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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  • Under Camtasia weaknesses - you stated that there is no functional integration into related Help Authoring tools. I found that to be incorrect. Robohelp 8 allows SWF video. Is there something I'm missing?
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A Comparison of Three Visual Help Authoring Tools A Comparison of Three Visual Help Authoring Tools Presentation Transcript

  • Three Visual Help Authoring Tools
  • 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).
    • Overview of These Tools
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 .
  • 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.
  • Some Quick Movie Demos…
    • Software demonstration/simulation.
    • Role-playing simulation.
  • 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.
  • 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”.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • A Brief Look At the Tools…
  • Captivate
    • Main Storyboard screen.
  • Captivate
    • Main Edit screen.
  • Captivate
    • Main branching screen.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mimic
    • Main edit screen.
  • Mimic
    • Link browser (e.g. branching) screen.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Camtasia
    • Main editing screen.
  • Camtasia
    • Storyboard screen.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Conclusions
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Thank you... Questions? Hyper/Word Services 978-657-5464 [email_address] www.hyperword.com
  • Hyper/Word Services Offers…
    • Training • Consulting • Development
      • Flare • RoboHelp • RoboInfo
      • Mimic • Captivate
      • XML
      • Single sourcing • Structured authoring