Inspire vs Storyline vs Toolbook vs Captivate 8

ssneg Community Member Posts: 1,456 ♪ Opening Act ♪
Someone asked me a question recently and I decided to reply publicly so that more people can weigh in.

The question was:
We have ToolBook, Storyline2, Articulate Studio 13 and Captivate 8 as well. As I am sure you can tell, I like the ease in which Inspire accepts extensions. Do you have experience with these other applications? If so, do you have a preference?
My two cents:

As far as integrating 3rd party HTML/Flash content (such as animations, video players, branching scenarios etc ) as well as extending the tool's capabilities with CSS and JavaScript, Lectora is absolutely unrivalled. It is an open book, you can easily do what you want and not spend time on "hacking" through the tool.

Articulate's approach is "security through obscurity". Nothing is documented, code is barely readable, very little functionality is exposed to external JavaScript and you usually have to edit the published files directly (meaning that your code will be lost when you re-publish and you'll have to edit them again). Studio is especially bad at this. At least in Storyline you can "execute JS on trigger".

Both Articulate and Captivate use Flash as primary output, which makes your job as JavaScript programmer much harder. It also means you cannot use CSS unless you force it to be "HTML5 first".

Thanks to its long history of support for Flash widgets, current Captivate has its own JS API that allows you manipulate objects and variables as well as control navigation and timeline. It works both for Flash and HTML5, which is nice. It can also execute JS from within the software, although the editor is terrible and you cannot put code into external files (so you cannot use your preferred text editor).

Both tools have issues when displaying 3rd party content in iframes, especially on mobile devices. It can be offset or improperly scaled or not respond to touch etc etc. and fixing this is either impossible or very hard due to the restrictions I mentioned above.

Both tools cannot simply submit any variable value as SCORM result, instead they submit %% of pages viewed or quiz score. Lectora can submit anything.

So purely from JS/CSS compatibility and developer friendliness, I'd recommend Lectora, always, no doubt.

You noticed I didn't mention ToolBook. I don't have much relevant experience with TB so I cannot say much.

Hope this helps!


  • klaatu
    klaatu Community Member Posts: 986 ☆ Roadie ☆
    It does help. Great points Sergey. Thank you.

    Flash, arguably the best programming language for Internet apps ever (Yes I am, or was, a Flash programmer), is unfortunately history thanks to our friends in Cupertino so it is good advice to discontinue its use. I find Articulate Studio to be nothing more than steroids for PowerPoint. I'm not so sure about Storline2, however. One thing I really like about it is its ability to use motion paths but I still haven't given it its due. Motion paths should be on the top Lectora's to do list. I'm not a big fan of the "everything plays like a video" that you see in Captivate and, more importantly, other than the points you make there seems to be issues with LMS integration with Captivate exports.

    To be fair, although you are correct in saying that Articulate and Captivate used Flash as their primary output, both now are including HTML5 compatibility. Keep in mind that through the externalInterface() function communication between Flash and JavaScript was not difficult, it just took a little more coordination between scripts. But Flash is dead so that's a moot point.

    ToolBook, even to this day, is more powerful than Inspire right out of the box, especially if you include the third party JavaScript add-on JavaScript PowerPac. It's action system includes many more features and controls and IMHO it's mechanics are more intuitive. Sounds like I'm a big fan of ToolBook, right? Nope, not anymore.  I wholeheartedly DO NOT recommend it. First and foremost the company that used to produce it, SumTotal Systems, was bought by SkillSoft and I was told in no uncertain terms that they have no plans on ever updating it again. Even over the last few years its updates were a joke. That means no more browser compatibility moving forward; its dead right there. Additionally, its templates, widgets and built in graphics are old, outdated and look like they were composed using Microsoft paint. It takes a lot to get things looking modern. I had suggested a while back that Lectora's action system be bolstered for more advanced users. I have been remiss because I did not follow up with that as I was asked to provide examples and explanations. The reason for this is, because like you mention, if you know JavaScript and some CSS (even if you are a beginner) you can do anything that Inspires action system may limit you on. That is the magic of Inspire Great for beginners and excellent for advanced users. I do suggest that Lectora's developers look at how ToolBook handles actions for ideas on how to make Inspires even better.

