Archive for the ‘Captivate’ Category

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Adobe pricing sucks

January 20, 2012

Back in 2008 I had a little rant about Adobe’s pricing model for countries outside the US, specifically Australia. Since then I’ve spoken to several Adobe employees at conferences in the US about this, but have received no satisfactory answer as to why there is such a discrepancy between the prices I see on the US website and the prices Adobe insists I pay because I live in Australia. Those employees were as baffled as me, and I got feedback that the pricing in other countries, such as the UK, was just as confusing when compared to the US pricing.

So why bring this up again? Because someone from Adobe called me the other day and offered to look into the pricing situation. She called me back yesterday and said that the reason she was given for the price discrepancies was ‘taxes’. Well, to put not too fine a point on it, that’s just bullsh*t.

Here’s why: Australia has the GST, which is a flat 10% tax on ALL goods and services. If you buy something from a store here, there are no state taxes, county taxes, city taxes, other sales taxes and levies like in the US. In Australia you pay the ticketed price on the item, which invariably includes the GST (e.g. a $99 item is actually $90 retail price + $9 GST). That’s it. Very simple.

The GST applies to most goods and services purchased within Australia, including software. It applies to goods purchased from outside Australia if the cost of the item exceeds $1000, otherwise the item is GST-free.

So with that information, let’s look at how Adobe prices its software in Australia and the US. I’ve used Adobe Captivate 5.5 and the eLearning Suite in my examples, both the upgrade prices and the full price (for Captivate 5.5 only), and have used www.xe.com for converting the prices from Australian dollars (AU$) to US dollars (US$) and vice versa. All price conversions were done on the same day within about an hour, so currency fluctuations aren’t an issue.

Summary

For ease of comparison, I’ve converted all Australian dollar prices to US dollars — see below for screen shots of conversion values.

Product Adobe
US store
Adobe
AU store
Price difference
Captivate 5.5 Upgrade $149 $265 $116 (~80%) more in Aust
Captivate 5.5 New $799 $1389 $590 (~75%) more in Aust
eLearning Suite Upgrade $399 $695 $296 (~75%) more in Aust

Bottom line: Adobe charges its Australian customers nearly double the price it charges for its US customers. A 10% tax is neither here nor there with that sort of price gouging, which is why I said that the explanation of ‘taxes’ was bullsh*t. Besides, the Australian prices I found on the Adobe store already INCLUDE the 10% GST, so those 75–80% increases are on top of the tax.

Buying from the US Adobe store is NOT an option — while I can provide a US address as I have family there, I need a US credit card too. So I either don’t buy upgrades regularly (thus doing Adobe out of a revenue stream), or I find other ways to buy the product without going through Adobe at all (still doing Adobe out of a revenue stream!).

Would anyone from Adobe like to explain why we get screwed on the prices we pay for a DOWNLOADABLE product, which most likely comes from US servers no matter where we live and pay for it?

And I’d be happy for those from other countries outside the US to comment on the prices they pay (converted to US dollars for a fair comparison).

Screen shots

US prices: $149 to upgrade to Captivate 5.5 from Captivate 5 (which I have) and $399 to upgrade to the eLearning Suite.

US prices for upgrading Captivate and the eLearning Suite

Those US upgrade prices in Australian currency:

US$149 converted to Australian currency

US$399 converted to Australian currency Australian prices: $255 for the Captivate upgrade, $669 for the eLearning Suite upgrade

Australian pricing, which includes the GST
Those upgrade prices in US currency:

AU$255 converted to US currency

AU$699 converted to US currency

To buy Captivate 5.5 without an upgrade (i.e. new), the prices are US$799 in the US and AU$1337 in Australia:

Update 13 February 2013: According to one news report, it’s cheaper to fly to the US to buy some Adobe products than buy them in Australia! http://www.news.com.au/technology/biztech/it-is-cheaper-to-fly-to-us-than-buy-adobe-software-in-australia/story-fn5lic6c-1226576920561

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Captivate 5: Saving to a YouTube file format

April 6, 2011

I was always under the impression that later versions of Adobe Captivate could publish to a format suitable for uploading to YouTube. It seems that Captivate 4 could save as *.AVI, but that option is not available in Captivate 5 (why on earth would Adobe *remove* features??). (Update June 2011: It seems the newly released Captivate 5.5 will save to formats acceptable to YouTube. This is a paid upgrade [some US$150] for Captivate 5 owners.)

And how do I know this? Because I just spent a couple of hours searching Adobe’s Help, Forums, the internet etc. and testing possible solutions to find out that publishing a Captivate file to a format suitable for YouTube is possible, but it’s a bit obscure and requires the use of another program. It’s also not documented in the Help (a search of the Help for YouTube gave no results).

