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2/15/07 – Captivate vs. Camtasia February 26, 2007

Posted by Ben Craigo in e-Learning Tools, e-SIG Presentations, Intructional Design, Lessons Learned.

At the meeting on February 15 we had three excellent speakers that delivered three great presentations covering Adobe’s Captivate and TechSmith’s Camtasia.  Here’s a summary of each….

Captivate Demonstration

Dave Moser, a Certified Captivate Instructor at Brookwood Media Arts,  delivered the first presentation on how do create simulations and demonstrations in Captivate 2.  These notes are less about the specific instructions on how to do so and more on the key features/benefits of the tool.  Keep your eyes out for a series of tips from Dave in the future.

Captivate allows you to do simulations, demonstrations and branching stories.  Simulations and demonstrations mimic the actual product/software and gives the learner a safe environment to learn and it provides feedback in real time.  One of the coolest features of Captivate is the ability to create branched story learning experiences.  Think of it like the choose-your-own-adventure books or choose your own ending movies.  The learner has the ability to go down different paths that may or may not be the right ones and figure out to do when they get there – just like the real world.

Some points from the presentation:

  • It is easy to use, and you don’t have to be a programmer to use it.
  • Produces a Flash SWF file which makes the learning highly accessible since nearly 98% of computers out there have browsers that have Flash installed on them.
  • Options in Captivate 2 are very much like the options for Captivate 1.
  • Can be integrated into a lot of software programs.  It also works well inside Adobe Presenter (formerly Macromedia Breeze).
  • Supports quizzes and track user responses.
  • Solutions created with Captivate can be integrated into any AICC or SCORM compliant LMS.
  • TIP: When recording demos in Captivate record the screen capture first and then go back and record the audio.  It can be difficult to get good narration while performing the demonstration.
  • TIP: Create templates with branding and standards that can be applied to all future simulations.
  • TIP: 800×600 is currently most common computer resolution.  Because the end users rarely have all that space available with toolbars, menus and the like Captiva offers smarter resolution choices to make sure your demonstration will fit in the end user’s desktop.
  • The tool is smart enough to capture events like pop-up windows.
  • Specific frames and audio can be edited after they are recorded.
  • TIP: There is a problem with Flash 9 animations being incorporated into Breeze (no detail or workarounds given)
  • Simulations are a great way to assess people’s ability to do something.  Enables users to take a trial run.  Good way to certify users.

Captivate Examples

Eric Mongrain, a Web Training Facilitator at AmeriGas, showed examples of finished trainings developed in Captivate.  There were dozens of trainings done and gave real-world examples on how to apply this in industry.  Users have had nothing but good experiences with the product with with the only negative comment really being about download speeds.  Those comments were few and far between though to be expected as there are some users who still use dial-up to access the intranet.

Presentation highlights:

  • Use Captivate extensively on their intranet to create trainings and certifications.
  • Users access the courses via dial-up, satelite and DSL/cable – challenge in creating training that meets the lowest common denominator.
  • In their environment users have thin clients instead of desktop computers.  This means that there is next to no software installed and training solutions have to be lean technologically.
  • TIP:  Agreed with Dave that it’s better to record the narration after you capture the simulation.
  • TIP:  Record the audio in a separate application to improve on the sound quality.  Uses Audacity shareware or SoundForge.
  • TIP:  Prepare a step-by-step and script ahead of time to improve the quality of the narration.
  • TIP:  Don’t move around special effects within Captivate too much as it has to be synchronized with the audio.  It’s easy to get carried away and synchronizing is a manual and lengthy process.
  • TIP:  People like to have something to show for their training.  Including certificates in their courses is a big benefit.

Camtasia Pros & Cons

Nathan Eckel, Instructional Designer at Lockheed Martin, presented on the pros and cons of Camtasia as it relates to Captivate. 

Summary of Nathan’s presentation:

  • What is Camtasia? – A screen capture program (4th version) . Created by TechSmith . Thorough Recording. Ideal for Software Training Sims and Demos. One movie file, no “slides.”
  • Benefits over Captivate:
    1. Moderate Budget -$300 Retail
    2. Smaller File Size (one file) vs. separate slide file for each screen change 
    3. Exports to SWF but Also Windows Media, H.264, AVI, FLV, mp3, and m4a (iPod). 
    4. Integrates with PowerPoint and PC Cam – you can record and publish your PPT presentations 
    5. Other features – Zoom & Pan, Callouts, Flash Quiz & Survey
  • Liabilities vs. Captivate
    1. Thorough recording is greatest strength & weakness 
    2. Records everything on the screen -including extended pauses and mistakes. 
    3. Also records Audio in real-time, including any unintended noises 
    4. Editing is tricky and prone to hangups in playback 
    5. There are glitches when making cuts – sometimes playback stops, audio issues 
    6. More Time Consuming, Higher Learning Curve
  • Camtasia will be Best for users who: 
    • Have a more limited budget.
    • Think as a Movie Producer rather than a Standup Presenter .
    • Need detailed simulation captures . Want to capture everything . Won’t mind controlling and editing everything. 

