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WAR: Articulate Storyline Losing Battle to Adobe Captivate

Not too long ago I wrote a post about my initial reaction to Articulate Storyline and its relation to Adobe Captivate.  The post itself attracted a lot of attention, many of the comments passionately defending Storyline.  It seems one thing is abundantly clear since Storyline has come onto the scene: the comparisons between the two programs are at an all-time high.

While doing my usual reading on all things e-Learning related, I stumbled across a pretty nice video by Cogentys (included at the end of this post) detailing a quick comparison between Storyline and Captivate.  Without giving away too much of the video, I will say that I appreciated their approach at comparing Storyline not to just Adobe Captivate, but rather Adobe e-Learning Suite 2.5. What I like about this is that it makes price pretty much a wash as both are around the tune of$1400.

At first glance, I have to say that e-Learning Studio provides more bang for the buck (this package comes with Captivate, Dreamweaver, Flash, Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign).  If you are a seasoned e-Learning pro, or you have a competent team, then this is basically a no-brainer – but that’s not to say that Storyline doesn’t have its own place in the mix.

As the video will point out, the learning curve for Adobe products is rather steep, so having all those extra programs doesn’t do much good if you can’t maximize their potential, and this is where Storyline carves out a good piece of the market.  Their WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) approach, and intuitive integration to the extremely familiar Microsoft PowerPoint, enables even beginners the ability to create professional looking e-Learning, fast.

The fact that Storyline is married to PowerPoint is both good and bad.  The good is pretty obvious: most organizations already have an abundance of PowerPoint materials that can instantly be created into e-Learning.  Since Adobe Captivate struggles to integrate with PowerPoint (quite possibly their biggest flaw), this makes Storyline an extremely attractive option.

The “cool” factor for me is that Storyline comes with characters in various poses you can use for e-Learning.  Too often instructional designers are stuck trying to make stock photography make sense in multiple situations.  Articulate has a ton more of these characters available for purchase, which is great for those who prefer Adobe as you can take advantage of this “cool” factor as well!

One thing I think this video fails to give credit to is the support community of Adobe.  Yes, Articulate has a good community, but Adobe’s is pretty much unmatched in size and knowledge capital (Personally, I can’t tell you the number of times “Captiv8r” has helped me on there… you Captivate users know who I’m talking about).

Maybe I’m also a bit jaded in this area as every time I’ve used the help forum for Articulate (which wasn’t often), I never really got a straight forward answer that worked.  I remember one bug in particular with QuizMaker that the developers admit existed but said wouldn’t be fixed until the next release. I am assuming that it is fixed in this new Storyline release, but I couldn’t help but think, “really?? You’ve known about this for THREE years and haven’t even addressed it???”

I could go on and on about these two programs. My personal take on the matter is that time will tell if Storyline continues to lose out to Captivate, or if they can capture significant market share.  I believe that Storyline is now strong enough competition to force innovation out of Adobe for their Captivate line, which is only good for our industry and something all learning professionals have been dreaming to happen.

Take 5min and watch the video comparison below:

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the Founder of LearnDash, a WordPress based LMS and Learning Strategy provider. He also works as a Learning & Collaboration Consultant where he implements large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies.

34 Comments
  1. Steve

    I’m an experienced Dev, own the Adobe Creative Suite and there are a few things that are just flat out faster to build in Storyline. Build efficiency and consistency of output matter.

    I love my creative suite tools, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to compare a suite with another tool that may offer similar potential outputs but are really built for different workflows and purposes.

    By the way, Storyline isn’t married to PPT at all.

    I might actually use the next version of Captivate, the previews are looking good. Couldn’t get into older versions. I won’t know how well it’ll work for me until I’ve tried it. You should try Storyline before your next article:P

    • Justin

      Hi Steve, thanks for your comment. I have in fact tried Storyline; my comment about it being “married to ppt” is probably a bit misleading. Let’s just say instead that it “plays nicer” with ppt… real nice. I don’t think it’s a mystery that Storyline resembles Microsoft products either. Smart marketing really.

      Agree with you on the previews of Captivate. Count your blessings that you weren’t using “Macromedia Captivate”…what a mess.

      • Steve

        Yeah. Tried Captivate at every version. Even spent a little bit of time in RoboDemo before the acquisition. It’s never grabbed me as a tool I’d choose to use. The UX of the tool itself always seemed backwards and the output compositions never seemed “pro” to me.

