Adobe Captivate 8 – Expert Mode – undock panels again


In Adobe Captivate 8 one of the really big changes was the complete redesign (destruction) of the user interface. Adobe feels that the new GUI makes it easier for new people to get started with Adobe Captivate. Personally I think it is a wrong turn since everything in the application takes more time and a lot more mouse clicks is required to achieve even simple things. Sure when Captivate 8 starts up it looks really easy to use – a big bar at the top, a blank slide in the middle and the filmstrip view to the left.


What is missing? Well how about the Timeline? Have you ever inserted an object in Captivate without actually using the timeline? Nope I bet you haven’t because the timeline is an essential piece of every single workflow in Adobe Captivate. How about the Properties Panel? Have you ever inserted an object in Captivate without adjusting the properties for that object? How often do you insert buttons without changing the button action? How often do you insert text captions without adjusting fonts, colors, margins, sizes etc?

Of course you can show the Timeline and the Properties Panel – all you have to do is click two separate buttons to open them. What I don’t understand is why you have to manually click and open these two essential things when you basically can’t do anything at all in Captivate without them. They should just be open by default.

One of the other big changes in the GUI is that you can no longer undock panels. Many Captivate developers use a two screen set up and dragged panels to their second screen for easy access. In Adobe Captivate 8 panels can no longer be dragged by default.

Expert mode to the rescue

Thankfully Adobe provided users with an option to at least let us drag some of the panels again and also use custom work spaces again. To enable this you need to open up Preferences in Captivate and select “Enable custom workspaces / panel undocking“. After you have enabled this you need to close down Adobe Captivate 8 and restart it again.


Now you will see an even “easier” screen that the default Captivate 8 GUI because the buttons to open the timeline, properties panel and library have disappeared. The next step is to go to the Window menu and enable all the panels you need. Most likely you’ll want the Timeline, Properties Panel, Timing Properties, Library and Effects so enable all of these one by one.

Now Captivate almost looks like the good old days and you have access to many of the same options as in Captivate 7 with just a single click. It’s not entirely like Captivate 7 though because the Properties Panel which was one single panel in Captivate 7 is divided into three separate tabs in Captivate 8, which cannot be undocked. Therefore you are forced to click with your mouse to switch between these tabs and access the properties hiding there.

Mouse click comparison Adobe Captivate 7 vs. Adobe Captivate 8

Let’s do a comparison between a single use case for Captivate 7 and Captivate 8. The task is to insert a button on the slide, place it at some pre-defined coordinates, set it to “Go to previous slide”, set it to “Display for rest of slide” and remove the pause point for the button. This must be done without using keyboard shortcuts.

Captivate 7: 

  • Click the Button icon in the left tool bar (1)
  • Select “On Success” drop down menu (2)
  • Select “Go to previous slide” (3)
  • Select “Display for” drop down box (4)
  • Select “Rest of slide” (5)
  • Remove tick in “Pause after” (6)
  • Select the X coordinate and enter your x value (7)
  • Select the Y coordinate and enter your y value (8)

A total of 8 mouse clicks in Captivate 7, which actually is quite high to begin with.

Captivate 8 (default mode):

  • Click the “Interactions” button in the top bar (1)
  • Click “Button” (2)
  • Click the “Properties” button to open the properties panel (3)
  • Click the “Actions” tab (4)
  • Select “On Success” drop down menu (5)
  • Select “Go to previous slide” (6)
  • Click the “Options” tab (7)
  • Select the X coordinate and enter your x value (8)
  • Select the Y coordinate and enter your y value (9)
  • Click the Timing tab (10)
  • Select “Display for” drop down box (11)
  • Select “Rest of slide” (12)
  • Remove tick in “Pause after” (13)

A total of 13 mouse clicks in Captivate 8 – a 62.5% increase from Captivate 7. If you are using the “Expert mode” you can remove the click to open the properties panel and get down to 12 clicks (50% increase).

What do you think?

As you probably can deduce I am not a big fan of the new Captivate 8 GUI. However I am interested in knowing what you think about it. Do you think that Captivate is easier to use now with the new GUI?

Use the stars below to cast your vote and drop a comment if you feel like it.


In my opinion the Adobe Captivate 8 GUI is a step back. Too many mouse clicks are needed to do simple tasks. It no longer looks like an Adobe application as the Captivate 8 GUI is significantly different from all other Adobe applications.

Let me see and hear what you think about it. Use the user ratings stars below to share your score and drop a comment on the site.

  • My view on the Captivate 8 GUI
  • User Ratings (9 Votes)


  1. I agree with you. When I first saw the new UI and gave it a spin, I hated it but thought, “Oh, it’s just change. With time it will be an improvement once I get used to it.” But that was mistaken. Honestly, looking back over the years, I’m not a fan of many of the UI changes that Adobe has done to their other apps either. For example, I still prefer to use Fireworks for image editing, and much prefer its UI over Photoshop’s.

    Captivate 8’s UI makes everything more tedious. I’m in the middle of a massive project, converting a boatload of old toolbook courses. Because of the unique (and somewhat goofy) requirements of this project, just about everything has to be done manually – every quiz question is custom-built using shared actions, etc. The navigation is all smartshape buttons. Even the remediation of quiz questions had to be built from scratch because Adobe’s UX/UI decisions is so horrible.

    And this lack of UX/UI design on their part is the reason that all of the dimwits that love Articulate so much have a point – any idiot can use Articulate to create nice-looking and mostly decently navigable content. Of course, if the requirements go beyond page-turners and/or a traditional LMS environment then those e-learning ‘developers’ are quickly up against a wall. Hence why, as much as Adobe annoys me, Captivate is still the best all-around option out there for professional use…that is until Edge Animate, or an open-source framework, or some other improved option presents itself.


    • Hi Mark,

      Thank you for the reply!

      I completely agree with your comment. The new UI definitely makes things more tedious in Captivate 8. So far we are sticking with Captivate 7 at work because if we switched to Captivate 8 now our production would be crippled.

      One of the things that I have been thinking about with the new Captivate 8 GUI is if we will actually see content being “dumbed” down now. If you are new to Captivate and start working with Captivate 8 it will be very difficult to find the more advances features now that everything is hidden away. The result could potentially be a poorer end product for the learner, which is a shame.


    • I can’t find the General tab under the Properties Panel. I am wanting to do slide transitions and can’t figure out how to accomplish this.

  2. I recently jumped from Captivate 7 to 9 (uses what looks like the same GUI as 8) and my frustrations are exactly what you describe here. I use shortcuts as much as I can but certainly still have to click around a lot more to complete some simple tasks. I’m feeling “left-out” as an experienced user. SAD FACE!

  3. I have LITERALLY been looking for THIS ANSWER about captivate 9 for over a week trying to figure out why I couldn’t save my workspace, why I couldn’t undock my items, where all my bloody panels were. Thank you for saving me and my team from further hair loss! You know how these software guys get. It’s not broke – we need to fix it so they will pay us. … uhhh…. NOOOOOO.

  4. I’m working on transitioning from Articulate to Captivate, so I’m not really familiar with the UI of older versions. That said, I can say with confidence that the UI for Captivate 9 sucks. The giant buttons, the weird pastel colors, the clumsy manipulation of panels. Ugh. Jump into the time machine, Adobe, and try again!

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