Adobe Captivate 3 review

£385
Price when reviewed

Captivate is Adobe’s Flash-based solution for computer-based training (CBT). Key to CBT is the ability to record screen-based demonstrations. Captivate automatically records all screen activity to an embedded SWF video format. You can now force such full-motion recording as well as set it to be automatically triggered by certain actions such as onscreen drag-and-drop and painting or drawing. However, Captivate is far more intelligent, recording activity as slide-based screenshots overlaid with mouse- and keyboard-based actions. This results in high-quality, lossless output and small, web-friendly downloads, as well as making everything far easier to edit.

Adobe Captivate 3 review

This proves particularly useful when adding narration to your demonstration, as you can easily change onscreen timings accordingly. When synchronising audio to video, Captivate 3 lets you record your narration while previewing just the current slide or the entire project. In addition, it supports line-in and system-based audio alongside the microphone. The end results are far more professional than you could hope for from less editable screen- and audio-recording approaches.

Captivate’s slide-based system makes it much easier to add instructional elements. In fact, it adds captions and highlight boxes as you record, so much of your work is done for you. Even better, because Flash is an interactive medium, rather than adding instructional elements Captivate can add end-user elements such as text entry and click boxes with hint and failure pop-ups, so you can easily create trial-run simulations and even assessments. With Captivate 3’s new multimode recording, you can even create a demonstration, simulation and assessment in a single session.

The software takes intelligent screen recording even further with its ability to simultaneously record your onscreen actions to a script file. This means you can simply run the script to re-record your presentation to automatically reflect any changes made in the user interface. Currently, the system works only for web-based demonstrations recorded in Internet Explorer 6, and you have to accept its inherent limitations – while you can edit the script to skip existing actions and to let you insert new ones, you’ll have to start again from scratch for major web application redesigns.

Captivate’s slide-based approach and Flash-based handling of interactivity come into their own when adding quiz elements to a presentation. When you select the Insert | Question Slide command, there are eight question types, including new drag-and-drop sequencing and hot-spot options. You can also shuffle multiple-choice answers and set up reusable pools from which questions are drawn randomly. Captivate 3’s handling of branching has also been enhanced, and the integration with Learning Management Systems for tracking end-user scores has been improved.

Captivate’s control over slide-based recordings and quizzes is advanced, but the general handling of slide content and design has always been surprisingly poor, with obvious failings including the lack of outline and master-page views and built-in animation capabilities – apart from some cheesy text effects. You can’t even enter text directly onto the slide. Disappointingly, all these failings remain, but Captivate 3 does see two major advances in terms of end design. First, the range of slide transitions on offer has been boosted from version 2’s two measly fade effects to include wipes, squeezes, dissolves and so on. You can also add “slidelets” – mini-slides within slides that appear when the user moves the mouse over a hotspot. Slidelets can include text captions, images, SWF animations and even FLV video.

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