Related Camtasia Resources



1. Daniel Birch - February 28, 2007

Would like to share one example of how we used Captivate at PricewaterhouseCoopers. We were launching a new Time & Expense reporting system to 30,000 users nationwide. Every user needed to know how to use the new system within one week of it being launched. The new system was a radical departure from the old system, not only in features and navigation, but also processes and policies.

We created a fairly-traditional page-turner CBT in HTML (we used Lectora) to explain the new policies, and then embedded Captivate demos showing how to complete specific tasks in the new system. We created about a dozen demos that ran from 45 seconds to three minutes in length.

A nice benefit is that the Flash files produced by Captivate could be re-used elsewhere. So, on our Time & Expense intranet Help site, we also posted the Captivate demos there. Because we created lots of short demos that focused on a specific task, users could easily get the help on just what they needed. And, ultimately, we would be able to embed the demos into the tool itself, although we haven’t done that yet.

The result? For other countries that rolled out the new system without training, the volume of calls to the help desk was staggering. In the US, there were not so many calls, and most of them were about policies, and not how to use the system.

2. Ben Craigo - February 28, 2007

Daniel: Thanks for sharing an example how to get the most out of Captiva in the real world. Reusability is huge. What you did was an excellent way to help users get to the information no matter which path they went down: did the training ahead of time or pulling context specific help just when they needed it.

3. Colm O hAonghusa - March 11, 2007

Greetings from Ireland:
A group of us who are enrolled on a Masters in E-learning and Training Management in DCU [ www dot dcu dot ie ] have had a demo on both Camtasia and Captivate in the last few days.
It seems to me that Captivate, with its simulation option, goes further than Camtasia and therefore while at the front-end, i.e. the capture end, there are similarities along with the inevitable pros and cons, at the back end Captivate ‘goes further’ or ‘goes beyond’ what Camtasia offers and therefore the two products are not really comparable at the back, or simulation/training/ tracking progress end.
If this is correct then the choice of product will stem from what we want to do and if we need ‘heavy duty’ simulation etc then Camtasia is not the product as it just does not offer the requisite functionality.

I would welcome any feedback on the above opinion as it will help our group decide which product to use for our assignments.
Thank you.

4. John Shaw - March 19, 2007


I am new to this Blog, thank you to Noelle for inviting me. I manage a training team for a software company. We use Camtasia combined with an open source LMS for our on-line training produts. Using Camtasia we’ve created a nice business selling core on-line classes as well as customized classes.

My exposure to Captivate is too limited for me to comment on its pros and cons but based upon this blog I’m very interested in learning more about its ‘brancing stories’ feature.

Camtasia itself has been a blessing. Its affordable and fairly easy to use. The biggest trick I found (mentioned in the tips above) is to make sure you script and plan your content prior to recording.

With a disciplined process for scripting, recording and editing in place you can dramatically reduce the time needed to create online content. Though it may not be as cutting edge as Captivate, we can create high-quality software training content easy enough for us to provide competitive pricing to our customers at a healty margin. At the end of the day I need 3 skill sets to make it work and I can often find all 3 in one person:

* Content Expert – Good Writinig Skills
* Voice Over / Recording – Well Spoken
* Edit / Producing – Application Expert

This is fantastic from a resource management perspective.

In conclusion, be careful when making your comparisons to focus on looking at those functions that you need. Its often very tempting to get the cooler package with the most features (Seems to be Captivate) but if you are not using those features, and they come with added cost or an increased skill requirement it may not be the best choice.

At the same time, after reading his Blog, i’m off to read more about Capitvate to re-compare them against our requirements 🙂

Regards to all

5. Lauren - April 18, 2007

As a user of both products. I love them both for their individual purposes. I am a Sr. Instructional Designer at the Medical College of Georgia.
If you just look at where the two products are similar which is in the area of getting screen captures for demonstration purposes, then it is important to note one important distinction – the actual capturization process. What Camtasia does is actual produce a video of all your movements throughout. What Captivate does is intuitively take snapshots anytime it senses the screen change. Now if there is full set of motion happening then Captivate will recognize this and generate a small “movie” of it. So what you really need to look at is if your demonstration requires dragging and moving objects around the screen – use Camtasia. If you only movement is your mouse, that doesn’t matter Captivate generates that motion. And of course Captivate has so many other amazing features to it, but if its lots of motion you are needing, you will not be happy with how Captivate exports it.

