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Articulate Storyline 2 vs Adobe Captivate 9

Installed authoring tools are desktop applications that are used to create and manage content for eLearning courses. We’re here to examine their differences and help you decide which program best suits you.

25 May 2018 by Alastair Simpson

What are installed authoring tools?

Installed authoring tools are desktop applications that are used to create and manage content for eLearning courses. These tools are used by learning developers, businesses, and tech-savvy teachers to create engaging online Lesson or Course content. Two of the most widely used installed authoring tools are Articulate’s Storyline 2, and Adobe’s Captivate 9. We’re here to examine their differences and help you decide which program best suits you.

Articulate Storyline 2

Articulate is a company specializing in eLearning software, with an impressive list of clients that includes Google and Microsoft. Storyline 2 is their latest installed authoring offering, and is billed as ‘interactive eLearning created easily’.

Not for Mac

A word of warning before you read on—Storyline 2 is Windows only, meaning that Mac users are out of luck. It is possible to run Storyline 2 on a Mac using virtual Windows software if you really need to, but this is both time and cost consuming, and can also hamper performance.

Note that Storyline 2’s Windows exclusivity does not affect its performance on other Apple devices – Storyline 2 content can still be viewed on both iPads and iPhones.

Main Features

  • Storyline 2 has a vast array of variables, triggers, sliders and timelines, as well as the ability to import existing PowerPoint presentations. It also has adjustable illustrated characters as well as photographic characters, and the option to implement both free-form and drag-n-drop questions. This gives Storyline 2 users a great deal of depth and customisation in their content creation.
  • Storyline 2 also has a free mobile app for viewing content on iOS and Android devices, including an offline capability – however, the content itself does not adapt to mobile devices, but is simply scaled down to fit the screen on which it is being viewed. This means that some projects can look cluttered and complex on a small screen, and you may even have to design slides twice – once for use on computers, and the other for use on smaller devices.
  • Storyline 2 allows for both HTML5 and Flash publishing and features Tin Can API 1.0-, SCORM-, and AICC-compliant packaging.

Ease of use

Storyline 2 is considered the easier of the two authoring tools to use for two reasons: firstly, it has a similar layout to Microsoft PowerPoint, and secondly, it has a strong support community. Storyline 2’s layout is indeed similar to PowerPoint – it features a ribbon navigation display similar to that of the Microsoft program, and can switch between a slide view and story view, allowing you to easily preview what you’re currently working on.

Storyline 2’s support community is also a major selling point, with an online forum that boasts quick responses from company staff and other users alike. However, it must be noted that whilst Storyline 2’s similarity to PowerPoint means that it looks familiar at first glance, it also means that many tools are lost in a dense menu system.

Storyline 2's drawbacks

Storyline 2 is the more expensive of the two applications, with a price of $1,398USD. This figure rises if you don’t have your own Learning Management System (LMS), as you’ll also need to purchase Articulate Online for an extra $199 a month. Having said that, Articulate Online is a simple and easy LMS that integrates well with Storyline 2.

Other drawbacks
Storyline 2 is Windows-only, as previously mentioned, meaning it can’t be used on a Mac. It also lacks a few features—namely, there is no scope for video publishing or video narration. As mentioned, Storyline 2 does not adapt content for mobile devices but simply scales projects down to fit on smaller screens. Storyline 2 can publish to Flash, but this requires a separate app install.

Another major drawback of Storyline 2 is the fact that it doesn’t allow for real-time sharing of work in progress. Instead, a project must be published before it can be shared with others. This makes authoring with multiple people frustrating and time-consuming.

Adobe Captivate 9

Captivate 9 is Adobe’s offering to the world of eLearning authoring tools, and is billed as ‘end-to-end design creation’.

Like Storyline 2, Captivate 9 provides dynamic PowerPoint importing options, and is also compatible with the entire Adobe Creative suite. If you’re familiar with the Adobe layout, Captivate 9 should feel somewhat intuitive to you—flexible content creation with multiple authors is something Storyline 2 just doesn’t provide. Inbuilt previews make it easy to see how your project will integrate with a range of SCORM-compliant LMS’.

Main features

Captivate 9 has a variety of exclusive features, including geolocation services—allowing for the creation of location- and device-specific learning experiences—gesture support, text-to-speech options, and auto-text captions. Text-to-speech and auto-text are important for the development of content for those with accessibility requirements. Other key features include:

  • Asset library – Captivate 9 provides access to the ‘asset store’, an online library of over 25,000 layouts, scenarios, games, interactions, and people cutouts for use in your projects. This gives Captivate users huge scope for creation.
  • Captivate Draft and multi-screen authoring – Captivate Draft is a new feature in Captivate 9 that allows users to create storyboards quickly and easily and share them in real-time via the cloud. Those reviewing the storyboard don’t need to have Captivate 9, allowing for quick feedback on projects.
  • Scenario Branching – allows for the visual mapping of different learner paths, whilst screencaster and screen caption options mean that high-quality product demos can be recorded.
  • Extensive publishing options – which include but are not limited to SCORM-, AICC- or xAPI–compliant LMS publishing, as well as PDF, EXE, SWF, iOS, Android, and Windows.

Captivate 9's drawbacks

Like Storyline 2, buying Captivate 9 will also require buying Adobe’s LMS if you don’t already have one. Adobe’s Captivate Prime is $4 a month / Per Registered Learner.

Ease of use

If you’re not familiar with Adobe products you face a steep learning curve with Captivate 9. Content creation can be tricky and frustrating, with many tools hidden or hard to find. Even once a level of proficiency is achieved, Storyline 2 is still a better tool for creating content quickly (not necessarily to a higher standard). The Adobe community provides videos and feedback for learners, but the company itself provides quite little in the way of support.


Captivate 9 is the cheaper of the two tools, with an outright price of $1,229USD or the option to rent monthly for $29.99 a month, with a minimum contract of at least one year. Students and teachers can get the program discounted depending on the school.

You need to ask yourself the following questions…

Are you a MAC user? Familiar with Adobe? A student or teacher?

Then look into Adobe’s Captivate 9.

Do you own a PC, have high-level experience in eLearning development, and are looking to further your knowledge with the help of a strong support community?

You should be leaning towards Articulate Storyline 2.

What if you fit neither of these categories?

If you lack experience in eLearning development, you may want to stay away from installed authoring tools altogether. Other options include web-based eLearning content creators. These tools are used online rather than installed on the desktop, and provide a much faster, simpler way to create content. Layouts and themes are simple, interfaces are intuitive, and tutorials are provided, whilst customisation options are still retained. One such web-based authoring tool is Coassemble.

Experienced eLearning developers and development houses prefer the high-powered installed desktop suites like Storyline 2 and Captivate 9, but web-based tools like Coassemble are a solid, simple alternative for those lacking experience.

Note: The details in this article were accurate at the time of writing. Buyers are encouraged to seek the most up to date information when making a purchase choice.

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