How to Choose Between Captivate and Storyline

Captivate or Storyline

How to Choose Between Captivate and Storyline

A few months ago, Articulate released Storyline, and in my opinion, it is the first Rapid ELearning development tool that provides a worthy alternative to Captivate. Both tools allow you to capture video, create demo/simulations, create quizzes/assessments and create scenario based content. The question that I have heard a lot lately is, “Which tool do I choose, Captivate or Storyline?!” My answer is, “It depends”. My goal in this post is not to tell you which tool I think you should use, but rather provide you with points you can take into consideration that might help you decide for yourself which tool is the best choice for your particular needs.

If you have looked at the content of my site, it probably comes as no shock to you that my two tools of choice for ELearning development are Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline. I have used some version of Adobe Captivate for the majority of my 10 years of working in the world of ELearning. Initially I used it mainly as a tool to capture demonstrations and simulations that I would embed or link to projects I created in other tools such as Authorware or Flash (and within the last few years, Articulate Presenter). Eventually, the features in Captivate improved enough to where it became the only tool I needed to create entire courses. It has definitely been the foundation of my ELearning toolbox for the last several years. When people ask me what ELearning development tool I would recommend if they could only use one, I would always say Adobe Captivate. Now that Storyline is available I find that the answer is not as simple, and I can’t always say that Captivate is the only tool you should consider.

I’ve linked some published demo courses below that were developed with Captivate and Storyline so that you can compare the output. I think you will agree with me, that from the learner’s perspective, they most likely will not be able to tell what tool you developed your ELearning course with (Especially if you hide the navigation panels). For this reason, basing your decision on which tool to select by the way the output looks should probably rank low on your list. I would recommend taking the following items into consideration when making the choice: Budget, Current Tool, Development Style/Goals and finally Personal Preference.

Captivate Demo compared with a Storyline Demo

This is probably the most obvious thing to consider, so we will examine this first. At the time of this writing, a license to Storyline is $1,398, while a license to Adobe Captivate 6 is $899. That is roughly a $500 difference in price. Keep in mind that both companies might possibly offer bulk licensing discounts. Obviously Adobe offers upgrade discounts (a new subscription option is also now an option), but since Storyline is in its initial release, there are no upgrade possibilities at this time. If you are lucky enough to not have to worry about a budget, then this doesn’t really factor into your decision making. However, if you or your department has a tight budget, then $500 could be a big road block. In my opinion, if you feel a tool is right for you, then the extra cost would be worth the investment if you have the funds, but at the same time I know how hard it is to convince those in charge of finances to purchase something that is more expensive. Budget also extends beyond the initial cost of the software. If you select software that is new to you and your organization, there are potential costs associated with training, lost productivity from transitioning to a new platform and other factors that might not be initially apparent.

Current Tool
The current tool that you use is a very important factor when deciding between Captivate and Storyline. You could potentially fall into one of these categories:

  1. You don’t currently use Captivate or Storyline and want to choose one for your team – In this scenario, the choice is a little easier since you have fewer things to take into consideration. As a group, list and discuss what types of projects are coming down the pipe, determine what format your current content exists in (if any), then use this as a checklist against the features that are available in Captivate and Storyline.
  2. You currently use Captivate, and are considering the switch to Storyline. In this scenario, there are quite a few things you may have to think about. Since you are a current Captivate user, the software is already familiar to you so there is a relatively small learning curve. In addition, that means your team will require little training to get up so speed, whereas migrating to a new tool can require training and additional ramp up time for your team to develop efficiencies. In my opinion, both tools are extremely easy to learn so this may not be an issue. You mostly like already have a large amount of content that has been developed with Captivate, so if you decide to move to a new tool, this content must be migrated or redeveloped in the new tool. Another situation I have seen in big corporations is that at times it takes an act of congress to get a new software package approved for company use. I am by no means discouraging current Captivate users from switching to Storyline, but I do think the items I just mentioned need to be taken into consideration.

