Cartoons Compete: PowToon vs. GoAnimate


Sometimes in eLearning you need to create a quick animated short, either to insert into a longer course or to stand on its own. Storyline 2 actually makes this pretty simple, but there are some platforms that exist that make it even easier by providing built-in graphics; we all know that creating or finding images can take forever!

Two of the leaders in this area are PowToon and GoAnimate. As I mentioned last week, our team recently switched from PowToon to GoAnimate. In the process of switching, I was looking for a comparison of the two but not much was out there. So, if you are thinking about purchasing or switching to one of these platforms, you’re in luck!



PowToon is simple to use.  Creating and timing objects is easy. I like the way that PowToon uses a timeline even though you can only view and adjust one object a time on it. It has the basics and the free plan has some good features and options.


AUDIO. You can only import 1 audio file into the entire project so both creating the audio and timing it to your slides can be really tricky.

You also don’t have much control over the props and characters. They are set in stone. So, if the prop you need doesn’t really fit into your color scheme, too bad.


The free plan offers a decent selection of styles and can be a good way to get started with PowToon. It will only let you share your video through YouTube or with a direct link, so if you want to download videos this isn’t a workable option. However, you can pay per export. The thing that I really don’t like about the free version is that it has both a watermark and an annoying outro slide at the end that has a little “created using PowToon” jingle.

For $228 a year you can get a pretty good business plan that allows you to download videos, get rid of the watermark and outro, and has a lot more included styles though not all of the styles. The only downside to this plan is that you are only allowed to use the videos for your own business; they can not be sold.

If you want the whole shebang, it’ll cost you $684 a year, though they sometimes run specials that will allow you to get the best plan for the price of $228 a year.

Why we switched

GoAnimate offers superb control over both audio and visual elements. You can even create your own custom characters in several of the styles and sync their talking to your audio narration.  It’s impressive! In addition, you can make characters actually hold objects (and they move with the objects in hand) and there are several more options for exits and entrances in addition to motion paths.

Also, you can search for a particular prop among all styles which is super handy and something I was often wished for with PowToon.

GoAnimate also has lots of features I didn’t know I was missing like a Ken Burns effect, great built-in “scenes” that can be modified as needed, and cool infographic animations.

What’s missing

I think my only let down with GoAnimate is that timing objects is a definitely trickier. There is a timeline but it only shows the scenes and audio, not the individual elements in each scene. You have to time objects relative to each other which can be tricky and makes time the full scene difficult. I think the best workaround for this is to create several short scenes with a couple of things happening as opposed to one longer scene with several actions.

GoAnimate does make this a little smoother than PowToon, including the fact that handwritten text matches up exactly with non-handwritten text, an issue I battled in PowToon more than once. I also just realized the other day that you can fit the scene duration to the content so that helps as well.


The free plan for GoAnimate doesn’t allow exporting either, however you can copy embed code for the video or share a link. Also, the branding is a little less intrusive than that of PowToons in that there is only a small logo and not a jarring outro. However, you can only create videos that are less than 30 seconds long.

The mid level plan is $299 a year, about the same a PowToon and with basically the same additional features.You do get access to ALL the styles with this plan which is nice but you still have a watermark and can only use the videos internally.

The high level plan is $599 a year, considerably less than PowToon and, in my opinion, with a great deal more to offer.

In addition, GoAnimate offers a team subscription. It’s pricey, starting at $2000 a year for 3 subscribers, but allows separate accounts to collaborate on videos which is pretty handy.

So which one is better for me?

Glad you asked! Overall, I think GoAnimate is a better tool with more bang for your buck.  If they would add slide elements to the timeline, I would even call it close to perfect! However, if you are looking for a great tool to create some (longer than 30 second) free videos, PowToon definitely has the upper hand. Either way, these tools are easy to use and can really up your animation game!

Do you use either of these? Or another tool that you like?  Please share your experience in the comments!

Hover Craft

Last week I shared my top 10 Storyline Hacks (or creative workarounds as David Anderson & the Articulate staff prefer them to be called).  This week, I’d like to share how I created some of the fun hover animations on both that project and on the Mission Possible project.

Hover Basics

If you are new to or unfamiliar with Storyline, one feature you should get to know is the ability to add states to objects.  There are several built in states, one of which is “Hover”.  Basically, if you add this state to an object it will appear whenever the mouse is hovered over the object.  You can make the Hover state do almost anything including changing the look, adding sound and creating animation.  All these actions can come in handy for communicating directions to users, giving feedback or providing other support.

newstate    hover


Visual Changes

Here are some of my favorite visual changes from the Top 10 Hacks project. Note that all of them had some kind of visual change, plus the addition of a word describing the change and corresponding hack.


Randomize is just a simple text change.  The Normal state has the text “{}  []  ||”  and the Hover state has the text “RANDOM  []  ||  {}  IZE”.  Yep.  That’s it.

random_1      randomize



This effect was a simple change in the fill of the object from solid black to a striped pattern.  You can access these additional fill options by going to format shape.  You are able to fill your shape with a pattern, gradient, built in texture, or picture that you import.  Basically, you can fill it with anything.



scratch_1      scratch


Slide & Scroll

These two are the same… and not the same.  In both, a left to right scroll is imitated, but they were achieved in different ways.  In Scroll, the scroll bar is an image that is flipped in the Hover state.  In Slide, the white circle is simply moved from one end of the slide to the other in the Hover state.

slide_1     slide


scroll_1     scroll



There are two ways to hide an object in the Hover state.  If it is an object created in Storyline, you can recolor it to match the background or make it transparent. If it is more complicated, like an imported picture, you can always delete the object from the Hover state.  Interestingly, you can also delete the object from the Normal state so that it appears when you hover.

hide_1      hide



Adding animation to a Hover state is quick and easy, but there is one trick to it: You can’t animate the objects copied from Normal state to Hover state.  Let me explain.