Captivate 5 will publish to *.F4V format and YouTube will accept those files, BUT… and it’s a big BUT… the files created are BIG. My tiny test file had one image, three 3-second slides with minimal text, and no audio, yet publishing it to *.F4V created a file that was almost 12 MB. Not very helpful or useful — files that size just clog the ‘intertubes’. Oh, and when uploaded, the resulting video on YouTube was a bit fuzzy. By the way, in case it matters, this test file was set to 800 x 600 pixels with a default slide time of three seconds.

After some more internet searching, I discovered that there’s an Adobe product — Adobe Media Encoder — that’s automatically installed when you install Captivate 5. Who knew? And this program was able to reduce the file size dramatically as well as reduce the fuzziness I had in the F4V file. Initially, I couldn’t figure out how to change the default conversion output of one second per slide (my little project lasted for three very quick seconds on YouTube!), but after reading this article — http://blogs.adobe.com/captivate/2010/11/f4v-or-f4v-fixed-frame-rate-what-should-i-go-with.html — I got it working so that the output timing reflected the timeline of my Captivate project. 

Here’s how to get a Captivate project into a small file format suitable for YouTube:

  1. Publish your Captivate project to *.F4V format (on the Publish window, select Media then the F4V with fixed frame rate file type). The F4V with fixed frame rate preserves your timeline.
  2. In your Programs list, find Adobe Media Encoder CS5 and open it.
  3. Drag the *.F4V file you just created onto the workspace on the Media Encoder window.
  4. By default, Media Encoder sets the Preset (output) to the same Format as the original, and adds a number to the new file that will be created. You can change any of these settings.
  5. After experimenting with different combinations of Format and Preset options, I settled on H.264 and YouTube SD. The output file from this combination is *.MP4, and the file size is acceptable.
  6. Click Start Queue. When the conversion has finished, a green tick is added to the Status column in the Media Encoder window.
  7. Check the resulting file — its size should have reduced dramatically. As you see from the screen shot below, my 3-slide file went from around 12 MB to around 1 MB.
  8. If you don’t have any software on your computer to play the file, upload it to YouTube, set it to Private or Unlisted and check the resulting quality there. Of course, you’ll need a YouTube account!

[Links last checked April 2011]

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Captivate 5: Inserting a full-size image

January 28, 2011

In Captivate 3, if you inserted a full size image (i.e. the same size as the Captivate ‘slide’ — e.g. 800 x 600), it would immediately ‘snap’ to fit the slide’s dimensions. That made inserting images from the Captivate Library super easy.

However, in Captivate 5, images that are the same size as the slide, do not snap to fit. Instead, when you drag the image from the Library onto the slide, it goes where you drop it. Now for small images this is a good thing, but for an image that you want to take up the entire slide, it’s a pain as you have to drag the image and hope you get it right.

Here are two ways of getting a full size image to fit the slide’s dimensions:

  • Drag the image onto the slide, then click the two centering icons one after the other — this will center the image vertically and horizontally. The image will remain an object that you can set Properties for.
  • Insert the image using Ctrl+Shift+s (Insert > Image Slide on the menu). The image will become a slide in its own right, not an object, and its Properties cannot be changed. This results in behavior that’s similar to merging the image into the background.

Does anyone know if that ‘snap’ function that I remember as the default behavior in Captivate 3 is available at all in Captivate 5? If so, where can I set it?

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Captivate 5: Confusing toolbar icons

December 7, 2010

I’ve been using computers and software since the mid-1980s, and have worked in the software industry since 1992. I’ve worked with all sorts of software, both as a user and as a technical writer for niche market software, including working for companies that made graphics software, including 2D to 3D movie conversion software and 3D visualization geological modeling graphics software.

So I’ve seen quite a few toolbar icons in my time.

But I’ve never seen toolbar icons quite like these in Adobe’s Captivate :

I must have tried to click on the pencil and bucket icons 20+ times, to no avail. I hovered over those icons, expecting a tooltip to tell me what they were for. Nada. There were tooltips for the swatches but not the icons. I figured that I needed to select something (but what?) to activate these icons. And I was frustrated enough to go looking on Adobe’s website to find out what they were for and how to activate them (http://help.adobe.com/en_US/captivate/cp/using/WSc1b83f70210cd10115eb45e11c8969986e-8000.html).

Well, they can’t be activated! They are actually paired with the swatch below each icon. Who knew?

I have never seen icons paired like that — typically, you’d either have the pencil (stroke) and bucket (fill) icons only, OR slightly smaller pencil and bucket icons combined with a small swatch in the same plane. Clicking on the swatch opens the color selection panel for the relevant stroke or fill, but they could’ve opened that panel just with the icon. If the current color needs to be shown, then why not a much smaller square? Perhaps something like this:

People think in patterns and they expect a certain amount of familiarity in how a toolbar icon behaves — you click it and something happens. If something doesn’t happen, it’s possible that you have to do something else before you can click it. And if you’re not sure, you can always hover over the icon and get a tooltip giving you some information about what it does. They were MY expectations. Not unreasonable expectations, I would’ve thought, especially based on my almost 20 years experience in the software industry. But these icons didn’t behave in a familiar way. They didn’t follow the pattern I expected, and as a result they caused me quite a bit of frustration — and this blog post.

