Here are my first impressions of Captivate 3’s improvements and new features.

This is part one of a multi-part journal entry.

Importing PowerPoint presentations

Disclaimer: I have never recommended nor will I ever recommend using PowerPoint presentations as online courseware. It’s a bad idea, whether it’s been converted to Captivate or not.

Having said that, Captivate 3 represents a substantial improvement over Captivate 2 when importing PowerPoint (PPT) presentations. In Captivate 2, PPT animations were lost during the conversion, and Captivate 2 didn’t automatically add pauses (‘wait for mouse click’ behavior) in each slide. This meant that every slide became a still screenshot, and the converted presentation would automatically go from slide to slide in a matter of seconds. Users had to add their own navigational aids or use the Captivate playback controls.

Captivate 3, on the other hand, converts PPT animations to SWF format, enabling users to retain most of their PPT animation. I haven’t pushed the boundaries when testing this feature, but for general zoom, resize, and fade-style animations, the SWF version was identical to the PPT version.

One important thing to note about imported PPT presentations: Captivate 3 does NOT import clickable items. For one of my tests, I imported a large PowerPoint presentation that contained clickable items on each page. In this case, the clickable items were all homemade navigation aids, such as next, previous, and menu. Captivate stripped the links from all clickable items and rendered them as non-clickable drawings. Clicking anywhere on the screen — even on what used to be a ‘back’ button — simply caused the Captivate movie to go forward one slide.

Slide Transitions

In Captivate 1 and 2, users only had three slide transitions to choose from: fade in, fade out, and fade between. Captivate 3 has swiped emulated PowerPoint’s array of transition types, including blinds, fly, iris, photo, pixel dissolve, rotate, squeeze, wipe and zoom.

In the name of all designers who create items of taste, I implore you to ignore these new transitions unless they make sense for your particular needs. For most cases, I say less is better. There are some exceptions; for instance, if you’re recreating scenes from Star Wars and want that famous wipe transition between scenes, go for it! Or the iris transition for a James Bond-themed Captivate movie. Otherwise, most of these transitions are intended to appeal to the PowerPoint crowd, and are best left alone.

I’m not a Mac evangelist by any means (I use Windows XP), but if you want to see some very tasteful transitions, check out a demo of Keynote sometime. It’s enough to make me want to buy a MacBook Pro.

Why Adobe chose to emulate the worst-of-class PowerPoint transitions and ignore the best-of-class Keynote transitions — which are perfectly suited for a SWF — is beyond me.

Stronger Captivate branding

It seems Adobe is trying a little harder to spread the Captivate brand name around. The default playback controller now includes an “Adobe Captivate” stamp. This is only on the default skin, so you can easily choose another skin if you don’t like giving Adobe free advertising.

Adobe has also added a new Adobe-branded preloader graphic. The previous default was a small circle spinning around. The new default is a progress bar with the text “Adobe Captivate” placed in bold right above the bar. Again, free advertising for Adobe if you don’t want to change the defaults. If you don’t like the Adobe branding, you can choose a different preloader graphic, just like Captivate 2.

While I’m not crazy about this branding being set as the default, I also acknowledge that Adobe’s competitors have been doing it for years, and many of them won’t give you an easy way to remove their logos (hello, TechSmith). So long as Adobe keeps the branding optional, I’m ok with it.

Up next

In part two, I’ll take a look at the new Question Pool feature, as well as the LMS export options.

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