6. Jared Ritchey - December 18, 2007

This is a really good post, informative and exactly what I had been browsing around for.

I stumbled upon this post after being asked to assemble a brief comparison document for a guy who wanted to know why we chose Adobe Captivate over the Camtasia products in our software tutorials.

I teach at the local college and use Captivate in my template design kit series because it provides more interaction between user and app almost like Authorware. The RTDS is an instructional course that is primarily a video on using and designing with photoshop and captivate is the ONLY application that works for educational purposes like we need.

I’m going to use excerpts from your site in my comparison (giving you credit naturally)

Again, great post
~ Jared Ritchey

7. Laura Jaffrey - January 15, 2008

I like both products and find they are strong in different areas (as already mentioned in previous posts).
Captivate is the tool I’d choose for e-learning courses as the quizzing, branching and interactivity are second to none. This is an excellent tool if you want to track and measure a learner’s progress, give meaningful feedback directly after a response or give an opportunity for practice following an example. The last two functions have been proven to improve learning. Also, as a tool for demonstrations, Captivate is good for capturing screencasts, automatically creating textbox captions in different languages that are easily modifiable and keeping the file size relatively small.
We chose Camtasia for one particular project as the users were not going to be viewing the content in a browser. This limited the interactivity (i.e., no Flash) unfortunately but by keeping the videos short and topic-specific and providing a pre-training video at the beginning to give new users an overview of the software, the videos have been successful. Note that both Captivate and Camtasia content can be integrated into a LMS.

8. Glenn A. Meisenheimer - March 12, 2008

I’ve been testing both of these products for training purposes. Frankly I’m leaning toward Camtasia largely because of its cleaner interface to Powerpoint.

Currently my presentations are heavily Powerpoint centered with liberal sprinklings of Web UI based demos, and even some terminal based command line demos. The Powerpoint slides have a lot of graphics content.

I found that when importing my Powerpoint slides into Captivate the graphics got munged in multiple places – frequently in the form of connecting arrows being misplaced or stopping short of the objects to which they are supposed to be connecting.

Also the Powerpoint animations broke when the deck was loaded into Captivate, and it is a LOT more work to set up animations in Captivate than in Powerpoint – and more limited.

Because Camtasia imbeds its controls directly in Powerpoint and uses Powerpoint to drive the slide presentation, none of these limitations occured in Camtasia.

Both products have sucky (yes, that is a valid technical term referring to the suck factor of a particular feature.. hehe) – sucky audio editing capabilities. Captivate was definately better in this area, but try to do something as simple as fade to silence in Captivate.

What I had to do is download Audacity and use it to generate my sound track first – do the editing and clean up in Audacity, then play the sound track in my earphones while I choreographed the demo to the sound. This actually turned out to be a good technique, because if I edited the audio in the videio production tools, it tended to mess up the synchronization with the graphics – or made them choppier than I wanted.

I also need podcast and DVD output, so Camtasia fits the bill better on those accounts.

I’m not using the tests and branching features in Captivate, so those weren’t really a plus for me.

Both tools are great. But for my needs I think Camtasia is a better match.

9. Bea - March 18, 2008

We use camtasia mainly because we have more flexibility in the play bar. In Captivate, we have not been able to show the where they are in the video vs the total time of the video (e.g. 1.00/2.30) I’m not sure if anyone else has this problem. However letting the learner know exactly how long the video is and how far into it they are, is high on our priorities in developing a nice user experience.

We also had sync issues with the audio and video in captivate.

10. Tom Johnson - April 3, 2008

I’ve been experimenting with both Captivate and Camtasia, and I have mixed feelings about them. I switched from Captivate to Camtasia because I prefer the full motion recording. One major feature Captivate lacks is the ability to edit your full motion recordings. Camtasia allows you to do this. So if you do want full motion recording, and you later want to make any edits to that full motion, with Captivate you’re out of luck.

On the other hand, Camtasia isn’t the tool if you’re trying to create interactivity with quizzes and branching. However, my experience with videos is that people want to sit back and watch for 2 minutes rather than being pestered to click through the simulation themselves. I like to soak in the full view, rather than being required to click here and select this and that along the way.

Another benefit to Camtasia is being able to easily shrink screen sizes. If you’re trying to fit your video into a small space, Camtasia provides functionality that Captivate doesn’t.

However, Captivate wins with file size and loading. But this may not be a problem for most recordings.