Development Style/Goals
Although both Captivate and Storyline offer similar functionality and output, they each offer a different user experience from the development aspect. Ask yourself what types of projects you work on most. Is it mostly soft skills training? Mostly technical training? Think of a sample course that you can build that closely mimics a real world project that you might develop. Next, install trial versions of each software, and build a small sample course (the exact same course for each tool). Make the following observations during your development:

  • Which software seemed like it was easiest to develop with?
  • Which software had features that are more suited to the types of interactions and content you want to build?
  • Which software did you find easier to learn?
  • Which software were you able to build the course faster with, this is key because having a streamlined workflow suited to your particular development style is very important.
  • Is developing iPad viewable content important? If so, at this time only Storyline provides a native viewer app for the iPad (although Captivate HTML5 courses can also be viewed on an iPad)

Personal Preference
This point of consideration is fairly straight forward. If you do as I suggest and install trial versions of both tools and try developing a small course with them, you will find that you naturally gravitate towards one product over the other. It could be that current Captivate users don’t like the PowerPoint-like user interface of Storyline, or it could be that you find that the Storyline interface feels more intuitive to you than what Adobe Captivate has to offer. Either way, you know what feels most comfortable for you. As an ELearning developer, your software is probably something you are going to be using on a daily basis, so choosing the tool that you are most comfortable/effective at developing with, will save you time, money, and a lot of stress.

After taking all of the items we have just discussed into consideration, I hope you will be closer to being able to make your decision. As you can see, there are many variables to take into consideration when choosing between Captivate and Storyline. Each individual is going to have different answers to the items that I propose that should be taken into consideration. That is why my answer to the initial question of “Which tool do I choose, Captivate or Storyline?!” is an emphatic, “It Depends”. In the end, I think we are in a great position where we have multiple great tools to select from. There is no wrong or right answer for this question. Captivate is a proven tool has been used by many people and many organizations for a long time, and Storyline is a new tool by a proven company in Articulate that has tools that have also led the way in the world of Rapid ELearning. As for me, I will continue to stay informed on both tools and will try my best to support users of both platforms. Becoming an expert in both tools is also a great option that will only serve to make you more valuable in the job market. Thankfully, I am lucky enough to have both Captivate and Storyline in my development toolbox so my decision was an easy one :)

Additional Resources
In this post I didn’t compare and contrast the functionality that is available in Captivate and Storyline. To further help you make your decision, I have created a comparison table that you can download below. This chart does not cover every feature of both software packages, but it does cover the main features and should give you an idea of what each platform is capable of. If you haven’t already done so, you can also read my Articulate Storyline review and my Adobe Captivate 6 review.


Share the Post

About the Author

I am a interested in all things related to E-Learning, especially Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate! I believe all E-Learning should incorporate exceptional User Experience Design!

Comments (8)

  1. lilaz :


    I was wondering what was your development time for the demos you created. How long did it take you to create the Captivate Demo? How long did it take you to create the Articulate Storyline demo?
    I am trying to figure out if Storyline reduces the development time. Your response is helpful!

    • RETAdmin :

      Hello! It actually took me about the same amount of time to create each demo, but they were both very simple projects. I’m a long time user of Adobe Captivate (since version 1 of the software), so I’ve become very fast with my development with it, so I may not be the best judge of which tool is faster to use. I will say however that since Storyline is fairly intuitive, it is very easy to become proficient with it, so that will at least save you some time from that aspect. I can also see how the layers functionality can help speed up development time. I also think it depends on the type of project you are working on. For example, late last year I worked on a project that had some interactive simulations and demos in it for Software training. There were a few instances where I thought I might have been able to do something a little faster in Captivate, but it might have been simply because I was more familiar with using Captivate for that type of project at the time. If I had to give a definitive answer though, I’d say Storyline might have a slight edge overall, simply because I think people might find it a little easier to use. Don’t expect a huge difference though, meaning, I don’t foresee Storyline cutting your development time in half if you decide to use it over Captivate. I hope this helps!

      • lilaz :

        Many thanks for taking the time to answer my question. We currently have Captivate in our training team, but only I and another colleague are proficient with it, and we have three other Instructional Designers that have never used either software and we are looking to maybe buy this articulate Storyline, but need to be able to justify the cost. Your feeback was very valuable.

        • RETAdmin :

          Hi Lilaz, I’m glad I could help a little. Yes, Storyline is a little expensive when compared to Captivate, but if you have the money in your budget, it is well worth it. As I mentioned before, I am a long time user of Adobe Captivate, but as of late, I find myself gravitating to Storyline for my tool of choice more and more.

Leave a Reply