Adobe Captivate 6 vs Articulate Storyline – Side by Side Comparison

This post is a continuation of my research on the rapid e-learning tools and focus on mobile learning. If you want to track the previous post on this series then please check out – Creating the iPad style e-learning courses with Articulate Storyline

Before we start, I must warn that this post is going to be lengthier compare to my other posts! But I would assure that it will be worth of your time!

[Update 8/8] The post on comparing newer version of Adobe Captivate 7 vs Articulate Storyline is live here

After spending couple of days with Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate 6 and reading tons of product reviews, I was surprised to see that many reviewers given equal ratings for Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate 6.

It looks like many of the reviewers have given equal rating after studying the specifications alone or just playing around the high level interface and drawn the conclusions quickly.

I have actually spent several hours with each tool and produced sample courses with many multimedia content before writing this review. Skipping all ‘blah blah’ I am making a straight side-by-side comparison of key features between these two tools.


The Themes

The moment you start with a new project in captivate 6 you will have 10 standard themes to pick from the themes panel. If you look for additional themes you be taken to adobe’s blog and with a message ‘stay tuned for new themes’!


Theme options in Storyline and Captivate

Theme options in Storyline and Captivate


Storyline has got 27 readymade themes

While the number of readymade themes does not seem like a big difference the storyline themes were really beautiful and a nice theme gives a great start for the rapid e-learning development.

A sample theme design from captivate6

A sample theme design from captivate6

More importantly, I found that Storyline master slides are well designed from the usability perspective. A lot of space for the contents and if we want custom navigation buttons (such as next/previous) to appear in all the slides then we can simply place customized buttons on the storyline master slides (to appear in every derived slide). Whereas with Captivate, you will not be allowed to insert such controls into the master slides and you will be forced to insert them into every slide manually (suggest me if you were able to find a better trick!). Also with the captivate themes a lot of space is being wasted. For example, you can see one of the theme’s design below which eats up a significant content space.


Objects and Triggers

Bringing in custom interactive elements is an easy task with Storyline compare to Captivate. For example, if you want an image to call an URL, in storyline you would simply assign a trigger to this image and the image will start functioning as a button. We can even build complex interactive objects just by assigning one more triggers. The workflow is very simple. But in captivate you will have to draw a smart shape above image (like a hidden hit area) and make this smart shape as a button and assign action to it (to call a URL). Work around like these wastes a lot of time in Captivate!


Building a storyline custom interaction with triggers

Building a storyline custom interaction with triggers


Widgets vs Interactions

This is perhaps most important differentiator. If you want to bring in interactive elements (such as tabbed content), these two tools follow very different approach. Storyline uses ‘templates’ approach. You will have inbuilt templates for each type of interaction you can choose one to import into your project and customize it quickly if you need.

Captivate uses pluggable interactive elements called ‘Widgets’. A widget is a like a component developed externally with tools such as Adobe Flash.

But, the storyline templates are developed within storyline itself and will provide a proper finishing when inserted into course without any tweaking.


A drag and drop interaction template from storyline

A drag and drop interaction template from storyline


With captivate the widgets are developed externally and does not provides a proper ‘finished’ look easily. Also you will have very limited customization options with captivate widgets (e.g. text, fonts and colors) of the interaction. If you want advanced customizations then you will have to develop custom widgets with external tools such as Adobe Flash (or buy from 3rd party developers). The widgets’ performance was very poor as well during authoring as well as in HTML5 output.


Captivate accordion interaction Widget

Captivate accordion interaction Widget


Captivate accordion interaction Widget customization options

Captivate accordion interaction Widget customization options


With storyline it’s very easy to develop custom interactions on your own from the available inbuilt templates. I was able to create the completely customized interaction below (clickable images with text and audio) in less than 30 minutes.


A custom interaction page developed with storyline using inbuilt template

A custom interaction page developed with storyline using inbuilt template


Within Captivate 6 widgets you will not able to

  • perform undo/redo actions
  • perform copy/paste any text/images
  • no text formatting like bold, underline supported
  • no scroll content support (for the output)

I can just keep on writing another detailed post about how captivate ‘Widgets’ are so limited that you can hardly use them for producing quality interactive content.

