Storyline vs. Captivate: A Custom eLearning Development Showdown
Storyline vs. Captivate: A Custom eLearning Development Showdown

Storyline vs. Captivate: A Custom eLearning Development Showdown

Articulate and Adobe have both produced two powerful rapid eLearning authoring tools in Storyline 2 and Captivate, but which is best for custom eLearning development? Here at GAAP Dynamics, we’ve been fortunate enough to use both tools for a variety of projects (check out our Change the Way You Train module, created in Adobe Captivate 8, and our Shades of Gray with the FCPA quiz, created in Articulate Storyline 2, here). But, the question is: Which is best? Well, let’s take a look at the facts as we see them:

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Price and Specifications

Adobe Captivate charges users a monthly subscription fee of about $30 to be able to use their product. What is great about this subscription is that it allows you to upgrade to the latest version of Adobe Captivate when it is released, which typically happens at least once a year. Another clear advantage of Adobe Captivate is that it will run seamlessly on both Windows and Apple operating systems. Want to know another cool feature? Adobe Captivate can integrate seamlessly with other products within the Adobe Creative Suite such as Photoshop or Edge Animate. So you can easily take an image you’ve placed in Captivate, round-trip it to Photoshop for editing, and easily reintegrate it back into your project.

Articulate Storyline 2 charges users an upfront fee of $1,846 to download the software. In other words, it would take five years of subscribing to Adobe Captivate to equal what you are required to pay upfront for Articulate Storyline 2. The other downside besides the initial cost, which can be a bit prohibitive if you’re just getting started in the eLearning business: It only runs on Windows. Have a Mac? You’ll have to purchase another software program like Parallels and install Windows on your Mac, which will slow down your computer’s processing speed and eat up a lot of memory! Storyline 2, as its name implies, is only the second iteration of this software, which has been around for quite a few years. So, the good news is that you’ll pay more up front, but you’ll be able to use that version for a few years before Articulate releases a newer version. But what happens when that newer version is released? You’ll have to buy it.

Our Winner: Adobe Captivate.images/user-uploads/baby on computer.png

Ease of Use

When I first opened up Adobe Captivate, I had not used an Adobe product since I took a digital photography class in college (and let’s just say it’s been a few years since college). Looking at the layout of Adobe Captivate can be daunting to an Adobe newbie. Mastering the concept of layers and the timeline is not something you’d think of if you’re used to using a product like Microsoft PowerPoint. However, there is a large Adobe Community and through the use of a few books and a bunch of videos posted to Adobe’s YouTube channel, I was able to get myself up and running.

Storyline 2 is a much more intuitive product. When you first open it, you’ll notice that the interface is very similar to PowerPoint. While you’ve still got a lot to learn about states and layers and triggers before you can accomplish anything super cool, you’ll at least feel at home adding text, shapes and other elements to your slide. And while Adobe does have a great community, Articulate’s eLearning Heroes community is pretty hard to beat! Not only do their experts post and share best practices and tips and tricks, but so does the community at large! Not only that, people will actually upload the source files for projects, share free images, etc., for you to use in your own projects, which is pretty amazing!

Our Winner:  Articulate Storyline 2.images/user-uploads/open box.png

“Built-in” Features

Adobe Captivate has quite a few built-in features, such as the ability to quickly add items like hot spots, buttons, markers and more. Adobe Captivate also has quite a few widgets or interactions prebuilt into its program. These are a great timesaving feature and can even be customized within Captivate. These include items such as a glossary or even games such as a search and find. Adobe Captivate also has the ability to convert text to voice for projects where a budget doesn’t allow for voice talent.

Storyline 2 comes with a slew of preset features for developers to start with, including hot spots, buttons, sliders, markers and more. Storyline 2 also comes with a preloaded character pack that includes photographic characters and illustrated characters. What is cool about the illustrated characters is that they come with preset states for various expressions, allowing you to alter their stance and facial expressions quickly and easily without having to bring in a new image. Other built-in features include the ability to quickly lightbox a slide using a simple trigger, allowing learners to recall a slide later on in the module without having to navigate back to the actual slide.

Our Winner:  Articulate Storyline 2.

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Mobile/Responsive Design

Adobe Captivate 8 is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the field when it comes to responsive design for all device types and sizes. You can easily use the responsive project bar at the top of the interface to change your view from computer to tablet to smart phone and make adjustments to the slide layout, text sizes, shapes, etc., as you program. Additionally, if you have Edge Inspect on your computer and other devices, when you publish, you can see your published lesson on all devices at once to be able to test their compatibility. Not to mention, Adobe Captivate also supports gestures that users of tablets and mobile devices are accustomed to, such as swiping, pinching, and double tapping.

Storyline 2 does offer the ability to publish for HTML5 and can be viewed on tablets and some mobile devices; however, you need to have a Storyline player app to be able to view the finished product.

Our Winner:  Adobe Captivate, hands down.

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Other Capabilities

One of the greatest features of Adobe Captivate is the ability to create themes and styles and save them. This means if you create a shape or a text box and you know you’d like to use that style again, you can save it and then simply apply that style to another shape later on in the project. Themes work similarly in that you can preset the styles for your headers, sub-headers, text boxes, quiz questions, etc., so that it is easy to format the project as you’re working through it. Captivate comes with several themes and templates built-in. Another great tool inherent in Adobe Captivate is the library. This tool keeps a collection of all the images, videos, audio and other assets in your project handy so that you can easily reuse assets without having to reimport them into your project.

One of the greatest strengths Articulate Storyline 2 offers is the ability to reuse interactions across projects. You can simply copy and paste a slide or set of slides from one project into another and swap out the images/text as necessary. You can copy and paste slides from one project to another in Adobe Captivate, but it does not bring over the associated advanced actions or variables, so you still would need to spend a significant amount of time recreating the interaction.

Our Winner:  Adobe Captivate.

As you can see, both programs have their clear advantages. Storyline is definitely one of the most user friendly and intuitive rapid authoring eLearning tools on the market. Adobe Captivate is going to be a game-changer for those who want to be able to offer learners a responsive experience viewable on any device. At the end of the day, if we had to choose one, what would we choose? We’re going to default to the typical accountant’s answer and say, “It depends!”

eLearning for CPAs

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