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A Comparison of Three Visual Help Authoring Tools
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A Comparison of Three Visual Help Authoring Tools

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Presented by Neil Perlin at Documentation and Training Life Sciences, June 23-26, 2008 in Indianapolis. …

Presented by Neil Perlin at Documentation and Training Life Sciences, June 23-26, 2008 in Indianapolis.

The last few years have seen the rise of visual authoring tools like Adobe Captivate that let us create tutorials, simulations, web-based product demos, even eLearning, for marketing, training, and tech support. These tools are easy to learn and use, and cheap (well under $1000). All these tools do the same thing –-- create “movies”—–but they offer different feature sets and design philosophies that may determine which one you choose.

This slide deck looks at three tools—market leaders Camtasia and Captivate, and a new entrant named Mimic—to examine how they work and how to choose the best one for you.

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  • Hello! I congratulate you for your excellent presentation. It’s really interesting. Here is a related presentation that you might find it to be useful. http://www.slideshare.net/CommLab/software-product-simulation-captivate-or-flash
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    • 1. Three Visual Help Authoring Tools
    • 2. Who Am I?
      • Neil Perlin - Hyper/Word Services.
        • In tech. comm. since ‘79 at DEC.
        • Creating hypertext since ’85, WinHelp since ‘90.
        • Using HTML since ‘91.
        • Training/consulting on HATs since ’95.
        • Training/consulting/using visual help authoring tools since ’93 (Lotus ScreenCam) and ’99 (RoboDemo/Captivate, Mimic).
    • 3.
      • Overview of These Tools
    • 4. What Are These Tools?
      • Screen recorders that let you:
        • Record a series of screens as frames in a movie – like chaining together screen shots.
        • Annotate the frames with text captions, high-lights, and other effects for enhanced learning and explanation.
        • Add testing – informally through “dead-end” quizzes or formally using eLearning.
        • Publish the result.
    • 5. Why Use These Tools?
      • To create:
        • Software training – demonstrations and simulations.
        • Role-playing simulations.
        • “Recordings” of software usability tests.
        • Other things – PowerPoint presentations that can be run from a server, games, anim é , etc.
    • 6. For What Purposes?
      • For:
        • Training – Teach new users to use software.
        • Tech support – Create movies that answer common questions.
        • Marketing – Show off your product’s features.
        • (Pre)Sales – Offer demos of your software from your web site.
        • Business continuity – Make disaster recovery training available online from a server .
    • 7. Why These Tools Instead of…
      • Traditional eLearning/simulation tools?
        • Cheap – $699 for Captivate, $299 for Camtasia, $299 for Mimic, vs. $2795 for Toolbook or $2999 for Authorware.
        • Quick to learn – Become functional in two days of training.
        • Quick to use – Create movies in hours rather than days or weeks.
    • 8. Some Quick Movie Demos…
      • Software demonstration/simulation.
      • Role-playing simulation.
    • 9. Purpose of This Presentation
      • Look at the development model, features, and apparent direction of three such tools:
        • Adobe Captivate – Long-established, one of the market leaders, very full-featured.
        • TechSmith Camtasia – Long-established, one of the market leaders, very full-featured.
        • MadCap Mimic – New, fewer features than the first two but more options per feature and some unusual features.
    • 10. Development Model?
      • Defines the tool’s initial design and its strategic direction.
      • For example:
        • Captivate started simple but trending toward eLearning, with growing complexity and cost.
        • Mimic started simple but programmatically tied to other tools in its suite, now trending toward supporting eLearning.
      • Affects cost, features, development “feel”.
    • 11. Why These Three (Only)?
      • They’re mainstream tools.
      • I support Captivate and Mimic and know them well.
        • But this is NOT a sales pitch for either one.
      • Time limitations.
    • 12. High-Level Commonalities
      • Cheap.
      • Quick to learn.
      • Quick to use.
        • But it’s important to define whether this means record only or record and annotate.
    • 13. High-Level Differences
      • Captivate and Mimic use a slide metaphor; Camtasia uses a video metaphor.
