Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Developer's Perspective of Adobe Captivate 6

by Jonathan Shoaf

Some people get excited about the new fall TV shows in September. Baseball fans get excited for the MLB playoffs in October. Developers, like me, get excited for new releases of software. All the new features and improved exciting!

Now that I've taken a look at the new release of Adobe Captivate I find myself only somewhat excited about making the upgrade from the previous version. Overall, Captivate 6 is still the same Captivate you know (and hopefully love). The user experience has not changed dramatically and most of the features are in the same old locations making it an easy upgrade to get up to speed on. Let's get into the meat of it.

PowerPoint Capabilities

Captivate 6 is continuing to improve its PowerPoint capabilities. The integration is better than ever supporting PowerPoint 2007 and 2010. Slides imported from captivate can be edited using an integrated PowerPoint editor making it easy for designers and developers that are more comfortable using PowerPoint.

Quizzing Improvements

I work with several instructional designers and one of their constant frustrations with Captivate in the past has been that you can't have a graded and non-graded quiz. Captivate 6 allows for non-graded quizzes as well as branching and partial scoring.

Introducing Themes

A welcome change for Captivate authors is the ability to apply themes. Adobe provides several themes out of the box. From my perspective as a developer, I like the fact that I can customize my own theme and share with my team of instructional designers.

Screen Capture Improvements

Captivate has always been my favorite tool for software simulations. It has nice screen capturing capabilities and lends itself to creating and modifying simulations. Adobe has improved on this by adding the ability to capture high definition full motion videos. Developers who have been frustrated in the past by missing animations during video capture will appreciate this new feature.

HTML 5 (eh, mobile) Improvements

Captivate 6 now has HTML 5 as an export option. Primarily this is added support for the iPad. I would have liked to see a more responsive design approach that adapts to the various screen sizes of mobile. Still, this is going in the right direction. Further, a single SCORM package can be exported that will adapt to Flash or HTML 5 depending on the learner's system. That's a nice touch.

And More

There are more improvements to Captivate 6 worth mentioning. Captivate 6 comes with character packs making it super easy to add characters to a slide. Also, Captivate 6 comes with a variety of interactions using the previously existing widget framework. These can provide for a more interactive knowledge transfer to learners.


Performance wise, Captivate 6 demands more computing power. I've got a three year old Windows 7 laptop and Captivate 6 runs very slowly. It doesn't look like Adobe put a lot of time into improving performance.

As an experienced developer, I would have liked to see improvements to the workflow surrounding interactivity. For example, the user interface surrounding advanced actions and variables looks virtually unchanged. I've often wished for improvements that would allow me to develop advanced conditional actions more quickly. Also, there appear to be no new action triggers which have led to the popularity of products such as Articulate Storyline and ZebraZapps.

Finally, I would have liked to see the ability to put buttons on the master slide. Pasting a button on each slide is not the ideal workflow. Along those lines, there do not seem to be a lot of improvements to make the usability of Captivate 6 more intuitive. I think Adobe would be well-served by doing a usability study to inform changes to a future release.

To sum up, there's nothing uber-exciting from my perspective with the new release. It's a solid release but it feels like patch work more than a creative rethinking of the product. Have you made the upgrade to Captivate 6? What's your experience?


  1. Hello Jonathan,

    I'd like to add additional information for the Buttons part of it. We can now include the Smart Shapes in Master Slides and convert it as Button. We can even have Hyperlinks in the Master Slides and use them for Navigation etc.


  2. Thanks for the article! You can add a button to a master slide by inserting a smart shape and selecting "use as button" in the properties panel. As long as the shape/button is in front of all other objects, the button should work on the slides attached to the master.


Thank you for your comments.