Articulate Presenter Review

Articulate Presenter is probably the leading PowerPoint to Flash tool aimed at the eLearning market, and for good reason. It is very easy to use and produces clean, user-friendly presentations in a matter of minutes. The interface is simple and intuitive, and Articulate Presenter comes with a nice mix of publishing options. It is not without its faults, however. The short-comings are few, and don’t really take away from the overall effectiveness of the tool. The bottom line: if you want to produce attractive online slide shows and have a bit of money to spend, Articulate Presenter is probably a good choice. The base price for Presenter is $499. The Studio Professional version is $1398. See Articulate’s store for pricing details.

One caveat, a good tool does not necessarily make good training. Presenter is a good tool, but you have to use it appropriately and within its limit to create effective training. It is not a course authoring tool; it is a slide show tool. If you think online training means adding some quiz questions to PowerPoint presentations, then this is the tool for you. I personally don’t think that is eLearning. I think that is “shovelware”. Again, the tool does not make the training. Training needs to be effective, not just pretty and easy to produce. That is not to say that Articulate Presenter cannot be used to make effective training, because it can. They have really good example of ergonomic training on their blog that shows you how effective the Articulate tool set can be. (Note, the example used Articulate Engage in addition to Presenter).

Features
Presenter has a lot of useful features that really make it stand out above other similar tools. I’m not going to go into all of them here, but I’ll highlight a few key features. You can view a full list of features online.

You can add basic quizzes using Articulate Presenter, but the quiz tool is lacking. I could not even figure out how to edit the color default color scheme. Presenter’s built-in quiz tools suffers because Articulate needs to promote Quizmaker, and obviously focuses quiz development efforts on Quizmaker. It is clear they want you to buy Articulate Quizmaker and use it for quizzes. That’s probably a good idea, but will cost you extra. Quizmaker comes with the Studio versions of Presenter.

You can add audio to slides and sync the timing to match the audio file. I imported a four minute MP3 file and it performed well and sounded fine. You can also use the built in recording tool to add audio. Adding Flash files was not as straight forward. If the Flash file is larger than the presentation size, you have to launch it in a separate window. If you’re running the presentation from a web server, this isn’t a problem and actually prevents you from accidentally scaling the Flash movie. However, when testing the output on my local system I got the obligatory security warnings and the simulation didn’t launch. This will probably happen for CD based presentations. There may have been a way to avoid this, but I ran out of time on my demo version to fully explore the options.

You can customize the presentation look and feel. Presenter gives you a lot of options for changing just about every interface element. I found it easy to change the color scheme, add my logo, and save the scheme for use in other presentations. I think Articulate Presenter had the best built-in color customization tools of all the slide conversion tools I looked at. The only minor gripe I had was that you can’t tab between fields when changing colors. One thing I liked was the ability to not show presenter video. Some people like seeing a person talking, but I don’t. It was an easy thing to turn off.

One feature I really liked was the ability to add multiple levels to the Table of Contents. You can create hierarchy of slides so that users can clearly see how topics are organized into sections or topics. I easily grouped slides into multiple nested topics. The published output had a clear table of contents showing the organization. Learners like to see things in small, logical chunks and this tool lets you quickly create modules within a presentation. This was probably my favorite feature.

Publishing
Publishing is easy either as a SCORM package or standalone presentations. You can use the default compression for images and audio, or choose your own settings. I recommend using a high image quality setting because the output quality of the slides wasn’t great. I could see a lot of compression artifacts. Also, the custom bullets I used did not render properly. They were behind the bullet text.

Another feature I liked was the ability to choose how the presentation launches. You can choose to launch it in a pop-up window, at the normal size, or scaled in a window. I like the flexibility. It shows that Articulate thought about delivery options and realized not every presentation will use the same cookie cutter approach.

Customization
I’ve already talked about customization, but there’s more. If you buy the Platinum support plan you also get access to the Articulate SDK which includes an API reference and some FLA files. This gives you a much wider range of customization options because you can actually use Flash to change interface elements. I thought cost was a little high, but it does come with product upgrades. A smart Flash developer might be able to make customization without the SDK because of the way Articulate has structured the output files. I took a close look at the published output and was impressed with how they were accomplishing things, at least from a Flash programming point of view. I would have done something very similar.

Summary
Overall, a very good tool, the best of the PowerPoint converters that I looked at.
The good:

  • Customization options
  • Multi level navigation in TOC
  • Available SDK

The Bad

  • Built in quiz tool
  • Compression artifacts
  • Price – initial cost, and especially the SDK

I will likely recommend purchasing Articulate presenter with the Platinum support plan because I know I’ll be able to make high quality presentations with it. I could probably build a similar tool myself, but Presenter will get me going much faster.

Ratings
On a 10 point scale, 10 being best

General
Ease of Use 8  
Interface Design 8 Simple, clear, intuitive.
Ramp-up 8 I was able to get output fairly quickly.
Help 7 Included help is adequate. I downloaded a PDF file, which is good, but the page numbering didn’t sync with the Acrobat page numbers.
Support 8 They have a support web site that looks good. It has forums, which I always like.
Customer Satisfaction 8.5 From the Course Authoring Tools satisfaction survey.
Course Authoring
Customization 8 I easily customized the presentation colors and added my own logo. The interface has some minor quirks, but is overall very good. I wish I could set the presentation size.
Integration 8 You can add audio and Flash, but the size limitation of Flash annoyed me.
Quizzes 5 It does incorporate quizzes, but the built in tool is very limited. I couldn’t figure out how to customize the colors. They want you to buy Quizmaker, so this tool suffers.
Publishing 9 I had no problems with the publishing and liked the various options. I also liked that I can set the audio compression.
Output Quality 9 There were some issues, but you can change settings to help overcome them.
Total 8  

If you have any comments, corrections, or a different opinion, please post a comment or email me directly. This review is my opinion of my experience using the 15 day trial version of Articulate Presenter. It is entirely possible I missed something. If I did, let me know.