    I'd say that at this point unless you're coding directly the only competition for Inspire is Storyline2, which I haven't given a fair shake yet. Two things that can put, or keep, Lectora on top are built-in Bootstrap type templates for total responsive output and built-in motion path ability (including the ability to add your own).

    I'd hope others chime in, I'd like to hear their opinions.

  • kstagg
    kstagg Community Member Posts: 230 ☆ Roadie ☆
    During the course of my "too many years I care to mention" in the eLearning industry, and the numerous dev tools I've used (including Publisher) - I've always had one true love. Captivate.

    The horizontal timeline and hamburger stacking order (bottom-top) makes so much more sense, it has, in my opinion, a more pleasing GUI. Let's not forget - the ability to create animations within the tool itself without resorting to another piece of software (Lectora + Camtasia) is a benefit as well. The ability to create custom actions is a breeze as well. I mean - seriously - it's cake. No coding knowledge required, but the capability is there if you want to go nuts with it.

    Did I also mention you can get it by paying a monthly fee online of $29.99? OK, yeah - it get's pricey over a period of time. But as an independent developer, I don't have the luxury of $2,400 bucks it costs to purchase Inspire.

    Look - Publisher is a nice tool. It really is. And I enjoy using it here at work (where I can afford to use it). But hands down - Captivate is the tool to know. Take a look at the classifieds. The two needs for employers are Captivate and Articulate (the latter of which I haven't had the opportunity to try due to cost). Publisher comes in a distant 3rd as a "nice to know".  We do use it here at a major communications firm though.

    I know this post may seem like a bashing of Publisher but it's not meant to be. It's just my experiences and the economic realty.
  • pjackson2462
    pjackson2462 Community Member Posts: 75 ♪ Opening Act ♪
    G'day All,

    Great posts, unfortunately, I cannot provide a balanced view as I'm a ToolBook expert with over 20 years invested in the product and as Darrel has already mentioned ToolBook is a dead product.  Again, as Darrel mentioned, the ToolBook Action System is very powerful and to compare it to the Lectora Actions is like comparing Tiddlywinks to Chess.  The ability to incorporate JavaScript allows advanced Lectora uses to do a lot more but even then it's a lot of work to get at object properties and make changes that are persistent.  As a contractor for SumTotal I extended the Action System to include JavaScript which allowed other ToolBook developers the ability to create add-on such as PowerPac.  One of ToolBook's greatest features is it's OpenScript and therefore it's extensibility, the ability to use OpenScript to build ToolBook applications and add-ons.  It's virtually impossible to create tools/add-ons for fellow Lectora developers, I would love to assist Trivantis to extend Lectora.

    So why am I here?  Lectora objects are the closest fit to ToolBook objects and Lectora titles can be created from ToolBook books, one of my ToolBook customers has over 80 courses and each course can have from 2 to 8 titles, 50/50 lesson/test, with lessons containing between 80-400 pages including audio on every page, approx. 80,000 pages.  It would have taken them many man (or should I say Peter:-) years to go from ToolBook to any other package, it now takes seconds to create a 100 page title without the need to change anything, just publish.  All done using ToolBook, whoops, there I go again.

    Hopefully, Trivantis will not fall into the same marketing trap that Click2Learn fell into, which was to market ToolBook as the most powerful authoring package available.  A very true statement, however, it is synonyms for complicated, difficult, hard to learn, etc.  FYI Asymetrix - Click2Learn - SumTotal, the name game:-)

    Regards, Peter

  • kstagg
    kstagg Community Member Posts: 230 ☆ Roadie ☆
    Sergey -

    "Lectora is absolutely unrivalled."

    Not so sure about that. I mean - I've used Captivate since v4 and they've had the ability to change the image opacity since then. I'm on v11 right now and I'm told that they've only updated the ability to do that in v12 of Lectora.

    Publishing to HTML5 for moble devices is a breeze , drag/drop of media onto the timeline layers is effortless. Creating a button out of any image created by the drawing tool within Captivate.  And how can you say that the only true competitor to Publisher is Articulate when you admit you have never tried it?

