Fonts in Captivate


Since the most recent release (11.5) of CP2019 there has been a lot of noise and questions about Fonts in Captivate. You probably heard about the Replace Fonts issues which many users experience (not me, sorry). From those discussions and the multiple times I tried to explain the different fonts possible in Captivate, I concluded to write this short article.  It is not really about the science of font use - Typography - nor about design. Just some down-to-earth explanations, and practical recommendations based on my experiences with clients and their sometimes irrational requests (sorry for that word).

Normal expectation of any designer is that the 'clients' (in this case the learner) will see your course looking totally the same as you see it while developing. Captivate is by default NOT embedding fonts. For that reason you may get in problems, as you'll read here.

Font groups

I don't mean Font Families, but the way fonts are grouped in Captivate.

Have a look at the dropdown list for Character when you are in the edit mode for a text container, caption or shape. You will see that 4 groups are listed up, from top to bottom: 

  1. Theme fonts: new group in version 11.5. If you use only one theme in the project, this group will show the fonts used in that theme, same information as under the Theme Properties. If you have multiple themes in the project, this group will show the fonts for the theme used in the active slide.  You can use this group to switch between the fonts of that particular theme. The active font is highlighted as you can see. Since all fonts of the three other groups can be used in a theme, these fonts do not guarantee that your learners will see them correctly.
  2. Adobe fonts: formerly those fonts were indicated as Typekit fonts. This group may be empty for you, only fonts which you licensed using the CC (Creative Cloud) app, tab Fonts:

    Fonts from this group can be used safely, your learners will see them! When publishing you have to indicate which domains will be added to the license. The number of fonts you can license, and the number of domains, depend on your plan for Adobe Fonts.
  3. Web Safe fonts: a limited group of fonts which are safe to use (my screenshots are on a Windows system):
  4. System fonts: this last group shows all fonts installed on your system. That group will likely include the brand font(s), those who are commonly used for print in your company (or your client's company). Problem with using those fonts is that they will only appear in all circumstances if the learner has the same font installed on her/his system. 

Static vs Dynamic Text

Shapes and captions are labeled 'static' if there is no variable inserted in the text. 

If the project is a non-responsive project, static text containers will be converted to bitmap images. This has positive and negative consequences:

  • Positive is that you can use any font, even a system font without having to embed them. The learner will see an image of the text.
  • Negative: if you publish the project to Scalable HTML output, and the project is upscaled you'll have the usual blurriness which occur for all bitmap images. Moreover if you have a mixture of static and dynamic text containers there will be a visible difference between the two types of containers.

If you have at least one variable (system or user) in a text container it becomes dynamic. This means that the text will not be converted to images but has to be generated on runtime. Typical example is the score slide after a quiz: most system variables on that slide get their value only after the end of the quiz.  What are the pro and contra this time?

  • Positive is that the font will look crisp at all time.
  • Negative: if you use a system font, and that paricular font is not installed on the learner's system, it will be replaced by a generic font (mostly Times New Roman), which looks very unprofessional. 

For responsive, Fluid Boxes project all text will be treated as dynamic text.


Fonts to use

Personally I recommend to avoid System fonts for all courses.  Keep to Adobe fonts or eventually Web safe fonts.

I hear you! How to explain to your manager or client that you cannot use the 'holy' branded fonts in their company style sheet. There may be exceptions, but in most companies those style sheets have been set up for 'printed documents', not for web and certainly not for eLearning. There is a big difference between both: Colors and Fonts are typical examples. This article is not dedicated to colors, but most ignore that CMYK and RGB can be quite different. The Adobe Fonts library has thousands of fonts. It should be possible to find a font which is very close to the 'branded print' font. You can challenge them: show two slides with exactly the same content, but one with their 'brand font' and another with the Adobe font which you found. Will the learners see the difference? 

Blurriness in non-responsive Scalable projects

The ideal solution would be that static text containers were converted to SVG instead of bitmap image, but that is at this moment just daydreaming (have no idea how complicated that is for the Captivate engineers). When I had a stubborn client who couldn't be convinced of using Adobe font, I converted all static text containers to SVG myself. It could still lead to a minor difference between the font look in static and dynamic text, but it was crisp.

A common workaround is to create an empty user variable, which you add at the end of each static text. That will force generation of the text on run time, which means you have to avoid system fonts. With that workaround you'll not see any difference between static and dynamic text.

Another possibility is to develop the project in a very high resolution, so that only downscaling will ever happen. However that has consequences for the file size.

11 responses
Lieve, As always, great advice. I've been meaning to reach out after we actually met face-to-face in Las Vegas. Time just seems to slip away. Please let me know when you'll next be in San Diego. My door is always open and my guest room available! --Leslie
Hi Leslie, was wondering what happened. I will be in Vegas for the summit soon. Maybe I'll call you when I am on my US number...
I love the workaround tip! Thank you!! -Cheryl From: [] Sent: Tuesday, August 27, 2019 9:09 AM
You're welcome, Cheryl!
It's time for Adobe to add a "save font with project", like you can with Microsoft Office suite. I'm no MS fan, but it's a critical option to ensure your end users see exactly what you created without and it's super easy - no advanced skill required.
Sorry - meant to type "without substitution..."
@Holly I tend to disagree and will try to explain the reason. Embedding fonts will increase the file size considerably and with the present evolution to use more mobile devices which have much less power (hardware and software) and perhaps lower bandwidth as well, this is not recommended. Second reason; I don't estimate the exact look of text in in an eLearning course as being as important as in a printed document (even if it is watched as e-document). Text is much less important in eLearning, graphics, audio, animations, video will engage your learners. The Adobe font library has for sure a font which 99% of your audience will not be able to differentiate from your 'brand font'. I know marketing people may disagree, but to me it is Learning which is the goal, not marketing.
Hi! Interesting article, but I have another problem you may be able to help me with. I am upgrading an old e-learning course from flash to html5 compability. Every time I write the letters "st" together they are bound together with a curve from the top of the s to the top of the t. I am new to Captivate so this may be obvious to everyone else, but to me it´s giving me grey hairs! I can´t find the reason anywhere, I can´t even find the typography settings! What should I do? BR
Why not post your question in the eLearning community or in the Adobe forums? I suspect this depends on the used font, because you do not have as much typography options in Captivate as you can have in Illustrator, InDesign or even Animate.
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