Fundamentals of Adobe Captivate

Posted by Greten on 20 Feb 2019 under Tools

Adobe Captivate is one of the most popular elearning authoring applications. Formerly known as Flashcam and then as RoboDemo, a screen casting software. Adobe acquired it through a series of corporate acquisitions, renamed it Captivate, and added features in every succeeding version until it became the elearning tool that we know it today.

If you already worked on slide presentations using Impress, PowerPoint, Keynote, or any similar application, working on Captivate is not that different, except that you have to design for learners interacting with the medium instead of viewers passively watching it. You can have the learners click on objects, drag objects to places, or enter a text in a field, among others depending on how you designed your instruction.

This article aims to provide a basic, introductory knowledge of Adobe Captivate. The screen captures used here are obtained using Adobe Captivate 2019.

Visual and interactive elements

A learning module created using Captivate has several elements working together to deliver an effective learning experience. The raw file format in which these elements can be added, removed, or modified using Captivate is called the CPTX file. These elements are as follows:


The slide is the basic unit of a Captivate module. It is the stage on which you put the different elements of your presentation. Captivate arranges the slides in a sequence; the module may break this sequence using interactive elements and slide properties that specified the slide to jump to.


Text allows you to present information in a readable form. Unless you intend to rely on audio, putting information as text in your module is essential to transmit learning.

Text caption

The text caption is the raw text that you can put on a slide; a rectangular area where you can type characters. You can format the text as bold, italic, or underline, and with specific font face and size. You can resize the rectangular area to accommodate more text, and the text wraps to the next line if it does not fit the width of the text box.

Text animation

The text animation is similar in function to the text caption: to display readable information. However, as its name implies, text animation comes with special effects that are different from the ones under the Timing tab. Also, you cannot resize the box of text animation; the text animation box expands in width as you add more text. However, you can make it multiple lines by breaking lines with the Enter key.

Text entry box

Although under "Text" in the Captivate's menu, the text entry box is an interactive element. It allows learners to enter text and submit. You can use it as an interactive exercise or as a part of a graded quiz.


Shapes are two-dimensional figures that you can place on your slide. You can arrange them to form a diagram, add text on them, or turn them into interactive elements like button or dropping place for drag and drop. You can change the color and thickness of their outline as well as what goes inside their area: color fill, gradient, image, or transparent.


These are a wide array of objects used mainly in progressive reveal and concept mapping instructional techniques.

Highlight box

The highlight box is a rectangle that you can use to draw focus to a part of a diagram, figure, picture, or whatever it is that is on the slide at the moment. This box is not much different from the rectangle under shapes except that you can configure it such that everything outside of it darkens while it is transparent inside.


Useful in software demonstrations, it is an animated mouse that appears and stops to point a part of the interface.

Zoom area

Zooms-in a part of whatever is displayed on the slide at the moment. It creates two rectangular areas: one locates the part that needs to zoom-in, and the other is to show the enlarged image of that part.

Rollover caption, image, and slidelet

These are different objects with a similar function: to display something when the mouse hovers on a region. Rollover caption displays text, rollover image displays an image, and rollover slidelet displays a medium: video, audio, another set of Captivate slide, among others.


A frame that shows an external webpage embedded on the slide.


Several interactive elements that allow learners to interact with the presentation. May be used as quiz or to simply guide the learner to work on the learning process instead of passively watching the presentation.


One of the basic ways a learner can interact with the module is through buttons. The learner clicks a button, and something happens: they go to the next slide, start an animation, plays a medium, executes a script, among other functions. You can also display two or more buttons and use them as choices in a quiz or exercise questions, or allow the learner to jump to a particular slide based on what button they clicked.

Click box

Click boxes are functionally similar to buttons except that they are invisible. You place them on top of an image where you need the user to click on a particular part of that image. For example, your image is a map of a country. You then put click boxes on the different regions, states, or provinces of that country. The learners will not see any object that they can click on the map, but they can click on a part of the map and go to the slide where they can read information about the corresponding province.

Drag and drop

Drag and drop elements are used mainly on quizzes and exercises. You set up some of the elements as draggable objects, and others as the drop-off point. This is useful in exercises that involve classifying things into group. For example, you have pictures of different food on the slide, and you can drag them to boxes labeled as grow, glow, and go foods.

