Adobe Captivate 2017 authoring tool review – It’s all about Fluid Boxes!

Having used Adobe Captivate since version 2, it’s been interesting seeing the way the tool has developed over the years. Traditionally when people talked about Captivate it was known as ‘the tool to use for systems training’ but now it’s being pushed much more towards a tool to create responsive courses with the latest release welcoming us to ‘the world of smart elearning’.

Captivate 2017 gets a major boost with Fluid Boxes and so much more

The last few versions of Adobe Captivate allowed you to create responsive, HTML5 courses where you could add breakpoints and see how your course would look on tablet landscape, mobile portrait and so on. However that’s all changed in the latest update to Captivate 9 with Fluid Boxes. Let’s take a look at this and some of the other new features in this latest version.

6 key features of Adobe Captivate 2017

  1. Fluid Boxes take responsive design to the next level

The big change to Captivate 2017 are Fluid Boxes. What are they you ask? It’s a quicker way of creating responsive courses in Captivate. Previously when you created a responsive project in Captivate, you could see the different breakpoints (Desktop/Tablet Portrait/Mobile Portrait) and could add the landscape views. Though a little clunky, I must admit I was getting quite used to and fond of using the breakpoints in Captivate 9.

However, that’s all changed! Now when you create a new responsive project, breakpoints have been replaced by Fluid Boxes, which allow you to draw responsive containers—it is then within these containers that you can add your content.

To do so, you click on the new Fluid Box button on the top toolbar and choose whether you want a horizontal or vertical Fluid Box, then add how many you want. Let’s do a hypothetical example where you add a column of three Fluid Boxes. You can adjust the positioning of these boxes—perhaps with the first and third box as narrower, so you can add in a title or navigation buttons, and with the middle box left as a larger container so you can add your main content.

You can also add in ‘child’ Fluid Boxes, which is great if you want to have an image on the right and some text on the left. There’s quite a few settings when you select one of the Fluid Boxes, so it takes some getting used to. However, I must admit I can see a lot of potential with this feature. You can change the flow, the wrap and what happens with the horizontal and vertical positioning. Wrap is one of the key things to check out: do you want your items in the boxes to ‘Wrap to next row’, ‘Squeeze in a row’, ‘One Row/Column’ or ‘Symmetrical’ when viewed at a lower size. I think you’ll need a bit of practise and testing here to get the result you want, but it’s well worth it and the freedom to design something that looks and acts so well is a clear win for UX.

A great example of this level of control is when you want to add a graphic. What happens when you view your course on mobile? The graphic could shrink down and wrap on the next row or you may set the page to wrap ‘Symmetrical’. It’s nice to work with as you can select the Fluid Box you want by clicking on it on the stage or under the properties it shows you a mini view

of all the Fluid Boxes on your page. One nice features I’ve also noticed is that you can also select items and make them optional, so you can mark less important objects as optional and they won’t appear on smaller views.  Initial impressions are that it’ll take a bit of playing around, but the property options with Fluid Boxes looks a great new feature. So far, call me impressed!

Want to preview how everything looks? Adobe Captivate provides a preview dropdown just above your stage so you can see instantly how it’ll look on an iPhone, for example, or iPad.

Preview the course and use the slider so you can move it back and forth to see how it adapts and responds to the different view screens. This functionality appears to be much quicker than creating a responsive course with breakpoints, and while I think breakpoints worked well, there was more work to setting these up on pages. Fluid Boxes look to be a much easier and quicker way to create your responsive training.

Also fear not! Remember the old days when you had a course and thought, ‘I wonder how that would work as a responsive course’ or had a client ask you to convert a course to be responsive? The great news is you can now save a non-responsive course to a responsive one! Once you’ve opened up a course created in a previous version (Cap 8/9) and chosen ‘File/Save as Responsive’, you’ll have an option under the properties for each slide to ‘Suggest Fluid Boxes’. This initially sounded too good, but to be fair, it does an okay job. With some tests I’ve done on a previous Captivate 9 course, I can see I’ll need to do some tweaking for sure.

However, something to be aware of: if you’ve previously created a responsive project in Captivate 9 you can upload it into Captivate 2017, but you can’t add Fluid Boxes to it or ‘convert’ it to a Captivate 2017 project where you can add Fluid Boxes. It’ll stay as a breakpoint responsive project. If you love breakpoints though or need to update a course using them, don’t worry! To use breakpoints just choose ‘Project’, and then select ‘Switch to Breakpoint Mode’ and voilà, you can carry on using them. So note that once you go to the breakpoint, you can’t change back to Fluid Boxes!

