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Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate 6 have both been on the eLearning rapid development tool market for the better part of a year now. And because both products are so strong, they’re forcing each other to up their game. That’s a win for everyone. Do you need both? Not necessarily. But both have strengths and weaknesses that have come to light since their release. And both are missing things that I think should be a given. So, as impressive as both products truly are, now that they’ve been out for a while, I thought this might be a good time to take another look, and also compile a wish list of some desirable features. Here’s hoping Articulate and Adobe are listening.
The first key area both companies need to address is the utter inequality in they way they treat developers who use Macs instead of Windows-based laptops. After 25 years on Windows, when my frustrating Vista laptop began failing in 2012, I decided to switch to a Mac despite the fact that I would need to spend some extra money and use a virtual environment software (I chose Parallels) to run any Windows-based software. It’s hugely disappointing to me that Articulate doesn’t yet offer a native Mac version of Storyline. I’m equally dismayed that while Adobe does offer a Mac version of its eLearning Suite (which includes Captivate), the Mac version doesn’t include Adobe Presenter! So if you’re a Mac user, Adobe is happy to charge you the same price as a Windows user and give you one program less for your money. I have a real problem with that. In fact, it so annoys me that I haven’t yet upgraded from Adobe’s eLearning Suite 2.5. Like most people, I vote with my wallet.
As to evolving functionality of the two products, here’s some background on my perspective: I participated in the initial Betas of both Storyline and Captivate 6. I did purchase Storyline, despite its steep $1500 price tag compared to Captivate’s list price of $900. I like Storyline that much. I was disappointed with some aspects of Captivate 6 in its Beta, most notably the uneven HTML5 output, and the continued absence of native drag and drop functionality. But I’ve kept tabs on Captivate’s reception and progress since the release of version 6 and will say more on that, shortly. Both companies offer a starting set of interactive templates, but don’t count on them all playing equally well in pure HTML5 output. Both supply a gallery of characters, but both need improvement. Storyline ships with a robust set of illustrated avatar characters in a broad range of poses. But there is only one photo set included; an Asian businesswoman. Speaking as a male voiceover artist, this is awfully limiting. For that hefty $1500 price tag, at the very least, a male character photo set should have been included, as well. And, additional photo sets are pricy. I’m also a professional actor, and I can pretty much guarantee that the actors were paid a modest flat sum to pose for these photo sets; the rest of the cost is mostly vendor markup. Captivate 6 ships with a good selection of photo characters, but in fewer poses, and it offers no illustrated avatar characters at all. And so it goes, back and forth between the two products.
Now, regarding updates since initial release: Storyline has addressed some issues and added some enhancements. Yet something as basic as offering more than one style of bullet point still doesn’t exist. Given the impressive creativity displayed by Articulate’s developers in creating Storyline, this seems very odd. And there are a few other lingering minor bugs, like occasional misbehavior of the “Undo” button. One important update Articulate released adds Tin Can protocol passback capability to their already very nice (and free) Mobile Player app. Adobe recently released an important update to Captivate, as well. It purports to enhance Captivate 6’s lackluster HTML5 performance and finally, finally adds native drag and drop functionality after years of leaving users to buy widgets from other vendors to fill that glaring gap. Excellent, flexible drag and drop functionality was present in Storyline when it launched. Adobe also just released an update for (ahem) Presenter. Cause for rejoicing, right? Not exactly. Adobe is making these updates available right now only to those who bought into their annual support plan (which an Adobe sales rep just told me is being phased out), or who pay for a monthly subscription to use the software. So if you paid full price but didn’t buy into the support plan, you’re out of luck until you upgrade to the next version of Captivate, whenever that comes out. Granted, Articulate has a similar approach, and they don’t offer a monthly pricing model yet. But in my opinion these particular Adobe updates are really just plugging existing, painful holes in their product. In my opinion, these features should have been in Captivate before version 6 was released, and all current license holders of the latest Captivate and eLearning Suite should receive these particular enhancements gratis.
In addition, when Adobe released the new version of the eLearning Suite, they didn’t make it available as part of their new, much-hyped Creative Cloud, even though there are clearly some Adobe Cloud applications that eLearning (and especially mobile learning) developers would want to leverage. When Adobe launched their Cloud, they offered existing Creative Suite 5 license holders a significantly discounted monthly rate to access the Cloud for the first 12 months. The eLearning Suite should be part of the Creative Cloud, and existing suite license holders should receive a similar pricing deal. If you agree with me, let your Adobe rep know! If social media has taught us anything, it has reminded us of the power of voices speaking up in unison to obtain fair treatment.
As to the future: So far, neither product has accomplished the holy grail of “responsive design,” i.e., automating the process of repurposing content for your choice of pc, tablet, or smartphone. That’s where we all need to be heading in the eLearning rapid development market. Adobe recently created Edge, a nifty tool for generating HTML5 animations, and now they have a set of related tools–including the in-development Edge Reflow, which offers responsive design. But currently the Edge toolset is on the Creative Cloud, so it’s anyone’s guess how long it will take before responsive design trickles down to the apparently earthbound eLearning Suite, and to Captivate in particular. That challenging but essential feature remains on my wish list from both companies, along with a standing request for more templates. And of course, I’m still waiting for some seriously overdue respect for us Mac users.
Impressive as both products are, here are my wish lists for enhancements:
Captivate (and Adobe in general)