Today Adobe Captivate 8 was released.
In this post I’m going give you a high level overview of what’s new in Adobe Captivate 8 as well as my view of the product. I participated in the beta test of Adobe Captivate 8 so I have been playing around with Captivate 8 for a while now. It has been a very interesting beta cycle this time mainly due to the high ambitions for some of the new features.
Major changes in Adobe Captivate 8:
There are two significant changes in Adobe Captivate 8 which pretty much defines what this release is about.
The first one is the UI changes. The new Adobe Captivate 8 comes with a completely new user interface. The only thing you will recognize is the white slide in the middle – everything else is new. The team behind Adobe Captivate felt that the UI in earlier versions of Adobe Captivate was too intimidating for new users, so the new version should make it easier for newcomers to get started with Adobe Captivate.
The second major change is of course the new Responsive Project capability. This feature lets you create projects with three separate breakpoints, which can adapt to various devices. Sort of like a “build it once – use it on all devices” feature. The feature is an HTML5 only and does have some very promising uses if you are building for a crowd that use a variety of devices.
You’ll work as you always have in Adobe Captivate designing a single version (break point). You can then switch to another break point and move, edit or resize objects, change fonts, colors etc. You also have the ability to maintain your layout across the different devices by using relative positioning of objects.
Adobe Captivate 8 comes with ready-made responsive themes so you can get started right away using one of the built in themes. It also possible to do responsive screen captures in Adobe Captivate 8. You’ll simply record as you always have and once you are in edit mode the simulation will appear in the three different break points. Captivate will automatically detect the active / important part of the screen capture and adapt that to the tablet and mobile break point. Of course you can manually adjust this as well if needed.
Publishing Responsive Projects is easy and straight-forward and you can integrate them with your LMS just as with any other Adobe Captivate version. The launcher will also automatically detect the device the user is using and adapt the content to fit that device.
A very simple proof of concept Responsive project can be see here: http://www.cpguru.com/cp8/cp8ResponsiveProject/index.html
I will be writing a more in-depth article about the new Responsive Project features in Adobe Captivate 8. There are simply too many things to cover in this initial review.
Other changes in Adobe Captivate 8:
There is no doubt that the two above mentioned changes have taken pretty much all of the development time from the engineering team. However there has been time to implement a few more changes in this new version.
Effects are now absolutely timed with the object. This will make a lot of people happy. In earlier versions of Adobe Captivate if you applied an effect with 2 second duration and then at a later point changed the slide duration or the duration of the object with the effect, this would also alter the effect timing. This was insanely annoying and thankfully this has been fixed in Adobe Captivate 8.
Support for roll over and down states for Smart Shapes. This is really nice if you are using Smart Shapes as buttons as it allows you to create “buttons” that actually look and behave like buttons.
You can now save free-form Smart Shapes as a custom shape and reuse them in your project. Again a nice feature which will make Smart Shapes even more useful.
Adobe Captivate 8 provides native support for WebObjects now. You can import HTML5 and Edge Animations directly into Adobe Captivate now. This allows you to create HTML5 based animations/ interactions in Edge Animate and use them in Adobe Captivate. In Captivate 7 you could achieve the same by using the “Web Page Interaction” and reference your HTML5 animation through this. However with native support in Captivate 8 it is much easier to import, resize and position HTML5 animations in your eLearning courses.
Lots of new ready-made assets. In Adobe Captivate 8 you will find 11 different course themes and you also have the ability to apply different color swatches to these themes allowing you to create a ton of different variations. In this release the number of characters have also been bumped up to 25 different sets in 50 different poses. I haven’t seen the new character sets myself yet so I can’t say anything about the quality of them. You’ll also find a completely new Interaction – “Catch the AlphaNums”, which uses the accelerometer in the users mobile devices to control the game. Finally you get two new text-to-speech voices, which I haven’t tested or heard yet myself.
Interactions now support using the theme colors. I think this will be very well received as the visual appearance of a project means a lot to many eLearning designers. In this release localized Interactions are also added, which has been a request since they were introduced in Adobe Captivate 6.
Adobe Captivate 8 now supports gestures and geolocation. It will be possible to navigate in your HTML5 based projects using touch, swipe, zoom and pinch gestures. This is a welcome addition if you publish to tablets and phones.
The new variable cpInfoGeoLocation system variable will hold the users Geo Location. Based on the users Geo-location you can create content that adapts based on the location of the user. This opens up for some pretty cool opportunities for you as a developer. Perhaps you want to display specific information to your students if they are based in Germany, Kazakhstan or United Kingdom. This will be possible now by using the new Geo Location capabilities of Adobe Captivate 8 and combine them with Advanced Actions.
