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Review: Adobe Captivate and TechSmith Camtasia Studio

On the bottom of the Timeline is Slide 2, or the actual captured Squeeze screen. Above that is the Rollover Area, a feature that lets you duplicate all tool tips contained in the original screen. In Figure 2, for example, Captivate shows the tool tip Squeeze displays when a mouse hovers over the My Recent Documents icon in the File Open screen ("Shows recently opened files and folders"). Of course, this would only display when the user hovers over the button to simulate normal program operation. As with all captured text, you can customize the text font, size, color, and other attributes during editing.

Figure 2 (below): The timeline above the slide illustrates the range of content that Captivate can capture.

Figure 2

Above that is the Highlight box, or the translucent box Captivate places over the file Final_dv.avi on the bottom right, which tells the user where to click. This box is also customizable in size and appearance. Above that is the Text caption, "Select the Final_dv.avi item," which tells the viewer what to do to load the file. Next is the Click box, which lets you force the viewer to click before proceeding, converting the viewer from passive to active, with all the benefits in attention and retention. As shown in Figure 3, you can collect and report data regarding the viewer’s responses, sending the information back to a SCORM-compliant learning management system (LMS).

Figure 3 (below): Captivate lets you test user performance during the simulation for tracking in a SCORM-compliant LMS.

Figure 3

Back in Figure 2, the top timeline entry contains the mouse movement, which, as you can see, is vector-based. This means there are no shakes or indecision in the motion from click to click, and if you delete or rearrange slides from a presentation, Captivate will edit the start and end points of your mouse movements to smooth out the deletion. However, it also means that if you circle an item with your cursor, say to highlight an interface element, Captivate doesn’t capture it. To a degree, you can make up for this by clicking the interface to tell Captivate to remember the mouse motion, but this doesn’t capture all mouse movements, a potentially significant deficit. For example, when giving a high-level tour of a program interface, say identifying and describing the function of the main windows, you’ll have to work harder to capture the mouse movements that support your narration.

On the other hand, when compared to Camtasia, Captivate captures much more text and interactive elements. To these, you can also add Text Entry boxes, clickable buttons, animations and text animations. Once you add an element to the timeline, you can lengthen, shorten, and reposition it at will, enabling extreme precision, but count on spending lots of time tinkering with the automatically captured elements to get their timing right.

To simplify the various types of projects, Captivate offers three customizable capture presets for demonstrations, assessment simulations, and training simulations, which capture different elements. For example, if you choose an assessment simulation, Captivate won’t capture mouse movements that highlight boxes or text captions that would tell the user what to do. In a software demonstration, Captivate doesn’t capture Click boxes, since it assumes that the viewer is passive.

Interestingly, what you don’t see in Figure 2 is audio. That’s because on all three tested computers (two Dells and an HP workstation), Captivate couldn’t capture audio along with the screen capture, a problem that Camtasia did not share. All three computers used integrated SoundMAX Integrated Digital Audio on the motherboard, which probably was the problem, but a quick check of the Macromedia user board indicated that other users, with other hardware, had been reporting similar problems since June 2005.

We worked around the problem by adding audio after capture. You can add audio slide by slide, which is tedious, or add one background audio file with little synchronization with the slides. Or, you can manually synchronize one long audio file with multiple files. Overall, except for the fact that we couldn’t capture audio with the screen capture, we liked Captivate’s audio-related toolset much better than Camtasia’s.

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