Two App Simulation Tools Ease User Training

Review: SoftSim, Camtasia offer different levels of app simulation capability.

When it comes to learning about or training on applications, most people are like Missouri—in other words, "show me."

Most companies dont have the resources to dedicate personnel to training users on new systems. But thats where software simulation and demonstration products can come in.

In their most basic form, these products simply record a users actions when running an application and export that information to a video format or in Macromedia Inc.s Flash. More advanced products provide many more capabilities and options, from integrated quizzes and custom controls to high-level training and learning management features.

eWEEK Labs recently looked at two very capable products for building customized and interactive software simulations and demos: OutStart Inc.s SoftSim Version 2006 and TechSmith Corp.s Camtasia Studio 3.1. In our tests, both products worked well for recording application usage and creating simulations, tutorials and demos; each, however, has distinctly different focuses and strengths.

Camtasia Studio 3.1, released this month, has a sleek and intuitive interface that made it simple for us to quickly create a professional-looking application demo or tutorial. SoftSim, released in November, has a more complex interface for building simulations and a higher price, but it is also much more advanced when it comes to building training simulations and has strong learning management capabilities and integration potential.

These are not insignificant differences, and customers should not be too surprised that SoftSim 2006 costs more than 10 times the price of Camtasia Studio.

Its easy to look at these products simply as tools for recording application usage, but treating them alike would be like treating a desktop video application the same as a video editing tool used by a movie studio. While products such as Camtasia Studio are great for creating demos and tutorials, learning management and training professionals should consider the additional capabilities in a product such as SoftSim as must-haves.

Trial versions of SoftSim 2006 and Camtasia Studio 3.1 are downloadable at www.outstart. com and, respectively.

Labs Director Jim Rapoza can be reached at

Click here to read the full review of SoftSim 2006.
Click here to read the full review of Camtasia Studio 3.1.