One other great change in Adobe Captivate 8 is the Pop-up blocker (actually it’s more like a pop-up cleaner). How many times have you forgotten to close down Outlook before starting on recording a video demonstration? And how many times have you received your favorite newsletter email right in the middle of the recording? I know it has happened to me quite a few times. Normally I simply edit the video demo afterwards and places a rectangle shape on top of the pop-up so it is hidden in the final output. However in Adobe Captivate 8 you now have the ability to remove these pop-ups in a more professional manner.
Some other nice stuff for advanced developers:
The widget API in Adobe Captivate 8 add supports for grabbing the theme colors used in the project and the language of the installed version of Adobe Captivate. This allows widget developers to make widgets that follow the design of the theme the user has selected and the ability to provide a localized Widget Properties panel to the developer.
A new variable – cpInfoMobileOS – allows you to detect the operating system of users accessing your content. I can’t really see any straight-forward use cases for it right now, but if anyone has any suggestions I would love to hear them.
My impression of Adobe Captivate 8:
There is no doubt that the engineering team put significant effort into the new Responsive Projects feature. Adobe Captivate is also the first eLearning development tool to truly implement real responsive design (*1). None of the competing tools on the market has this capability so congratulations to the team for making this happen. This is really a giant leap forwards for Adobe Captivate and when version 7 was released there were murmuring in the background voicing disappointment that it used a fixed size and didn’t implement responsive design. Now with this release Adobe gave us responsive designs and threw in other goodies such as gestures, geo-location and access to the accelerometer of mobile units. This truly shows that the team behind Adobe Captivate is committed to make it easier for all of us to leverage the power of mobile deployment.
The new Responsive Project feature deserves a more detailed description and walk-through than I can provide here in this review so I will write a post about this at a later time. The bottom line is that it is an impressive feature that really gives Adobe Captivate an edge over competing tools.
For me many of the smaller changes such as localized interactions, ability to style the interactions to the theme color etc. are nice to have, but not something I’m very exited about. Mainly because I don’t use the interactions and I don’t use the themes capabilities in Adobe Captivate. However from the official Adobe Captivate forums I know that these things have been requested and needed by a lot of people, so I’m sure that it will make many developers happy.
Personally I like some of the smaller things most. The fact that the effect duration is now fixed and doesn’t change whenever I change slide or object timings is a long overdue fix. Another small thing I really like is that “Force re-publish on all slides” is checked by default now when you publish. I always try to use this feature when I publish from Captivate, but sometimes it slips and I forget it. Now it is enabled by default so I will never forget again and risk having weird artifacts or other strange stuff in my published content.
The ability to define up, over and down states for Smart Shape buttons is also a really nice and needed feature. In Captivate 7 I never really used Smart Shapes as buttons because I feel that a button should look and behave like a button. In Captivate 7 you just had a static Smart Shape with no visual indication other than a mouse-cursor change when it was activated. Now it will be possible to create real buttons and leverage the power of Smart Shapes in a project.
The variables and Advanced Actions in Adobe Captivate 8 also received some attention from the engineering team. Shared Actions have been improved with better descriptions and parameterization. In the variables section you now have the possibility to select and delete multiple variables in one go. A “Select unused variables” button has also been added and it is great if you don’t use any widgets that rely on variables in your project. If a widget uses a variable it will still show up as “unused” in the variables interface and if you delete it that will almost certainly cause your project to not work as intended.
My biggest caveat with Adobe Captivate 8 is the new User Interface – you will either love it or hate it. Currently I fall in the latter category but perhaps my feelings will change when I have used it in a couple of real life production projects.
While it looks great and probably not as intimidating as the earlier versions I personally feel it is a step backwards in terms of usability. The removal of the tool bar containing the most used objects means you either need to use the large banner menu to find your objects or use the keyboard shortcuts. Thankfully I know most of the keyboard shortcuts so I will probably survive, but if you don’t know these then you are in for a lot of mouse clicking. Some objects such as Smart Shapes does not have a keyboard shortcut associated so here you need to use your mouse and click. In case you need a list of the available keyboard shortcuts for Adobe Captivate you can find that here.
Working with objects in Adobe Captivate 8:
Working with objects is more cumbersome in Adobe Captivate 8 due to the new UI. In Captivate 7 (and earlier) once you had inserted an object you had direct access to all the objects properties using the properties panel. Granted it was a rather long list, but you could scroll up and down using your mouse-wheel quickly. You also had the ability to collapse sections of the Property Panel, which you didn’t use that frequently, making the list shorter.
