In a stunning and welcome move, Adobe is announcing today a major update to their Adobe Captivate software. Captivate has been used by trainers and educators around the world for authoring online courses for more than a decade. In that time it has clearly become the industry leading tool for online course authoring (according to several eLearning Guild annual reports.) Mobile phones and tablets are quickly becoming the most common way to access the Internet and the Captivate team has reacted to this change in the behavior of learners by creating an intuitive, powerful and ground-breaking authoring tool that takes virtually all of the work out of creating responsive courses online.
A responsive course is an online class module that will reshape and resize itself dynamically to fit on virtually any screen. Let’s face it, there is a huge difference between looking at a course on a web page in a laptop browser and looking at the same course on a tiny mobile phone screen.
Adobe Captivate is the first responsive design tool for interactive application development. Captivate will allow developers to create multi-page, multi-chapter, multi-display resolution courses from a single, intuitive interface. By using page breaks, similar to other responsive design tools, Captivate provides a familiar interface for letting authors influence and tweak the design of content as it is displayed for Desktop, Tablet, and Mobile phone displays. Adobe Captivate adds the dimensions of interactivity and time as authors can easily include both custom and built in learning interactions.
Using Adobe Captivate’s responsive design tools you can author as you always have. Captivate includes themes and layouts that help ensure your content will always be ready for other display devices. Once you’ve created the content in the Desktop view, the theme will dynamically rearrange the other views (tablet and phone) will rearrange itself to fit these new devices.
The new captivate even includes new in-product previews and support for Adobe Edge Inspect, which will allow you to author and preview right on your mobile devices, without publishing to a server.
What’s new in Adobe Captivate 8?
The major new feature in Adobe Captivate is responsive design for mobile devices. That alone would be a huge advance in the world of eLearning authoring tools, but Adobe has pushed mLearning even further with support for device specific capabilities. Now you can give your users native support for natural gestures – enabling things like pinch and zoom, click to view the table of contents, and swipe to navigate to next and previous pages.
Adobe blended these powerful new tricks with support for location based learning by giving course authors a simple tool to detect the global position (GPS) of a given learner’s device and deliver the most appropriate content, at the best possible time, to the person learning in a specific location – which can be learned thanks to GPS / location based learning. Combined, all of these mobile learning enhancements are staggering – as they give developers the first ever opportunity to create authentic mobile learning content and courses without any need for programming. With Adobe Captivate 8, a mobile first approach to mLearning is now not only possible, it is practical.
- Responsive Design: Leverage themes to instantly create versions of your course that display perfectly on virtually any mobile device.
- Gesture Support: Enable support for common gestures, like pinch & zoom and swipe to navigate.
- Location Based Learning: Create Location Based learning by leveraging the GPS on your learners devices.
- Responsive Screen Capture: Instantly create adaptive responsive projects that zoom to highlight the right sections of your screen and automatically produce multiple versions for multiple devices.
So let’s get into the weeds. How does this new responsive design work and what kinds of new features have been created in order to work with responsive layouts?
If you’ve been building eLearning for any length of time you’ll be familiar with the idea that we can control the on-screen position of images, text and interactions by choosing that position – with a reference to the number of pixels the item is to the right of and below the upper left corner of the screen. But responsive projects change their layout dynamically – even sometimes change them on the fly as people resize a browser. Because of this, responsive projects have different ways to describe where something is on the screen. A typical example of this is that if something is in the middle, you might instruct the item in responsive design to set the horizontal position of the item to 50%. This would cause the item to display at about halfway – regardless of which device you were using to view the course.
By itself, that would be an easy new idea to master. Unfortunately, tablets and phones and desktops aren’t just different size variations of the same rectangle. They are all three different screen ratios (meaning that the width and height of each screen rectangle is different – they aren’t boxes that could just be scaled – they are different shape boxes.)
On top of that, sometimes the boxes are horizontal, and sometimes the boxes are vertical. In short this means that you cannot simply shrink or grow the course to fit different devices, you need to create variations that fit different box types and orientations. For this reason there are several different ways to describe the position of objects on the screen.
There is actually a little chart, right inside the position tab that is intended to give you immediate access to the types of position settings.