[Link last checked December 2010]

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Captivate 5: First experiences of using Community Help

December 6, 2010

Adobe is using its AIR Help in Captivate 5. They call it Community Help and tout its wonders on their website (http://help.adobe.com/en_US/captivate/cp/using/WSc1b83f70210cd101-7addec9711cd178cb3c-8000.html).

As a Help author, I was quite fascinated by AIR Help when I first saw it demonstrated at a conference a few years ago, so much so that I went along to a hands on session on it at the 2010 WritersUA Conference to learn more about it and how to create AIR Help (https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/writersua-2010-conference-day-2/).

However, the past week has seen me trying to use AIR Help as a user. And to say it’s frustrating would be an understatement! I was able to open and use it initially in Captivate 5, and I was able to change the search location to the local Help (see https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/captivate-5-change-the-help-options/), but since that first experience where I got a result, I’ve had nothing but grief from this Captivate 5 Help. And NO results for any search I try to do — it just ‘hangs’.

I’m finding it useless… not because what I want isn’t in there — it may well be — but because it seems to be trying to connect with the outside world all the time. My internet connection is not good, but it *is* broadband; however, I can’t seem to select the local Help from the Search Location as it’s forever trying to load up something. Task Manager tells me that the Help is using about 50 MB of CPU, but nothing works — I enter a term like ‘storyboard’ and get a blank screen and no drop-down options to change the Search Location to local Help. And I wait. And wait. And after about three minutes, I give up and try to close the Help. Sometimes it’ll close; sometimes I have to use Task Manager and kill the process to get the thing to close. (Update 16 December 2010: The Help is now fixed — see the end of this post for details.)

I just want to search the local Help! I DON’T want the Help to connect to the internet without me telling it too. Adobe must seem to assume that everyone in the world has a high speed, ‘always on’ internet connection. As a result, I CANNOT use the Help.

The only way I can find answers to questions I have about Captivate 5 at the moment is to use Google. At least that’s quick.

Remember, I’m a Help author by profession. I really want this AIR Help to work. I really want to see how cool it can be. I really want to promote this to my clients. I really want to have a great user experience with the Help. I’m prepared to spend time checking it out, and I’m prepared to spend some time waiting.

All I’ve had is a FAIL on every count. I can’t even get a result within three minutes when I enter a term…

No wonder ordinary users get frustrated and give up and say the Help is useless if they experience what I’ve been experiencing.

BTW, in case it makes any difference, I’m using Windows XP SP3, on a 4 GB RAM computer, with well over 250 GB free hard drive space, and an internet connection of around 2.5 Mbps. And I cleared the Captivate cache.

Further to this…

I tried signing in to my Adobe account via the Community Help window (Account > Sign In) in case that made any difference. I got a blank screen. 15 minutes later (yes, I timed it), I still had a blank screen, and I could only close the Help by killing the process in Task Manager.

Update 14 December 2010: I downloaded and installed the Captivate 5 update, then tested the Help again. Same story as above.

Update 16 December 2010: I was contacted by the Product Manager for Community Help who offered the suggestions below. I had to uninstall and reinstall the Community Help and now it’s back! Hope these suggestions help someone else who might have this issue:

Local search is dependent on the presence of a particular file (chcsearch.html) that is downloaded when a user first downloads the content. The best way to confirm is to check via the Help application’s Preferences UI.

  • On the Mac, open up the Help app, and then look in the OS menu (Adobe Help > Preferences).
  • On Windows, open up the Help app, and then look under Edit > Preferences (or hit Ctrl +K)

In the Preferences UI, you should see a Local Content tab on the left. You should then see “Using Captivate 5” listed in the main window with a status message. If it says, Current – great. If it says, Pending Download or Update available, please go ahead and update via the Update button on the bottom of the panel. In fact, it may be worth updating just to ensure that you have the latest version of the content and ensure that you have the necessary search file in place.

