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Learning & Development Blog

adobe captivate review

Adobe Captivate Review: The E-Learning Showdown Continues


(Note: This is Part 2 of a 4-part series comparing Articulate Presenter, Captivate, and Storyline. Subscribe to the blog at the bottom of this post to be updated when Part 3 is published. Read Part 1 on our Articulate Presenter Review.)


Now up! Adobe Captivate.

Given that I’ve been using Captivate 5.5 rather than Captivate 6, and that I’m a relatively novice user, I turned for guidance to my friend and colleague, Jenny Nilsson, who runs the Twin Cities Adobe Captivate Users Group. Check them out for some great tips and advice on how to use this tool. Jenny graciously contributed some of her thoughts to this post.

As always, it would be great to hear from you, too! Comment below with your thoughts and experiences using Captivate.


Captivate is an Adobe product, and I think of it as kind of a cross between PowerPoint and Flash. It’s a little trickier to use than Articulate Presenter; I would probably not have been able to get started using it without some kind of introduction if I hadn’t had prior experience with Flash.

Functionality PROS:

1. The timeline is fab!

Claire: I really love how the timeline allows you to see visually when each element on a screen appears and disappears. The functionality that allows you to lock an element into position is invaluable, as is the function that allows you to hide elements from view without altering their appearance or location during editing. Finally, the ability to play the audio from the timeline makes syncing animation to narration very quick and easy. Although I like the ease of use provided by Articulate Presenter’s sync tool better, this one is still very good.

Jenny: Articulate’s sync tool drives me crazy because I have to re-sync everything if I mess something up in the beginning. In Captivate I can start from any point on the timeline I want.

By the way, Articulate Quizmaker has a timeline on the non-quiz slides within a quiz (I know that sounds weird) that allow a Captivate-like workflow. This is actually the type of slide that many of the most interesting Articulate samples out there were made on.

adobe captivate Timeline

2. Precise placement is easy


Claire: Captivate allows you to place an item on a specific x/y coordinate on the screen. Furthermore, you can resize elements to a specific height and width, which is extremely helpful when trying to create uniformly sized graphics, or to carry content from one screen to the next without it appearing to slightly “jump.”

My one caveat is that once a screen element is in position, it’s important to use the Lock feature to keep from accidentally bumping it a pixel or two when you click on it. See Cons.

3. Simulations capture more easily.

At least, that’s how it seems to me. Recording mistakes seem to be fewer, and clean-up afterward is quick.


4. The Library feature is helpful

Claire: The Library feature of Captivate retains images, audio files, and other elements that you bring into your presentation, allowing you to reuse these rather than reload them each time they recur.

5. Content publishes to HTML 5

Claire: This allows your presentation to work on mobile platforms that don’t play Flash-based content.

6. Captivate 6 offers high-definition video recording

Jenny: This is a bit like Camtasia. You can create a movie with full screen capture and add pan/zoom and other effects, plus add captions/objects (no interaction, you’re creating video). You can also bring in video from a webcam or other source. See Cons.

Functionality CONS:

1. It's precise -- to a fault

Claire: This tool’s strength is also its weakness. Because of the pixel by pixel positioning of items on the screen, I find them very sensitive. Quite often, when I click on something to edit it, I accidentally move it a pixel or two and have to return it to the correct position so that it remains static from one slide to the next. Once again, the Lock feature is invaluable to protect yourself from inadvertent “bumps” along the way.

2. It requires a fairly good eye for detail

Claire: Whenever you create some new element to add to the slide in Captivate, there are a whole host of niggling details that you have to think about in order to make your presentation play correctly. Do you want the screen element to fade in, fade out, or both? Or do you want no transition? How quickly do you want the fade in/out to occur? Do you want the element to appear for a specified amount of time, or for the rest of the slide? Some of this you can minimize by adjusting the preferences in the file at the outset. Still, the first time you publish you’ll find a host of things you need to “fix” because they disrupt the flow of the content. This criticism probably becomes less important as a user becomes more expert at using the tool.