When you create a new Hover state for an object it automatically copies the object over.  You can then edit this object, delete it, add captions and other objects into the Hover state.  Anything that is added can be animated.  For example, in the Zoom animation, the large star burst shape is added to the rectangle’s Hover state so that shape can be animated to grow as it enters.



If you want to animate the original object, you will need to delete or hide the original and then recreate, or paste in a copy of, that object.  This is what I did in the Loop example for the arc.  In addition, the word “LOOP” fades in.



Audio Changes

The Mission Possible project had a lot of sound effects attached to the Hover states.  The computer turns on, things are written in a notebook, a calendar page flips, a door squeaks open; it was a lot of fun to make.

Just like with animation, this is an easy way to add some interesting audio to a project. All you have to do is insert your sound file while editing the Hover state.  Really – it’s that easy!

Note that the sound will play only while the mouse is hovering over that object.  It will then stop and start over the next time the mouse passes over. If you want to change the way the audio reacts to hovering you can instead add a trigger, and the audio, to the slide.  Your options for this are:

  • Audio plays on hover and does not stop (add a trigger to play the audio when the state of the object is equal to hover, do not add a trigger to pause or stop the audio)
  • Audio plays on hover, pauses when not hovering, and resumes from where it left off on the next hover (add a trigger to play when state is hover, add a second trigger to pause audio when the state of the object is not equal to hover)
  • Audio plays on hover, stops when not hovering, and starts from beginning on next hover – this is the same as it would act if you add audio to the hover state (add a trigger to play when state is hover, add a second trigger to stop audio when the state of the object is not equal to hover)


This is really just scratching the surface of what you can do with the Hover state in Storyline. What fun things would you like to create?  How have you used the built in states in an interesting way?  Share in the comments!



Give me an inch…

Ok, I love using Articulate Storyline.  I only started using it recently and immediately realized that Storyline makes interactivity so much easier to build than other tools I had used (mostly Adobe Captivate – which does have its own virtues).

But, give me an inch and I want a mile of course.  There are some things that I wish Storyline could do that it just can’t.  For example, there is this cool zoom area feature.  It is a neat feature to have but is meant as a story telling aid, not an interactive element, and so is a little restrictive in the ways you can use it. The two restrictions that bug me the most are you have to zoom the entire slide (so any navigation or custom player elements are also zoomed) and you can’t trigger the zoom with a user click.  Also, you can’t use a zoom region on a layer.


The Articulate e-learning challenge this week was about interactive screenshots. So I took this as an opportunity to play around with the zoom region and figure out some work arounds that would make it a little more interactive.  I am currently working on a software demo that it would have been great to try this with, but since that isn’t something I am able to share I decided to use Google maps to play around.

Making it clickable

My first challenge was making zoom regions that could be triggered by the user.  I had thought about this in the past – actually, the very first moment I learned about the zoom feature – and had a vague idea of how to approach this.  I knew I would need a main slide that could be triggered to jump to new slides, each with an appropriate zoom region depending on where the learner clicked.

The structure ended up being 5 slides – a map with 4 clickable hot spots, each of which brings you to a slide representing one quadrant on the map.


Each new zoom slide was a direct copy of the initial map slide. In order to make sure the images were not (as) blurry, I actually created the large image from 4 separate images, one for each quadrant.

Getting the timing right

Playing around showed me that the zoom region has to come in after the start of the slide in order for the cool zooming effect to happen. If you start the zoom region at the beginning of a slide then the slide starts already at full zoom.

Once the zoom slide starts, it keeps rolling until the slide ends and zooms out.  So I used one of my new favorite tricks, a pause layer. It pauses the slide just before the zoom out starts and the user can click on the slide to zoom out and return to the larger map.


Zooming navigation features

You can see in the images above that I have a consistent navigational feature in the bottom right corner of each map.  This feature disappears (or gets really large) when the image is zoomed in.  In order to get around this I created a smaller version of the button that appears about the same size once zoomed in. It’s timeline starts once the zoom region is almost fully zoomed and ends when the zoom out starts.

It’s not a completely smooth transition, but it was a quick, easy, and functional solution.

Some lagniappe

That little navigation feature actually lets the user toggle between map view and satellite view. At first I tried to use layers to toggle, but the no zooming on a layer thing really threw me off.  Then I realized there was a much simpler solution – states!

Now, each quadrant image isn’t perfectly equal to the size of a zoom region.  They overlap a little.  In order to make sure I didn’t have to deal with changing the states of several images for each slide, for each click, I changed the state of just one image, Q2, since it is the top most image.  The “satellite” state for this image has the entire map – 4 images – in satellite view. The nav feature buttons also have a “map” state.

normal_state   sat_state

The states for the nav feature and the map switch with a “MapView” variable that is toggled each time the user clicks on the nav feature.  The MapView variable is also used to make sure that a slide is opened in satellite view if the variable is false. (Incidentally, this is the first time I realized that you can set a trigger to toggle a true false variable – I love it!)


And voila! Out came a simple interactive map of my hometown of Lafayette, LA
heart of Cajun country and the best place in the world.

Feel free to download the source file and leave any feedback or comments below.  I would love to hear about other awesome work arounds and ways folks have used the zoom region feature.