11. Rob - July 25, 2008

I use Camtasia for basic training videos with voice overs. I find the screen capture good once you have worked out the best sizes for your application. The action of the mouse during capture of the target app is a bit odd, seems to change the acceleration rate however once you get used to it the results are good. The hotkey start, stop and resume in last known mouse location is very handy as is the record last area settings.

The timeline editor in theory provides all the necessary components but I find it unreliable and annoying.

Yes you can add captions, but the caption editor is full of bugs, inserting line feeds and manual caption points nearly always results in concatenation of the subsequent captions which then need to be redited. There is no option to lock the following captions and move them all down together following an insertion mid stream. This is also the case if you add in an extra video clip mid stream, all the captions stay where they are and need to be manually re-synched. same with the voice. ITS VERY ANNOYING. This needs work which camtasia admit after I contacted them.

Producing the videos in different formats if very good and so long as you have a decent PC / laptop, I’ve never found it to be a big issue.

I found the pan and zoom feature whilst being nice idea added a lot of size to the files.. up to 50% which in my case was not ideal

I’ve not really used the quiz feature just the basic record and voice narration. The audio enhancements have managed to get rid of a fair bit of pops and clicks but the male and female voices enhancements always sound like a robot in a swimming pool, better to be in a quiet room and keep still as much as possible.

Another really annoying feature is when working in a project directory the save as locations and defaults are not always remembered. allowing you to inadvertently save stuff all over the place and lose or duplicate bits quite easily.

I know a lot of these things sound trivial but they really make a big difference when the program is new and when you are trying to produce stuff under pressure.

Some of the other timeline issues are simply modal…. ie you can’t move certain markers and pointers until you’ve pressed finish.. but really you need to switch back and forth much more easily. Ironcically I find windows movie maker (in all its “basicness” ) much easier and more realiable to use.. which is not a good recommendation for a specialised multimedia product.

I also think the Audio editing is very limited and after reading some of the above reviews will try Audacity although I would lament the fact it will require separate synching with the timeline, another chore.

My frustrations with unreliability and quirkinesss have led me to look for better alternatives but it sounds like Captivate is limited to export formats. I like the range Camtasia offers.

Sorry if the information is a bit random but thats how it came out…



Marcos Vence Ruibal - August 7, 2009

Geert, I’ve solved that problem making a Java application: “Delay Camtasia Captions”. It can move all caption points together.

You can download it from:

Marcos Vence Ruibal

12. Glen Wither, ,Sr. Director, Traininng and Consulting, MERX - August 22, 2008

We are looking at Captivate or Camstasia for our company’s training tools and these comments above have been most helpful. Thanks to all of the contributors. One thing has not been mentioned: customer service. I have been using TechSmith’s Snagit for about two years now and had a chance to deal with their customer service people. I can report that the experience was well above expectations and left a lasting impression. It was that good, that quick. I also came across Blueberry’s Flashback 2 program, which has other advantages and seems easy to use. It hasn’t got all the bells and whistles but seems just fine for many of the uses mentioned above. Has anyone here had a chance to test it?

13. Mark - March 13, 2009

I’ve used Captivate quite a bit as an instructional designer working in corporate eLearning development. I have to say that Captivate has been very useful to me as a rapid eLearning development tool that produces clean, well-sequenced, professional looking results. This primarily because of how it captures screen action as slides, and separates mouse movement from the background and provides ease of audio editing as well. Removing or inserting content is a breeze and looks polished. When I did want smooth action recording (for page scrolling for instance) I tended to just manually force a snapshot of the screen, modify it a bit, and then take another snapshot; it sounds tedious but it isn’t and wasn’t something that I had to do very often in any case.

Looking at the functionality of Camtasia from within a new organization I am already dismayed by the prospects: not being able to edit mouse movement or audio seamlessly is a serious issue because it means that I have to spend a lot of time planning each project and capturing it flawlessly the first time. Why would I want every mistake captured for the client/user to witness?

With captivate it really felt like rapid eLearning: jump in and start recording and then fix it in the edit. With Camtasia I feel like I am going back to pre-digital times!

14. pbush - April 30, 2009

I am trying to decide which software to purchase. I am in a newly created position and I will be training and demo’ing FINANCIAL applications. Unfortunately, there is no training system, so I will be using ACTUAL confidentail data & the headings that could point to the person or region will need to be blurred out. I am told that Camtasia has a blurring feature. Does anyone know if there is a way in Captivate when recording screen shots to blank out a small portion of the screen. (name or a number field)

Please respond. thanks

15. D Scott - November 17, 2009

I disagrre with everybody here .I cannot get to grips with Camtasia. I find the instructions sketcy and how on earth you can work out what dimensions are for what is beyond me .wish id never purchased it

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