        I’ve always been happier (and arguably faster once the frameworks are out of the way) building my own custom activity shells. Been doing software demos since the late 90’s. Tried Viewletbuilder in the early days. Liked that one for some purposes.

        Now for screen caps that don’t require try / test, I’ll use Camtasia or Screenr (or sometimes, Storyline).

        I think there are lots of folks that use and love Captivate. It’s just never been for me. Now that I’ve seen the latest version, while it’s better than the previous version, I’m going to give it a pass. Here’s hoping for a dynamite Captivate 7:)

        To each his / her own. The tool choices of other folks don’t bother me in the least:P

  2. Steve, what do you mean by “e-learning Studio”? If you are referring to the eLearning suite, your description of the content is not very accurate: it has neither Illustrator, nor InDesign but has Audition, Acrobat Pro, Media Encoder, Device Central and extensions for Flash and Dreamweaver. Moreover it comes with very functional roundtripping between Captivate and Photoshop, Captivate and Audition. That is the reason I became a big fan of that suite, that has everything on board for all e-learning needs (except perhaps a pure vector drawing application, although Photoshop has progressed a lot there).
    BTW: Captiv8r is a great moderator of the forums. He rocks!

    • Steve

      I think you’re talking to Justin:) But, yeah. The eLearning Suite contains some great tools. It’s a nice system. I’m not a Captivate fan, personally. But I know plenty of folks that use it to produce lots of content.

      One of the tools I use regularly, probably more than any of the tools in the suite, is Fireworks (I use Photoshop too, but they aren’t the same workflow / output intent). One of the reasons the eLearning Suite wouldn’t work for me.

  3. Adam

    Let’s clear up facts here…

    Justin says>> The post itself attracted a lot of attention, many of the comments passionately defending Storyline.
    Correction: People weren’t defending Storyline they were simply correcting the misinformation you were writing. You were attempting to critique software that was obvious to any amateur user reading that you hadn’t even used the software. Readers want and welcome critiques but it must be based around facts & experience not simply hearsay and false assumptions.

    Justin says>> What I like about this is that it makes price pretty much a wash as both are around the tune of $1400. [Adobe Elearning Suite & Storyline]
    Correction: Adobe elearning is $1799. That’s a $400 difference. Quite significant difference.

    Justin says>> If you are a seasoned e-Learning pro, or you have a competant team, then this is basically a no-brainer – but that’s not to say that Storyline doesn’t have its own place in the mix.
    Correction: I believe this should state “as a seasoned Captivate pro – this is a no brainer” as then the pro has already mastered the skill. Steve’s infer that as a seasoned pro then getting Captivate is a no brainer, which is not the case.

    Justin says>>The fact that Storyline is married to PowerPoint is both good and bad.
    Correction: As someone has already pointed out, and who obviously uses Storyline, it is not married to PPT.

    Steve>> Yes, Articulate has a good community.
    Correction: It has a great community – unmatched in any sense of the word by Adobe.

    Justin says>>My personal take on the matter is that time will tell if Storyline continues to lose out to Captivate.
    Correction: AGAIN you have made no tangible, quantifiable argument that Storyline is actually losing out on anything. It does exactly what it says on the box ;)

    I’m sure your critique skills will improve with time & experience. The best of luck in that!

    • Justin

      Hi Adam, thank you for your comment. I can appreciate that not everyone will share my view, and that is okay.

      Justin says>> The post itself attracted a lot of attention, many of the comments passionately defending Storyline.
      Correction: People weren’t defending Storyline they were simply correcting the misinformation you were writing. You were attempting to critique software that was obvious to any amateur user reading that you hadn’t even used the software. Readers want and welcome critiques but it must be based around facts & experience not simply hearsay and false assumptions.

      If you read the original post, you will notice that I admitted to not testing the product (at the time it was written) as it was not necessary given the point of the article. An amateur would know that just by reading :)

      Justin says>> What I like about this is that it makes price pretty much a wash as both are around the tune of $1400. [Adobe Elearning Suite & Storyline]
      Correction: Adobe elearning is $1799. That’s a $400 difference. Quite significant difference.

      Took a second look at the price at you are correct. I took the videos word when they said, “both are priced around $1400″ at the 1min30sec mark.

