Storyline 2 vs. Captivate 8

From by Allison b. Nederveld

This content appeared on Allison's blog in three parts. All three parts are shown below in this post.


As an eLearning professional, I know that choosing a software platform can be difficult and even confusing. I have used both Captivate and Storyline (multiple versions of each) and have been curious about ZebraZapps and other platforms that seem to have interesting features. It can be difficult to really find information that compares the various tools.

Lucky for you, dear eLearning professional who is trying to pick between Storyline and Captivate (that totally describes you, right?), I am embarking on a journey to make your life a little easier. This summer I am taking a class that focuses around Adobe Captivate (version 8). I am also a regular user (and superfan!) of Articulate Storyline 2.

So, I decided to try and check my bias at the door and do a series of posts comparing the two systems. I will also be adding to this post along the way as a kind of master document. If you find this is helpful, or have questions about particular features, please comment below and let me know!

 Feature Captivate 8 Storyline 2  Notes
Operating Systems PC and Mac versions, projects are compatible between the 2 versions but you must have a separate license for each. PC only, but I believe a Mac version is in the works.
Workspace setup Captivate gives you quick access to an object’s properties and timing menus. On the Mac version, there are 2 different sets of menus which can get confusing. For example, both set have an option for inserting slides but offer different layouts. Storyline is set up to make it easy to build interactions. It is centered around triggers, layers, and states. You can pop-out the timeline, notes, triggers, and layers panels to fully customize your view. You can also add any function to a quick access bar. Storyline’s layout feels more intuitive to me, but that could be because I am used to it. I do, however, really prefer the triggers and layers system as I find it allows me to easily create custom interactions.
Working on multiple projects Can have multiple projects open in one instance – uses a tab system. Have to open a new instance of SL for each project. Being able to copy and paste within the same instance is nice when you want to pull info or a setup from another project.
Themes 11 built in themes. 16 different slide layouts built in. 27 built in themes. 12 built in slide layouts. Tons of free slide templates available to download and import for free from their site. Both allow you to import from PPT or build your own master slide layout.
Timeline Drag an object or slide to change its timing in .1 second increments, regardless of the zoom. Drag an object or slide to change its timing in .25 or .125 second increments depending on zoom. Detailed timing changes that require more precision than the timeline offers are easier to make in Captivate.
Aligning objects Alignment toolbar can be added to your permanent view, which is very handy. Alignment options include all those in Captivate, plus the ability to resize all to the largest or smallest and have any alignment oriented to the slide or just the selected objects.
Changing button/caption styles Can adjust shape (10 options), fill, outline, shadow, and reflection. Can adjust shape (72 options), fill, outline, shadow, reflection, glow (in the colors of the theme), and soft edges (a vignette type of feature). Both of these programs give you almost unlimited options for how you want your buttons and captions to look. SL makes it slightly easier by presenting your defaults in a nice visual way, but allowing you to tweak until you are content.
Setting default button/caption styles Easily set your default styles for objects within the Preferences settings. SL does not allow you to change defaults. It uses the theme colors and type of object to offer a range of presets instead. You can use Format Painter to easily match styles. While the Captivate option here is nice, it is also a little cumbersome if you use different styles for different projects. The Format Painter (along with some good ol’ copy/paste) is a little friendlier for smaller projects.
Feature Captivate 8 Storyline 2 Notes
Editing Images You can do basic image edits within Captivate and it also integrates well with Photoshop since they are both Adobe products. Captivate also includes an image library that allows you to easily reuse images and save edited versions within a project. Storyline also allows minor editing such as cropping, flipping, adding outlines, adjusting brightness/contrast, etc. Captivate is the clear winner for managing & editing images within a project.
Smart Shapes Includes a variety of built in smart shapes such as lines, a polygon tool, speech and thought bubbles, block arrows, and banners. The look of the shapes is fully customizable. Storyline offers a somewhat larger selection of built in objects including more polygon options, starbursts, a “No” symbol, and a large variety of callout styles.
