Here, at eLearning Company, we have been asked the question “Do you recommend Storyline or Captivate?” more times than we can count, so we decided to do a thorough review of both tools to help other learning experience designers select the eLearning authoring tool that is right for them. In this guide, we are comparing Articulate Storyline 360 and Adobe Captivate. We hope that the information provided here will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each tool, and you to make an informed decision when selecting the best eLearning authoring software for custom eLearning development. Scroll down to start comparing the two authoring tools or click a link to jump to the section of your interest:
- Supported Content
- User Experience
- Learning Design
- Advanced Features
- Extending the Tool Functionality
- Total Scores
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Pricing (as of August 2023)
Articulate Storyline: $1,099-$1,399 annually ($549-$699 for academic users).
Adobe Captivate: $39.99 monthly (adds up to $479.88 annually).
Round 1: Supported Content
|Virtual reality||You can use 360° photos to create basic 3D experiences in Articulate Storyline.||Similarly, Adobe Captivate allows creating basic virtual reality-esque projects from photos.|
|Publishing in MP4 video||You can publish the project as MP4. Storyline will allow you to select dimensions, video and audio quality, and other options.||You have the ability to publish the eLearning project as a video in the MP4 format. The presets and publishing settings will allow you to set the output quality.|
|Responsive content||While the player itself is responsive and adjusts based on the screen size, the eLearning content, however, always looks the same no matter the device.||Responsive eLearning projects are supported and work well with different types of devices, content can adjust based on the screen size.|
|Software simulation||Storyline provides a set of tools to record, edit, and display software simulations.||Software simulations are supported in Captivate equally well.|
|PowerPoint import||Users have the ability to import slides from a PowerPoint presentation. Prior to importing, Storyline will display a two-dimensional grid showing all slides in the presentation to help the user select only those slides that are needed. Slide content is converted into Storyline objects (text boxes, shapes, etc.), becomes part of the slide, and can be moved around and edited in Storyline.||While PowerPoint slides can be imported into a Captivate project, it’s worth noting that slides are imported as single objects. This means that content cannot be edited directly in Captivate, any edits have to go through PowerPoint, which adds extra steps to the process and makes the development process less convenient. In addition, you cannot interact with PowerPoint objects through Advanced Actions in Captivate.|
|Adobe Photoshop import||There are currently no options to import assets directly from Adobe Photoshop.||The assets can be imported from Photoshop. Upon import, they are laid out on the screen as they were positioned in the Photoshop file, saving time on content positioning and alignment. Furthermore, the edits you make later in Photoshop can propagate directly to Captivate, saving you time and effort.|
Summary: Supported Content (Storyline-11 points, Captivate-14 points)
So far, Articulate Storyline is only a winner when it comes to importing PowerPoint content. And Adobe Captivate scores higher with virtual reality, responsive content, and Adobe Photoshop import. Both authoring tools work equally well with Cluelabs widgets and software simulations and generally support modern eLearning trends. Here are some questions that can help you decide which tool will better meet your needs:
- Will I need to import PowerPoint content into my eLearning course?
- Do I plan to create virtual reality-based training programs, are my learners and organization ready for this type of content?
- If I need virtual reality compatibility, will I be satisfied with a limited set of VR features?
- Will my learners access eLearning from mobile devices as well as desktops?
- If I expect the learners to use mobile devices for learning, will they do this often enough to justify the longer time needed to create responsive learning projects?
- Will I design slides in Photoshop prior to creating the learning course? If so, how important is it to be able to import designs directly into the authoring tools?
Round 2: User Experience
|Intuitive interface||Good interface, all buttons have text captions to make the functionality clear. Minimal use of pop-up windows.||Menus and buttons are clearly captioned. Working with objects can get confusing because of over-reliance on the Properties panel.|
|Software responsiveness||The application responds well to user requests and features minimal lag and wait time when an operation is initiated.||It often takes a few seconds to render a new element, paste an object, etc. During this time the application freezes until the action is completed.|
|Multiple projects handling||Multiple projects can be open at the same time. However, each project opens in its own application window.||Multiple projects are shown as tabs of the same application similar to other Adobe software you may have used in the past.|
|Workspace customization||Panels can be resized and moved around, but cannot be completely hidden.||The user can hide the panels, but cannot move them around the workspace.|
|Tooltips||Hovering the mouse pointer over buttons and options brings up helpful tooltips.||Some items have tooltips, others don’t. No tooltips in the properties panel where the most confusion usually occurs.|
|Workspace zoom||Allows to zoom in, zoom out, fit slide to window size.||Zooming in and out can only be done by selecting pre-defined zoom percentages. Allows to fit slide to window size.|
|Branching view||Slides are arranged according to branching logic in both the story view and the slide view.||To see the branching sequence, the user needs to open a menu, select an option, which will open a new window.|
|Actions/triggers workflow||The triggers are shown in the same window as the slide and its objects. This makes the workflow involving triggers smart and intuitive. Because the user can work on both the slide objects and the triggers at the same time, the development process becomes easy and intuitive.||In order to define advanced actions, the user has to open another panel. This panel not only blocks the slide, but also makes it impossible to interact with the objects on the slide until the advanced action is saved and the window is closed.|
Summary: User Experience (Storyline-21 points, Captivate-12 points)
The interface in Storyline is cleaner and easier to use intuitively. The user interface in Captivate is less convenient and takes a bit longer to get used to, but overall, once you learn it, you will have no issues working with it. Here are some questions that can help you decide which tool will better meet your needs:
- Do I have time for the learning curve to occur or do I need to jump right into the authoring tool and start developing?
