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Review: Adobe Captivate and TechSmith Camtasia Studio

Another issue is that you couldn’t force the user to partake in activities like drag and drop, a problem with Sorenson Squeeze, which uses drag and drop extensively. Using a Click Box, you could force the user to click Import File, and then Open, but you couldn’t force them to drag a template onto the target file for encoding. We worked around it with narration like "watch, as I drag the template onto the file," but the logical inconsistency of being unable to mandate some critical actions, and not others, felt frustrating. Oh well, more grist for the upgrade mill.

Camtasia
With Captivate’s automatic capture and interactive features in mind, let’s take a look at Camtasia. Since Camtasia captures all mouse and screen activities, it’s ideal for taking product tours, since mouse circles around interface elements and other features are captured. However, this does complicate editing. If you delete any portions from the middle of the video, mouse movements will appear out of alignment, if only for a frame or two.

While Camtasia doesn’t automatically capture elements like callouts, you can insert them manually, each on its own track, where they can be manipulated very simply (Figure 4). It’s easy to insert Flash Hot Spots—callouts with additional Flash properties—but you have to render your entire project to view their operation, which is a pain. With Contribute, you can preview a single frame, five frames, or the entire movie without actually rendering, which is much faster and more convenient.

Figure 4 (below): While you can’t capture callouts automatically in Camtasia, they’re very easy to add later.

Figure 4

While you can add quizzes to Camtasia, you can only ask questions; you can’t tie the results to correct and incorrect clicks in the screens themselves, as you can with Captivate. Overall, each program does equally well on annotation and caption functions, but if your projects involve simulations and assessments, Captivate is definitely the superior tool.

This is not to say that Camtasia doesn’t have its unique charms. One of the most useful is the ability to zoom in and out of configurable regions of the screen to enhance the visibility of the contents. Though we run most applications at 1280x1024 resolution or higher, distributing at this resolution creates a file that may be too large for easy downloading or streaming.

Cramming the entire 1280x1024 interface into an 800x600 window works well when you’re demonstrating large buttons and high-level operations. But it can obscure some details, especially those displayed in small fonts. With Camtasia’s zoom feature (Figure 5), you can capture at the higher resolution, then pan and zoom around the screen to make even the smallest fonts easily readable.

Figure 5 (below): The ability to pan and zoom around the captured video is one of Camtasia’s strongest features. Here, we’re zooming into Squeeze’s Format and Compression Settings.

Figure 5

Operationally, you set a keyframe on the pan-and-zoom track, choose the new display window, and whether the pan-and-zoom speed should be slow, fast, or instantaneous. With an unlimited number of keyframes available, you can pan and zoom around the captured video window as you wish. Captivate has nothing to match it.

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