their product or their customers, zero end-user experience, and no desire to see what the end-user experience is all about. If I were CEO of Autodesk, eBay, or Adobe, I would mandate the following: All product managers have to eat their own dog food: Design a salt shaker (Autodesk); Open and run a profitable on-line store (eBay), Design an eLearning program that would be evaluated by students (Adobe). I would also have customers provide feedback on individual product managers for their quarterly performance reviews.

  • jonc

    Very interesting review RJ.

    I too was disappointed when I read the new features list of Captivate 6 – though to be fair I haven’t actually tried it.

    When I trialled Storyline what really caught my eye was the state transitions. Like you I’m not sold on ‘look I’m smiling’ ‘now I’m sad’ elearning – but there’s no reason why you can’t extend the concept to visualisations of what different learner choices and paths might look like. Not just a bunch of photos of people in slighly different poses.

    However, there’s one thing that Storyline still can’t touch Captivate on: complex editing of screen capture backgrounds. The Storyline method of replay part of the process, wait for learner interaction, replay the next part etc. is intriguing and seems to work really well, but only for recording public-ready processes.

    I tend to be recording custom database apps that haven’t been finished yet, where I have to Photoshop in most of the user interface, and Photoshop out a lot of anonymous information. Easy with Captivate where you’re looking at simple static images linked together. Impossible with Storyline where you’d have to edit every frame of the video, and even if you did the original background is part of the published output if you know where to poke around.

    So with Captivate I can do everything: one thing spectacularly well, everything else kind of OK. With Storyline I can do almost everything spectacularly well – but one really really important thing not at all.

    So for the moment it’s still Captivate for me. But Storyline’s almost there and hopefully can add in screen capture editing soon.

    • rjacquez

      Hi Jonc, thanks for your comment and for bringing this up. I hadn’t though about this at all, but now I see your point and will explore this need further in both products. Good stuff!

  • IMS

    This is the best article I have read in a long time. I feel that Adobe has totally dropped the ball on Captivate. Half of the features don’t work or work well. I think it is robbery that they put out new versions, which in my opinion are bug fixes mostly and then have the nerve to charge us for them. I have alerted them to the issues and they never get back to me. As for the HTML5 conversion, it’s a great idea, however it also does not work that well. I have tried to use it many times but am not happy with the results, it would almost be better to just learn HTML5. It’s output is more of a “dumbed” down version of the created course, that and it distorts buttons and other objects on the stage. I think Adobe needs to sit down and make sure things are working and complete before deploying a new product, there just are way too many issues. Don’t get me wrong, I have been an adobe supporter since the early 90’s, I just don’t feel I am getting a quality product with Captivate. It could be such a great tool if they took the time to do it right.

    • rjacquez

      Thanks, IMS. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting and have to agree with what you said. I think that if Adobe had a system whereby they measured the quality and readiness of an application before it leaves the door, Captivate 6 would not have passed that test. It’s also very interesting that a lot of people are beginning to realize this, as they explore further the trial version. There’s a thread on LinkedIn that was started around these same concerns: http://lnkd.in/62QG3B

      • I for one am REALLY disappointed in how buggy and awkward Captivate 6 is to use. It feels like an alpha version to me. I sometimes want to scream when I’m using it. But the larger issue is what you touched on in your article. It seems more and more Adobe is about rolling out new features just to be able to add to a comparison sheet, then actually making the features it already has work well. It’s like an arms race, everybody trying to one up the other and rushing garbage out to be first. I feel like the buggy erratic behavior that I see now will not be addressed before they roll out Captivate 7 which will inevitably have it’s own laundry list of buggy inconsistent behavior. I wish I could start a class action suit against software companies to make the features they advertise just work reliably.
        Disgusted in NJ.

  • Tim

    RJ, I thought your review had a definite negative tone to it, and was ready to write it off. Well, I just tried to upgrade to Captivate v6 and was informed that I cannot. I have eLearning Suite 2.5 with Captivate 5.5 and Adobe will not allow users who have purchased the full eLearning Suite, which includes Capt v5.5, to upgrade to Captivate 6. The Adobe support person was floored too! After checking with his manager, he came back and informed me that eLearning Suite 3 is ‘just around the corner’ and that I upgrade the entire suite instead of just Captivate. Unbelievable! That may be just the push I need to defect to Storyline. Ridiculous!

