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Let's Get Ready to Rumble! Articulate vs Captivate vs Storyline

 

(Note: This is Part 1 of a 4 part series comparing Articulate Presenter, Captivate, and Storyline.)

Recently my colleague, Eric, and I had the opportunity of working simultaneously on 3 different eLearning projects in 3 different rapid authoring tools: Articulate Presenter, Adobe Captivate, and Articulate Storyline. As we worked in each tool, we thought we would compare their various strengths and weaknesses in the ultimate authoring tool showdown!.

Let's get ready to ruuuummmmble!!!!

We hope that this series will be useful to anyone who might be making decisions about which tool they’d like to use or purchase. To that end, we welcome your comments and corrections if you have experiences to share.

Presenting the first of a four-part series on Articulate vs Captivate vs Storyline:

Part I: ARTICULATE PRESENTER REVIEW

Articulate Presenter is a program that acts as an “add-on” to Microsoft PowerPoint. Therefore, it capitalizes on what PowerPoint can do already, and provides several added features, such as quiz-making and audio sync.

Note: When I speak about Articulate, I’m referring to the 3 tools that are incorporated in the standard package (Studio):

  • Articulate Presenter
  • Quizmaker, which allows you to create interactive quizzing that can be tracked through an LMS
  • Engage, a tool that allows you to create some standard “interactions” such as buttons that can be clicked to reveal content.

I’ll refer to the whole package as “Articulate” for simplicity. (Later we’ll refer to Articulate Storyline as “Storyline.”)

Articulate "ribbon" in PowerPoint Articulate "ribbon" in PowerPoint

 

Functionality PROS:

1. Articulate integrates with other tools

Generally speaking, all 3 tools offer the same general features:

  • Basic interactivity
  • Simple animation
  • Quizzing
  • Audio incorporation.

I think of Articulate as supercharging the existing functionality in PowerPoint, such as the animation feature. But it also provides quizzing, narration, and other interactive features.

Sync animation 
 
The Sync Animation feature makes it easy to sync narration in Articulate.
 

2. Narration syncs easily to screen animation

I really like how the Sync Animation feature works. Just click a button as you listen to the narration to synchronize the content display.

Functionality CONS:

1. Engage and Quiz tools have some limitations

Engage interactions and animations don’t appear on the PowerPoint slide screens, even though they appear in the published format. To edit them you have to leave PowerPoint interface and view the content in a separate place. Also, (and this may be my ignorance), it seems that the possibility of tailoring Engage interactions to have the same look and feel as the rest of the content is limited.

The Quiz function does allow you to match the look and feel of the rest of the presentation, and you can make edits directly to the slides once you open them in a different format. My one issue with the Quizmaker and Engage tools is that the slides are not made part of the presentation. For example, if you add a quiz of five questions to your presentation, only a single slide appears in the presentation itself, thus creating a disconnect between the numbering on the slides and the numbering in your storyboard. This is minor, but it does make it a little bit painful to storyboard the Quiz questions and relocate them again without having to pan through each question.

2. Quiz programming is “fidgety”

This may be a function of my status as an Articulate dilettante, but I’ve had a fair amount of trouble programming the quiz function. It’s not always clear where to go to set up quiz properties. For example, in a recent project I wanted my quiz to permit the user to try each question twice. In Quiz Properties there is a place to set “Question Properties.” In the Attempts Permitted field I selected “2.” Alas, this does not work. Instead, you have to open every question individually and select “2” in the Attempts field. Why one would want to set individual questions with a different number of attempts I’m not sure… it seems like it would be much easier to just set the number of attempts once for the whole quiz.

Conclusion

Articulate is a great tool if you want to improve on PowerPoint with audio and quizzing. It does rely almost entirely on the animation features already available in PowerPoint, although you can also use the Engage function to create some more interesting interactions. In a world where scenario-based learning and more IT-heavy, tech-y solutions are desirable, I think Articulate is a little behind the curve.

Functionality Rating: 3 / 5

Ease of Use PROS:

1. It’s really easy to get started

Articulate’s functionality is super intuitive. You don’t have to be a learning professional to work with it, and I think most people would find it relatively easy to teach themselves how to use this application without attending training. I may be overstating this because certain elements of the Engage and Quizmaker features are a bit less obvious, but there’s a wealth of resources online to help a new user through these.

Ease of Use CONS:

1. Slide content can become unwieldy

If you have slides that contain multiple pieces of overlapping content, it’s difficult to isolate content elements to make modifications if you want to retain the positions of each overlapping element on the slide. For example, if I have three text boxes overlapping each other, it’s difficult to make changes to the one on the “bottom of the pile” without moving the others out of position, then moving them “by eye” back into position.

Overlap

2. It’s potentially tricky to spot problems

Because of the possibility of overlapping content, it’s difficult to troubleshoot for errors because screens can potentially be unreadable unless you’re in Publish mode. And in Publish mode you can’t make the corrections.

3. Content positioning is imprecise

While Articulate content does benefit from the alignment tools offered by PowerPoint (centering content, creating even distribution of elements vertically and horizontally, etc.) this tool is rather imprecise with regard to positioning content in comparison with the precision offered by Captivate. Often this doesn’t matter too much, but it can be challenging if you want elements on the slide to stay in the same position from one slide to the next without “jumping.” Usually you can copy an element from one slide to the next and it will retain its position, at least until you need to move it out of the way to modify an element underneath it.

Conclusion

Although on complex slides the overlapping content makes it difficult to troubleshoot, and positioning of screen elements is based on your visual acuity rather than screen pixel positioning, the tool is very easy to use without training.

Ease of Use Rating: 4 / 5

Publishing PROS:

1. Um, none.

Publishing CONS:

 1. Publishing takes forEVER.

Publishing in Articulate takes forEVER. 

Publishing is painful. Articulate takes ages to publish the content, slide by slide, every time you publish. My last project took about 7-9 minutes to fully publish – every time. Furthermore, while it publishes, you are limited as to what you can work on in other applications. For example, while publishing one of my projects, I was trying to work on a Word document. When I tried to copy/paste some text, the Presenter publication interfered. The content I copied in Word was replaced when I pasted by some random content from Presenter. Weird!

2. Published files are BIG

Articulate files, when published, are big and heavy. That means that you almost always have to find an alternate means of sending them to your client or colleague, because email generally won’t sustain their size. At my company we use Dropbox, as well as the FTP site Filezilla. I’m also a big fan of YouSendIt.com. We pay a small monthly fee for the ability to send almost anything, very easily, to clients without running into problems of file size or firewalls.

Conclusion

This is the real weakness of Articulate, in my opinion. Click the Publish button and then go for coffee – it might be finished by the time you’re back.

Publishing Rating: 1 / 5

Support PROS:

1. Support options seem pretty standard

Articulate’s Help functionality is useful for finding basic “how to” information. When you run into problems, it’s better to venture online, where you’ll find a lot of discussion and often, answers, to problems you might have. There is a support community called E-Learning Heroes, which I often find helpful.

Support CONS:

1. Add-ons are limited

A quick look online tells me that add-ons for Articulate are fairly limited. To be honest I’m not a programmer, so I rarely venture into this realm. So if other users have thoughts on this I’d love your feedback.

Conclusion

I would say that the support for this tool is average. I’m not “wow-ed” by it but I’ve generally found what I’ve needed.

Support Rating: 3 / 5

To read Part 2, our review of Adobe Captivate, click the image below!

Adobe_Captivate_Review_1.jpg

 

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