      Justin says>> If you are a seasoned e-Learning pro, or you have a competant team, then this is basically a no-brainer – but that’s not to say that Storyline doesn’t have its own place in the mix.
      Correction: I believe this should state “as a seasoned Captivate pro – this is a no brainer” as then the pro has already mastered the skill. Steve’s infer that as a seasoned pro then getting Captivate is a no brainer, which is not the case.

      Your correction statement is rather an opinion (which doesn’t bother me, I welcome those). But apparently my opinion bothered you to the point where you felt that your opinion was a “correction”, as if a fact.

      Justin says>>The fact that Storyline is married to PowerPoint is both good and bad.
      Correction: As someone has already pointed out, and who obviously uses Storyline, it is not married to PPT.

      I clarified this statement in my response to Steve.

      Steve>> Yes, Articulate has a good community.
      Correction: It has a great community – unmatched in any sense of the word by Adobe.

      I don’t know if Steve will come back to reply to this. I would suspect he would want a little more evidence as your correction is just stating a matter of opinion. Doesn’t have to be much, you could site the forums, the blogs, their average response time. But I’ll leave that to you.

      Justin says>>My personal take on the matter is that time will tell if Storyline continues to lose out to Captivate.
      Correction: AGAIN you have made no tangible, quantifiable argument that Storyline is actually losing out on anything. It does exactly what it says on the box

      If that’s the standard you are applying to me, then neither have you in any of your corrections Adam.

      All the best,
      Justin

  4. CML

    I have to agree with Steve on the Articulate community – when I review Articulate I usually say it is unmatched on the web. Not just in e-learning but any product. I have never waited longer than 12 hours for a response (and that was posting at 9pm on thursday heading into holiday good Friday). Usually it is within 2 hours. My last query was on an advanced variable interaction. Dave from Articulate responded within 2 hours with a Screenr video on how to do it step by step.

    The longest I have waited for a response from the Adobe forums? I’ll let you know when they finally reply to a couple of posts about accessibility that I post in October 2011. I even emailed Adobe people directly. Nada. Email anyone at Articulate and if you don’t get a response in 24 hours i would be shocked. Their sales rep emailed me while he was on vacation.
    I tell people the community is so good for Articulate that you can’t put a price on it.

    Articulate knows about a bug and didn’t do anything about it? Captivate has had some consistent bugs in place since its Macromedia days.

  5. CML

    Also, I don’t think the issue is about how much marketshare cp is stealing from Articulate, it’s about how much it has to reclaim after driving people away from its own product in releases 1 to 5.

  6. David, why do you refer to a review of someone who only played with Captivate for a couple of hours? Is this the way to evaluate a software application? Personally I do not trust that kind or reviews. I have been with Captivate 6 for months in the prerelease, and even at this point I will not post a full assessment, because I think it is logical first to know in depth the new features. I already posted one article about a feature I did explore that way:
    http://lilybiri.posterous.com/captivate-6-advanced-actions
    For that same reason I never wrote anything, negative nor positive, about Storyline because I didn’t have time enough to explore it really, one month trial is too little and as a simple teacher I cannot afford the price (even the academic price) of SL. No one talks about that kind of prices that are, in comparison with Adobe’s academic prices, very high.

    • CML

      @lieve. I think that says a lot – 6 months is not enough time to review it. 30 days is more than enough time to know about the features of SL. That’s how easy it is to use. David’s review is from a former Adobe evangelist – so his review is either based on years of Adobe experience or, hopefully not, some bitterness from getting sacked.
      I think the discussion has been about the product itself, not the price. For me I would bite the bullet so I could work more efficiently and have more free time to myself.

      • @CML Missed this. You misunderstand my previous answer (I’m not a native English speaker). I was telling that 30 days was NOT sufficient to judge Storyline on its functionalities. Was not talking about the basic, easy use that is always demonstrated in the video tutorials, but on the more advanced features that will need more learning time.

  7. Nate

    I started with captivate, and agree, the learning curve is too steep in a time when I need to provide trainings and videos quickly. Storyline has a much quicker turnaround for me. Again, that is because I have never been formally trained in Captivate, but they make it pretty difficult and have that steep Adobe curve. However, I am struggling to see how Storyline is worth $1400 when to me, it is Powerpoint Plus. Yes, it has a lot of great features, but if a company is going to pay that, it should have almost every function that PPT does, which right now is missinga few things that I use in PPT (background music the entire way through, various animation/transitions, etc). The price tag should be less than 1k.

    • CML

      Some good points about learning curve and missing options. My only comment is that if you are designing e-learning, you might want to drop the background music. Studies have shown it reduces retention when used.
      Also as for the price tag, my time easily accounts for the difference in price. Both from the unbillable learning curve and from time spent trying to fix something (less time because of the articulate community).

  8. After reading these posts I think Justin was definitely right about one thing. Captivate and Storyline are now officially AT WAR!!

    I think the next year is really going to be fun to watch.

  9. Hey there,

    a bit sad to hear that these products could be so much better, eagerly awaiting some cs5 implementation for mobile devices. In one way I’m glad that these products need to compete against eachother, but with everyone comparing features (that aren’t necessarily essential) – I’m worried both companies might try and outdo eachother on similar features instead of working on the necessary things mlearning devs would really need right now.

    -c

  10. B

    Adobe doesn’t have to worry about the future. They bought the best elearning development interface there is from Macromedia (Authorware). As the industry progresses back to the level of interactivity we came to expect in the late 90’s they can ressurect that tool with updated publishing options to squash any competitor.

    I think you were right about the Cap vs Storyline article. It’s not that Adobe and Articulate must be expected to work together as competing companies. It’s that they both claim to export standards-based files and therefore by their own claims they SHOULD work together in the ways that were mentioned.

  11. B

    Getting excited about Captivate at war with Storyline while Authorware sits on a shelf is like getting excited about Obama or Romney competing without Ron Paul there to tell the truth to both of them! hahahahah

  12. Brian

    After spending a full day evaluating Articulate Storyline versus the Adobe eLearning Suite I was left feeling a bit disappointed with Articulate Storyline. The difference between the two programs is that Articulate Storyline is the equivalent of those over-sized legos you buy for toddlers and the Adobe eLearning suite is more like the super-lego-star wars-kit your buy for your 13-year-old.

    The bottom line is that Articulate Storyline is great for the masses, but serious developers are going to need the tools and flexibility the Adobe eLearning Suite offers.

    I really felt like with Storyline you have to be a “one-take jake” because you aren’t going to be able go back and edit out the ums, ohs and whoopsies without exporting to yet another program.

    Brian

  13. Brian, thanks for this metaphor! Based on my limited experience with Storyline and a broader experience with the eLearning Suite I tend to agree totally with you. Perhaps this is not totally correct, perhaps with a longer learning time to discover the more advanced features of Storyline, those that go beyond the canned things, those who are more hidden (in the back of the box with the big Lego blocks) it will be a good tool for ‘serious developers’. But I do not believe it will ever be able to replace all the features and integration functionalities of the suite. It is so much easier to get pretty much the same UI for a video editor, graphical, audio, animation editor and easy roundtripping than having to switch all the time between applications from different software producers.

  14. CML

    One thing I have discovered after completing the most intensive, interactive elearning module in my career (which includes numerous in Articulate Studio and award winning programs in Captivate 4) that, for me, comparing features is useless. For me it’s not what SL does compared to CP, it’s the way it does it. It’s a new take on the “it’s not what you said, it’s the way you said it.”
    I think SL will continue to grow a base in Instructional Designers who want to develop elearning but don’t have a technical background. Like me.
    Cp and suite will be the domain for developers who are taking IDs storyboards and producing them or IDs with a technical background – which IMO are hard to find. I don’t mean developers who can design courses but true IDs who can design fundamentally sound programs.

    SL will give non techies the tools to create elearning that is not just “good enough” but “great enough” compared to CP in a shorter time and for less budget than using a developer. I know my firm dropped using our developers when we started using Articulate Studio b/c it was good enough and clients favored that over more expensive custom work. The ID was better because we kept control.

  15. TerriA

    I love Articulate but I think Storyline in VERY expensive @$1400. Why is it so high? Now that Articulate 2012 is about to be released, I wonder if they are going to ramp up Engage to have more interactions choices and even some of the Storyline features (characters). Re: Captivate, I agree it is a steep learning curve compared to Articulate but I had to learn it to do demos and simulations for my client.