Learning interactions

The learning interactions are templates for several interactive diagrams that you can put in one slide. They are used mainly as tools of progressive disclosure instead of quizzes and exercises. Some of the templates under learning interactions are Accordion, Timeline, and Glossary.


You can upload external media files and put them in your elearning module. Captivate also has a collection of media files that come with the installation, and some come with the upgrade packs.

SVG, image, audio, and video

You can import external media files to be included in your Captivate learning module. A video can play on a single slide, or you can divide it over several slides. Audio files can be attached to a slide or an element on it. You can also include static images and SVG files, images that you can resize without pixelation.


You can embed Flash SWF animations on your module. No longer a good idea due to decreasing support for Flash due to HTML5.

HTML5 Animations

HTML5 animation is Captivate's answer to decreasing support for Flash. You can import external HTML5 animations either in zip format or as OAM file, the raw file of Adobe Edge Animate.


A collection of character poses, they are either illustrations or photographs of real people. They are static images not functionally different from imported static image files


The effects are the options that allow you to animate the different elements. You can animate their entrance, exit, or have them do something in the middle of their duration. Many of them are similar to the animation effects found in presentation programs like PowerPoint and Impress.

You can combine two effects to work at the same time. For example, you can assign both AlphaFromTo and RotateTo to an object, and have these effects run at the same time so you will have an object that is gradually becoming clear while spinning. Effects usually happen within the timeline duration of the object, but you can set it up so that it happens when the learner click a button.


The timeline determines when an element will appear or disappear during the duration of the slide. You can see the elements as bars in the timeline; the bars represent their durations in discrete values of one-tenth of a second.

The main purpose of the timeline is to determine the timing in which the elements will appear, but it also serves a secondary purpose of showing and controlling the z-order of the elements.

The color of the bar graph determines what time it is that you are trying to adjust.

  • Blue bar: correspond to a slide object
  • Gray bar: correspond to a group of slide objects
  • Green bar: interactive elements that await certain actions from the learner, such as clicking, dragging, or hovering.
  • Pink bar: duration of effects


The library contains all the images, audio, video, and other media files that you imported in your presentation. You can use it to prevent your Captivate file from being loaded with files that were imported twice; you can drag from the library if you intend to use an image within the same module twice or more.

You can also use the library to remove unused media files, which usually happens when you imported a file, put it on a slide, and later decided to delete that slide. Also, if you imported a media file, decided that you no longer need it, and delete it from your slide. It is still in the library and counts on the file size of the CPTX file. You need to remove it from the library to delete it from your Captivate file.


The learners should have no access to the CPTX file. What they should access is the published file of the learning module. You have the following publishing format options.

Publishing file format

You publish the learning module in a format that is accessible to the learners. They can watch it and interact with it depending on how you designed learning, but they should not be able to modify it or know its internal workings.

You can publish the module in any of the following formats:

  • Flash SWF: publish the module as interactive Flash file that can be embedded on a webpage: rarely used today due to decreasing support for Flash.
  • HTML5: publish the module as HTML5, the new means of animation and interaction that poses to supplant Flash; it relies on several files such as images, media, HTML, CSS, and javascript files.
  • Combined Flash/HTML5: publish the module as both Flash and HTML5; the way this works is that the module serves the Flash version to browsers and devices that support it, and serves HTML5 version otherwise.
  • Video: publish the module as video; interactive elements are not supported here.
  • Executable: publish the module as a standalone executable file.

LMS Compatibility

If the learning module is going to be uploaded to a learning management system (LMS), you need to publish them as SCORM 1.2, SCORM 2004, xAPI, or AICC depending on what your LMS supports. Proper publishing is important if some of the scored quizzes and exercises are within the Captivate module itself.

Final thoughts

After learning the fundamentals of Adobe Captivate, it is a good idea to obtain a copy and try using it before you learn about advanced functions and features. If you cannot buy Captivate now either as a perpetual license or on a subscription basis, you can download the trial version and try learning everything you can learn. Learning Captivate will help you in your career in instructional design and elearning development.

As for this blog, watch out for more posts about Adobe Captivate. I am also in the process of learning how to use it, and one of the reasons I am blogging is to document what I learned.

Last updated on 23 Oct 2020.

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