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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