We often get asked ‘which authoring tool is better?’ Captivate or Storyline? We explain that both Captivate and Storyline rock. However, our sense is that if you take two equally bright people with identical skills and you gave one Storyline and one Captivate, then after a couple of days your Storyline user’s content would appear to be better. It would be the same story after a week or a month, after three months they’d maybe be neck and neck, but after six months your Captivate user would be limited only by their imagination while your Storyline user’s material would start to look ‘samey’ (which isn’t to say it is better or worse learning).
Put simply, Storyline has a much shorter learning curve and you’ll look great quickly. The flip side is that you’ll also hit its capability limit sooner and be using hardcore workarounds to extend capability when you attain mastery in a way that you would not if you had mastered Captivate.
So, both tools are great. We’d recommend either. But remember they are just tools. Having a saw and workbench doesn’t make you a carpenter. Having a rapid authoring tool will not make you an instructional designer. Enthusiastic or even reluctant amateurs can and do make brilliant material with these tools. In the modern workplace budget constraints often mean that option is all you can do. However, if you want to train thousands of people, if you have a proper training budget, if you want to concentrate on your day job rather than the technology and if you want the training to truly engage then the DIY approach is misguided. You would likely be better commissioning a professional agency such as ourselves to build your online training for you.
But back to the initial question, if we really had to pick just one, which would we go for? Our company makes eLearning for third party clients, we are doing it all day every day, and we primarily choose Storyline*.
*This is a 2019 update of an article first written in 2012. The most significant change is the very last word which originally said ‘Captivate’ and now says ‘Storyline’. In recent years Storyline has closed the capability gap significantly. Although you do hit a limit in capability with Storyline, that limit is comfortably higher than the bar of ‘very professional looking output’. We still are proud expert users of Captivate, but now use it less frequently, usually for very complex requirements. For the vast majority of projects with straightforward requirements Storyline is more than capable and the workflow more efficient.