By Donna Baker March 24, 2011 Donna Baker
The Acrobat X Suite consists of several products. You're no doubt familiar with Acrobat X (and Adobe LiveCycle Designer), and probably use Adobe Photoshop, too. The third “big” program in the suite is Captivate 5, a rapid eLearning tool. If you've tried out the simulations and demonstrations from the Acrobat X Grand Tour, you've seen Captivate content in action.
You don't need an advanced degree in online education to use Captivate effectively. You don't need to be a Flash programmer, a graphic designer or a computer whiz. What you do need is a purpose for the eLearning to help you decide how and what to build in Captivate:
To give you a sense of how Captivate works, I'll walk you through the processes involved in creating both a demo and simulation using the program defaults. It's not as daunting as you might think! One of its best features is the ability to autorecord, or capture the screen once, and reuse it for any or all types of output.
Note: Read about using assessment simulations in the sidebar, “Tracking and Scoring.”
My examples show you how to add a checkbox to a form in Acrobat X. To get started, configure the program as you'd like it to appear at the start of the simulation. Size the program window according to your desired caption size.
In order to capture multiple formats, start from the Welcome screen. Click Software Simulation. The Captivate interface disappears, and you'll see the capture area shown on the screen as a red frame (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Configure the program window and pick capture settings.
In the Capture dialog box that overlays the capture area, pick your recording options:
Tip: Once you start working in Captivate, you'll find it's far simpler to record audio separately from the video.
You'll see three versions of the captured content tabbed in the document window (Figure 2). Now that's convenient!
Figure 2: The captured simulations open in separate tabs.
It's unlikely that your newly-captured content is ready for distribution immediately. You'll find some text captions don't show what you actually want the user to click; highlight boxes may need adjustments, too (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Review the automatic captions and highlight boxes.
The slides themselves, and objects like mouse pointers and captions, display according to default settings. As you see in the Timeline, the slide shows for a default time of three seconds, as do the mouse, caption and highlight objects (Figure 4). To adjust the timing for an object, drag one end of its frame in the Timeline.
Figure 4: View and adjust objects in the Timeline.
At any time, you can preview the project and test your actions. Click the Preview button on the Main Options toolbar to open a list and pick the slides to view (Figure 5).
Figure 5: Preview and test the slides.
Once you've finished editing your content, it's time to publish the project. Select the file for export from the tabs. Choose File > Publish to open the panel. First, we'll look at the SWF output options (Figure 6).
Figure 6: Configure SWF settings for export.
Features listed correspond to letters in Figure 6:
You don't have to export the project as a SWF. Click Media on the Publish panel to open alternative settings (Figure 7).
Figure 7: Select settings for executable (.exe) or F4V output.
Again, the lettered list corresponds to the letters in Figure 7:
When you're finished choosing settings, click Publish to export the finished product.
Of course, there are dozens of customizations you can make to the simulations. You can change the appearance of the callouts, either by revising the program preferences or by creating and attaching a project template that includes default appearances for items like captions, buttons, highlights, and so on (The Acrobat X Grand Tour uses a project template).
Choose from a range of active and dynamic content, such as rollovers, zoom areas and animations (You can see some of these features in the Acrobat X Grand Tour segments).
Captivate 5 introduced Master slides, a default layout containing font styles, background elements and color schemes (also used in the Acrobat X Grand Tour). Master slides in Captivate work in the same way as Master slides in PowerPoint.
Speaking of PowerPoint—at the start of this article I asked if you had PowerPoint presentations sitting around that should turn into something more dynamic. In this last section, I'll show you some of the ways you can integrate PowerPoint into a Captivate presentation.
Using my example of adding a check box to an Acrobat form, suppose I had a PowerPoint presentation on working with Form tools used for staff training. To build an interactive Captivate project, I can intersperse PowerPoint slides with Captivate slides, following these steps:
Tip: You can't insert PowerPoint slides before Slide 1 of the Captivate slides.
Figure 8: Choose import settings for the slides.
Slides linked to the source PowerPoint presentation let you round-trip edit content directly from Captivate. Right-click a slide, and choose Edit with Microsoft PowerPoint. From the submenu, choose an option to edit the active slide or the entire presentation.
Linked files update when you make changes externally, too. In Figure 9, you'll see the Library listing for the project. Notice the red Status button, indicating the presentation has changed. Click the button to update the project, which then shows a green Status button. (In the example, I deleted a slide from the presentation.)
Figure 9: Linked PowerPoint presentation files showing status changes.
You can view the output from the four example projects in this PDF Portfolio.
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