The New Adobe Captivate 7 Marches Backwards into the Future [Review]

captivate-7-post

A year ago I wrote a post entitled An Honest Assessment of Adobe Captivate 6 [First Impressions], which garnered 81 ReTweets and 62 comments, and to this day is the most read post here on my blog.

Here’s how I concluded my review of Adobe Captivate 6 back then:

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 that, 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.

via An Honest Assessment of Adobe Captivate 6 [First Impressions] | The mLearning Revolution Blog.

Shortly after publishing the above review, I followed it up with another post entitled Here’s how Adobe Captivate 6 could have been a Game-Changer for mLearning, where I shared some ways in which Captivate could help take instructional designers to the next level.

Fast Forward One Year Later

Here we are 12 months later and Adobe India releases a new version of Captivate just in time for the mLearnCon conference. I give the team credit for what is obviously a faster upgrade cycle, as compared to the old 18-month upgrade cycle.  I think this makes a lot of sense, especially with the pace with which change happens in Technology these days.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice new feature in version 7, however I cannot find that game-changing feature that I think every software upgrade needs to have, the ‘killer app’ if you will.

In fact I think that most of the new features being promoted by Adobe have been there for a while in competing products like Articulate software, namely the ability to include YouTube videos in a course, as well as embedding a browser session on a slide. Same goes for the drag-and-drop widgets, which is something Articulate customers have been enjoying for a while now, so nothing terribly exciting there either.

The team did add Tin-Can-API support, which I think is a must these days as learning moves more and more to mobile devices, so that’s definitely a nice addition. I’m not sure I understand the benefits of having an Equation Editor or how the Learning Notes feature works, but these are probably a good thing for certain verticals.

Captivate needs to let go of the past and embrace the new Post-eLearning era

My biggest problem is that Captivate (and the team for that matter) is holding on to the past and is risking becoming obsolete.  There’s a mobile revolution out there and is passing this once-great product by, in the way Kodak was left behind in the new digital age. There’s nothing that I have seen in this product that tells me I should be hopeful as a Learning professional, that Adobe will help me get to the next level, by helping me develop learning that can be accessed anytime, anywhere and most importantly on every device.

Hence the title of this post.

In fact I think the team is adding more and more of the things we absolutely don’t need in this new Post-eLearning era.

Take for example the expanded list of Smart Learning Interactions, there are now 15 more, and this is bad news in opinion. In the Post-eLearning era, we don’t need more feature, which more often than not lead to heavier courses, we need less, we need simpler learning experience that adapt well to multiple screens and not make us wait for heavy courses to download to our mobile devices, only to have to pinch, zoom and swipe left, right, top and bottom to see the entire course, as illustrated here:

Adobe Captivate 6 project converted to HTML5 and viewed on multiple devices. Images shows the scroll bars needed.

Adobe Captivate 6 project converted to HTML5 and viewed on multiple devices. Note the scroll bars needed for all devices except for the iPad in landscape mode.

Another example is the HTML5 support for PowerPoint, which Adobe is promoting heavily. I ran a quick ‘HTML5 Tracker‘ test with an old project and I’m still getting pretty much the same amount of unsupported features I did with Captivate 6, so not much in the way of improvements there.

However even if Adobe managed to fix the long list of HTML5 conversion issue they have, this would still not be true mLearning. It would just be trying to retrofit an old format into a new medium, in other words it would be shrinking something big that fits on the desktop into something smaller in order to fit it on a mobile device. In my opinion, this is precisely what we should be trying to avoid.

If your Learning Design calls for Absolute Dimensions, you have already Failed

Here’s a slide that I show whenever I teach my workshop on Mobile Learning Design:

A slide in Section 3 of my mLearning Design workshop

A slide in Section 3 of my mLearning Design workshop

The point I try to make with this slide is that today we don’t get to decide which device learners use to access our Learning and thus we need to think about design beyond the 1024 x 768 box.

I recommend to my students that in choosing the right tool for mLearning, they need to look for tools that are designed more along the lines of Dreamweaver (i.e. based on relative screen percentages) and stay away from tools that force you to pick absolute dimensions, which will only yield great results on a single screen. In my mind this is a big problem for a lot of tools today, well beyond Adobe Captivate.

Conclusion

In all honesty, when Captivate 7 was announced I had no intention of writing about it, but I did because I saw an opportunity to share some of my thoughts on the changing Learning landscape and the new mindset we need to embrace, if we are going to seize the learning opportunities mobile presents to our Industry.

I apologies if my brutally honest style of writing about Captivate offends anyone, this is not my intention. I could have easily write about the new features like most reviewer do, but then again that wouldn’t be the real RJ Jacquez.

