Camtasia vs. Captivate vs. the Organization

[Aug 22/2010: It would be awful if i didn’t mention the great work by TechSmith‘s support people.  They’ve happy to offer help through e-mail and Twitter to help improve my user experience when using Camtasia; Adobe isn’t so quick when it comes to building these relationships.  -ms]

Two of my major responsibilities at work is to create digital instructional materials and to support other librarians who want to create and use tutorials for their own subject-specific duties.  I have a lot of experience using Adobe Captivate to develop online tutorials and lectures, and I’m proficient with TechSmith’s Camtasia, as well.  Since starting in this new position earlier this month, however, I’ve become torn over what might be the best product out there.

Consider the merits of these software packages.  When it comes to Adobe Captivate, we’ve got:

  • A strong screen capturing system that records only screen movement.
    • This produces small, robust files that will not tax your web server.
  • A testing system that can send users to different parts of the tutorial.
    • Viewers become active participants since their answers can send them to the material they need the most.
  • An advanced suite of “extras”.
    • Zoom features, callouts, and link capabilities to different programs have been refined by years of Adobe’s in-house programming experience
  • A strong file management system and workflow.
    • Captivate makes it easy to organize, edit, and weed digital materials not needed in the tutorial.
Camtasia's Interface is user-friendly. Just like a Mac. +1

Camtasia has a similar list of benefits:

  • A strong “click-and-go” screen capture system.
    • Camtasia takes the rocket science out of recording.  Even an untrained monkey could record with Camtasia.
  • A professional-looking Zoom function.
    • Since Camtasia never stops recording, it’s “Zoom-and-Pan” function will not produce washed-out images when you magnify a section of the screen.
  • An affordable price.
    • Camtasia is cheap, dirt cheap.  A new version of Camtasia is less than half the price of a new version of Captivate.  This is a big issue for institutions that require many licenses.

All things being equal, if I were asked to choose between the two programs, I’d go with Adobe Captivate.  First, Adobe Captivate has a more refined suite of callouts, magnifications, and quizzing options, which gives us more opportunities to manipulate our projects.  More important, however, is Captivate’s highly efficient digital capturing techniques and file management system.  Adobe Captivate only records movement on the screen, e.g., entered text, mouse clicks, screen outputs (i.e., clicking on a new screen in a web browser).  This means you could press record, walk away from the computer for five minutes, press stop, and still have a small file because Captivate will not add new data during the time you’re away – it will only have taken one screen capture and then wait for the next thing to happen.  Captivate produces small data files that can be easily edited and will not crash your server. Camtasia, on the other hand, will record everything on your screen (and even burn the cursor into the file!).  Camtasia produces incredibly large files that put a lot of wear and tear on your computer when you are editing and on your servers when you are streaming.

Adobe Captivate has a top-rate workflow and file management system. +100

In a boxing match between Captivate and Camtasia, I’d throw my support to Captivate.  What happens when the organization comes into play, though?  My place of work has several Camtasia licenses and a fewer number of Captivate licenses spread across four different libraries.  Librarians use the package they prefer, but they generally prefer Camtasia.  I think I’d like to push the system to adopt Captivate, but in yet another period of tightened budgets, I’m not sure if it makes complete sense.  When Captivate’s cost is so high, when Camtasia “will do” in most circumstances, and when so many librarians are already proficient with Camtasia, I don’t know yet if promoting what is ideally best for the organization (i.e., using Captivate more often) is actually best for it in practice.

Do you use Camtasia or Captivate to produce online tutorials for your library?  Which one do you use, and is it different from what you prefer?


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11 thoughts on “Camtasia vs. Captivate vs. the Organization”

  1. Great post Michael.

    As an Instructional Designer (working at TechSmith) I totally see your plight, so good luck with your decision and I hope you get a lot of feedback from the community. One thing I wanted to mention is with the latest version of Camtasia, the cursor isn't burned into the video. It's not yet to the point where you can "edit" the path of the cursor, but you can hide it and change the look and style of the cursor in the Editor. It's been a nice feature for me when I create instructional videos.

    Again, good luck with the decision. If you have any questions, let me know. Would love to help.

    1. Chris – thanks so much for your comment (I apologize for not getting back to you sooner!). The fact that the cursor can now be hidden is a big thing for me, and I'm going to edit the post to show for it.

      N.B. +1 to TechSmith who is always quick on the support issues.

  2. Great post Michael.

    As an Instructional Designer (working at TechSmith) I totally see your plight, so good luck with your decision and I hope you get a lot of feedback from the community. One thing I wanted to mention is with the latest version of Camtasia, the cursor isn’t burned into the video. It’s not yet to the point where you can “edit” the path of the cursor, but you can hide it and change the look and style of the cursor in the Editor. It’s been a nice feature for me when I create instructional videos.

    Again, good luck with the decision. If you have any questions, let me know. Would love to help.

    1. Chris – thanks so much for your comment (I apologize for not getting back to you sooner!). The fact that the cursor can now be hidden is a big thing for me, and I’m going to edit the post to show for it.

      N.B. +1 to TechSmith who is always quick on the support issues.

  3. Hey guys, I'm trying to decide wether to go with captivate or camtasia for a tutorials for gamedevelopment and artwork in illustrator and photoshop. In your opinions which software package would be better?

  4. Hey guys, I’m trying to decide wether to go with captivate or camtasia for a tutorials for gamedevelopment and artwork in illustrator and photoshop. In your opinions which software package would be better?

  5. Great post. I still struggle with this decision myself. Camtasia was one of the first screen recording tools I learned, but over time I ended up working for organizations that used Captivate more and my experience grew in that tool. And to further bias me I ended up working for Adobe for 2 years. Now I am at a new organization and once again looking at both options.

    One thing that I think Captivate does that Camtasia simply can't is allow for easier updating of the video if the application you record changes visually somehow. In Captivate I can simply replace the slide background with a new screen shot (Sometimes using Snagit) and tweak my callouts and mouse paths. With Camtasia I would have to record the whole thing over again. I admit zoom and pan is snazzy, just not sure if it outweighs the easy-to-update benefit of Captivate.

  6. Great post. I still struggle with this decision myself. Camtasia was one of the first screen recording tools I learned, but over time I ended up working for organizations that used Captivate more and my experience grew in that tool. And to further bias me I ended up working for Adobe for 2 years. Now I am at a new organization and once again looking at both options.

    One thing that I think Captivate does that Camtasia simply can’t is allow for easier updating of the video if the application you record changes visually somehow. In Captivate I can simply replace the slide background with a new screen shot (Sometimes using Snagit) and tweak my callouts and mouse paths. With Camtasia I would have to record the whole thing over again. I admit zoom and pan is snazzy, just not sure if it outweighs the easy-to-update benefit of Captivate.

  7. Hi
    I am trying to choose between Camtasia 7 and Adobe Captivate 6.0 to record live training sessions at work. My primary requirement is quick and easy screen recording. We do not intend to have user interaction. My problem is that my company has an enterprise license for Captivate. The last time I tried using it, the final output did not have many of the frames. The presenter was doing a code walkthrough and hence there was not too much change in the screen. Does anyone know if Captivate folks have fixed this issue?

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