        • So Captivate and Mimic have a fixed unit of content while Camtasia’s is variable.
      • Captivate and Camtasia look simpler to use than Mimic – subjective, of course.
      • Captivate and Camtasia have predefined feature options; Mimic does not.
        • Mimic 2 may add predefined options.
    • 14. High-Level Differences
      • Captivate and Camtasia offer quizzing and eLearning features; Mimic does not.
        • You can create quizzes in Mimic by adapting other features.
        • Mimic 2 likely to add quizzing and eLearning.
      • Captivate and Camtasia offer LMS support; Mimic does not.
        • Mimic 2 likely to add LMS support.
    • 15. High-Level Differences
      • Captivate and Camtasia will import/record PPT files; Mimic does not.
      • Mimic offers variables; Captivate and Camtasia do not.
      • Mimic is more integrated into its authoring suite than Captivate and Camtasia.
        • Mimic’s interface resembles Flare and Capture.
        • Mimic shares variables with Flare and Capture.
    • 16. High-Level Differences
      • None of these tools can import each other’s projects.
        • So it’s important to pick the right tool the first time.
      • Camtasia can record specifically for iPods.
        • Captivate and Mimic can create movies sized for the iPod but not specifically for the iPod.
    • 17.
      • A Brief Look At the Tools…
    • 18. Captivate
      • Main Storyboard screen.
    • 19. Captivate
      • Main Edit screen.
    • 20. Captivate
      • Main branching screen.
    • 21. Captivate – Strengths
      • “Light” interface.
      • Predefined values for features like text caption boxes makes it easy to get going.
      • Similarity of Captivate and Flash timelines.
      • Supports video, closed captioning.
      • Supports eLearning, LMS.
      • Outputs to SWF, Word, Adobe Connect, others.
    • 22. Captivate – Weaknesses
      • No functional integration into related tools – e.g. can launch Captivate from RoboHelp but that’s about it.
      • Some features not clearly documented.
      • Some features – text-entry boxes, playbar positioning, menu-on-skin – are a bit flaky.
    • 23. Mimic
      • Main edit screen.
    • 24. Mimic
      • Link browser (e.g. branching) screen.
    • 25. Mimic – Strengths
      • Integration into MadPak:
        • Interface similarities.
        • Sharing of variables with Flare and Capture.
        • Nested builds – building a Flare project with an embedded Mimic movie builds the movie also.
      • More options for its features.
      • Can create “palettes” of reusable objects.
      • Relative similarity of Mimic and Flash timelines.
    • 26. Mimic – Weaknesses
      • More complex interface.
      • Offers Madcap Movie as an alternative to SWF, but requires users to have a viewer which may limit this format on thin-client or zero-footprint installations.
      • Only previews in Madcap Movie format.
    • 27. Camtasia
      • Main editing screen.
    • 28. Camtasia
      • Storyboard screen.
    • 29. Camtasia – Strengths
      • Extensive assistance built into the interface.
      • Predefined values for features like captions and callouts makes it easy to get going.
      • Supports quizzing, LMS.
      • Supports video, closed captioning.
      • Wide variety of outputs – MP3, iPod, SWF, AVI, Silverlight compatible WMV, Quick-Time MOV, others.
    • 30. Camtasia – Weaknesses
      • No functional integration into related help authoring tools.
        • No equivalent to RoboHelp or Flare.
      • Variable-length units of content – e.g. video clips rather than slides – makes a more difficult mental model for some authors.
    • 31.
      • Conclusions
    • 32. Consider Captivate If…
      • You need extensive eLearning and LMS support.
      • You don’t need features like variables.
      • You consider yourself non- or minimally techie.
      • You need a large pool of contractors.
    • 33. Consider Camtasia If…
      • You need the eLearning and LMS support.
      • You don’t need features like variables.
      • You consider yourself non- or minimally techie.
      • You need a large pool of contractors.
      • You need a wide range of outputs, including handheld devices like iPods.
    • 34. Consider Mimic If…
      • You want a wide range of options with very precise control.
      • You want a tool that’s programmatically integrated into its authoring suite.
      • You want variables.
      • You want a consistent interface across your major authoring tools.
    • 35. Thank you... Questions? Hyper/Word Services 978-657-5464 [email_address] www.hyperword.com
    • 36. Hyper/Word Services Offers…
      • Training • Consulting • Development
        • Flare • RoboHelp • RoboInfo
        • Mimic • Captivate
        • XML
        • Single sourcing • Structured authoring