In Adobe Captivate 8 this is no longer possible due to the design of the new UI. If you insert a button you will get four separate “tabs” which you need to manually each and every one to set up your object. It will start on the “Style” tab where you set button image / button text, font etc. The next tab you need to click is “Actions” where you set the “On Success” criteria (Go to next slide etc.), set object captions and “include in reporting” amongst others. The next tab is the “Options” tab. Here you’ll find the “add audio” functionality, but also the width, height and X and Y coordinates of your object. Finally you have the “Timing” tab where you set the objects “Display for” properties and object timings. It is also here you define the object transition if the selected object supports it.
Adobe Captivate 8 – a single monitor application?
The new UI in its default setting makes Adobe Captivate 8 a single monitor application. When you open up Captivate for the first time you will notice that you can no longer undock panels and move them to a secondary monitor. Furthermore you no longer have the ability to create custom workspaces. The only available workspace is “Default” and the only option you have is to reset it.
Thankfully the Adobe Captivate team provided us with an “Advanced mode”, which allows you to once again undock some of the panels and use Adobe Captivate on a multi-monitor setup. This is done by going to Preferences and General Settings and enabling “Enable custom workspaces/panel undocking” and then restarting Adobe Captivate.
Once you have done this you can undock certain panels such as the Timeline, the Effects panel, the Library and the Timing panel. Sadly you won’t be able to undock the “Style”, “Actions” and “Options” panels so here you still need to use your mouse to access the properties located in these tabs. Once you enabled this “Advanced mode” you also have the ability to create workspaces again, although you do not have the same degree of customization available to you as with the earlier versions of Adobe Captivate.
If you work with Adobe Captivate a couple of hours a week you will probably feel okay about the new UI. However if you work with Adobe Captivate professionally like I do and use it 6-8 hours every day all these extra mouse clicks can be a problem. Repetitive Strain Injury is not something to take lightly so remember to take frequent breaks when working and think about investing in an ergonomic replacement for the mouse. I purchased a Contour Rollermouse from Amazon to use at home a week ago and I will most likely purchase one for the office computer as well. It takes a bit to get used to and I still need to use my mouse to do precision work in Adobe Photoshop, but overall I am really happy with it.
I know that User Interface Design is a very complex process and it is unlikely to end up with something that makes everybody happy. Most of the other beta testers were also quite happy about this new UI so perhaps it is just me that feels this way. Personally I liked the Captivate 7 interface better. I liked the fact the Adobe Captivate looked and worked like the other Adobe applications I use. Right now I’m still finding myself confused about the new UI trying to find things, but I guess it will get better at some point.
So is Adobe Captivate 8 worth it?
If you are delivering to a diverse crowd which uses different platforms or you are delivering to mobile there is no doubt at all. Adobe Captivate 8 is your best choice to create responsive eLearning that can be viewed on a variety of devices. No other tool allows you to deliver your content in a responsive way while having the comfort of designing it in an WYSIWYG editor like Adobe Captivate. The team behind Adobe Captivate really managed to raise the bar of what an eLearning tool is capable of.
If you don’t deliver to mobiles at all or don’t plan on using Responsive Design, the changes in Adobe Captivate 8 are not exactly jaw dropping. Most of the focus for this update has been on the addition of Responsive Projects and that shines through. However you still get some nice additions to Smart Shapes (Save custom shapes, up & down states for buttons), enhancements to Variables and Advanced Actions as well as a number of bug fixes. The localized Interactions will also be a popular feature outside the English speaking market. It would be a though sell if these were the only additions to Adobe Captivate 8 but as mentioned Responsive Projects is the main attraction and to use a over-hyped word – Adobe Captivate 8 is a game changer when it comes to Responsive Design for eLearning. (sorry I had to use the word game changer at least once in a post here. It seems to be such a popular word amongst eLearning bloggers 🙂 )
To sum up: Yes – Adobe Captivate 8 is definitely worth it regardless of what type of developer you are. You’ll get more bang for your buck if you are publishing to HTML5 but in either case you do get a solid product.
If you are on a subscription plan you automatically get access to Adobe Captivate 8 so download it and play around with it. If you don’t have a subscription to Adobe Captivate you can download a 30-day trial from here. Even though you have an active subscription to Adobe Captivate 7 you still need to download the trial of Adobe Captivate 8 and use your account details to activate it.
I would love to hear your thoughts about Adobe Captivate 8. I’m particularly interested in hearing your thoughts about the new Responsive Projects feature and the new User Interface. Drop a comment here when you have tried it out.
I’ll follow up on this review with a more in-depth look at the Responsive Projects feature as well as some other informational articles about Adobe Captivate.
(*1) – The only other eLearning development tool that I know can create Responsive Design is the Adapt Framework. However in its current form it is a framework and not a WYSIWYG editor like Adobe Captivate. Instead you create your course by editing config and JSON files. It can create some truly amazing things, but it is much more complicated to use.