    Seriously. Take a look at the classifieds. As a contractor - Captivate and lately, Articulate are in high demand. Publisher - not as much. Maybe I'm jaded by my current experiences with v11 of Publisher and Lectora 2016 has changed everything? Not sure - but it would take a lot to play catch-up.

  • ssneg
    ssneg Community Member Posts: 1,456 ♪ Opening Act ♪
    @kstagg, Kevin, appreciate your reply. But I think you might have taken my words out of context. Let me provide the full quote (despite the fact that it is just one page scroll above):

    You quoted, “Lectora is absolutely unrivalled.” However what I said was:
    As far as integrating 3rd party HTML/Flash content (such as animations, video players, branching scenarios etc ) as well as extending the tool’s capabilities with CSS and JavaScript, Lectora is absolutely unrivalled.
    Yes, Lectora has always been based on HTML (years before Captivate even introduced HTML publishing), therefore styling anything with CSS, or adding JS, or embedding an iframe and interacting with the content within that iframe, or interacting with any HTML object on the page (an every object is an HTML object in Lectora) were always a breeze.

    However, if you compare "the whole of Lectora" vs "the whole of Captivate", the result will heavily depend on what courses you build and how you do that. Screen capture, software simulation? Captivate is the best. Complex interactions with tons of actions? Lectora wins thanks to Library Objects. If your corporate workflow involves a small group of skilled developers and a lot of casual users around the world, Lectora's Library Objects will save you tens of thousands dollars in work hours. And Lectora Online... No other big authoring tool has a full online equivalent to its desktop version. And Lectora Online has been around for years, enabling hundreds of people to collaborate and save thousands of dollars. However, if you are a "lone wolf" who builds turn-key courses for customers, you won't care about collaboration this much and Captivate could be better because of lower price point.

    Also, I did not understand why you quoted this: "And how can you say that the only true competitor to Publisher is Articulate when you admit you have never tried it?" I have never said this, and I am wondering why would you attribute this to me. Please read my post above again. I used Captivate starting with Captivate 3 back in 2008, and Articulate Studio back in '09. My team and I have used TTKF, Articulate Studio, Articulate Storyline 1 & 2, Captivate 3 through 9, and Lectora X through 16 as well as built a ton of content in Flash and HTML5 from scratch. So my opinions bear some validity to those who choose listen.

    To sum up, I think there is a tool for every job but the fact that I hang out on Lectora community, not Captivate community (if there was a proper Captivate community) speaks volumes ;)
  • klaatu
    klaatu Community Member Posts: 986 ☆ Roadie ☆
    "Not so sure about that. I mean – I’ve used Captivate since v4 and they’ve had the ability to change the image opacity since then. I’m on v11 right now and I’m told that they’ve only updated the ability to do that in v12 of Lectora."

    Huh? Why would you need a programming interface in order to change a simple style like opacity? Version 11 has the HTML Extension.

    "And how can you say that the only true competitor to Publisher is Articulate when you admit you have never tried it?"

    Not sure if you are referring to the following because its not close to what was actually written however it was me not Sergey who said, "I’d say that at this point unless you’re coding directly the only competition for Inspire is Storyline2, which I haven’t given a fair shake yet." I didn't say I never tried it, I said I haven't given it a fair shake meaning that although I have it, it's still new to me and although I could already see that it's robust enough to compete, I couldn't say with confidence at that point if it was as good or better.

    As far as Captivate goes, and I'm only speaking for myself, I wouldn't ever use it if I didn't need to fix and/or update vendor provided materials. To me, it's like comparing notepad to Word.



  • mnotermans5114
    mnotermans5114 Community Member Posts: 916 ☆ Roadie ☆
    I personally worked with all 3. And only reason for me to use Captivate or Storyline2 is if the client wants it for some reason. Else my preferred elearning authoring tool is Lectora Inspire. I like the easy way to extend it with Javascript.
    I do know both Storyline2 and Captivate well enough to get everything done inthere too...but for me...its easier to get done in Lectora. Even Storyline2 i did experiments with alike those i show on the community here... and even with Storyline you can add scripts like in Lectora to add Javascript functionality ( without having to redo it everytime for a new project ), but its all much more complicated to get done. For me , and i admit thats just my personal feeling about it, Lectora Inspire is the #1 elearning authoring tool.