Thoughts on Adobe Captivate 6 (as reviewed by R.J. Jacquez)

For those of you who don’t know R.J., he used to be a product evangelist for Adobe before he got caught up in downsizing or restructuring or whatever they’re calling it. His webinars and blog posts helped me out a lot as I was learning Adobe TCS2 and trying to figure out new ways to use it (here’s looking at you, FrameMaker to RoboHelp conversion process). He’s still a great follow on Twitter (@rjacquez) or anywhere else, including his M-Learning Revolution Blog.

When it comes to tools and software, I love an analytical test drive review. Technical communication software is pricey, and most of us have to make business cases to someone way above us on the corporate ladder if we want to convert or even upgrade. While I can review features and test drive for myself, it really helps if someone else tackles it and shares their findings. It’s even more useful if I know that individual has a strong background in the product and the specific work flows I’m interested in. So when I saw R.J.’s review come across my phone via Twitter, I read the whole thing right there in the Home Depot line (yes, it was that long of a line).

It’s a very thorough review (despite its “first impressions” label), but here’s the parts that grabbed me:

One thing that always frustrated me working on Captivate at Adobe was that we were always very “reactionary,” for the most part features were added just to make sure we looked good when reviewers compared us to other products, it was that need for a feature in order to get that coveted check-mark when put side-by-side against one of our competitors.

That’s exactly what I can’t afford when I’m building that business case. Check marks that don’t actually deliver will come back to bite me. I might get away with one of those, but two or three will waste my political capital and torpedo my credibility.

What about creating unique mobile experiences, that are radically different from their desktop counterparts and that delight mobile users?

My initial tests of the new Publish to HTML5 were so bad that I doubt any company out there, that is serious about delivering a powerful mobile experience to their Learners would even consider this functionality a viable mLearning solution. And I’m not even referring to all the features that are unable to make it across to HTML5 (see question types not supported below).

There goes another selling point. I’m creating content for government systems, but even they are finally showing up to the mobile learning party. If I’m going to get my upgrade funded, I need best-in-class capabilities for next generation outputs. Otherwise, I might as well stick to my standard .SWF delivery.

There’s a lot more about specific features and capabilities, but you really should check it out yourself – either before or after you test drive Captivate 6 for yourself. Not long after I read it, I quickly retweeted the URL with the word “Scathing” in front of it. That wasn’t the right word. It made it sound like the review itself had an aggressive, vindictive tone, and that simply wasn’t true. It was gentle, thoughtful, and empathetic. Scathing was more about what I was thinking as I read between the lines. Think of it this way: if a key member of President Obama’s team (maybe Rahm Emmanuel or David Axelrod) writes a tactful, respectful book that nonetheless exposes some real problems, I’m going to read between the lines and think there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark. When a former member of the Captivate product team blogs about deficiencies in the product and makes some thoughtful observations about the cause and effect, I’m going to give it a bit more weight than a review written by Tina the Tech Writer. I’ve spent my entire career in software development and the first half was as a business analyst on a product management team. Some of the cause and effect stuff would really freak me out if I was part of that team or if I was really counting on Captivate 6.

I can’t imagine ever leaving FrameMaker in the dust given my current deliverables, but the two quotes I’m going to close with scare me pretty badly when I think about committing to future versions of Captivate (which by the way already has one of the steeper learning curves in the game). Especially when I consider the knee-jerk reactive approach R.J. describes (a common but dangerous product management quagmire) and that Articulate is leaving them in the dust on features and UX.

to me the product feels half-baked, almost rushed (perhaps just in time for mLearnCon?), some of the new features feel disjointed and out of place and if you want my honest opinion, it feels like in the middle of development, the team changed directions most likely because Articulate launched Storyline.

Yes, he’s guessing. Yes, he’s disappointed. But this doesn’t feel like sour grapes to me. It feels like a pretty accurate guess.

It’s not even this particular version that disappoints me; it’s the overall lack of vision that Adobe has clearly shown in this release. There’s nothing in there that addresses real solutions for today’s trending topics, such as Cloud computing, Mobile Learning, Responsive Design, Adaptive publishing, Mobile Apps, etc.

How about you? I’m going to test drive it myself when I get some time to breathe, and I’d love to hear what Technical Writing World thinks.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *