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Adobe Captivate 5 Review

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Adobe Captivate 5 Review

Adobe Captivate 5 Review

This is no ordinary update for Adobe Captivate. This is a total re-write. Adobe has kept the best features of Captivate 4 and made them easier to use whilst adding new features and assets everywhere.

That’s not to say that Captivate 5 is the all singing all dancing application.

What is Adobe Captivate 5?

The Adobe Captivate 5 software runs on Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. It is an application for authoring interactive software demonstrations, software simulations, branched scenarios, linier and randomized quizzes and more. Output is primarily in SWF format but output to other formats, including PDF and AVI is available.

  • Mac users should be pleased as Captivate 5 and eLearning Suite 2 are now both available, the first major eLearning industry authoring packages to support the Apple Mac OS.

The AVI output is ideal for those uploading screen capture or screen recorder demos to video hosting websites such as YouTube, Vimeo and TubeMogul. Captivate can also be used for screencasts, podcasts, and the conversion of Microsoft PowerPoint presentations to the Adobe Flash format.

The PDF output is ideal for those wishing to distribute their work as ebooks, ezines, etc. in a secure format. If you’re working in education then the new capabilities will make distributing your educational simulations, tutorial, tests etc. so much easier.

Adobe Captivate 5 is available separately or as part of Adobe eLearning Suite. The advantage of being part of the Adobe system is the availability of free Captivate tutorials, screencasts and the availability of Adobe online TV.

Video – Adobe Captivate 5 for New Users

The New Captivate Source

Unlike previous versions of Captivate which were derivatives of Captivate 2 and included some of the technological limitations of that version, Captivate 5 has been written from scratch. Adobe decided the way forward was to integrate Captivate 5 with the rest of the Adobe software family hence the complete overhaul and rewrite.

  • An unprecedented opportunity to modernize every aspect of the tool.

An excellent decision in my opinion, especially the dockable panels and customisable workspaces. The new environment is more professional and more efficient once you get used to it.

Windows or Mac OS

For the first time you can develop lessons and simulations in Windows or in Mac OS X. The product works the same on both platforms using the same files.

Multiple Captivate Sessions

You can now open multiple Captivate sessions and open multiple Captivate files at the same time. This makes copying and pasting assets from one file to another much faster

Multiple Workspaces

Another new feature is workspaces. In workspaces you can determine multiple screen layouts and save each one as a separate named workspace. This means you can create multiple simulation files at the same time, i.e. Demonstration, Training, Assessment, and all will open in Captivate when you have finished recording the simulation. A great timesaver.

New Graphical Interface

The new features include a new Graphical User Interface (GUI) so bringing Captivate in line with other Adobe CS family products. This provides a more user friendly look and feel and an easier learning curve, especially for those already using Adobe products.

The application also has:

  • built-in animation effects,
  • extended Microsoft PowerPoint support,
  • extended video embedding and control,
  • master slides and object styles.

Developers can also publish their content at and use it as a quasi-Learning management system.

Adobe Product Integration

Integration with other Adobe products is now a reality. Captivate will now link directly to Soundbooth CS5 (part of the eLearning Suite) from Captivate’s audio editor for more advanced audio needs. Edit the sound in Soundbooth, save it; return to Captivate and the new audio file will be imported automatically.

You can also use Captivate from within Flash to record simulations and import them directly into your Flash file.

Audio, Video, Properties and Actions

Properties. Would you like to see the elimination of Captivate’s dialog boxes, good, because they’ve gone. You now have property panels that update instantly to reflect the properties of the object clicked. This is a huge step forward which allows you to both see and make changes more rapidly to your project.

Adobe Captivate 5 Property Panels

Audio. Attaching audio is now much easier because you can access the audio properties immediately using its panel, plus, you can now add closed captioning directly in the audio properties for any audio selection.

Video. You can now import using several video formats, including FLV, F4V, AVI, MOV, MP4 and 3GP with automatic conversion using the Adobe Media Encoder. Previously you had to convert movies with another application before importing to Captivate.

An especially important new feature is the ability to divide a video over several slides. This was impossible previously. The Video Timing feature is brand new and allows you to accurately time events to video frames. This feature also allows you to preview the video on the current slide, also impossible in earlier versions.

Adobe Captivate 5 Video Timing

The new video management tool lets you see all the videos and manage them all in one place, much like the audio management and advanced interaction tools.

PowerPoint Territory

As an authoring tool, Captivate has moved into PowerPoint territory and dramatically boosts its design capabilities with the new ability to set up master slides, consistent background content that can be automatically applied across a presentation and then easily edited and updated.

Captivate’s PowerPoint import capability has the ability to import interactive elements and audio from PowerPoint slides. Also, by using the link option, you can make changes to the PowerPoint slides in either PowerPoint or Captivate and have the changes reflected in both applications.

Animation and Special Effect

Captivate 5 provides many different types of special effects and animations which you can mix and match and play back in the order and overlap you indicate. Have objects fly in from the bottom with a rippling water effect and then fade and become translucent. Easy.

With Flash you can export the Motion XML file and use it in Captivate to extend Captivate’s capabilities.

All Singing All Dancing eLearning Suite

Captivate has moved on from the simple days of recording onscreen activity for insertion into help files. Now it has turned into an all singing, all dancing solution for internet-based training and has become the centre of Adobe’s new eLearning Suite.

  • Capturing onscreen activity remains as Captivates core capability.
  • Software for developing training simulations.

Capturing screen activity as static slides with overlaid animations to recreate cursor movements and text entry has the benefits of requiring much smaller bandwidth requirements, enabling automatic caption generation with greater flexibility. It does have its problems still, it can lead to greater complexity (but you also get the versatility) and you have to work with the system more closely when capturing screen activity.

  • TechSmith Camtasia’s simpler full-screen, full-motion capture does have advantages over Captivate in this respect.

Previous versions of Captivate could not import video and have it span several slides. Now Captivate 5 defaults to distributing imported video over multiple slides and you can use the new Edit Video Timing dialog to synchronize your footage. This is a major step forward and will be welcomed by a lot of Captivate users.

So What’s the Bad News

I realise nothing is perfect, but these are my current gripes;

  • There is no macro or scripting ability, for repetitive tasks this would be a most welcome addition.
  • For those new (and not so new) a set of wizards (similar to those used by Microsoft’s Office suite) would be welcomed. This addition could make the application far more usable, especially for those who are new to Captivate or only user the software occasionally.
  • There is no drag and drop question type or interaction. Everyone uses drag and drop now, so why is this facility not available?
  • Full screen, full motion capture is still not perfect and could do with improving. Either a speed increase is needed or an onscreen warning to say Captivate has fallen behind the action is required.

My Verdict

Captivate has moved beyond producing simple screen capture demos and is a complete authoring application in its own right. This is no lightweight update.

This major rewrite of the code and GUI redesign plus the interface overhaul of the master pages, object styles and new animation effects see Adobe Captivate move up to the next level. It’s still not perfect (but what is?). The output formats such as AVI and MPEG need implementing/improving but if you’re serious about producing interactive tutorials and screen capture tutorials, especially if you need to integrate with other Adobe products, then Captivate 5 should be ideal. is hosted on JustHost

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