- Will I be able to create effective eLearning courses using a less convenient interface?
- Is my computer powerful enough to work without lag and freezing when performing operations?
- Is it important to see branching logic at all times while designing the course?
- Will I use triggers or advanced actions, and if so, how important is it to be able to work in an intuitive interface?
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Round 3: Learning Design
|Slide templates||A limited number of templates is available through Content Library 360.||The Assets feature offers a large variety of templates that can be used.|
|Icons||A great selection of icons that can be used in the course. Icons can be edited directly on the slides (by ungrouping the shapes).||A limited selection of icons, many searches return 0 results. Icons can only be edited through Adobe Illustrator.|
|Text captions||Text captions can be used as shapes and converted to shapes, their properties can be changed in the Format pop-up window.||You can style a text caption, but the options a limited to (mostly) cheesy outdated presets.|
|Rollover interactions||Can be achieved by using triggers, states, layers.||Native functionality for rollover interactions, no coding required.|
|Interactive videos||Can be achieved by using branching, triggers, layers.||Out-of-the-box interactive video functionality provided.|
|SVG images||SVG images can be used.||SVG images can be used.|
|User input elements||Several kinds of input elements can be added to the slide.||Only text entry input object can be added.|
|Miscellaneous objects||Support for sliders, dials, markers, scrolling panels.||No significant objects that are unique to Captivate.|
|Slide layers||Slide layers can be used on all slides.||No slide layer functionality.|
|Drag and drops||Good drag and drop functionality that could be extended with triggers.||Basic drag and drop functionality.|
|Question slides||Questions slides are flexible and can be extended with triggers.||There is a little wiggle room when it comes to customizing how question slides work.|
|Freeform interactions||Several freeform interactions are supported.||Some functionality can be achieved with the use of actions.|
|Animations||Animations are limited to 16 options.||A good variety of animations. Multiple animations can be applied to a single object.|
Summary: Learning Design (Storyline-31 points, Captivate-21 points)
If you are planning to create custom interactions, Storyline might be a better option for you. If you, however, are more interested in out-of-the-box functionality, you may like Captivate. Here are some questions that can help you decide which tool will better meet your needs:
- Will I be using slide templates provided by the authoring tool?
- Are icons an important part of slide design in my work?
- Would I be able to build rollover interactions and interactive videos if needed?
- Will I use drag and drop and freeform interactions?
- Will I need to use uncommon animation options?
Round 4: Advanced Features
|User variables||3 types of user variables are supported.||A single user variable type is available.|
|System variables||Numerous system variables (player, menu, slide, scene, etc.).||A good variety of system variables is available to the user.|
|Triggers/actions||Triggers allow to program interactivity.||Actions/advanced actions allow to program interactivity.|
|Conditions||Conditions can be based on variables and/or objects.||Only variable-based conditions are possible.|
|Playback speed control||The player in the published project allows to adjust playback speed (if the designer enables this feature),||No playback speed control options are supported in the player.|
Summary: Advanced Features (Storyline-18 points, Captivate-12 points)
Both tools will allow you to program custom interactions, interactive elements, complex scenarios, etc. Here are some questions that can help you decide which tool will better meet your needs:
- Do I need to use the system variables to achieve the goal of my project?
- Will I use object-based conditions or will variable-based conditions alone be enough?
Round 5: Productivity
|Object placement||Smart guides appear when dragging objects. Custom guides and grid can be turned on/off.||Manual placement only. Guides, smart guides, and grid are not available.|
|Preview options||Users can preview the current slide, current scene, selected slide or the entire project.||Additional preview options are available (next 5 slides, preview in the browser, SCORM cloud, etc.).|
|Publishing options||Multiple publishing options: SCORM, AICC, xAPI, video, Word document, Review, etc.||Fewer publishing options: SCORM, AICC, xAPI, video. Some options are quite useless (i.e. publish as .exe).|
|Default labels||The functionality can be achieved with feedback masters.||Possibility to set default text for some text captions in the project.|
|Community/support||A vibrant community that readily provides support with any questions another user may have.||A somewhat active community of Captivate enthusiasts. User questions are likely to be answered.|
Summary: Productivity (Storyline-12 points, Captivate-10 points)
While Captivate provides more preview options, Storyline wins with output options, which can often be a deal-breaker. In addition, careful placement and alignment of slide objects take less time and effort in Storyline. Here are some questions that can help you decide which tool will better meet your needs:
- What is the preferred format of the final deliverable?
- Do slide objects need to be aligned precisely?
- Will I be reaching out to the community if I run into problems?