  1. Responsive text

    Text may resize to different sizes on some smaller views, there’s now an option under the ‘Slide Properties’ where you can select ‘Enable Uniform Text Scaling’ so everything scales down the same. If there’s a lot of text on smaller devices, users can now click an icon to view the rest full screen.

     

  2. Typekit integration

    Firstly, in case you don’t know, Adobe Typekit is essentially a site where you can use a lot of different fonts in your courses. Traditionally with HTML5 courses in Captivate, you would use ‘web safe’ fonts.

     

    Now there’s a new button where you can download a typekit font you want to use, and use that font in your course instead. You have a free account at Typekit with Adobe Captivate, so you can use up to a certain number of fonts in your courses—after that, it’s a yearly price.
  3. Visited states

    I love the way you can take any graphic or shape and turn it into a button. However there was never a visited state, just Normal/RollOver or Down. Now you can easily add visited states, which is a real bonus.
  4. Advanced actions

    I can’t express how happy I am about this! You can now create an action and have both standard and conditional actions within the same action. No more ‘if 1=1 then….’ workarounds! Also on the conditional action as well as on an ‘If’ condition, you can now have a ‘While’, which should be useful.

     

  5. Closed captions

    A lot of changes have happened to ‘Closed’ captions. Before you were limited in what you could add, with just one font allowed and a CC bar which was either at the bottom or top of your course, etc. Now you have a lot of text formatting options for your closed caption text. You can also change the positioning and size of the closed caption panel (could be different on lots of slides), which is really useful.

So what’s the verdict?

In all, very positive. Fluid Boxes looks great to use and I’ll continue to test the functionality on some of my previous projects and also creating some new courses which will be full of Fluid Boxes! It’s a bit frustrating that you can’t convert responsive courses that use breakpoints, but the old functionality is still there, so it’s not really an issue.  Another win is that I love being able to create actions that are both standard and conditional. Adobe are clearly pushing Captivate as a tool to create responsive learning rather than the systems training tool of yore.

As for any gripes with the latest update, I must admit it’s a big shame there hasn’t been any updates to the Interactions available within Captivate. For quite some time the interactions have been mostly the same and it’s been frustrating that you can’t combine actions with interactions. If I could quickly create a ‘Tabbed’ interaction, for example, and have an action so the ‘Next’ button appears once you click on the four tabs, I might start to use this feature more. But the functionality of these have always been quite poor, when they first appeared a few versions back I thought it’s the Captivate equivalent of Articulate’s Engage interactions but alas, no!

 
 
Leave us your comments...

Pierre Marshall | 28th September, 2017

Hello Paul, Love what you had to say about the new capabilities. My question to you is can an old user (Myself) easily transition from Captivate 4 to current version or do you recommend some additional training to get better familiar with it. Pete

Paul Johns | 3rd October, 2017

Hi Pierre. Thanks for the comment. I would personally have some training as the interface (Specially the top ribbon) has changed quite a lot from Captivate 4 and theres been some nice functionality added over the different versions. The states functionality in later versions of Captivate is an excellent addition and as mentioned above Fluid boxes is the big new feature of Captivate 2017. Theres quite a few good youtube videos out there and also Lynda.com do a couple of nice Cap 2017 courses. Any help you need please feel free to email me.

shane lord | 10th November, 2017

Thanks for the review. Any built in SME or client review tools in the new update? The entire world is working off site these days. Kind of tired of using 3rd party programs (that can't stay up with captivates updates) just to collaborate with project stakeholders online. Ive also been more expensive LMS's and they just are't designed to give slide by slide feedback options in any meaningful way. (not that they are meant for SME review adaptations. ) Any ideas? Thanks again Shane

Paul Johns | 15th November, 2017

Hi Shane I dont think there is from what I've seen, it seems pretty similar to Captivate 9, you can output your course for a 'shared review' but I must admit I haven't tried that as we normally just use our own LMS and QA system. Opening up this option seems to allow you to publish your course to your own internal server (a shared network folder) but obviously external users wont be able to access this so this wont be any good for you. Server based tools such as Coursebuilder or Claro are good in this regard as you can obviously just add comments 'live' to any slide you want. So I think Captivate isn't the best in this department I'm afraid and is one of the weaker features unfortunately.