I leave you with this quote I once included in one of my posts, which I believe encompasses quite nicely how mobile design is different from the old desktop design paradigm we need to abandon, and why I believe embracing simplicity is a key ingredient to mobile learning:

less-is-more-hamish

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About RJ Jacquez

My name is RJ Jacquez, Mobile Learning Analyst and Consultant, helping companies understand the potential of Mobile and make a successful transition from eLearning to mLearning in their organizations. Also a Mobile Learning Evangelist, Podcasting and Blogging the Mobile Learning Revolution as it happens. Before that, I worked for Adobe Systems and Macromedia as a Senior Evangelist. I'm honored to be among great company in the following lists and articles: 1) mLearning’s game changers: Who’s on your dream team? (http://t.co/7j5KoylW) 2) Top 25 Most Influential Bloggers in Technical Communications (http://bit.ly/a8ooZC) 3) Top 20 most influential tweeters in eLearning, training and HR (http://bit.ly/KCOjqf). 4) I was also mentioned in this article on Why Every Company Needs a Robert Scoble (infographic) for my work as an Adobe Evangelist (http://bit.ly/v0IMHs). Please follow me on Twitter @rjacquez
  • Sreekanth

    I agree on certain points such as prioritizing relative sizing, better HTML5 compatibility, and the fact that many of these features existed on Articulate Storyline and Adobe is following the trend instead of setting one as it used to be.

    However, I disagree when you say next level of eLearning needs just swipe, pinch and zoom kind of interactivities. This kind of simple interactivities might hold good for a small courses of say upto 50 slides. For any bigger course, we should make the learners “do” something to keep him engaged (along with equally good content and graphics of course). Otherwise, it will be more of a page turner course. If all that
    learners need were these simple interactions, wouldn’t a PDF be good enough?

    I also believe built-in smart learning interactions are great time-savers for content developers. Many developers want these types of interactions but don’t have the time to learn advanced actions to get them right. In fact, I would want Adobe to make these interactions more developer-friendly by giving more flexibility in terms of say tab size, text length, etc.

    In my experience sensible usage of these interactions haven’t really made significant difference to the published file size. Outside Captivate, these easy-to-create interactions in Adobe Presenter have motivated some SMEs, trainers, and managers to make their presentations livelier.

    • Anthony S.

      Yep! Educators want to see kids “doing” and “using” the information. Simplifying eLearning interactions merely dumbs it down. Kids in about half the US will start taking the SmarterBalance online assessment. Kids and teachers have seen nothing like it and it will crush test scores. There is no eLearning software currently available to get the user “doing” the way SmarterBalance has constructed their freakish tests. Teachers, principals, and superintendents are scratching their heads in resolving the technological gap in what schools can provide versus what is in line beginning 2014. Skills are one thing. Skills and familiar computer assessing is another.

      Adobe and the other companies should be looking at the freakish model being developed as a possible money maker and opportunity for the student to perform skills.

  • Sche

    To be fair to Captivate 7 I must say that at the moment I do not know any eLearning Software that solves the dimension problem. Even Storyline forces me when I start a project to decide what dimensions my project should have.
    I agree with you that this functionality (like in Dreamweaver) would be THE killer feature for any e/mLearning tool.
    The main reason why Captivate 7 is dissapointing me is that Captivate gets more and more a collection of different tools than a homogeneous software. For example their was a German TTS-Voice in CP 5 (or 5.5?) which dissapeared since version 6. Now we have an Equation Editor, a HTML5- and a Multiscorm-Packager and … – What is Captivate, what a replaceable Gimmick?
    And why does Adobe Presenter have the better Video-Tool than the Flagship Captivate? And when will Captivate at last be part of the Creative Cloud? With the end of the eLS this would be a logical step for me (one of the positive points in CP 7 is, that the Audition button now works for CC subscribers!).
    Many questions, less answers.

    • http://www.technkl.com/ Nick Leffler

      I echo your thoughts on there being no rapid development tool that meets the requirements of getting away from absolute dimensions. I hope to see this soon but my thought on that was to leverage Edge Reflow for this although that opens up a can of worms when trying to use it with an LMS.

      I hope to someday see something like reflow features built into tools like Storyline but my thoughts are that SL will get there before Captivate (or some other tool). Captivate reacts too much and as you said is a big package full of gimmicks to play catch up or say me too!

  • Chad Udell

    Rapid tools are not the best option for responsive design, mobile first design or anything resembling a best citizen in the multiscreen world we live in.

    Time for learning professionals to ditch this generalist approach that relies on crutches like WYSIWYG tools and hire real developers. Their users will thank them for it.

    • rjacquez

      Well said, Chad. 100% agree!

