April 20th, 2012 E-Learning

Adobe Captivate is a great tool with tons of functionality, but you should absolutely avoid this one feature at all costs, unless you enjoy massive headaches and loads of rework!

With so many learning tools out there, it is common to integrate a few of them for online learning. For example, in the past I have used Articulate and Adobe Captivate to create an elearning course on new processes and software. I find that presenting process flows and information in Articulate is loads easier than doing the same in Captivate. This is generally because of Articulate being a PowerPoint add-on, which allows for rapid development (and multiple developer integration) in a fairly seamless fashion.

Now I imagine that Adobe Captivate would prefer that developers ignore Articulate altogether and simply use their PowerPoint import function instead – and speaking from experience, this is quite possibly the worst feature in the entire suite of Captivate.

You see, when you import your PowerPoint, you essentially link the separate PowerPoint file to the Captivate file. If you update your PowerPoint, Captivate *should* update on its own… but that is usually never the case.

More often than not, you will find that the link is broken between the two. If you try to open PowerPoint within Captivate, you will encounter performance issues and other various bugs (i.e. all your slides going completely blank).

Worst of all, if you use this feature, you will encounter more severe glitches as your presentation gets larger. If you must import a PowerPoint, expect these issues to arise, especially if your presentation is more than 35 slides. I recall a few courses that had to be sent to Adobe helpdesk to be “recovered” because they experience a random fatal error.

Long story short, my team and I spent a lot of time patching up little glitches to the point where updating a spelling error in the course took nearly 15min. In the end, we switched all our eLearning over to Articulate (after completing the work in Captivate) because it was too difficult to transition to the client in its current state.

We didn’t do this because Articulate is the “better” tool (I actually prefer Captivate), but Captivate is not meant for PowerPoint, and this feature seemed like it was added hastily to “appease” the PowerPoint junkies out there.

Do yourself a favor, do not use the PowerPoint import function in Captivate, at least not in the current version available (v5.5 as I write).  Stick with Captivate for software/screen demonstrations, what it was initially designed to do.

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide. He is currently founder & CEO of GapScout. Justin's Homepage | GapScout | Twitter


29 responses

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The best thing you can do is just not develop in Powerpoint, period….

While I couldn’t agree with you more Larry, I can only assume that a majority of the readers are here, like me, because they have no choice. I would never do anything in powerpoint of my own volition, but when a client hands me a big complex powerpoint, guess what I have to do…

First, in my opinion and opinion of many others… Larry is wrong. I have seen some incredible and interactive learning come out of PowerPoint. PPT is a blank slate – what you do with it if your problem.

In regards to Justin’s post, I did an import the very first time I used Captivate. I hated it then, and I know Adobe has done nothing to make that import any better. Further, I’m not sure why anyone would even want to import a PPT doc into Captivate. That the feature exists and at such a low level, helps to further bad behavior that Larry has criticized.

Avatar JRA

I’d prefer if they simply remove the feature altogether, I’m sure they’d see a reduction in helpdesk calls 😉

Avatar Justin

The only advantage PPT sources for Captivate-based output provides is (theoretically) allowing the non-Captivate developer to update the content in a tool they know…then (theoretically) being able to bring those changes into Captivate by ‘Updating’ the link.

While we’ve not experienced the problem described here, that’s because we too largely use Articulate for PPT-based output…and for the same primary reason listed above.

If we do need to use PPTs as the source for Captivate, we just copy/paste the content in then enahnce it with Captivate features, interactivity, etc.

There’s nothing wrong with creating a storyboard with PPT – it’s an efficient tool for doing so…and then lends itself well to more rapid development with Captivate (via cut/paste). BUT, yes, I too would not recommend the PPT Import feature of Captivate at all. Maintaining that link between the two is asking for trouble…

Avatar Erik L.

What you bring up is correct … in theory, the ppt import function allows the training to pass through many hands since everyone has MS PPT to leverage. I believe the issue occurs in Captivate when the dynamic link is created b/w the course and the Captivate file.

To make matters worse, Captivate has this function where you can actually open PPT within Captivate, which besides being clunky, compromises the link with the source file… I am actually still trying to wrap my head around it haha…

As you point out, ppt is perfect for storyboards (I actually hate Word docs for storyboards)… and unless I’m using Articulate, that is the only other way PPT is involved with CBTs on my end!

Avatar Justin

Interesting thread Justin. I admit that I’m not a big fan of using PPT as a development environment because it is a bit limiting, but I understand and appreciate the use case. I think it’s also relevant to point out that Cp has a much more modern output format, and it’s PPT converter has been updated less than a year ago.