Update: I found this review – http://academictech.doit.wisc.edu/resources/products/pptoweb/articulate.htm for anyone interested in another opinion.

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12 Responses to Articulate Presenter Review

  1. Tom Kuhlmann says:

    Great review. I completely agree about the tool not being content. We’re working with the user community to help them go beyond the bullet point look. I like to treat slide like a blank screen.

    There really are a lot of great things you can do once you step away from the PowerPoint paradigm.

    Love the term “shovelware.” I’d be interested in seeing what you can do with the tool to make it more than shovelware. Feel free to send me an email, we always love to do customer spotlights.

  2. Nidhi Gupta says:

    why is trial version of Articulate Engage on my machine taking 100 years to save a project??

    It does’nt even show whats the status 😦

  3. laura says:

    Hi there,
    thank you for the comprehensive review!
    I’d be interested to know if you tested the SCORM output and any details you can provide. Can you create a full course that can run from and report results to an LMS (SCORM version 1.2 and 1.3)?
    Thank you!

  4. laura says:

    I just got the answer to my question re publishing to SCORM on Articulate’s site.

    But I would very much like to hear about experience launching from an LMS.

    • Laura,
      I have published to SCORM and it does work well. I’ve had some issues with progress being reset if a learner re-enters the course after completing it, but I’m not sure if that is an LMS issue, SCORM issue, or Presenter issue. I was able to work around it, though. If you want to test out your courses, try http://testtrack.scorm.com. You can upload courses and see detailed SCORM reports. It’s a great, free resource.

      By the way, the SCORM JavaScript code Presenter uses was originally written by the folks at Rustici Software, so it’s rock solid and well tested.

      • steve says:

        Hello Gary. As we also have some issues regarding the progress which is reset when learners re-enters… we are wondering what kind of work around you found.
        By the way, thanks a lot for your blog !
        steve

  5. Omri says:

    I am working for a training company on a trail for modifying our training material to E-Learning format.
    During our pilot run articulate has caused us to loose hours and hours of recordings because of software bugs.
    (These recordings were made by our professional trainers – effectively loosing almost 2 man hour days worth of work estimated at around 400$ a day)
    Eventually we decided to record the narrations using a different software and import it later.
    although this is a viable workaround it feels like it was missing the point of using this software.

    I feel this product is completely immature and frankly i can’t understand how this software is not labeled BETA
    it surely doesn’t feel ready for every day usage not to mention completely overpriced for a software that piggybacks on another product (Microsoft office).
    I think the real problem is that they don’t have any real competition in their field.

    • I’m sorry you had such a bad experience. The initial 09 version of Presenter did have some bugs, but I think most of them have been fixed in the updates. I never record audio in Presenter, or any other authoring/development tool. I always keep it separate just in case something happens and to allow me to change development tools without redoing everything.

      Presenter does have competition. Adobe has a product called Presenter that does the same thing as Articulate Presenter. There are also many other PowerPoint conversion tools. For eLearning development there are many tools, Lectora and Flashform, for example.

      I’ve used Articulate Presenter for a couple of years with great success. I hope your future efforts are more successful.

  6. Omri says:

    Hey Gary,
    Thanks for the reply,
    Adobe Presenter does in fact look like a viable replacement.
    unfortunately for me, the company we are working with on this pilot insist using articulate created materials. (corporate politics).
    To tell you the truth I am just really frustrated with trying to get something working, which should just work.
    Especially when it is something as trivial as recording audio.
    On another desktop I have, I had a completely different issue.
    another annoying issue is that it just works so slow. even on powerful machines (XP on core 2 duo 2.0ghz with 2gb Ram) – i can run a couple of virtual machines which will work just fine. but i just feel that presenter is sluggish even when running all by itself.

    The FAQ and forum are really dull compared to other software related forums I have visited( at least IMHO ).

    Maybe you could make a new review comparing the old version with the new version of articulate, after asking around it seems the has been a major regression in the articulate 09 suite.

    I will Test adobe presenter and see if it would be even remotely possible to use it instead of articulate.

    p.s it seems the link to the review mentioned in the update is dead.

    Thanks again.
    Omri

  7. Pingback: Articulate Presenter Vs. Camtasia Studio | dannys53

  8. Pingback: Articulate Presenter vs. Camtasia Studio. Which is better? « mikeharmon24

  9. Stephanie says:

    Other FSX Virtual Airlines are based on real airlines, from major carriers to small operators.
    All of these issues add to the interest that can be produced about a site and this works for spots in this place and any place in the world.

    In terms of sheer enjoyment, the Rollercoaster Tycoon series leads the pack.

    However, if you’d like to take the scenic route through Google Earth, the SR22 is a better choice. Usually, would need to follow the entire startup sequence to start any of the airplanes, but FSP also has the auto start feature, to make it easier for newbie’s.

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