  16. JohnFromDon

    Adobe seriously dropped the ball when they pulled development of Authorware. It was THE best tool for creating e-learning/CBT. They should have gone back to basics like how SumTotal did with Toolbook and make it produce better web-based product without the need of the plugin.

    I like Captivate, I agree with the metaphor about all of Articulate programs being like Lego Duplo – and again with that, you need a plugin to run on a mobile platform, which I think is not the best approach for delivery of mobile training.

    I also use Lectora, but it doesn’t have the polish that Captivate does, but equally allows better SCORM tinkering with product.

  17. Charlie Howell

    Justin
    You seem to be confusing Storyline with Studio. Articulate Studio is married to PowerPoint as its base product (Presenter) is a PPT Addon. Storyline is a redesigned product and does not require PPT at all. There is an import feature but it is simply there to provide extra functionality by allowing anyone with a PPT to build upon those slides. The old articulate product used to generate flash content. The new Storyline product generates either flash or HTML5 end products as well as allowing for mobile devices. Quizmaker is part of the old Studio Product and has nothing to do with Storyline. Storyline is both SCORM and TIN CAN compliant.

    • Hi Charlie-
      Thanks for the note. You are correct in that Studio is married to PPT, but Storyline still is very much “derived” from that familiar look and feel – it’s good that it is HTML5, but it still isnt TinCan Compliant. Storyline only publishes to version 0.9 of TinCan, and there have been two very big renditions since then (especially when version 1.0 came out this past April). I’m looking forward to Storyline catching up to the 1.0 version of TinCan as it will open many doors.

  18. AlC

    I have the exact opposite experience with Adobe help forums – I downloaded two different versions of Captivate to test, and could not get either to run on my system. After searching the Captivate forums and trying some of the posted solutions (nothing worked), I made a thread myself and received no response. Ultimately, Captivate could blow Storyline out of the water in quality and flexibility, but that’s a pretty moot point if I can’t even get the product to run.

  19. I was surprised and intrigued by the title, until I noticed that the article is from June 2012 – some 3 moths after the Storyline was first released. I wonder what the score is now?

    Actually, I do not wonder – I know that Storyline is winning heavily, but still rooting for both teams, hoping that will continue forcing each other into a healthy and productive competition.

  20. Tom

    I have been using the version of Captivate that was bundled with the Adobe eLearning Suite 2.5. I was interested in upgrading and apparently I can’t upgrade. I have to repurchase eLearning Suite 6.1. There was a leap from 2.5 to 6.1 with nothing in between but I still can’t upgrade. Combined with Adobe’s recent introduction of the Creative Cloud I am pretty much fed up with Adobe. I am researching other software as I’ve wasted money at work on the eLearning Suite and wasted money at home on the Design Standard Suite. It appears that I can’t upgrade either of these products. Unless I pay full price or join the CC, respectively. I am not interested in doing either and am going to find alternative software.

  21. Escobar V

    I must say the post did make me think once again about the two companies and how they do business. Working with both adobe and articulate products overall I will tell you from my own experience over and over again that Articulate stands 200% behind its products where a the Adobe Products not so much. Let me take the example of Authorware (wonderful product, feel off the face. expensive yet today they do not have any support)
    My confidence is lacking in any product from Adobe. Yes the eLearning tools they have at present are great, with sharp learning curve and at best you will use 20 – 30 % of the product features if you get good training.
    On the other end I have trained 10 – 15 used to use articulate most complex project in as little as 3 – 6 months.
    Long term, I prefect Articulate is going in the right direction and will continue to get better at what it is doing. They have outstanding product support, If I can write to the articulate support team and get a response from the Sr. Manager within 4 hrs or less that is outstanding.
    Adobe on the other hand stop supporting older versions —- the answer is – Please buy our new version we no longer support this.. again and again. How many times have I heard that my dollar expires every few years and I do not appreciate that at all.
    Thank you for starting this conversation.
    Escobar

  22. Kathie

    I am a user of Adobe Products. Have been for about 10 years. I have never used Articulate; however, I am very impressed with how the product works. It does Rapid eLearning. I am a subscriber of Tom’s blogs. He post some really great information. However, for me, Captivate is flexible. I love customization. Captivate allows me to do this. I love utilizing the variables to do things. However, I have a very strong technical background -so the learning curve wasn’t bad for me. I can also play the fastest route by using Events if I decide not to create variables.

    I like Captivate it works for me.

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