By Meredith Farkas | April 16, 2005
Note: This review is from 2005 and is not relevant to current versions of Camtasia and Captivate.
A few years ago, my husband bought Camtasia 1.1 so that we could create software demos for his business. While there were certainly a number of problems with the software, it gave us what we wanted, and we were pretty satisfied. When I started to become interested in screencasting, I began to think about what I wanted to use to create my own screencasts or tutorials. I knew that the tutorial/demo creation software had become more sophisticated, so I wanted to explore other offerings. But I really did want to like Camtasia, and not only because it would be far cheaper to buy an upgrade of Camtasia than to buy any other software.
It’s not that I don’t like Camtasia Studio, but once I tried Macromedia Captivate, it became obvious to me that — all other things (price) being equal — Captivate was far superior. It took no time for me to understand how to make excellent screencasts using Captivate, while with Camtasia, I found myself unable to even get satisfactory answers from the help file. Captivate has so many ways to customize how the screen is recorded and what on the screen is recorded. The editing interface is intuitive and allows the creator to easily change the pace, visual elements, and audio elements. I never once had to look at the help file in Captivate. And the interactive components available in Captivate make it an ideal program to use in creating information literacy tutorials. Sure, I’ve encountered some problems with Captivate — particularly in terms of compression — but I think those problems are pretty common.
Camtasia has its strong points. I think it’s great as a video capture tool, but not so great as a video editing tool. It’s great for filming every detail, which is good for technical support or product demos that don’t require a great deal of polish. But I don’t believe it’s the best thing for information literacy tutorials.
Here, in my view, are the pros and cons of Camtasia and Captivate. Remember that I’ve only used each of these programs a few days each. There were things I couldn’t find in each program that I may just have been unable to find. But the fact that I couldn’t figure those things out is telling. Captivate has really raised the bar on usability.
- Great for filming exactly what you do, with the exact same timing as how you filmed it.
- Doesn’t miss anything you do on screen
- Zoom and pan function allows the creator to focus on an area of interest that the user may not have seen otherwise
- Isn’t as much of a memory hog as Captivate
- Lots of different choices for the appearance of callouts (captions)
- In the editing mode, you can see where in the movie callouts and other effects appear and move them to other parts of the timeline by dragging
- Hotspots allow for some interactivity
- Can create menus and index longer presentations
- Not every user requires every little thing on the screen to be filmed, but there are no other options
- The program films any erratic movement which requires the user to be quite careful with how s/he types, moves the mouse, etc.
- Before you start filming, Camtasia doesn’t give the user the option of using standard screen capture sizes for different resolutions
- Once the movie is filmed, it is put into one large file for editing (though it can be broken into pieces manually)
- It shows everything the user did, including shaky mouse movements
- Elements like mouse movements cannot be separated or erased from certain parts of the movie
- It doesn’t allow the user to slow down certain things (mouse movements, typing, etc.) because the different elements of the movie are not separate
- Voice narration must be timed perfectly to the movie since the move cannot be made longer. The voice narration cannot easily be created separately and then have the movie made to conform in editing
- Interface is unintuitive for editing movie. Much of the terminology used requires explanation.
- There are five different modules in Camtasia studio and it’s unclear why they couldn’t be integrated or what each one does exactly. There’s one module called Camtasia Player and another called Camtasia Theater. Would a user easily be able to figure out which one did what?
- The final flash movies are quite large
- It is so easy to use!
- It is very easy to record actions onscreen and offers a variety of options for capturing different things (mouse movement, clicks, instructions, etc.). There are different recording modes (demonstration or simulation), but the user can also customize each of these. It recognizes the fact that not every demo requires annotation or mouse movement
- The program smoothes out mouse movements
- When the user finishes filming, the movie is separated into many frames for easier editing. Within each frame, there are separate tracks for mouse movement and clicks, animation, annotations, etc. so that they can be taken out or added in without having to re-record
- It’s easy to shorten or lengthen each frame. The entire frame can be lengthened without slowing down the action, or the action can be lengthened so that mouse movement or screen animation can go more slowly. All it takes is sliding the appropriate part down the timeline
- It’s easy to add audio or import from another source. Each video frame can be shortened or lengthened so that the audio content is perfectly synchronized with what is going on in the movie. There is a special easy-to-use interface for arranging the frames around the audio. By using the timeline feature, you can record voice-over tracks and synchronize them to specific screens (see below)
- Users can edit audio with a built-in editor, which allows for cutting, pasting, adjusting levels, and adding silences
- Captivate can record what is happening on-screen and automatically add step-by-step captions for common menu functions
- Captivate has wonderful interactive components. Tutorials can be designed so that users can go through the procedures with on-screen pre-recorded feedback. Captivate also includes quiz templates with multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and matching.
- Memory hog. Previewing and saving works-in-progress can take a long time
- A few times I found that Captivate didn’t record every page I was on – like when I clicked on a link and it went to the next page, sometimes it missed that second page. However, the user can click “print screen” to get a definite screen shot of any page. I’m not sure why this glitch happened or what can be done other than continually hitting “print screen”
- I’ve had compression problems where when my flash movie was at a high resolution, the bit rate of the sound was automatically lowered so it sounded more computerized and muffled
- The final flash movies are quite large