    • rjacquez

      Hi Tim, thanks for sharing your experience. I really appreciate you stopping by. Also, I’m sorry you found a negative tone in my review. It really wasn’t my intention. I think most Reviewers are too soft in sharing their thoughts and I’m taking a different approach. I spent six years on the inside fighting battles on behalf of my customers because I thought that we needed to deliver more from our products and especially from our customer support, and now that I’m free I feel that I owe it to this great community to share exactly how I feel about these great products. I love Captivate and always will because in many ways it launched my career as an Evangelist and it’s my hope that by speaking out in some way it puts pressure on Adobe to give us something to be proud of and excited about. Thanks again.

  • My two cents… The team seems to have struggled to “catch up” on this release… I think the rapid release schedule needs to be re-thought, to prevent the lack-of-cohesion feel. There are some bright fires for me, personally, that still need to be addressed. Interactions need to be more robust, timeline layers beat rollover slidelets hands down, dual audio input is a mandatory addition in the next update, the overall “quirky” feel due to the amount of strange inconsistencies while running the program, as well as larger efforts like mLearning integration and streamlining/improving Advanced Actions: They have a hill to climb, for sure.

    That said, I must also point out that, in my experience with hard-core LMS issues using Articulate ’09, for all their chest-pounding about their level of service: they not only swiped my ideas, but roundly denied that they even had a problem… and shortly thereafter became completely incommunicado, with the exception of the canned “Hi, I’m your personal support guy” messages. With the release of storyline, I saw that they had implemented my recommended fix without so much as a thank you, or an attempt to right the ship in the ’09 version.

    My experience with Adobe has been VASTLY different. Every insight, opportunity for improvement, LMS issue, pretty much any major issue I’ve had- they’ve been right there to respond in an exceptionally patient and thorough fashion with both prowess and professional humility. I’m very, very impressed by the people at Adobe, in short. In some cases, my LMS is the only one of its kind, and they helped create customized publishing templates and flash tweaks specifically for my products… that touch thousands of customers in a high reliability industry.

    Sure Storyline is stronger, now. That’s all they do, really. The breadth of power that Captivate can tie into still needs to be realized, but at maturity… look out. It’s gonna be something awesome. Till then, they should offer CP6 as a free upgrade to 5.5 users, though, IMO.

  • I completely agree with your review, RJ. I’ve been using Captivate since the ancient days of RoboDemo and have had my share of issues with every version of Captivate that Adobe has released. Since Captivate 4, it looked to me like Adobe was trying to repurpose Captivate as a general purpose authoring tool rather than solely a software simulation tool. Unfortunately, I feel like every attempt Adobe made to add general eLearning authoring features to the tool was half-baked.
    Coming from the old guard of CBT, I kept wondering when Adobe was going to make a serious effort to turn Captivate into “the new Authorware” or at least get it on parity feature-wise with Lectora. I always felt that Adobe was sorely lacking a robust eLearning tool in the portfolio since Authorware and Director were put to rest.
    In the meantime, Camtasia came along and really had some compelling new features for creating software sim training (particularly Zoom-and-Pan) and now Articulate Storyline has finally given us a pretty great general purpose eLearning authoring tool.
    That’s pretty much the end of Captivate for our organization. Everyone is migrating to Camtasia and Storyline. Adobe continues to dissapoint. I miss Macromedia, at least they were a “developer’s company”, not a developer-antagonistic marketing machine like Adobe appears to have become.

  • We all are aware that adobe is meant for creativity, adobe provide creative learning which lead to something creative. People have the creative mentor training just to present something creative.

  • OpinionsThisExit

    My problem with this entire review is: Captivate has always sucked. Prior releases, which apparently the author was involved in, were horrible.

  • Tim

    Interesting review. I own 5.5 and managed to build a number of language courses using it. I have been waiting for years now for Cp to offer a number of basic features that I have found in other much cheaper products:

    1) simple solution to audio player on Cp slides, i.e. an actual audio player on slide rather than rewinding and pausing the slide itself,

    2) clozes with multiple answers and partial scores,

    3) dropdown menus on question slides that actually look adequate (in Cp 6, after you select an option, the word is truncated and there is no other choice but to hack the slide in Flash to get the work done.

