Storyline vs. Captivate Part 2


Today is a continuation of last week’s comparison. For a full comparison, check out this post.

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.

Storyline 2 vs. Captivate 8


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.

Hand Over the Spoon

When I finally publicly posted my blog for the first time last week, I had a great response (thanks guys!). One friend in particular, who I haven’t seen in a while, was unaware that I did eLearning for a living.  She is starting to learn and use Adobe Captivate to make some stuff for her organization and asked if I had any tips or resources to share.

Well, I’ve got lots of tips.  Most of them are cynical (save often when working with Captivate or Storyline!) but here are a few not so cynical ones, in no particular order other than that in which I thought of them.  These really focus on some of the basics of good instructional and eLearning design since once you form bad habits in these areas, they can be REALLY hard to break!

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  1. Map out your plan before you open the software.  When new to this stuff you fall into one of 2 camps: “can’t wait to play around!” or “ack, I’m terrified!” Either way, you will minimize distraction and/or terror if you first have a storyboard.
  2. Related, if you are serving as the instructional designer make sure you are using some kind of process that includes an analysis of needs and learners and deliberate design. Learn more about ADDIE (a long time industry standard) and SAM (a newer, iterative model).
  3. Learn to write good learning objectives. If done well, and you follow tip 4, your course will essentially design itself.
  4. Create your evaluation/quiz questions before your content.  If your content doesn’t directly support a learner being able to complete the task/answer the question, throw it out.
  5. Chunk things into small bits.  Our brains can only handle so much at once. Each slide should contain no more than one or two pictures with a handful of words.
  6. Hand over the spoon. That is, give learners control whenever possible. Let them explore.  One strategy I particularly love for this is to give them all the information you want to present as a set of resources.  Then make them solve a problem using those resources.  This can have the added benefit of reinforcing how/where to find this information when they need it in the future.
  7. Play around with your software and stretch your limits. Learn how to create click and reveal interactions.  Once you get that down you can start to play with drag and drops, hot spots, scenarios and branching.
  8. But don’t make interactions just for the hell of it.  There is nothing more annoying than mindless clicking or having to click 100 times on one slide to reveal all the necessary information.
  9. Join some communities, listen in on webinars, read all you can. There are so many really awesome resources available so take advantage of them!
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Speaking of Resources…  Here are some of my favorites.

  1. No matter your tool, the Articulate community blogs are an awesome place to get ideas. In particular, check out David’s weekly challenges.  They are full of inspiration.
  2. The Articulate Building Better Courses forum is also awesome.
  3. ASTD – consider becoming a member.  Also, their Learning Circuits blog.
  4. eLearning Guild
  5. There are tons of great eLearning and instructional design blogs out there.  You should read some and find which ones you love.  Here are some compilations from Articulate, from eLearning Industry, and from Cammy Bean at Kineo.
  6. Michael Haney’s blog, eLearning Curve, has some great resources. Check out his “Discovering Instructional Design” series (summer of 2009). I really like the tips in this post on goal analysis when working in the affective domain.

So, what are your tips and resources for those just getting started? Do any of these in particular resonate with you? Coincidentally, the Articulate Community Weekly Challenge this week was about designing a poster around your favorite education or instructional design quote – there are some great submissions! My contributions are the images above.