In a previous (teenage) life I worked as a technician repairing and servicing domestic electrical appliances. It was there I first learned how to troubleshoot technical issues. Most of the time it just boils down to eliminating all possible causes until you find the one/s triggering the issue. It’s not rocket science; just a process of elimination. After a while the diagnostic process speeds up because you know most of the common causes and might even know instantly as soon as you hear the telltale symptoms.
Similarly, some basic troubleshooting tips apply to just about any Captivate issue you need to debug. In the thousands of posts I’ve logged on the Adobe Captivate Forum I often find myself following the same diagnostic process of elimination I used when fixing washing machines and refrigerators back in my teens. This section gives you a quick apprenticeship in Captivate troubleshooting techniques that every Captivate user should know about.
Easy Troubleshooting Techniques
These tips cost nothing, in most cases take only seconds or moments to perform, and have saved my bacon more times than I can count.
1. Start with the most likely causes
2. Simplify the project to isolate the issue
3. Try to replicate the issue in a new project file
4. Copy and paste slides to reset object IDs
5. Don’t just Preview. Publish completely!
6. Use the Force Republish Option
7. Clear out your project cache
There are a number of precautionary steps you can take to set up your Captivate working environment and thereby avoid many common issues. One of these steps involves changing the default locations of your Project Cache folder. You are well-advised to take this action.
Never use Windows Explorer or the MAC Finder tool to delete the files in the cache folder while Captivate is open or you may crash the program. The recommended method is to use the Clear Cache button under Edit > Preferences > General section.
8. Reset Captivate preferences
The Preferences folder is not named ‘Preferences’!The Captivate preferences folder is not that easy to find on your computer because files in your user profile are hidden by default. And even when you DO find it, it’s not actually named ‘Preferences’ at all, but instead is named after the installed version of Captivate. This naming irregularity confuses the heck out of newbie Captivate users directed to kill this folder in the hope of resolving some annoying issue. Typically they go looking for a folder specifically named ‘Preferences’ and cannot find it. Frustration quickly ensues.
- To find the elusive Preferences folder, here’s what you need to do:
Show all hidden files and folders – Files in your PC user profile are normally hidden from view to prevent you from inadvertently deleting something essential, thus rendering you incapable of logging into your own computer. So, in order to locate your Captivate Preferences folder you need to make a change to default system settings and show these hidden files or folders. If your PC is not already set up this way, we cover this step in more detail in the chapter on setting up your computer to work with Captivate.
Close down Captivate – You cannot rename or delete the preferences folder while Captivate is currently open. So, close down Captivate before performing the next steps.
Navigate to the Preferences folder in your user profile – Your user profile path to the preferences folder will vary depending on your specific computer operating system. (In paths shown below for Cp6, replace [user] with your own profile name.)
- WinXP: C:\Documents and Settings\[user]\Local Settings\Application Data\Adobe\Captivate [version#]
- WinVista / Win7: C:\Users\[user]\AppData\Local\Adobe\Adobe Captivate [version#]
- Apple MAC: /Users/[user]/Library/Preferences/Adobe Captivate [version#]
Tip: Use the CleanPreferencesWin.bat file to do it quicker!
With all Captivate 6 and later versions Adobe now provides an easier way to reset preferences via a special file named CleanPreferencesWin.bat which is located in a the utils directory found inside the Captivate install folder under Program Files.
Just close down Captivate and execute the CleanPreferencesWin.bat file at this location to reset your preferences folder in a matter of a second or two. Some users that experience this issue often even set up a custom shortcut on their desktop!
9. Step away from the issue!
If you’ve been banging your head against some issue for hours without success, walk away from it and do something else for a while. You may have become so close to the issue that you cannot see something obvious. I like to play my guitar, go for a walk, go for a coffee, or go to the toilet. (You’d be amazed how many times I’ve found inspiration in the ‘smallest room of the house’.)
10. Ask someone else for advice
Again, if you’re too close to the issue to see the solution, ask another person unrelated to the problem for their input. Many times they will hit on the reason because they don’t share your perspective. If you don’t have another developer in your team, log a question on the Adobe Captivate User Forum. In most cases you’ll get a reply within hours, sometimes within minutes. However, if you DO expect someone else to help you, please note the next suggestion…
11. Give detailed info about the issue
Effective troubleshooting is based on accurate information, otherwise it’s just guesswork. So if you’re trying to debug an issue for another user, you need to know everything they know about the issue and its context. It’s often just some minor detail that reveals the underlying cause or causes. Conversely, if you ever log an issue on the Captivate forum, it will greatly increase your chances of finding a solution if you provide the helpful people there with some basic information.
Typical things you need to know or provide include:
- Captivate version and whether or not all recent patches or updates have been installed.
- Whether the computer is PC or MAC and what OS version it’s running.
- Web browser version (if published content is playing in browser).
- Flash Player version/s installed.
- Playback source (CD-ROM, LAN, local hard drive, LMS).
- If the published folder location is NOT on a web server, whether or not it has been added as a trusted location in Flash Global Security. (This accounts for a huge number of issues.)
- If content is delivered from an LMS, which LMS, LMS version.
- If using an LMS, which integration technology (AICC, SCORM, or Tin Can) and version.
People often post questions on the Captivate forum without any of this information. The more information supplied, the more likely someone can help resolve your issue.
12. Read the user help doco!
And last but not least….when all else has failed and you’ve wasted far too much time searching for answers, do what you should have done when you first installed the application: Read the user help files documentation!
As someone who spent a number of years working in the software industry as a Technical Writer (before becoming an e-learning developer) I can tell you that most people neglect this basic step in learning about the application they just purchased, or where told by their boss to use.
Large companies never expect their employees to just ‘pick up’ a new business application by playing around with it. But many newbie Captivate developers somehow expect that they will have no issues by doing exactly that. They don’t invest in any training (beyond watching a few YouTube videos) and they neglect to look up or download the Adobe Captivate HELP documentation. The inevitable result is that they strike issues and then label Captivate as not being ‘user-friendly’.
Captivate does have some areas where its usability could certainly be improved. But it’s never going to be completely idiot-proof.