If this is not addressing your issue, it may be necessary to uninstall and then reinstall the Help app (i.e. just the AIR app, not Captivate itself) via the instructions outlined here: http://kb2.adobe.com/cps/842/cpsid_84215.html

See also:

[Links last checked December 2010]

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Captivate 5: The missing bits

December 3, 2010

I’ve found a few things that didn’t convert correctly (or at all) from my Captivate 3 to Captivate 5 projects. I’ll list them here in case anyone else needs to know what to look for after converting their projects:

  • Buttons that jump to a specified slide may default back to Continue. You may have to reassign the jump. This could be very painful if you have lots of branching slide jumps based on a button press. I found that this happened in some of my projects, but not all.
  • Your custom playback control is available in the list of skins (Project > Skin Editor), but the playback control assigned to your converted projects is Default. You have to reselect your custom skin for each project.
  • Your name, organization and other details go missing from the Information area (File > Project Info or Edit > Preferences). You have to add them back into each project.
  • All the playback control options (except any custom ones from your Captivate 3 projects) are now missing the little Info (i) icon. I can’t see any way of getting this back, except by applying my old custom playback control.
  • Watch for changes to the Project Title when you try to publish. I found that when I created a new project from a template, the template’s title kept populating the Project Title field when I was on the Publish screen — I have to remember to change it manually. I also noticed that any changes I made to the Project Title in some converted projects also wouldn’t ‘hold’ for the next time I published and reverted back to the previous title. I can’t find any way of saving the project with the changed title! Is this a bug?

While you can change these in any templates you have, the changes only apply to new projects based on that template, not to existing projects. This means manually reassigning, reinserting, re-entering, reconfiguring EACH project. And of course, a lot more testing to make sure that they all behave like they did before you converted them. If you only have a few projects and they aren’t too complex, this won’t take more than a few hours. But for those of you with LOTS of projects, lots of branching etc., you could be in for a long haul…

One other thing… I can’t find the Storyboard view in Captivate 5. I used this often in Captivate 3, especially to hide multiple slides at once, or to shift slides around and also to check the total duration and file size of the output. Anyone know where it’s got to?

Later… After getting really frustrated with the Help (another post coming on that…), I found that the Storyboard view is no more! (http://forums.adobe.com/message/3065053) I’m not happy about that as it was something I used often enough to miss it — a lot! I’ve logged a wish list request to add my voice to those asking for it to be brought back. Update 4 December 2010: I received an email back from Adobe re the Storyboard view:

In Captivate 5, the filmstrip view double up as Storyboard view. If you expand the filmstrip, you will see that it shows more slide. You can make such an arrangement and then save that as ‘Workspace’.

The problem with that solution is that you don’t get the old bandwidth and total time details that you used to get with the storyboard view. However, you do get back the ‘at a glance’ view of many more slides in your project.

More… This is not a conversion issue, but something I’ve noticed while learning how to use Captivate 5. In Captivate 3, if you inserted an image from the Library that was the same size as the slide (e.g. slide = 800 x 600; image = 800 x 600), the image would snap neatly to cover the slide and you wouldn’t have to make any adjustments. I can’t find a setting for this behavior in Captivate 5. So, when you drag an image from the Library on to the slide in Captivate 5, you have to set its X/Y coordinates manually! You can do it the hard way (in the image’s Properties panel, click Position & Size, then change both X and Y to 0), or the easy way (click the Center horizontally AND the Center vertically buttons on the toolbar).

[Links last checked December 2010]

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Captivate 5: How to make a button really transparent

December 2, 2010

Here’s the situation: I had some Captivate projects that I’d converted from Captivate 3 to Captivate 5. Some of these had transparent buttons over the top of text in a text caption box to give the illusion of a clickable link when you hovered over them in the published movie.

I wanted to try making them proper text buttons, with transparency, in Captivate 5 because the default button text looks much better in Captivate 5 than it did in Captivate 3. So I tried that, only to find that I couldn’t get the text on the button to align on the left (text is only centered if it wraps because it’s longer than the button width). So, back to making these text buttons into transparent buttons.

However, when I changed the button from a Text Button back to a Transparent Button, it wasn’t transparent at all — it had a gray background and a green border and totally obscured the text in the caption box.

For a non-Photoshop person like me, getting rid of the gray fill and the green border wasn’t super intuitive, which is why I’m writing this post about it — I may as well share my knowledge and help someone else who gets a bit lost trying to do the same thing.

OK, here goes…

Here are the properties for the transparent Text Button:

I clicked the drop-down arrow and selected Transparent Button (which is a different beast from a Text Button with transparency applied):

As soon as I selected Transparent Button, the properties changed to show a Fill color of gray and a Stroke (border) color of bright green. Arrggh!

To change the Fill color, I double-clicked on the gray color swatch and got a panel of color selections. The critical thing on this panel is the Alpha value. 100% means fully opaque (i.e. no transparency). To get full transparency, click on the 100 and change the Alpha value to 0. Press the Enter key after changing it to make it stick and to close the color panel.

Now go to the value to the right of the Width slider and change the 1 to 0. This removes the green Stroke (border) from the now-transparent button.

You now have a truly transparent button!

If you want to make this the default style for all future Transparent Buttons you insert, click the save icon near the top of the Properties panel: