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May 2012

Articulate Storyline review

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Shaping the future of learning

Storyline is the new tool from Articulate, the company that brought you (and us) Articulate Studio ’09 – which bundles Presenter ’09, Quizmaker ’09, and Engage ’09. These are tools that many of our clients use every day.

So: Storyline. What is it? First, it’s not a replacement for Articulate Studio. It’s a totally different product. They have re-thought the whole concept. It’s a whole new scene (that’s a bad pun that will make sense in a few paragraphs). If like many elearning designers, you think visually when approaching a design challenge you are going to like this a lot. It also delivers content direct to Desktops and iPads without any republishing; just download the Articulate app.

There are plenty of reasons to feel happy about Storyline, but most importantly there are very few, if any, to feel unhappy about. We know because we’ve made something in it already.

Read on for our review.

So what does Storyline do?

Storyline is a standalone application, rather than something that works within PowerPoint (like Presenter). But don’t think you’ve got to learn a big complex new tool. There’s not much to the learning curve, and the advantages are vast. You can get up and running with Storyline very quickly. You can also take it a lot further through custom development.

Storyline can use interactions and quizzes from Articulate Engage and Quizmaker respectively, and also PowerPoint presentations, so any content that you have already developed with Articulate Studio’09 will be useable in Storyline. But then it goes much further.

Here’s the scene

Slides are organised in scenes, which are presented in a diagrammatic way, providing the visual experience we mentioned at the start of this review, and allowing complex branching to be displayed without giving any node-related headaches. Visual branching isn’t a new concept – but seeing it like this makes it really easy to use.
Once you get to a slide, which can take up to two clicks, you get most of the familiar controls you find in PowerPoint. You can add images, shapes, captions, video, Flash content, sound and web objects... all standard stuff. Let’s talk about the wow stuff.

Layers, Triggers and Zooms... oh my

For starters, slides can now have layers. Very much in a Photoshop style, in which you can place content on top of content and make it appear and disappear at will. Of course, to make that happen you need some help and that help comes in the shape of Triggers. A Trigger is the fundamental piece you’ll be using to create bespoke interactions with Storyline. In a nutshell, a Trigger will add behaviour to any object you apply it to. Thus, by clicking on an object, you can make a new layer appear and disappear. You can also trigger a jump to go to another slide or scene altogether. It takes about five minutes to start to see the branching possibilities of Storyline with the Triggers at your disposal.

The basic behaviours for the Triggers have been set for you and they’re as easy to apply as unfolding a drop-down and clicking on the right name. And yes, the nomenclature makes perfect sense. After that, a handy panel to the right of the screen allows you to select the Trigger and apply any modification without having to remake the whole thing again.

Dig deeper into Triggers and you’ll find you can even define your own variables and add JavaScript to them. So if you’re into that sort of thing (and quite a few down Kineo way are), there’s a huge amount you could achieve...

Amongst the new tools you’ll have access to, is the Zoom Region option. Handily enough, this does exactly what it says on the tin. It allows the user to zoom on a specified portion of the screen.

Screen recording – now in Articulate!?

Also very useful is the new Record Screen. Wonder what that does? Oh right. Records your screen. More than just recording your screen to an animation, it will also add captions at the right moments and, we are very glad to say, in the right way. So say that you need to record a form being filled in the right way every time you click on a field and fill it with words, a caption will appear and point out exactly what you’re doing. The results are .png images that can be edited externally, so if you need to erase sensitive information, or simply change something that wasn’t there before, you can.

A tool with character – in fact, lots of them

Something completely new and that will probably save many hours for a lot of people is the inclusion of characters. In this program you can insert an illustrated character into your project from the batch that comes with Storyline. You can choose the character, pose and expression; insert it anywhere you like, resize, crop it and change it for another one later on. Although the style might not always suit your needs, we expect there are going to be more characters added over time. Also, a library of photographs with a good selection of expressions and poses is included. I can see that being a more used, and more useful, feature than the illustrations, though they are not as flexible in terms of poses and expressions.

States of excitement

Another addition that will make a few of you salivate is the inclusion of states. You can apply a hover, down, visited, disabled, selected and drag state. The times when you couldn’t tell your users where to click by changing the colour or effect of an item are gone. Now it is as easy as choosing the element, assigning a state and applying the modifications you want. Worthy of note is that Storyline doesn’t limit you to the typical four states. If you need to, you can create new states that will react as you program them to.

Quizzes also deserve some mention. A great deal of customisation has been added to the quizzes, including making drag and drops in a heartbeat and, believe it or not, they work like a dream!

The way to create that is to turn any slide into a 'free form', which will allow you to choose what sort of quiz to make. Six basic free form questions have been added to Storyline so far, though we can easily see this as a feature that could be expanded in future releases.

Making it mobile

With Articulate Storyline, you can output to HTML5 and for iOS (as well as Flash, of course).

Support for publishing to HTML5 opens up the potential for accessing from mobile devices that support HTML5, though Articulate has been careful to list caveats as to how it will display and perform on various browsers – best to read the advice from Articulate on this here.

What if you have an iPad? You can also publish out to iPad and either view the HTML5 version via mobile Safari (if you want to track it) - or for a native iOs experience, use the Articulate Mobile player app (but you can’t track to SCORM if you do that).

So there are options and tradeoffs here and obviously early days in seeing how the mobile options play out.

We’ll watch to see how this evolves.



Shaping the future of learning

Kineo helps the world’s leading businesses improve performance through learning and technology. We’re proud of our reputation for being flexible and innovative, and of our award-winning work with clients across the world.

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