Storyline interactions are essentially part of the application itself so you will not be restricted to perform any kind of actions. The interactions from storyline are nothing but just pages (not plug-ins). So there are no limitations that apply within the interactions that you can do with the application. This gives the storyline a definite upper hand when it comes to productivity.


Adding Interactions with Captivate6 (left) and Storyline (right)

Adding Interactions with Captivate6 (left) and Storyline (right)



Videos are essential part of e-learning now a days. Captivate 6 has one unique ‘You tube Ready’ feature. You can upload the capture into youtube.com directly. But Storyline does not have any (may be storyline not meant for that). This feature of Captivate may come handy in some cases.

However, if you want to insert a youtube video into your e-learning then storyline makes it very easy. You can insert the youtube embed code directly into your storyline e-learning. But captivate complicates this simple requirement. To insert a youtube video in Captivate 6 You will have rely on 3rd party widgets and many of them sold commercially. The one free widget I have found for this purpose capable of working only with Flash output and not compatible with HTML5 format.


Captivate youtube ready publishing feature

Captivate youtube ready publishing feature

You can insert locally stored (embedded) video into both applications. But storyline gives the option to automatically attach video controls into the embedded video whereas with captivate you will have to sync the video with the timeline and rely on the player to control the video.


Storyline Optional Video Control Attachment

Storyline Optional Video Control Attachment


The big catch here is the embedded video’s performance issues with Captivate 6; refer the later section of this post on ‘Mobile Learning’ for this.



There are many illustrated and photographic character libraries available with both captivate and storyline. But storyline ships with one character photographic library and more illustrative libraries. The additional photograph libraries can be purchased separately. But Captivate 6 character libraries are complete reverse. There is only one illustration library and more photograph libraries. So I wouldn’t say one is better than another. It’s depending on your usage needs.


Character Libraries available in Storyline and Captivate 6

Character Libraries available in Storyline and Captivate 6


Translation Support

Captivate offers to export all the text info into .xml format to support localization. But Storyline does an impressive job here.

Storyline is capable of exporting the content for translation in 2 formats

  • .doc format contents can be exported to .doc format and sent for the translation. The translated .doc can be reimported to produce a localized version
  • xml localization interchange file format (*.xliff)  Storyline is also capable of exporting the content into .xliff format. This format is very friendly for translation vendors. In fact many translation vendors offer discount rates (i.e. reduced cost/word) when input is supplied in this format

Storyline also provides option to have localized versions of the entire interface from player options. It is not just about the player controls, it covers every text label exist with every interaction as well (I was blown away by about this feature when I first saw this feature)! Imagine the amount of savings organizations will realize in capturing and translating player and interaction text/labels!


Storyline Player Language Options

Storyline Player Language Options


Community and Support

This is one of most important aspect. Where to turn for support when you encounter issues? Articulate has got a fantastic community! I was able to find answers to questions and solutions for all my issues very quickly. The storyline product makers have done a phenomenal job in identifying and documenting every issue you would possibly encounter during course making and their community website community.articulate.com serves as great knowledge and support platform.

With Captivate the community is probably very diversified and there are many ‘simulation makers’ out there more than ‘e-learning makers’ and it was really hard to look for solution for many of the issues I have encountered.


mLearning/Mobile Learning Perspective

The very reason I am researching about the Storyline vs Captivate and you are probably reading this post most likely related to Mobile Learning Evolution. HTML5 and iPad support are probably the two most important factors here (If these two won’t exist then we all would have happily stayed with Adobe Flash based e-learning forever, wouldn’t we?).

One of my primary objectives when evaluating Captivate 6 was to benchmark its HTML5 stability over Storyline. But despite Captivate’s specification says it is capable of exporting to HTML5, I have quickly realized that Captivate cannot be relied for HTML5 output at all.