Round 6: Extending the Tool Functionality
|Exporting variables, scores, other data to Google Sheets||Can use the Sheets widget to save data to a Google Sheets spreadsheet.||Similarly, learning data can be exported to Google Sheets.|
|Saving variables and interaction data to an online database||Possibility to export data generated in the learning course and save it to the cloud.||Learner data can be captured and saved in the cloud.|
|Generating PDFs form variables and learner’s input||Variables can be used to save the learner’s entries to a PDF file.||The learner’s input can be saved into a downloadable PDF file.|
|Gamification features (leaderboards, timers, etc.)||A leaderboard can be added to the course.||The course can feature a leaderboard to boost engagement.|
|Embedding chatbots||A chatbot can be added by using triggers and web object. Cluelabs.com chatbot provides a quick start .story template.||A web object chatbot can be added, actions-based chatbot is possible as well, but requires some work.|
|Advanced analytics without an LMS||User Flow analytics allows to record clicks, exits, time per slide, custom events, etc.||No current User Flow analytics support.|
|Capturing learner’s geolocation||Learner’s location can be captured by the course.||The course can determine the learner’s geolocation.|
|Editing text without re-publishing the course||Dynamic text labels can be edited without having to re-publish the course.||No need to publish the course if dynamic labels are used for the text.|
|Drawing dynamic charts||A chart can be drawn from user variables.||A custom chart can be displayed on the slide.|
|Drawing comparison charts||Comparison charts are supported.||Similarly, comparison charts are supported.|
|Adding a gamification timer||A timer can be added to the project for advanced gamification features and engagement.||A timer can be added to the project for advanced gamification features and engagement.|
|Displaying content full-screen||The slide and the project content can be shown in full-screen mode.||The project content can be shown in full-screen mode.|
|Adding a custom progress bar||A custom progress bar can be added to a slide, and can also be placed outside the slide (above, below, partially outside).||You can add a custom progress bar to the course, but it can only go on the slide itself and cannot be placed outside the slide.|
|Sending out emails with variables and other user-generated content||You can pre-build or generate the message content in the course and send the message out with a trigger.||You can use advanced actions to generate the message content and send it out to the recipient of your choice.|
Summary: Extending the Tool Functionality (Storyline-39 points, Captivate-33 points)
Both Storyline and Captivate support eLearning widgets that can extend the tool functionality.
Storyline vs. Captivate: Grand Total and Summary
|Supported Content||11 points||14 points|
|User Experience||21 points||12 points|
|Learning Design||31 points||21 points|
|Advanced Features||18 points||12 points|
|Productivity||12 points||10 points|
|Extending the Tool Functionality||39 points||33 points|
|TOTAL||132 points||102 points|
In conclusion, it’s worth mentioning that both Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate can each offer unique features not provided by the other tool. If you are trying to decide which tool is right for you, it will be helpful to take a look at the list of features provided in this guide and take note of how each authoring tools scores on the features that are important to you and are key in the project you are working on.
Articulate Storyline is better when it comes to importing PowerPoint content. And Adobe Captivate scores higher with virtual reality, responsive content, and Adobe Photoshop import. Both authoring tools work equally well with Cluelabs gamification widgets, external chatbots, and generally support modern eLearning trends.
The interface in Storyline is cleaner and easier to use intuitively. The user interface in Captivate is less convenient and takes a bit longer to get used to, but overall, once you learn it, you will have no issues working with it.
If you are planning to create custom interactions, Storyline might be a better option for you. If you, however, are more interested in out-of-the-box functionality, you may like Captivate.
Both tools will allow you to program custom interactions, interactive elements, complex scenarios, etc.
While Captivate provides more preview options, Storyline wins with output options, which can often be a deal-breaker. In addition, careful placement and alignment of slide objects take less time and effort in Storyline.
Just by looking at the scoring provided in this article, you can see that Articulate Storyline is a superior product to Adobe Captivate. Storyline 360 offers more flexibility and easier workflow. However, Adobe Captivate does have a few unique features that may be important for your project.
We strongly prefer to use Articulate Storyline 360 due to its easy-to-use interface and modern eLearning development tools it offers. Adobe Captivate also has its own strengths, but because of poor performance, outdated interface, and low productivity, it lags behind Storyline.
Both are eLearning authoring tools that allow designers to create interactive online courses. This guide provides a comprehensive comparison of their features.
Storyline offers a more intuitive interface, while Captivate’s interface can be less convenient but is manageable once familiarized.
Adobe Captivate offers good support for responsive content, adjusting based on screen size. Storyline’s player is responsive, but the eLearning content remains consistent across devices. Captivate is more suitable for mobile learning design if the slides need to be responsive.
Both tools support external gamification features like leaderboards and timers. The choice between them would depend on the specific gamification needs of the project.
Articulate Storyline is often cited as having a more intuitive interface, making it potentially more beginner-friendly. However, the learning curve for both tools will depend on the individual’s familiarity with eLearning software and personal preferences.
The annual Articulate 360 license costs $1,099-$1,399 ($549-$699 for academic users). While the annual Captivate cost is $479.88. This makes Articulate Storyline more expensive than Adobe Captivate.