I’m sure this argument has come up before but I decided to address it because someone asked the question on the Adobe forum the other day (yes, I visit forums to get ideas). The question? Which is better, Captivate or Camtasia? Well, as instructional or eLearning designers, we don’t necessarily want the “best” or most expensive tools. We need the tools that work for us! Therefore, each of these vs arguments is based on perspective. You have to find out about the tools and their capabilities before you pit them against each other. In some cases, you might even find that you need to use the tools collaboratively instead of either/or.
So, with regard to these two specific pieces of software, I believe they were developed with two different ideas in mind. Camtasia is a tool that allows for screen capture, video recording of sorts, PowerPoint recording (meaning that you create your presentation in Powerpoint and then record it playing through as you want it to be seen) and descriptive tutorials. This is excellent for software tutorials or other types of this-is-how-you-do-it tutorials. The ability to use callouts to zoom in on a particular section of the screen is helpful in providing a solid focus to the viewer. Camtasia presents video very smoothly and is able to follow the cursor around the screen if you tell it to do so as you are recording. This is great for real time learning. In fact, if you happen to have more than one computer (a laptop and a desktop, possibly), its actually pretty helpful to play the Camtasia tutorial on one computer while following along with the actual software on another computer. This way you don’t have to flip back and forth between screens.
Captivate is a slide based authoring tool. This is similar to Powerpoint in that you start with a blank screen and can create as you choose. This is also referred to as a free-form tool. Captivate includes preset animations or allows you to use Flash based animations that you might have created or imported from elsewhere. In comparing Captivate to PowerPoint, you are not as easily able to manipulate images within the software or do things like image rotation. However, Captivate also does screen recording. Unlike Camtasia, Captivates recording is broken up into different slides and there is not as smooth video-wise. But, for purposes of editing, this might actually be helpful. Captivate also allows you to create quizzes or other interactive assessments that are not built in to Camtasia. As I stated earlier, they were not necessarily developed as direct competitors to each other.
So, if you are looking to develop interactive courses or assessments, you would probably use Captivate. If you were looking to simply do tutorials, Camtasia might be the first choice for this. The great part about these tools is that they both publish to Flash so you can utilize one within the other. I can create a tutorial or some other video recording inside of Camtasia and pull that into Captivate. From there, I can create a quiz or other evaluation to test or engage the learner.
This is by no means a comprehensive evaluation of these tools. In fact, I know I am leaving out a LOT of information. But this is technical software we are talking about. I would suggest downloading the trials of each and testing them out. There are also other great eLearning software out there. You might never be able to learn them all but if you are getting into eLearning, I would suggest at least familiarizing yourself with Articulate Studio, Lectora, and Raptivity in addition to the two I have been talking about here.