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Friday, February 08, 2008

Qarbon - So Much Better Than Captivate

Remember the horrible week - the one where I worked 65 hours, had a totally demoralizing run-in with a coworker insisting on doing my job, culminating with Microsoft threatening to buy Yahoo? One other thing that was going painfully wrong that week was recording and producing a video helplet about the Email System in Remedy 7. I'd upgraded to Captivate 3 in the fond hope of escaping some of the bugs in Captivate 2. After wrestling it most of Wednesday and Thursday, at quarter to five on Thursday, I went and sat down in Linda and Nuriya's office and just whined. The thing I just couldn't work around was that no matter what I did, I could not get Cap3 to record additional slides with the mouse displayed. It was pure torture. I was half-way through a project, needed to add a few more slides, and I couldn't unless I wanted to manually animate in the mouse for each of those slides. Nuriya (who is one of my favorite coworkers ever) suggested searching the Adobe site for solutions. A quick search didn't find much. I headed back to my desk to start redoing my project in Captivate 2. I got an email from Nuriya a few minutes later with a link saying "Oh dear, looks like you're right." This guy had all the same frustrations, only he'd given up before going on to Cap3. So he wrote a review of a couple of alternative products saying "If I can avoid giving Adobe $1 dollar for a 3rd generation piece of shit that they cannot get right, I’d love to."

After reading the reviews, I thought I'd try the Qarbon Viewlet Builder. It sounded like it might just fit the bill for me. So I figured I'd finish my project tonight via Captivate 2 and I'd download the other product the next day, but while poking around their site, I didn't find any mention of educational discounts. So I figured I'd start a dialog about that. I wrote:
Hi,
After a grueling day fighting Captivate 3, after upgrading from Captivate 2 hoping to fix some of the worst bugs, I went and complained to a coworker, who did a Google search and found this article online:
http://www.breakitdownblog.com/adobe-captivate-review-and-screencasting-alternatives/
I hope y'all are offering this guy free upgrades from now through eternity, because he's your best advertising.

Anyway, just wondering if you offer an educational discount? Adobe offers Stanford some ridiculously cheap pricing. Captivate 3 cost just $79, plus $23 for the CD. Unfortunately, it looks like that was money wasted because the bugs are even worse (or different but equally frustrating) and I'm sick to death of creating workarounds.

So I'm going to download a trial copy in the morning (after my blood pressure has dropped a bit) and see how I do, but in the meantime, I figured I'd start the conversation about pricing. From your location, it looks like you're the little guy, with Adobe's buildings looming just over your shoulder, and I'm all about supporting the little guy, but the cost has to be competitive. And while Stanford theoretically has mad stacks of cash, my department certainly doesn't. Heck, I can't get my boss to spring for a monthly iPass subscription at $10 a month, so spending $200-400 on software that should do something I already can do (argh!) will be a long conversation.

Cheers,
Ammy Hill
IT Services
Campus Readiness Lead

I got a response from Jay at Qarbon about an hour and a half later.
Hi Ammy,

I really enjoyed reading your email about Captivate. We had such a good day today, I'd like to offer you a upgrade for free if you don't mind.

Gimme a little PR or a blog and we'll call it even.

Jay Lucke

Allow me to just say up front: Rock On.

So this week I've been playing around with the Qarbon product, getting familiar with it and building something non-critical. It's pretty sweet. It does pretty much everything I need, and some things I always wished Captivate could do (hello scale to fit browser!), and I had three things that I wished it could do, so I called Jay to talk it over. We talked about:
- Preview with sound. He said this is slated for the next version due very very soon. Current work around is to preview in browser, but that makes editing sound tricky because the browser version doesn't show slide numbers. He offered to send me the 5.5 beta (with all the usual caveats for beta software). This rocks.
- In Captivate, sound goes before the mouse action by default. I can adjust this manually using the timeline, but I suggested that their stylesheet function might be a good place for that. We ran through a bunch of scenarios and he's going to talk about it with the team and see if he can get that to happen.
- Accessibility. There's currently no facility for closed captioning. Captivate does this, but awkwardly. He's going to have the graphic designer see if he can create a skin that shows the slide notes as captions. This would totally rock and sublimely improve on the Captivate way of doing it.

So consider me sold. This is such a great product and they really originated it (and won the lawsuit to prove it) and they're so much more interested it meeting the needs of the customer. It's frightfully refreshing.

Turns out Jay also lives in San Jose and is familiar with my favorite place - the Naglee Park garage. I told him I'd buy him a drink one of these days. Or breakfast. Or something like that. Anyway, isn't it great when the little guy really does win against Goliath? Yah.

2 Comments:

  • Qarbon's been around for ages. I played around with an early version a couple years. They used to do this thing where if you created and posted a how to viewlet on their site, then you would get a few cents everytime someone played it. The concept was ahead of it's time.

    By Blogger Chris, at 10:24 AM  

  • Chris,

    funny you should bring that up, we are actually looking to bring that concept back. With the payment gateways like PayPal, it makes this much easier to maintain.

    Patrick

    By Blogger Patrick, at 12:19 PM  

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