May 6, 2019
Interactivity in Software Tutorials?
May 6, 2019
Interactivity in Software Tutorials?
Lieve is a civil engineer (ir) and a professional musician. After years of teaching and research (project management/eLearning/instability) she is now a freelancer specializing in advanced Adobe Captivate as trainer and consultant. Her blog is popular with Captivate users worldwide. As an Adobe Community Professional and Adobe Education Leader, she has presented both online and offline. Since 2015 she is moderator on the Adobe forums and was named as Forum Legend (special category) in the Wall of Fame. In 2017 Adobe Captivate users voted for Lieve as a Top Content Experience Strategist.
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Whenever a comparison of eLearning authoring tools is published, Captivate still is considered to be the best tool for creation of software tutorials. That has been indeed the primary goal when Captivate was released many years ago. I have been choosing it many years ago (with version 1) for that feature as well. Too bad that most authors seem to forget that meanwhile it has become to most versatile authoring tool, and is probably more used for its other features (compliance training, scenario training to mention only a few).  It is much easier just to edit an old text than to explore all new features in depth. Sorry for my cynical attitude, had many discussions with authors over that type of articles. F

My first idea was to post this as a discussion, but in the past discussions didn’t have any success at all. Maybe a blog, explaining why I am wondering about the use of Captivate for the creation of software tutorials, explaining the three possible workflows with growing level of interactivity can lead to some feedback anyway.

Workflow 1:  Passive video with Video Demo

Creating a Video Demo leads to passive video output (mp4). The only control of the learner is using the control panel (play, pause…) , or eventually some added functionality (some provide bookmarking) by the platform it is deployed on. There are many alternatives to Captivate’s Video Demo. Presenter Video Xpress is an alternative, but I find the editor much too limited. The Video Demo editor allows a lot more, and you can also use it without webcam, which is impossible with Video Xpress. Camtasia (probably the best tool for this goal) and Snagit are also alternatives, but there are a lot more available.

Use case: perfect for quick demonstrations, which you can use to remember a workflow.


  • It doesn’t take too much time to create, especially if you capture narration and video in one workflow and do not bother about much editing.
  • It can easily be published to a  platform like YouTube or Vimeo, reaching a wide public (for free); is also a disadvantage however because of the lack of curation which makes it difficult to find valuable videos in the ‘crowd’. As with most social media there is more ‘fake’ around than valuable stuff.
  • Integration in a website is very easy.
  • It can be used as standalone asset;  the viewer only needs a mp4 player which is available on each system.


  • As mentioned above, how will you prove the value on platforms without curation?
  • It is a purely passive tutorial.
  • Viewers expect short videos.  For that reason, normally only one workflow will be presented without any alternatives, nor explanation of the reasons of the used steps. That makes it difficult for the learner to use it in similar but slightly different situations since there is no real ‘foundation’.


Here is a Video Demo, which will also be included as Interactive Video under Workflow 2

An old example (for versions before 9), one of my first Video Demo’s where I tried to give some in-depth explanation by intensive use of the Video Demo editor can be found on YouTube:

Simple/Standard action

Workflow 2: Interactive Video

This workflow uses the published result of a Video Demo as start for an Interactive Video. That allows you to add overlay content slides, KC slides and can also be combined in a cptx project with other content slides. I think about merging with 360 slides, real quiz slides, adding links to other assets etc. You publish to HMTL5 and have to upload the result to a webserver or LMS. It is a normal cptx project. You can use an embedded video file or refer to a published MP4 file on YouTube (and probably in next version also possible with Vimeo files). For the interactive video slides it is possible to create a menu for easy navigation. You can add branching to KC slides as remediation, either to parts of the video or to content slides outside of the video slide. Here is the link to an example file, which is created from the Video Demo file you have seen under Workflow 1:

Editing Characters with Photoshop

Use case: if you want to offer more in-depth explanation to the video tutorial, more control to the learner including KC checks with remediation.


  • Less passive, since the learner can use bookmarks to review part of the slide, KC slides can lead to remediation etc.
  • With content overlay sides (and KC overlay slides) it is possible to offer in-depth information, possible alternatives, explanation why some steps in the video were done in that explicit way, etc
  • Since the result is the same output as from any cptx file, you can combine the interactive video slides with other content slides and/or quiz slides. Navigation between bookmarks in the interactive video and other content slides is very easy to set up.


  • There is no platform like YouTube/Vimeo for interactive videos. Difficult to spread quickly to a wide public.
  • Embedding in a website takes more time. You cannot have a standalone version easy to distribute as is the case for pure video files.
  • Creation takes more time than for workflow 1

Workflow 3: Software simulations

I am only pointing to sims in Training or Assessment mode. I would never recommend to use the Demo mode to be published later on to MP4 because Video Demo offers much better quality. Although it is possible to publish to mp4, for those two modes this is not a real option since all interactivity would be lost.

Strangely this is the oldest workflow in Captivate, exists since I started to use it (Captivate 1) and even before when it was still labeled RoboDemo. Contrary to the video demo, this recording process leads to a slide-based cptx-file, which makes management and editing a lot easier. Replacing a draft audio file in a Video Demo can be a pain, but for software sims it is much easier to split the recording of the video part and the recording of the slide audio clips.

Software sims (Training/Assessment) use interactive objects to increase the level of interactivity: the learner has to perform actions, will not just ‘watch’ them done. Interactive objects can always be scored, and reported to a LMS. To my amazement, software sims with that scoring feature were largely appreciated by my former college students as self-assessments. They still didn’t like the real exams of course.

At this moment the biggest problem with software simulations are the slides which cannot be interactive because they show mouse movements/scrolling/dragging. At that moment FMR-slides (Full Motion Recording) are created. Those are SWF-based but will be converted to MP4 when publishing to HTML5. However that process is not working very well, and quality is not satisfactory. I tend to replace those FMR slides by  Video Demo slides. That makes the smooth recording workflow a lot more time consuming.

Use Case: most interactive tutorial, engages the learner better than the other workflows. Almost no limitations for remediation since all types of actions can be used.


  • Still highest level of interactivity, both for Training and assessment mode.
  • All features of cptx-files are available.
  • Automatic adding of feedback messages, scoring possible, reporting to LMS with or without more quiz slides or scored objects
  • Easier management and editing due to slide-based approach
  • Audio clips can be added and synchronized later on, need not to be done during the ‘video’ part of the capture.


  • Can be more time consuming although with good preparation lot is already automatic.
  • Similar to Workflow 2: need to use a webserver or a LMS, no distribution on platforms like YouTube/Vimeo
  • Standalone version (exe): not sure what the future will be when Flash Player has died
  • Cumbersome workflow if replacing FMR slides by Video Demo slides.
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