  • mark2741

    Having stepped away from developing courses in Captivate for a couple of releases, I recently started working with version 6 and was astonished at how superficial (for lack of a better term) it is in so many cases. They focused on doing just enough to compile a list of features. But they are all half-baked. Themes? lol. Advanced Actions – great idea, horrible implementation. Did they even fix the Cp6 bug where On Exit actions don’t fire? That type of thing should be a showstopper for a release. Not for Adobe India though. The learning interactions, widgets, etc., are horrible. They look like garbage and are not editable enough to make useful. Example: the certificate widget is uneditable. Yeah, you could import a corporate logo into it but then when the user hits the print button it’s not printed. The learning interactions are aesthetically ugly. Couldn’t they hire a graphic designer with some talent to design these things? And why couldn’t they include the source .fla files for these? As a previous commenter said – it is time to go back to a split ID and developer roles in the workflow.

    Another problem is their overall strategy. RJ, when you were PM there, I distinctly recall ‘reading between the lines’ that Adobe Presenter was going to be left rotting, as it did for a long time. And Captivate was the ‘flagship’ app that any serious elearning dev should focus on. A few years later and Adobe gets off their butts and makes Presenter an arguably better product than Captivate. It makes no sense.

    • Dobby

      Thoroughly frustrated with CP 6, and moving to 7 is a tough argument, because the move to 6 was so painful.

      • BeenCapped2Death

        Moving from 6 to 7 isn’t nearly as tough as from 5 to 6, but in the end 7 is hardly better than 6. A few bells and whistles were added, sure, but I’d call 7 more of an update to 6 than an actual version release.

  • Erik

    A someone just exploring Captivate after hearing about the 7 release, this article, as well as the comments, have been really helpful. A great view into what Captivate is and isn’t.

    Some reflection/opinion here…
    Everyone wants turn-key, WYSIWYG, etc. type of solutions, but as technology grows, programming and integration get more complex, not more simple. The primary goal is to get the user experience as simple and functional as possible, but getting there with today’s demands requires custom development by dedicated programmers. I think it sounds like the weaknesses in Captivate reflect this issue.

    If you want a functional solution, tools like Captivate might do good enough. If you want a great solution, it requires deep customization.

    Agreed? Am I off-point?

  • Ann Williams

    A company that I am working for is hiring ‘real developers’ – and paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for ‘e-learning’ (modules where the user either reads screeds of text or looks at some nice-looking presentation with some moving parts – within SABA – and answers a few ). Ok, it LOOKS fantastic but it is far cry from using a tool such as SABA to even close to its capacity.

    I have been using Captivate and Moodle to put together comprehensive presentations with self-assessment questions, as well as a training program for the technical staff in this large company. The looks are reasonable – not brilliant – but functionally it works well.

    I’ve had to set up everything myself, learn everything myself and produce everything myself.

    They pay me a monthly salary; probably about 45 000 dollars a year when converted….

    So from experience I think we will continue to see more DIY – but there will still be room for extremely powerful programs where customers want experts to assist them in making the full use of these tools. I think there will always be room for both.

    Ps. What hacks me off at the moment is that I have just been automatically transferred from the Adobe learning suite package to the Cloud package – with my subscription being another full year again. This is a problem for me as it basically ties me into Adobe for another year when I might have been looking at Storyline instead!

    Pps. The assistance given seems to a load of not very well though through YouTube videos on bits and pieces of using Captivate. Is there no user manual that can be read from start to finish? Or a solid series of multi-media presentations that takes one through the program as a concept and then actually shows the buttons to be clicked etc.

    It’s amazing that Captivate is an e-learning tool and yet the multi-media tutoring available seems to be more focused on quick run throughs of the new features! They really don’t go through how to thoroughly use the program!

  • Simon Humby

    I would love for there to be a CSS / flexible / resizable solution for rapid e-learning – but currently it doesn’t exist. I can’t really beat Captivate with a stick for not doing what no-one else does.
    I’ve done a lot of work on both Captivate and Storyline and have tried other solutions – and I think Captivate 7 is currently the best choice overall – and the best rapid e-learning solution for HTML5 and tablets. With a few easy workarounds, I can now tell my clients that, yes, it will work on iPads and Android tablets. And, in my experience, EVERYONE either wants the mobile experience now or in the near future
    Can’t wait for Captivate 8 because who is most likely to produce a CSS / flexible solution if not the people who make Dreamweaver?

    • Darin Fennell

      If it’s CSS you want, you could look into ReadyGo WCB. They have structured their program around HTML and CSS.

  • Alexander Stork

    Great article! I completley agree. On the bottom line: Which tool do you recommend to use to create device independant learning content (responsive design,…)? What do you tell in your mLearnig workshops then? THANKS from the Swiss Alps :-) Alex.

