A recent LinkedIn post asked eLearning developers: which tool is best: Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline? As I read through the comments, I was struck by how many people insisted that Storyline was the better choice because it was easier to learn than Captivate because it was so much like Microsoft PowerPoint.
As someone who uses both Captivate and Storyline, I have to disagree with that recurring sentiment. Sure, Storyline seems to be more like PowerPoint (there's a similar Ribbon and toolset). But honestly, how many of you are PowerPoint experts? I bet you can make a traditional presentation in PowerPoint including text, bullets, and images, but do you really know how to use PowerPoint efficiently and to its potential? I would submit that the answer is no... unless you received proper PowerPoint training. Both Captivate and Storyline seem simple at first glance... just like PowerPoint. However, PowerPoint, Storyline, and Captivate are robust development tools and if you aren't trained, you'll quickly find yourself doing the "hunt and peck" shuffle as you learn on-the-fly... spending double (perhaps triple) the time necessary to perform simple tasks.
I'm a big fan of both Captivate and Storyline (and TechSmith Camtasia Studio too). I'm constantly asked which tool is best (typically this question comes from new eLearning developers who are under pressure to pick one tool for their corporate eLearning initiatives over another). People want to know the inherent strengths and weaknesses of each tool.
My answer? It depends mainly on two things: your budget to purchase an eLearning tool (are you a one-person shop buying a single license or are you part of a team requiring multiple licenses?); and the output you are trying to provide your learners.
Captivate costs around $1,000. If you don't want to shell out the cash up front, you can subscribe to Captivate for around $30 per month. Given that Adobe upgrades Captivate approximately once each year, and you get the upgrades for free as part of your subscription, subscribing is a pretty good deal. Storyline is far more expensive (I've seen it listed for upwards of $2,000 and there isn't a subscription plan).
When it comes to output, both Captivate and Storyline can publish SWF and HTML5 content. However, if you're required to publish interactive PDFs or create responsive eLearning, the choice has to be Captivate (Storyline does not currently support either output).
Here's an analogy for comparing Captivate against Storyline. Consider the Toyota Tundra to the Toyota Takoma. Both are trucks. Both are awesome. Both have similar appointments in the cabin (some of the appointments are identical and if you learn how to use a feature in one truck, you know how to use it in the other). The Tundra (Captivate) can tow a house; the Takoma (Storyline) can tow a boat. The Takoma is easier to park in a small garage; the Tundra... not so much.
Do you need to tow a house or just a boat? If just a boat, go ahead and get the boat-puller. However, once you've purchased the boat puller and then need to pull a house... yikes!
If you use both Captivate and Storyline, I'd love to read your comments about both tools below as comments.