Jenny: A beginner can ignore many of these details, or leave their default settings. Though I agree it might seem overwhelming if you think you HAVE to do all this stuff.

3. Don't forget to clear out the Library

Claire: The Library feature of Captivate retains content even if you delete it from the presentation. That means the Captivate source file can become very large, very quickly. It’s easy to clear out the Library with the click of a button, but it’s something the user needs to keep in mind.

Jenny: The source file gets large, but it doesn’t affect the finished product. The size decrease from re-using an image from the library instead of having it in the file multiple times make the published product smaller too.

4. High-definition video exists outside the regular Captivate file

Jenny: The only disadvantage of using high-definition video in Captivate is that this isn’t a part of a regular Captivate file. if you wanted to combine the two you would need to publish the video and then place it in on a slide in the ‘normal’ Captivate course.

Functionality Rating: 4/5

Ease of Use PROS:

Claire: I will say this: Most of the tools you use all the time in Captivate are visible at a given time on the screen, surrounding the stage. So that’s good…

Ease of Use CONS:

1. The learning curve is steeper

Claire: Captivate is more challenging to master than Articulate, because it’s not operating on a Microsoft Office-like platform. While it does perform many of the same functions as can be performed in PowerPoint, they aren’t located in the same place on screen, so right at the outset the user has to get used to a slightly different look and feel than he/she might be used to. The Timeline feature is key to understanding Captivate – again, something not necessarily obvious to the new user.

Jenny: My one comment here is that you can edit text in Captivate more similarly to an Office product than you can inside an Engage interaction. All sorts of unexpected font/style changes happen when you try to select text using the keyboard (arrows and Ctrl keys) in Articulate.

Ease of Use Rating: 3/5

Publishing PROS:

1. It publishes fasssst!

Claire: Compared to Articulate Presenter, Captivate’s publication process is a breeze. I’m not a tech guru, but I think of Captivate as republishing the modified files and breezing over the ones that you didn’t change. That is probably not what it’s doing, but the point is – it’s way, way faster than Articulate Presenter.

Jenny: I think converting the PowerPoint content into images accounts for part of the publishing time. If you import PowerPoint into Captivate there’s bit of a delay, too. (Not that I’m REALLY defending Articulate Presenter here, time to publish is one of my biggest frustrations with it, even when I just want to view an Engage interaction or Quiz.)


Publishing CONS:

1. It publishes biiiig!

Claire: Captivate files, when published, are big and heavy. That means that you almost always have to find an alternate means of sending them to your client or colleague, because email generally won’t sustain their size. At my company we use the FTP site Filezilla. I’m also a big fan of YouSendIt.com. We pay a small monthly fee for the ability to send almost anything, very easily, to clients without running into problems with firewalls and so on.

Jenny: This is more of a fact of multimedia content in general than something that any tool could do much about.

Claire: Good point. So maybe my criticism should be leveled at content sharing tools instead of content development tools!

Publishing Rating: 4/5

Support PROS:

1. The new SAAS (software as a service) model adds value

Jenny: You can purchase Captivate on a month-to-month basis and only pay when you need the software. This has allowed Adobe to push out new features faster. For example, they’ve added a new drag-and-drop function that is only available to subscribers.

2. Helpful helpers help

Claire: I’ve had at least one experience of calling Adobe for help, and the staff were extremely helpful. I find the online help to be average. Sometimes I find my answer, sometimes I do not.

Support CONS:

1. Some bugs can't be helped

Claire: I find that, occasionally, Captivate has some “bugs” that are a bit frustrating and not very easy to resolve. For example, in my latest project I ran into problems when I tried to have a user right-click a screen element, and when I tried to set up multiple click boxes on a single slide. After researching these problems online and not really finding that any of the proposed “fixes” were working for me, I ended up re-working my storyboard to eliminate the issues myself.

Support Rating: 3/5

Once again, I would welcome your comments to this post. Add your own observations, correct me where I’m wrong, or suggest solutions or workarounds.

To Read Part 1, our review of Articulate Presenter, click the image below!


To Read Part 3, our review of Articulate Storyline, click the image below!