  • CAPTIHATER

    I have been using Captivate 7 for a month now. Daily. I have used Captivate for years and is now “trapped” with loads of client commitments in this package. I sense a mixture of arrogance and ignorance from Adobe in this product.
    Arrogance in their laziness to provide information on how to use their product (e.g. how to use Learner Notes) and an apparent belief that they can offer you the same empty shell again and again. Arrogance in their obvious attempts to coerce one into buy more of their software to make another package work. Do yourself a favour and take a look at Serif’s Web Plus. Single package with a rich user environment. No need to do application hopping. At about 20% the cost of Captivate, one wonders what on earth Adobe is doing with its development money.
    Ignorance in their inability to make simple things work (e.g. when you use the new Jigsaw Puzzle and you run out of time for the question, the tool just freezes.) YES you can be “clever” and add a few actions to work around it, but that is like having a 4×4 vehicle that gets stuck on a tar road. Ignorant in that they still have VERY IRRITATING ways of manipulating a simple draw item to look different. Compared to Power point, it is a pain in the neck!!
    I can list many more examples, but Captivate wastes so much of my time that I have to go back to work now!! I guess it is a sign of our times where industry fat cats first drag us down with them for a while before we all release and they crash and burn.
    (Oh btw, I have a bumper sticker “I hate Captivate!”).

    • Seely_Iggy

      I share that sentiment. We are committed to Captivate for several projects and when we ditch it (that’s right, “when” and not “if”), it’ll be a painful release process. But we’ve reached a point where most of us have a love-hate relationship with Captivate. And having just gone through another one of our crunch time yesterday, it’s more hate than love!!!! They waste so much of our time for things that should really be simple to execute. Strange quirks that don’t get fixed for several releases. And what our programmers call the black box approach where no documentation exist adequately to troubleshoot problems e.g. SCORM. The features are there but they either do not work well or lack support to help people figure it out. As the ID Coordinator, I’m about ready to switch allegiance and go with Articulate. I’ve been using Captivate since version 1 and once thought it was the solution to all the ills in the world (ok, exaggeration here). But now it’s the source of my daily angst.

    • never again

      I actually think that is nothing new about adobe (sadly enough). They ruined the great macromedia products and made them buggy and strange. Does anyone remembert the really helpful macromedia tutorials?
      I really don’t understand this company and how they burn all they’re value and money and i don’t understand us (customers) that we buy that stuff…really…i’m done with it (and somehow released after they burned flash down to the ground with their ignorance…i can start to new grounds).

      • Andrew

        What great Macromedia product? I used Macromedia Flash to do some event programming. The problem was that after the event was triggered, my event code (“code behind”) would not trigger or run. I called up Macromedia for help and they told me to abandon the event and look for a work around. I am not a fan of Microsoft, but I never had such a problem using Visual Basic from early 1990 to Visual Basic and C# .NET in the years after 2000.

        I think Adobe is a very competent company and I like the direction they are moving Captivate 7 towards. Their smart learning interaction needs further work. It has great potential but I found it totally useless. It is too restricted without the ability to change its attributes sufficiently. Some e-learning applications belong on the desktop and for those, Captivate 7 has great potential. But yes, I agree that Adobe marches into the future backwards. I recently installed Captivate 7 on a Windows 8.1 system and while doing screen capture, Captivate does not recognize my 1920 by 1080 screen, it thinks it is 1536 x 862. Granted my laptop has both (i.e. hybrid) an Nvidia and Intel graphics card which may be confusing Captivate – but the Windows Display setting is set at 1920 x 1080; and besides, Camtasia (by TechSmith) can recognize my screen correctly and Captivate is having problems. I hope my experience is isolated, but these are not the types of problems you expect from an expensive software. But now that Captivate 8 is here (i.e. just released!!!) , there is still hope…

  • dani76

    I am one of many victims of Cp6. I had many issues related to html5 and videos mainly. Does anybody know if this Cp7 is able to publish html5 compatible skins for event videos?
    thanks!

  • popo

    blah blah blah just crap

  • Fredrik

    Great post! So what are you recommendation today about which tool to choose, if you consider it should be used both for the desktop and mobile platform?

  • Randy Miller

    You hit the nail on the head. I am now researching a workflow of using xCode 5 templates (for ease of resuse) and building mLearning directly within objective-c for the iOS platform. Once I work out some of the issues of setting up xperience API (tin Can) routed to an LRS, I think that eLearning in the cloud (LMS), is on the death bed. I have never been impressed with HTML 5 and nor is Apple or any other company. It is still not (and never will be) widely supported as it is still basically relying on java script. It is much more logical to store training on the enterprise app store and records within an LRS managed from a leader’s app. The “elearning” industry is completely out ot step with time. This includes, Adobe sadly enough. If Adobe linked Captivate to phoneGap then they might have something.