Adobe Captivate 5 review

Price when reviewed

Once upon a time Captivate was a simple utility called RoboDemo, designed to record onscreen activity for insertion into help files. Now, under Adobe the program is being turned into an all-singing all-dancing solution for internet-based training, and has become the centre of the new eLearning Suite.

To fill this new central role, Captivate 5 has to look and act the part, and the most fundamental change in this latest release is a complete overhaul of the interface. The former old-fashioned, idiosyncratic and slightly amateurish environment has gone, to be replaced by a typical Adobe CS5 interface, complete with slate gray look-and-feel, dockable panels and customisable workspaces.

The biggest practical advances are support for multiple open documents and the introduction of a central Properties panel where all slide and slide element parameters are now managed. The new environment is more intimidating than before, but it’s more professional and efficient once you get used to it.

Capturing onscreen activity is no longer Captivate’s only focus, but it remains a core capability. By default, it captures screen activity as static slides with overlaid animations to recreate cursor movements and text entry.

Adobe Captivate 5 interface

This approach enables Captivate to offer a number of benefits such as smaller bandwidth requirements, automatic caption generation and greater editability, but it also leads to greater complexity and doesn’t work well for capturing all screen activity. There’s a lot to be said for TechSmith Camtasia’s simpler full-screen, full-motion capture especially when allied with its retrospective pan-and-zoom capability.

In the past one of the main problems with Captivate’s multi-slide approach was that you couldn’t import video and have it span several slides. Now Captivate 5 defaults to distributing imported video over multiple slides and you can then use the new Edit Video Timing dialog to synchronize your footage between them. It’s a major step forward but ends up highlighting the lack of similar span-and-sync support for audio.

Nowadays Captivate has moved beyond producing simple screen demos and is expected to act as a complete authoring application in its own right. To fill this new role Captivate 5 moves into PowerPoint territory and dramatically boosts its design capabilities. Key to this is 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.


Software subcategory Other software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no

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