Captivated by Captivate

Macromedia Captivate is a pretty sweet product. I was looking for something to use to create a Flash demo of an application we recently rolled out. I took at look at a free tool called Wink, Camtasia Studio from TechSmith (makers of the SnagIt screen capture software), and Macromedia’s Captivate, formerly known as RoboDemo.

For quickly creating Flash files based on screen activity, Wink is hard to beat, especially for the price (free). Camtasia had a lot to offer but I had read some complaints about crashes and I figured Macromedia’s support for Flash would be more robust. So, I downloaded the 30-day trial from Macromedia’s site and went to work.

What an excellent tool! Creating demos and tutorials is as easy as creating a PowerPoint presentation. Most users will be able to jump right in without cracking open the doc. The nice thing is that it also has the capability to add quizzes and it can report test results to an LMS. So, not only will I be able to use it for demos and tutorials but I’ll be able to create some CBT’s as well.

For the demo, a colleague and I first whiteboarded the entire thing and scripted the application demo segments. Then, she created PowerPoint slides while I captured the app demo. I then imported her PowerPoint file into Captivate, wrapping her slides around the app demo segments. We briefly considered adding a soundtrack but we decided it wouldn’t work well with the interactivity we needed to include. We spent some time fiddling with the transitions, adjusting mouse paths, and adding some branching (so viewers could optionally skip certain segments). Nothing at all in the neighborhood of technical. We wound up with an extremely polished Flash file that can be distributed via CD, standalone executable, web site, or email.

At $500 the tool is the most expensive option of the three I looked at but it seemed well worth it.