In addition to these options while setting the position of objects, you also will find a new tool called smart positioning. While often it is useful to set the position of an object relative to the upper left hand corner of the screen, when you want to cluster items together – or show fixed relationships between items it can be very helpful to associate an item with a nearby neighbor. The smart position option allows you to toggle on and off the visibility of the position reference item. With smart position toggled on, you can drag the markers to nearby objects and screen edges in order to force clusters of objects to maintain their position relative to other visible items.
Device Aware eLearning Delivery
Adobe Captivate 8 delivers the right version of the course automatically. It doesn’t matter if your learners are using your courses on desktops or mobile devices, Captivate will take care of the content delivery and report to your Learning Management solution – even if the learner changes from one device to another while working their way through a course. You can also use Captivate’s new cpInfoMobileOS variable to learn which Operating system a learner is using – making it possible to change the course content based on the current device.
Native HTML5 and HTML5 Animation support
Web objects have gone native in Adobe Captivate 8. Just drop in HTML5 animations using Adobe Edge Animate to build / export them and Captivate 8 to import and deliver them. You can also use the native web object insert to add any web content – via an embedded web browser to any eLearning project.
If you’ve done much video screen capture work, you’ve probably felt the rush of irritation as an email, or other popup appeared over your capture screen and you realized that it had ruined your application capture. Now Adobe Captivate can leverage some Adobe magic to repaint and replace the area of the screen covered by that annoying popup.
Simple, Easy to Learn User Interface
If you’ve used Adobe Captivate before you might find yourself gasping when you see the simplicity and ease of the new user interface. The change to the interface is substantial in Captivate 8. Adobe has not ‘dumbed-down’ the user experience; they have streamlined the interface and workflow for authors using Adobe Captivate 8. The authoring tool manages to be both easier to learn and more powerful than ever before.
Experienced Captivate users should plan on spending a few hours acclimating to the new user interface, but no functionality has been removed, menus have simply been reorganized to ease the learning and adoption curve for new authors.
Any discussion of user interface must include the obligatory screen shots. Have a look for yourself – you’ll note as I did that you can easily find the tools for inserting various slide types, and that interactive media is separated from static on screen elements.
It took me just a few minutes to acclimate myself to this new interface. Adobe has also made it possible for developers to restore much of the classic look and feel of former versions of Captivate if they prefer to work with the docking interface. (You’ll find it under Preferences: Enable custom Docking.
One of the most significant additions to the user experience is the addition of in-product tutorials. Now you can get training right inside of Captivate – just click the little TV screen on the upper right hand side of the start screen to discover sample projects and video tutorials on the latest features and workflows in Adobe Captivate.
It’s very easy to get started creating your first project with Adobe Captivate 8. Now you can just pick from the simple six project types found under the new option on the startup screen. Responsive projects are those that have different display types for desktop and mobile devices. You can also create a new blank project, a new interactive application simulation, new video demo or PowerPoint based project from the startup screen.
Checkout Dr. Jaisingh’s wonderful overview of the new user interface here.
New Out-Of-The-Box assets
Adobe Captivate 8 comes with a bunch of new themes, awesome new characters and new smart learning interactions. An added benefit is the option to import high resolution versions of the characters. This release also offers substantially better control over the color of your projects – via the addition of theme colors. You can create and use a set of theme colors to alter the look and feel of theme content and backgrounds, and can even apply those theme colors automatically to your smart learning interactions.
For the other new exciting features and enhancements in Adobe Captivate 8, check out the video tutorials on Adobe Captivate 8.
Summing it up
Simply put, this is the single most significant release of Adobe Captivate in a decade. It is easy to learn and a breeze to use. It provides simple support for publishing to mobile devices and continues to support traditional desktop / laptop computers. It comes with a huge library of free goodies, including loads of new drop in characters and cool smart learning interactions – giving you a way to author slick animated interactions by simply adding content. With enhancements to virtually every aspect of the authoring experience, ground breaking support for mobile publishing and an unprecedented combination of ease of use and eLearning power, Adobe Captivate 8 is a must have for anyone who wants to create training or educational content. Try it today!