I recently received an email from a new Captivate developer who had delivered an eLearning lesson to a client via email attachment. The client informed the developer that he could not open the email attachment since he didn't own Adobe Captivate.
I asked the developer what he had sent to the client, and was told that he had emailed an Captivate production file (the cptx file). The developer didn't realize that cptx files can only be opened by someone who has Captivate installed on the computer. When it comes time to deliver consumable content to a learner, the cptx files must be published (via File > Publish).
When publishing a Captivate project file, the format you select will depend upon on how the learner will access the lesson. If the learner is going to access the lesson over the internet (either from a web server or an LMS), publishing SWF and/or HTML5 is the way to go. If you decide to publish a SWF, the learner will use a web browser to access the lesson. In addition to the web browser, the learner must have the free Adobe Flash Player on the computer to view the SWF.
If you publish HTML5, a web browser is still required for the learner. However, since HTML5 isn't a Flash-based output, you bypass the need for the learner to need the Flash Player. Learners need only use a device, or browser, that supports HTML5 (such as the Safari browser found on the iPad and the iPhone).
If you'd like to email the lesson to someone as an attachment, neither SWF nor HTML5 are appropriate since both outputs result in multiple, co-dependent, published files. Instead, you could proceed to choose SWF/HTML5 from the publish options, select SWF as the Output, but then select Export PDF from the Output Options area.
After publishing the lesson, you'll receive an alert dialog box reminding you that the free Adobe Reader 9 (or newer) is required for anyone wanting to use the PDF. And while the publish destination folder will include multiple files (including a SWF and a PDF), the only thing you'll need to email to a learner is the PDF.
Many people are surprised to see that when opened in Adobe Reader, the PDF retains all of the lesson's animations, audio and interactivity. Because the PDF does not depend on other published assets, the PDF is a wonderful standalone option. The PDF is portable (it can be emailed as an attachment) and cross-platform (Adobe Reader is available for both the Macintosh and Windows operating systems).
If PDF isn't going to work for you, there are some other standalone publishing options. From the list of Publish options along the left side of the Publish dialog box, select Media. From the Select Type drop-down menu, you can choose to publish a Windows Executable (which will create a portable, standalone file that will only play on Windows-based PCs), or MAC Executable (which will create a portable, standalone file that will only play on Macs). Both of these options will create one single file that retain all of the audio, animation and interactivity of published SWFs, HTML5 and PDFs. However, since they are platform-specific, you'll need to know the hardware and software being used by your learners to ensure you publish the correct media.
The final option in the Select type drop-down menu is MP4 Video. This option will yield a standalone video file that can be opened by Macs, PCs and mobile devices (such as the iPad). However, while the video will include the lesson's animations and audio, any interactivity contained within the lesson will be lost (click boxes, buttons and quizzes).
The publish option that you select during the publish process really depends on your learner's setup, and how they will be accessing your lesson. Just remember that neither SWF nor HTML5 are good standalone options.