Mouse Effects Captivate allows you to insert and edit a mouse pointer. You can simulate clicking on something on the screen, decide where the mouse will enter from, and add in a few other features like slowing the mouse before it clicks. With a right click on the mouse, you can also align a pointer with where it left off on a previous slide. SL does almost everything Captivate does on this. In addition, it has a HUGE number of options for the pointer and automatically aligns the pointer on consecutive slides so that there is a smooth transition.  The only feature that Captivate does better is the option to change the click effect, which is a visual indication that the mouse has clicked. This is a great feature for software demos.
Image Buttons Captivate has some specialty “image button” styles. These are images of highly stylized buttons. While they have several text options for each style, you are limited to those options and can’t change the text. The neat thing about buttons in SL is that the program comes with a slew of built in icons that can be used on any button in addition to, or without, words. There are just a few built in styles but all buttons are fully customizable and you can use format painter to copy and paste a custom style. Both programs allow you to use any image as a button, but the inclusion of built in icons makes SL a little more useful.
Widgets &
Captivate includes a host of built in widgets that are basically canned interactions. While several of these are more fun than instructionally sound (Jeopardy, word search, etc.) there are some useful options here. In particular, a widget that allows learners to take (and print) notes. There are also several pre-built click and reveal interactions (accordion, tabs, timeline, etc.) and widgets for inserting YouTube video and web objects. Storyline includes many, if not all, of the same options as Captivate. Some of these are presented as quiz questions (radio buttons, drag & drop). Some are presented as templates (tabs, timeline). Some are downloadable from their website as templates (games). Some are just presented as regular features (glossary, video, & web objects). The only widget/interaction that I think Captivate does better is the notes taking feature. There are some workarounds in SL, but none are great. Many of these can be built out from scratch, but using the built in options allows for a quicker build.
Feature Captivate 8 Storyline 2 Notes
Characters Captivate includes a decent selection of characters, each with a good number of poses. While it offers more built in character options than SL, each character does not have as many pose options. While SL offers only 1 photographic (and 40 illustrated) characters, you can purchase more packs. However, each character comes with a large variety of poses and expressions. The illustrated characters are even fully customizable – you can combine different expression and poses and decide which way you want the character to face. In addition, the use of states makes it easy to change poses without too much worry about alignment. Characters can allow you to do some neat things with your eLearning course. They can “interact” with the learner, “talk” to each other, be the face of a scenario, or be used to tell a story.
Screen Captures & Software Demos Captivate allows you to pan across the screen as you are recording. Sometimes I find this feature doesn’t work as smoothly as I would like, but it can come in handy. In addition, it can be much easier to edit text entry when you make a typing mistake. Also, while not really an issue with screen captures, the audio editing in Captivate is a bit easier to use if you plan to add audio once you have recorded the demo. In SL, you can record one video and use the same video in different modes. This is a huge feature as you aren’t stuck re-recording if you decide to use a simulation as a try-it-out instead of a demo or assessment. In addition, the Action Fine Tuning feature allows you to easily cover up mistakes. Both of these have similar capabilities, allowing you to use screen captures as a video, demo, try-it-out exercise, or full on assessment. The items listed to the left are the advantages each has over the other.
Rollovers You can insert rollover areas that make a text caption, image, or little slidelet appear. Slidelets are like mini slides within a slide. They have their own timeline and you can insert a variety of objects. The downside is that you can’t really make these stick once you take the mouse off the rollover area. This is where SL really starts to distance itself from Captivate. It’s use of triggers, states, and layers makes rollovers and slidelets extremely easy to build out in a very customized way. The possibilities here are endless. Rollovers can be an interesting way to give directions or more information to learners without being too intrusive. They aren’t 508 compliant though.
Zoom Areas By inserting a zoom area, you allow a zoomed portion of the screen to appear on your slide. A zoom area will zoom the entire slide into the highlighted area. The application of zoom areas is borne out very differently in these applications. Captivate is best to highlight a small feature. Storyline is best to draw attention to something. Both have issues with pixelation and you can really only use them as part of a presentation, not as part of an interaction.

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