  • The HTML5 output will not work properly at all! (checkout the sample HTML5 course developed with Captivate 6 at the end of this post)
  • The embedded video plays for few seconds and stops abruptly in HTML5 output
  • The audio inserted into the sections of interaction will not simply play
  • Many other Captivate’s widgets including youtube support widget are flash based and most of them not compatible with HTML5 output (except the ones packaged with the product)
  • The widgets on the HTML5 published output will not work on desktop chrome browser

All in all I couldn’t even compare the HTML5 stability of Captivate with Storyline because the Captivate’s HTML5 has got tons of issues (it has to work properly first before benchmarking the performance). Just some static pages with image/text combination in HTML5 format would not be considered as HTML5 e-learning without proper compatibility for interactions/audio/video.

On the other hand, Storyline’s HTML5 output is very impressive and very stable except issues related to HTML5 inherent limitations (e.g. slow interactions response, crashing with many multimedia assets etc.)

Other Storyline’s unmatchable features are iOS publishing and Tin Can API support. Captivate do not have support for both at this point.



Captivate 6 is still a good simulations making tool like its predecessors but with some unfinished attachments to make it look like a mobile learning/e-learning authoring tool. After being spent a decent part of my career as a flash developer and being a fan of many of Adobe’s tools such as Flash, Flash Builder (Flex), Photoshop and so on… I must say that I am very much disappointed about Captivate 6 and I really find it hard to believe that Captivate 6 is an Adobe’s(!) product.

Some of you may agree and some may not with my opinions here. I am an independent blogger and I am not paid by any organizations to promote any products, in fact you don’t need to take my opinions ‘as is’. Instead, you can evaluate the free trial versions of both tools and try to build few pages of multimedia content with them. At the end of your exercise, I am confident that you will easily fall in love with Storyline over Captivate 6!

Sample course created in Captivate 6 (source) [Sorry this content is expired as of 5/31, as trial version of captivate content would work for only 30 days, so i am posting it’s source here, not the published content]

Sample course created in Storyline

My next stop is going to be on Lectora Inspire (I will see if it inspires me like storyline did!). So make sure you subscribe to future posts using the option available on the right side menu.

[Update] The next post above Lectora vs Storyline is live. Here it is -Lectora Inspire vs Articulate Storyline – Side by Side Comparison

I would invite you to share your perspectives and feedback about this post and feel free to point out if you notice any mistakes (I know there could be many different ways to accomplish a task in a tool!)



  1. An says:

    Your Captivate course has expired.
    If you use the trial version of Captivate your projects will expire after 30 days or so.

    1. electron says:

      Thank you for pointing it out. I will publish a new one.

  2. Miss flash says:

    Neither even comes close to the things you could make with flash. eLearning is boring all over again.

    1. electron says:

      I know, i like flash as well. But what could possibly ‘flash fans’ can do against the mobile evolution :) other than adopting to HTML5

  3. susskin says:

    Your reviews are very helpful. I need to purchase either one (Articulate storyline or captvate) – will a review on Captivate 7 be coming any soon? I am mostly interested on mobile multi-platform capability, especially that complex course interactions can be achieved with both Android tablets and iPads. It is for an educational project in a developing country. Thank you again!!

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for your valuable feedback. I am analyzing Captivate 7 and will cover it in the next few days. You can subscribe for new posts from us to keep track of it.

  4. susskin says:

    Greetings! will you do a review on Captivate 7 any time soon? Interested especially on mobile readiness for complex interactions (audio with images, drag and drops, etc.) on tablets. Thank you!

  5. Gail W says:

    Thank you for posting your analysis, comparisons and conclusions. Very helpful.

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback Gail!

  6. AskMe says:

    Still I feel interactivity templates are less…. one must need a separate interactivity builder tool along with an authoring. eLearn Bro or Raptivity. What say.

    1. electron says:

      Well said. But as the needs of the consumers are very diverse, it is hard to find one tool ‘does it all’.

  7. Tom Stembridge says:

    Great article, Electron. A detailed insight into both packages.

    It’s particularly interesting coming from the perspective of an e-Learning developer working with exclusively with Storyline at the moment. There’s no question it is a fantastic piece of software for rapid development. We’re building a HUGE learning object for a client currently and pushing Storyline to its limits but it still performs admirably.

    I’m eagerly anticipating Articulate’s 4th update for Storyline. With some key improvements in certain areas it will really be something.

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback. Yes, articulate storyline undoubtedly one of the best for rapid e-learning development

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