Excellent summary:

They’re actually quite different. If you ignore all the extras both programs add and focus only on the core feature (screen recording) they’re strikingly different. Captivate only records the logical screen changes and smoothes your mouse movements. This almost always results in a smaller file. However, because Camtasia is lossless it can record everything that appears on screen—for example a video or animation. (Captivate has options to manually or automatically switch into fullmotion recording—but Camtasia is still better.)

In general, Captivate excels when you want to create a simulation including lots of interactivity. If you need full motion and accurate timing (especially if you don’t want do a post recording edit) then Camtasia is a better choice.


In favor of…

Camtasia – price

Captivate – it’s very clear how you control the pixel capture size of a video right from the very beginning, because it’s part of the dialog/wizard when you set up a project. I never figured out how to do this on Camtasia.

Camtasia? – (assuming it can import video) What’s the deal with Captivate? First they tell me (all of this is from the forums, where the only tidbits of helpful info are to be found, although they hide behind the “it’s not official” line) that only AVI videos can be uploaded to Captivate. Then I found out that even that doesn’t really work. You have to buy some other program to convert everything into Flash first. Huh? I didn’t actually test Camtasia on this but surely it can do better! i know that it can import its’ own AVI files with no problem. More on the Captivate issues here:

You can either import or insert video directly into Captivate. To insert the video choose Insert > Animation. AVI and SWF are the two video formats supported here.

However, as my colleague CatBandit pointed out in a previous post…


If I were you I would use a video converter to convert the AVI to a SWF (or
FLV), then insert that into your Captivate project. There are a number of good
converters out there, for instance “Flash Video Studio”, Adobe “Flash 8”,
GeoVid’s “Video to Flash Encoder” and Sorensen’s “Squeeze v4” (the best in many minds) – to name just very few.If you have a serious interest in video, I suggest you consider streaming
video with FLV (Flash video format). Tom Green has an excellent article on how
to do this if you are interested – http://www.tomontheweb2.ca/CaptivateVideo/.A much simpler method (because it doesn’t require as much software like Flash and Squeeze) is to convert the video to SWF and just chunk that in – as I
mentioned above. The problem with using the SWF (or the AVI) is that it is
not by design a “streaming” file, so there will be a longer “load” time. An
example of using a SWF converted from a video file

Camtasia? – the Adobe folks don’t seem to get support. They don’t want to answer questions for those doing a trial and they don’t help solve problems in the forum. Sounds like a publically-traded company to me. But I didn’t have enough experience with Camtasia to be sure they’ll do any better.

Captivate – I’m beginning to see that captivate is really not designed for “video” per se. Its’ forte is doing complex operations with “slides” or, at the most, short video clips. So, for a step-by-step approach, captivate rules.

Camtasia – if you’re looking to go for more video with less interactivity, then Camtasia seems better.

Camtasia – based on the desperate (and mostly unanswered) questions at the Adobe forum, it seems that both Captivate v1 and v2 have some major bug issues. Perhaps Camtasia’s age is a good thing.

Camtasia — can output an FLV. Captivate only does SWF

Questions/Notes about Captivate:

  • Captivate’s core feature is recording your screen while you demonstrate how to use another
    piece of software to perform a specific task. It’s REALLY good at this narrow task, buthis is not what I’m after.
  • Captivate strategically only records significant screen changes which keeps the file small.
  • Important Captivate work-arounds at http://mxdj.sys-con.com/read/100864_1.htm
  • Captivate does not capture a windows media video from the screen.
  • Can I import video that is in formats like mp4 and mov?
    • A: Sorry, but AVI is “it”, if you are working only with Captivate. On the bright side, AVI is a good solid video standard, and it’s easy to find applications that convert all the different “video” formats from one to the other – including SWF.My personal preference is Sorensen’s “Squeeze 4.3”, but I’ve had good luck with others too, some free and some for sale but still pretty inexpensive (Sorensen’s Squeeze is not inexpensive, running in the $300 – 400 range as I remember.

Questions about Camtasia:

  • How to really pan with full control
  • How to control video pixel size when not starting with a capture
  • how to pull in another video when one finishes
  • How much “under the hood” programmability is there?

Other Notes:

  • 10 seconds of AVI video from my video camera uses 45mb!