    4) more options for TOC editing

    In order to get all the features I needed to build language courses, I had to buy a dozen of half-baked widgets and then look for all sorts of other workarounds to make them work. I really looked forward to Cp6.

    Overall, all the improvements that Cp6 has offered, could have been offered as an update to the existing version. They aren’t worthy a $400 dollar investment into an upgrade or $900 for the full version.

    Articulate Storyline looks very interesting (too expensive though). Extremely user friendly and it really looks like they actually listened to their customers’ feedback. It took me 1/2 of the time I I usually need with Cp to produce a short course in articulate. Again, I am not buying Storyline until they improve their question inventory (i need clozes with partial feedback, perhaps more options for TOC, e.g. overlay, etc). iSpring quizmaker offers a wealth of very flexible question types including partial feedback in closes – so I know it is possible – no tweaking, hacking and working around is required. I could focus on the content and methodology instead of wasting time on trying to get things to work. But I need one tool for everything.

    One other feature that I really like about most other products except Adobe is licensing, i.e. I can buy them from outside the US without any problems. Adobe customer support, on the other hand, is pain (unless you live in the mainland US).

    Basically, as a freelance designer and teacher I think I will have to steer away from Adobe. Articulate has a lot of potential – they are not too far away from offering a very good product.

  • Steven

    I currently am teaching at a middle school. I’m looking for a software that would allow me to create curriculum, grade it, be cloud based, and multimedia. Do you have any recommendations?

  • Cyn

    I realize that I am coming into this review a bit “late”… I am only now exploring the concept of Captivate and the other competitors.

    RJ, you are to be commended for your clear and concise examination of Captivate. You are not the only reviewer to find Captivate seriously wanting in this arena. It is not YOUR fault that there is little or nothing to “glow” about. An appreciation of good old tech is not what one looks for in a review of a new product.

    Also, a review is NOT intended to be an apologetic or a politic piece. It is a social and cultural sub-norm that demands that every negative be balanced with a positive. I’m sorry folks… this is not grade school and facts are facts and a negative reality cannot be ameliorated by saying something “nice”.

    All that said, I am GREATLY helped by the clarity of the review. I don’t need double-speak. I need the truth about features and comparisons to other products is a tremendous benefit.

    Thank you.

  • Federico E. Gómez

    Do you think that this software is suitable for use in a college course in Algebra, or you think is best for business use?

    Do you know any program that is good for a college algebra course?

    Thaks !
    Federico (from Argentina)

  • Robin Dylan Jones

    Hi RJ, I wish I had read your article prior to getting my company to purchase Captivate, as although I do feel that graphically Adobes program is able to achieve a high quality look for your learning programs, if you are looking to publish m-learning, Storyline seems to handle this far better. Everything I was hoping to achieve in Captivate, and was basing these assumptions greatly on the high quality of their other software applications, I am finding increasingly difficult to achieve. TBH most of my woes with Captivate would be circumvented if there was a high quality HTML5 converter, as what I can achieve publishing as a Flash file is really good, but this is not what I need.
    I look forward to seeing how these issues evolve and hopefully innovative solutions applied to these problems. In the mean time I’m labored with playing around with both Captivate and Stoyline and finding the best compromise on how to achieve the best result for clients using both programs to achieve different results.

  • francisco

    Hi, I’m looking forward to buying Adobe eLearning suite for Macintosh but after reading your assessment, I’m confused. Do you know a good alternative on Mac?

  • HotPotato

    We were planning to upgrade our eLearning Suite to get Captivate 6 etc., and I decided to download a trial of Storyline first. Ten minutes later, I got a request to create a quick course…so I decided what the heck, I’ll do it in Storyline. I was able to crank out a great-looking course on Storyline, in a day and a half, that probably would have taken me a week in Captivate 5.5. Keep in mind, that’s with TEN MINUTES experience using Storyline, vs TWO YEARS experience using Captivate. Color me impressed.
    Which tool should you get? Depends what you want.
    Want screen capture with perfect cursor movements and automatic annotation? Captivate.
    Want easy yet powerful video editing with zoom? Camtasia.
    Want easy, fantastic performance at everything else? Storyline.
    I hope to always have all three, but Storyline is the only one I can see paying to upgrade on a regular basis.

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