I hope you won’t mind if I correct your assertion that Adobe would prefer eLearning developers not work with other eLearning tools. Adobe has a long tradition of creating products that work well in different environments and that allow lots of integration with various authoring tools. Captivate has a long tradition of inter-operability with most eLearning software. It is only because some eLearning vendors haven’t yet updated their products to use modern Flash that it has become more difficult for developers to use their favorites interchangeably. I continue to hope we’ll see progress in this area, as I know the software that relies on older versions of Flash is increasingly problematic.

I also think you are right that Captivate has far more functionality than virtually any other eLearning tool. Users can create scenario based training, application training, self-guided eLearning, compliance training and a host of other solutions with Captivate’s broader and deeper features.

As for the PPT issues you describe above, I’ve actually not had most of the problems with PPT round-tripping. But that might be because I started launching PPT in the background before any round-tripping to avoid potential conflicts between Captivate and PowerPoint. (As I recall I was getting a crash on PPT slide edit if I didn’t do so.) You have to be sure that PowerPoint isn’t open to the source of the file you’re working with in Captivate of course. You can also unlink the source file inside Captivate. Just embed the PPT inside Captivate either when you import or change the mode afterward to unlinked.

I’d also encourage you to check in with the #AdobeCaptivate community on facebook. http://www.facebook.com/adobecaptivate/ – now with more than 30,000 members, we’ve got a pretty amazing group of community experts gathered to help with problems, identify potential issues and provide dynamic feedback. I think you’d esp. enjoy our Community Support and Special competitions sections.

Hi Allen, thank you for your comments on the post and providing some insight into Captivate. Also glad to hear that you haven’t had the same issues as I have with the import function, I’m envious!

It’s funny as most everyone I have spoken to regarding importing powerpoint into Captivate has the same reaction you do: “Not a fan”. It really makes me question the utility of the feature in the first place. Besides performance issues, I have also seen image/visual quality compromised when using this method… but maybe that’s just my experience.

While I am a major fan and user of Captivate, I have to clarify something in your comment as I don’t think I said the following:

I also think you are right that Captivate has far more functionality than virtually any other eLearning tool. Users can create scenario based training, application training, self-guided eLearning, compliance training and a host of other solutions with Captivate’s broader and deeper features.

It certainly does have a lot of great functionality but I can think of at least 3 other eLearning tools that effectively accomplish the list of features you mention above (and in some cases, for a better price point 😉 )… that said, the price point is worth the support forums alone – tons of great help and a wealth of knowledge.

Avatar Justin

I offer one possible explanation for the Powerpoint import feature – not so much appeasing the Powerpoint junkies as salvaging existing material. Certainly, that seemed to be the case for me in a contract job I had a couple of years ago.

This compliance training company had hundreds of Powerpoint slides, style and branded, for its classroom delivery. When the company decided to get involved in e-learning, I thought it expedient to import those Powerpoint slide shows into Captivate to get off to a running start.

It was, on reflection, false economy. I think I persisted with it only to make sure that I had given it a fair chance.

I can only equate the experience to trying to paint delicate flowers on your fingernails with masonry paint. It was a viscous, clunking, lumbering process that was quite unpleasant and a real threat to the flow of ideas.

Avatar James Durkan

The PowerPoint import function was an add on due to customer requests. Adobe never planned for that to be a part of the program when they designed the program. Having worked on a number of these, here’s my tips to make life easier when you need PowerPoint slides inside a Captivate project.

1. Captivate should be the LAST step in the development process. Get everything 100% in the PowerPoint before you even think about importing it into Captive. And treat the import like you would a PDF export. It’s a one-way trip for final export.

2. Don’t animate in Powerpoint. Do static slides ONLY! If you need bullets to appear independently, make a copy of the first slide, add the new bullet, then make a copy of that and add the next bullet. It sounds like tons of extra work, but this is actually a 15 minute process on a 20 slide Powerpoint. You end up with many more slides, but the static nature imports much smoother and without ANY errors, so there’s no need for repairs after the fact.

3. Remember the purpose of Captivate. It isn’t a slideshow, it’s a screen & system capture, demonstration, and training tool. Use PowerPoint to elevate a visual demonstration and add visually impacting text information, but not as the only content within a Captivate. If all you want is a set of slides and nothing else, it doesn’t really belong inside Captivate. Match the tool to the desired outcome.

4. If the PowerPoint changes, import ONLY the slide(s) that changed, at the end of the presentation. The manually move them to replace the originals. It’s faster than trying to re-import the entire presentation and then moving/ adding all the screen grabs and other additions you’ve added within Captivate.

