Reducing the file size of your Captivate projects

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One of the most important things when working with Adobe Captivate is to keep an eye on the file size of your finished project. It’s easy to sit and design a stunning course using high-res photos and custom graphics, but some tend to forget that the end-user of the product might not appreciate the increased loading time.

Luckily it is still possible to produce visually stunning courses and still keeping the file size down to an acceptable level.

Here in this post I’ll try to shed some light on what we do when we produce courses in Adobe Captivate as well as some other tips & tricks.

Adobe Connect Metadata

Are you using Adobe Connect to deliver your courses to your end-users? If not then you can disable the metadata for Adobe Connect. This is set to on by default and increases the file size of your project and published files.

As an example – The demonstration here –http://www.cpguru.com/demonstrations/captivatePreloader/howToChangeGraphics_demo.htm – about how to modify the graphics in the preloader have the following sizes.

With Adobe Connect Metadata:
Captivate project file = 1.81 mb.
The published swf file = 404 kb.

Without Adobe Connect Metadata:
Captivate project file = 1.63 mb.
The published swf file = 277 kb.

This is just a basic 12 slide presentation, but the published file size has increased rather dramatically.

Therefore if you don’t need Adobe Connect Metadata then you might as well disable it.

You disable it in Project Settings – Output options – and then uncheck the “Publish Adobe Connect Pro metadata” checkbox.

projectpreferences2

 

Slide quality

Another thing to consider is the “slide quality”. If you right-click on a slide and open “Slide Properties”  you can choose between different set qualities for the specific slide. The following options are available:

Standard
Optimized
Jpeg

High Quality

The standard quality is basically unusable – images will have artifacts and your text will look like crap. I don’t think I can remember a single project where we have used the standard quality.

But what is the difference between Optimized, Jpeg and High Quality?

I took a reference image from Kodak (http://r0k.us/graphics/kodak/kodim04.html)  (lossless PNG image). I added a grayscale gradient as well as some different color variations. I saved it from Photoshop as a Jpeg image (quality 12) and it turned out to be 298kb big. I also saved the same image as a non-interlaced PNG image from Photoshop and it ended up at 489kb.

Click on the links below to see the images used for the test

The JPG test image

The PNG test image

I then imported these images into Captivate and made 4 different slide with each image and used the 4 different publish qualities in Captivate.

Size wise this is what you get:

slidesizechart

 

Notice how big the difference is between High Quality and the other settings. Also JPG and PNG images are basically the same size unless in High Quality where PNG is almost 25% smaller.

Now the interesting part is that the standard quality pumps out swf files at 185kb at an appalling quality and the Jpeg setting is only 106kb. The quality difference between these two settings is like night and day. The standard quality is basically worthless but Jpeg is definitely something you can use.

One thing is file size but how do the result actually look?

Click here to see the results. Please notice that this page holds all 8 images so it might take a while to load.

When I look at the resulting images I reach the following conclusion. The standard quality is not worth using at all, which is weird since the output swf’s are rather large.

Between the Jpeg and Optimized quality there is a slight difference if you look at the greyskale bar. The optimized quality has a slight advantage over the Jpeg quality here. I would still chose the Jpeg setting since the output swf’s are 60% smaller than those with the Optimized quality setting.

Between Jpeg/optimized and High Quality I can see a difference, but it’s so small that it’s barely noticeable. If you look closely at the images you can see that the woman’s hair and her eyes are slightly more detailed in the images which used the HQ setting. However the difference is so small that in no way does it justify the file size increase of 8 times for JPG images and 6 times for PNG (when compared to the Jpeg setting).

Also keep in mind that while we developers most likely have some good big-size quality monitors, most end-users don’t.

In my company we always use the Jpeg quality setting in Captivate when developing courses. It’s more than adequate for our needs and it doesn’t compromise quality for size.

Preloader

Another thing to keep in mind when developing courses is to add a preloader if it’s a big project. There’s nothing worse than just staring at a blank screen wondering what is happening.

Captivate comes with a number of different preloaders so use one of those. Alternatively you can make your own preloader if you have Flash knowledge.

 

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