Now that I’ve been working with Captivate 6 almost on a daily basis for the past 4 months, I’d like to share some more thoughts on this new version. To me, the real gems of Captivate 6 are not exactly where we expect them to be....

What is a good feature?

In order to write this blog post, I’ve been thinking a lot about this : what makes a good feature in an eLearning Authoring tool such as Captivate? My thoughts conducted me to figure out 3 indications that help me sort out the good from the 'less good'. Feel free to share your own thoughts about it in the comments section of this post

1) A good feature works!

This should sound obvious for everyone reading this post. What’s the point in releasing a feature that does not work? Or a feature that does half of the job it is supposed to do?

2) A good feature addresses many use cases.

When an engineering team creates a new feature for a piece of software, the goal is to address a use case that has not yet been addressed by the other features already present in the product.

Now if a single feature can address many different use cases, it is even better. It gives the end user a versatile and flexible tool and saves development time (and money) to the engineering team.

Once released, if the users start to find new use cases for that feature, use cases that the engineering team did not even think about, then you know that you have an awesome features available, one that pushes the product forward,one that frees the creativity of the end users.

3) A good features has little to no side effects on the other features

If a feature requires to downgrade the quality of a project or prevents the end user of using another feature of the product, then, it is not a good feature. On the contrary, a feature that strengthened the other features of a product, that integrates nicely in the existing toolset, is a good feature.

Notice that I did not include the fact that a good feature mush shape the future or be innovative. Of course, if it does, it is even better (and the good features may become a killer feature!). Take the new color theme of the user interface of Captivate for instance. This is, by no means, a killer feature, but what a nice improvement!

With these three points in mind here is my top 3 among the new features of Captivate 6

My Captivate 6 new features top 3

1) Smart Shapes

This is, by far, the best new feature of Captivate 6. A smart shape is a vector object that can easily be added to a Captivate project and tweaked in many ways!

It addresses a myriad of use cases.

Just right click on a smart shape to discover a world of possibilities.

  • You can add text into a smart shape so it becomes a super-powered Text Caption!
  • You can convert a Smart Shape to a Rollover Smart Shape and use it to interact with your users (see the picture below)
  • You can use Smart Shapes as buttons and use it as triggers for advanced actions
  • You can access the Béziers points of a Smart shape and tweak it into a million other shapes

Smart Shapes are a whole new playground for us eLearning developers!

[Smart shapes in Captivate 6 - My n°1 ne feature]
The picture shows an arrow Smart Shape with text in it. Each shape has a corresponding rollover area over the color square

2) Video Demos

The silver medal goes to the Video Demo. It allows you to create a high definition screencast and to export it as an mp4 file. The following is why I like this new feature

It integrates nicely with the existing toolset

Basically, a Video Demo is a linear video file that needs to be seen from the beginning to the end. A Video Demo does not support any kind of interactivity. Buttons, click boxes, text entry boxes and rollover objects are NOT supported in a Video Demo project. To say the same with other words, everything that makes Captivate awesome is not supported in a Video Demo! So Why is it a good feature?

It is when a Video Demo is inserted in the middle of a traditional old-fashioned Captivate Demonstration or simulation that it shows all its awesomeness. In the following project (In French) I’ve used two Video Demos to explain something to my students. Then, the project continues as a simulation where the students must actually DO the manipulation themselves. Thanks to the Video Demos that precedes it, the simulation part of this project takes a whole new pedagogical dimension.

I think that the new Video Demo recording mode makes the other (older) features of Captivate stronger, and the following project is a perfect example of that!

[Define a site in Dreamweaver - The movie]
This Captivate 6 project combines 2 Video Demos with a traditional Captivate simulation (project is in French)

3) These small enhancements that make a big change

The bronze medal of my top 3 is not awarded to a single new feature, but to a set of small things that makes my life as an eLearning developer easier. I wish to include the following in the pack

  • Reflections
  • Object grouping
  • Hyperlinks
  • Text margins and custom bullets
  • Text Effects
  • ...

None of these features can pretend to be a breakthrough in eLearning, but their presence in Captivate 6 makes the existing toolset a much better and robust environment in which I enjoy developing my eLearning courses

What about the other new features of Captivate 6

You mean 'Killer features' such as Themes, HTLM 5 publishing, Quiz enhancements, Smart learning interactions, etc...

I think it’s Crap! and Honestly, I don’t use any of these 'killer features' in my projects.

HTML 5publishing has an enormous impact on the other features of Captivate. There are so many things that are not supported in HTML 5 that the toolset of Captivate is dramatically reduced when publishing to HTML 5. In this prospective, HTML 5 publishing is a drawback for me as a Captivate developer. Not mentioning the fact that I do not believe that publishing our projects to HTML 5 is the right approach to go Mobile. I’ll detail more about it in an upcoming blogpost.

Smart Learning interaction are so badly implemented that I’m not willing to spend my precious time customizing them each time I want to use one. At minimum, it should be possible to save our customization in some sort of style. Until then, count me out of Smart Learning Interactions!

Pretests is another example of bad implementation. The very fact that it takes the entire playbar away (without even a warning message to tell me about it) is a No-Go for me! Pretests has been made with a single use case in mind and have too many side effects in the rest of my project!

Themes. Although I really like the new Master Slides system, I don’t really see what is the true enhancement brought by the Themes as compared to the existing Templates and Styles system. Also, i do not understand why we have this Themes ‘Ribbon’ on top of our screen and not a Themes panel like for every other features.

Conclusions

The real added value of Captivate 6 is not what Adobe claims it is! Adobe makes a big noise about the HTML5 thing and the Mobile learning capabilities of Captivate. Don’t believe this marketing message!

If you are looking for an mLearning authoring tool, don’t buy Captivate 6! As a matter of fact, don’t buy anything! Today’s situation is very simple: There are no credible mLearning authoring tool that I know of on the market!

But if you are looking for a powerful, turbo charged eLearning authoring tool, if you know the limitations of Mobile publishing, if your goal is to teach, not to develop, then, Captivate 6 might be one of the best tool around!


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