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Adobe Captivate Alternative Review: Nickelled

Captivate Alternatives: Nickelled

Adobe Captivate: An Introduction

Adobe Captivate is one of the world's best-known providers of elearning software – but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's the best for every use case.

Originally designed as a screen recording utility in 2002, Captivate was bought and sold several times, including by Macromedia, which was subsequently purchased by Adobe. Captivate has been been woven into Adobe's product suite, giving it tighter integration into Adobe proprietary formats such as Small Web Format Flash (itself now not widely supported).

Captivate welcome panel with formats Captivate's format choices

Captivate supports creating many types of elearning formats, including – new in the 2019 edition – impressive virtual reality projects. It's also possible to create videos, trainings from Powerpoint files, responsive projects and software simulations for non-cloud (native) apps (more on this later).

The most basic format, a "responsive" elearning creator, is effectively an enhanced Powerpoint/Google Slides style authoring system. Elearning modules can be built using slides in a filmstrip. The elearning part comes from the integration of some nice learning functionality, including the ability to create slides that act as quizzes, following popular formats such as fill-in-the-blank, true/false, matching exercises or multiple choice questions.

This makes Captivate an excellent choice for imparting refresher or policy knowledge (for example, compliance, financial regulatory, harrassment etc etc) as opposed to teaching practical skills that are tied to software workflows (for example, how to raise an invoice using Xero, or how to create a new customer in Salesforce).

It's worth noting that Nickelled (and other walkthrough software) isn't a Captivate alternative option in this 'theoretical' field – creating interactive elearning slide decks isn't really what we're aiming for here (more on this below).

That's because instead of the desktop-based, static-slide format of Captivate, Nickelled provides an interactive 'live' experience for the user that is specifically designed for helping learners navigate and understand applications. This makes Nickelled far more suitable for teaching learners how to use a software package – because it feels more real.

Captivate: Use Cases

Let’s be clear – the Captivate authoring tool can do things that most walkthrough solutions (including ours) simply can’t. If you need the following feature functionality Captivate (or an alternative such as Articulate Storyline), is a far better choice:

  • Static, slide-based elearning creation/playback
  • Interactive quizzes or other user-input-based training functionality
  • Virtual reality training
  • Blended training programs that encompass slides, videos and other media

Captivate seems best-designed to handle the above use cases – from our experiments, it was very easy to create slide-based training units encompassing them all, which provided a good user experience. If you’re looking to do any of the above, Captivate should tick the boxes, as should well-known alternatives such as Articulate Storyline, Elucidat, ActivePresenter and iSpring Suite (see full table below).

That said, Captivate (and these other solutions) may not be the best solution for product walkthrough training.

If you’re looking for a way to ‘guide’ users through a software program such as Workday, Salesforce, Dynamics or another tool, a walkthrough platform such as Nickelled is probably a better choice.

Walkthrough platforms are normally ‘click to continue’, allowing users to progress at their own pace, and provide a choice between slides and steps, which point at elements on the page. Click the element, and the walkthrough will progress, providing the learner with far more time to feel ‘at-home’ in the application environment.

Unlike Captivate, which bundles product walkthroughs with the rest of its functionality, walkthrough platforms use technology that’s dedicated to this use case and it subsequently far more stable and enjoyable to record and play back.

To see why, let’s take a look under the hood of website walkthrough creation.

Under the hood

Captivate uses some very clever technology to create software walkthroughs. To get it to work, users must use a screen capture functionality built into the software, which records any activity that’s happening within the bounds of that box.

Once the flow has been recorded, Captivate is able to replicate the steps as a video, while also adding overlays and clever automatic prompts (e.g. if you click on a button marked ‘Help’, Captivate will add an automatic prompt that says “Click on the ‘Help’ button”).

All of this output is transferred to the Captivate editor, which has a familiar slides-based interface so that you can make edits and add interstitials or other learning prompts as required.

Captivate screenshot Captivate's editor, with the slide-based format on the left

As a flow, this part of the software feels very intuitive. However, our creation experience was marred by some bad software errors (using a 2017 MacBook Pro running OSX High Sierra) – captivate crashed multiple times when we were creating the guide, and also experienced problems quitting the screen recording session, which left us unable to use the computer until we force-quit the entire program.

Captivate crashed Sadly, we saw this a lot.

These issues notwithstanding, the Captivate authoring tool’s output is OK – you can export your walkthrough in SWF format or HTML5, which makes it very easy to share with others or embed on an intranet. The HTML5 output is especially clever – whatever wizardry has been used to output a screen recording to a webpage, it seems to work.

So, when should you choose a dedicated walkthrough solution such as Nickelled over elearning creation software such as Captivate?

Bearing the above in mind, although Captivate creates good product walkthroughs, they are somewhat limiting for the user experience. Captivate walkthroughs don’t look or ‘feel’ like the real app, which means that users aren’t as engaged as they would be with a walkthrough tour such as Nickelled. In this sense, they’re far closer to a video recording than to an app-based walkthrough - and there is strong evidence that video recordings aren’t a great learning experience for users.

This extends as far as the responsiveness of the recording too. Although Captivate proudly proclaims that its creations are responsive, that’s not true of its screen recordings. If you record your Salesforce walkthrough using Captivate on a desktop and play it back on a mobile device, it will show you a desktop guided tour, just on your mobile.

By comparison, if you play a Nickelled walkthrough of your Salesforce environment, it will automatically show Salesforce as it would actually appear on a mobile device, even if you recorded it on your desktop.

In addition, Captivate’s recording and editing process is laborious compared to Nickelled, which is a simple point and click system – the technical problems we encountered suggested that this is an overly complex solution to a fairly simple requirement. For hassle-free guide creation on a cloud-based web app, we’d recommend Nickelled over Captivate.

Fundamentally, these differences come down to the use case for each system. Nickelled walkthroughs are meant to be played within the application to provide a true ‘guide’ to functionality. Captivate’s output looks far more suited to use in a classroom-based learning program.

Captivate Assessment tools Captivate's wide range of elearning assessment tools.

Recommended alternatives to Captivate, with suggested use cases and pricing:

Suggested Use Case Pricing Further Information
Adobe Captivate
  • Theoretical elearning creation
  • Interactive/assessed elearning creation
  • Virtual reality courses
From $1299 Buying Guide
  • Native and web-based tutorial captures
  • Interactive and PDF documentation creation
  • Live, on-site creation
From $100 Nickelled Review
Articulate Storyline 360
  • Theoretical elearning creation
  • Interactive/assessed elearning creation
$1299/user/year Pricing
  • Video-based screencasts
  • Capturing offline applications
  • Help videos
$249 Pricing
  • Product walkthroughs for cloud-based software
  • In-app guidance
  • Helpdesk tutorials
From $199/m Free Trial
  • Product walkthroughs for cloud-based software
  • In-app guidance
  • Enterprise functionality
PoA (more Information) Free Trial

Please note: Feature information correct as of December 2018. Nickelled has made every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information provided on this website. However, the information is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Nickelled does not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information contained on this website.

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