Hope those help make things a bit smoother. If you get the Powerpoint 100% (or at least 95%) then the Captivate AFTER the fact is nice and smooth. Trying to develop a PowerPoint and a Captivate simultaneously is a recipe for headaches.

Avatar Mike Piper

Thank you for your comments, especially Item #2. I currently have a completed power point project with a total of 40 slides. Most slides include animation. When I import the Power Point into Captivate it plays the animation for each slide, rather than advancing each animation on a “click”. I can’t seem to find any way around this issue. I have given thought to your suggestion of static slides only but my presentation would exceed over 200 slides. Seems like alot of work. I think I will give it a shot on a smaller presentation first to see how it works.

Avatar Kelly Conaughty

Mr. Mike Piper, you are absolutely right.
I have been using both PowerPoint and Captivate in our eLearning pipeline for over four years now. And what you described is exactly how we have done it to avoid headaches.
Great comment!

Avatar Roberto Verdugo

[…] So for example, if you are doing a new software implementation, you may want to start by explaining the business processes at a high level, then discuss some specific tasks in the software (that support the business process), followed by a process flow/screenshots demonstrating how to do the task, then finally end with an interactive simulation (such as the ones that can be made in Adobe Captivate). […]

[…] every consulting gig that I have been apart of, the client always (yes, always) wants Adobe Captivate as part of their online learning strategy.  Be it Adobe's solid positioning in this space or some other factor, large Fortune 1000 companies […]

[…] already have an abundance of PowerPoint materials that can instantly be created into e-Learning.  Since Adobe Captivate struggles to integrate with PowerPoint (quite possibly their biggest flaw), this makes Storyline an extremely attractive […]

My experience so far with version 6 is that it does a much better job of importing PowerPoint and keeping a link. Anyone else?

Avatar Joe Ganci

I ran into a similar glitch. All of a sudden, I could no longer import slides from PowerPoint. What gives? If I hadn’t seen your post, I would assume I’ve lost my mind since we’ve never encountered this until our course exceeded 50 slides.

Importation from Powerpoint is one of the least effective options you should choose. For one, it destroys accessibility as it converts all text into images. This requires the developer to go in and manually add accessible text to each image, thus defeating the purpose of rapid development. Second, it makes the course less mobile compatible as you are increasing your file size greatly by adding in so many images tht could have been converted to text. It also takes away the advantage of HTML5 export to resize text within the window context to fit the device screen. Just say no to Powerpoint importing.

It seems like captivate is working far better now. Use the “high-fidelity” option on the import settings screen. Before it was only compatible with older versions of PowerPoint (i.e. PPT). Now it works with newer versions (i.e. PPX). I converted over a PPX file with timings with no issues. The only problem I’ve seen so far is that videos have to be inserted separately.

Avatar Tara

Two years after this article…Adobe still didn’t fix the problem. I am running on Captivate 8 and sure enough it froze w/ Powerpoint…. I guess MS and Adobe have a dysfunctional marriage….

Avatar Johnny

Ha! That is actually a bit funny (although kinda sad too!)

Can I import Adobe Captivate into LearnDash lessons?

Avatar Amr

Yes, when they are published to tin can api.

I have worked within eLearning for 15 years largely related to SAP implementations. While I am not nuts about Articulate, it gets the job done and little training is required. My grade for Articulate = C+.

Captivate would be my first choice but; bugs, the constant need for workarounds, and published contents not creating a result equal to the .swf. makes me give Captivate 6 & Captivate 8 =F.

Thank you, this helped me figure out that we weren’t the problem, but the software is the problem. My team members LOVE to use PowerPoint to develop all of their education and getting them versed how to build in Captivate is a big hurdle or mountain I’m not ready to die on. Her file had 59 PowerPoint slides and it would get stuck on the last two and go black. Since there was links on the last two slides I thought they might be causing part of the problem too, so once we deleted the reference links, the error went away. Ugh.

Avatar Ami Andrews

Perfect! I totally AGREE!!
Captivate sucks for powerpoint!

Avatar Hims Mehuriya

I really dislike Captivate. I used to complain about Articulate Storyline until I was forced by clients to use Captivate. It is absolutely awful if you want to do anything other than screen displays. Fortunately I saw this article before I started importing a bunch of PowerPoint slides. At least in Storyline it brings the various lside items in as native elements and not just an embedded PPT

Avatar rsauchuck

It’s unfortunate that after all this time Adobe hasn’t figured out a simple PPT import.

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