Adobe Captivate: Should You Buy or Subscribe?

One way Adobe Captivate sets itself apart from other well-known e-learning authoring tools is that it offers a subscription model in addition to the option of buying it outright. Which is a better choice?

Let’s start by explaining what the two offers entail:

  • Purchase outright: You can purchase a new license of Captivate 8 for $999. You install it on your computer, and then you can use it for as long as you like. You can still be using that same license 5 years from now without paying any additional fees. (Although at that point, it may not be compatible with newer technology).
  • Subscription: If you choose the subscription model, you pay $29.99 per month for the software with a one-year commitment. You still install the software on your computer (unlike cloud-based tools). You continue to use the software as long as your subscription is active. However, when you stop paying the subscription fee, you can no longer use the software.

There are three main considerations for deciding which option is best for you.

1. How long you plan to use the software.

If you are likely to only need Captivate for a short while, the subscription plan might be the best choice. This is especially true for freelancers who move from project to project. A one-year subscription is $360, which means that the subscription model is cheaper for two years. If you have to go to the third year with a subscription, you’ll be paying about $80 more than if you had bought it outright.

2. How often you plan to upgrade.

When you buy using the subscription model, all upgrades are included. If you buy the software outright, you have to pay extra for each upgrade. (You don’t have to upgrade if you don’t want to, though) Since the subscription model is $360 per year and an upgrade is $399, it is definitely cheaper to use the subscription if you want the upgrades every year.

Currently, you can only get the upgrade price if you are upgrading from Captivate 7 to Captivate 8. If you have an older version, you need to pay the full $999 price to upgrade to 8. This might be reason to switch to the subscription model.

If you buy the software and then buy the upgrades, you can continue to use all the versions. This is especially helpful for external vendors like us. We have client who owns Captivate 6, so she asks us to do all of her work in Captivate 6 so she can make edits herself. I still have 4, 5, 5.5, 6, 7, and 8 at my disposal. If you use the subscription model, you can only use the previous version for one year after the new version is released (assuming your subscription is still current.)

3. When you have money available.

We work with a lot of non-profits on grant-funded projects. They might have money this year to invest in e-learning, but might not have money next year. Even in a corporate environment, money that exists one year might be gone the next due to budget cuts, reorganization, or shifting priorities. If you know you have money now but don’t know if you’ll have it in the future, it might be best to pay the higher price to buy the software outright. Then you can continue to use it even if the money dries up. This approach does require more money up front. If you prefer to pay less up front and feel fairly confident that the money will continue to be available, then the subscription might be a better choice.

If you take a few minutes to think about how you’ll use the software and your financial dynamics, you can find the plan that works best for you.

Diane Elkins
Diane Elkins leads Artisan E-Learning, a custom eLearning development company specializing in the use of rapid- development tools. Diane has been in the eLearning industry since 2001, speaks regularly at national conferences about eLearning, and is co-author of the popular E-Learning Uncovered book series.

4 Responses to “Adobe Captivate: Should You Buy or Subscribe?

  • IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING PURCHASING CAPTIVATE TO BUILD COURSES. DON’T!
    I have found so many issues using captivate to build courses. For starters, if you purchase let’s say Captivate 8, did you know that adobe won’t continue to update Captivate 8 when Captivate 9 comes out, even if you purchase Captivate 8 less than 90 days ago. If you purchase any version of captivate as soon as the next version releases you will NEVER get another update on that version of captivate again. Which could be critical if a browser like Chrome changes the way it reads HTML5 coding, you are stuck with the old version that doesn’t show up properly in the new released browsers since captivate doesn’t update the old versions. Basically Adobe will never update any version they have made including their previous version if they released a newer version. THINK TWICE BEFORE BUYING CAPTIVATE! OR BE PREPARED TO SPEND HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS TO KEEP UPGRADING TO EACH NEW VERSION TO GET UPDATES!

    • dfwenigma
      1 year ago

      No offense folks but e-Learning authoring tools that give you free updates forever have gone the way of Tyrannosaurus Rex. You’re never going to see a world again where software you bought last year will be supported a year or two later. Not going to happen. The subscriptions will expire and you’ll have to buy anew. A lot of vendors have been seriously trying to find a way to make products totally web-based for years because they simply will not continue supporting them on the desktop. Up side will be you get updates ALL the time. Downside is you get updates ALL the time.

      Adobe has miffed people off but I know for a fact that nearly all vendors are looking at similar models. They simply will not continue to make money if they support software forever. And realistically the market is shifting far, far too fast to continue with desktop authoring. The only thing holding back totally web-based e-Learning dev tools like Captivate 9 is: Internet speeds and infrastructure. Adobe has been trying to get the virtual desktop to launch for at least five years. Your desktop app will be as commonplace as pixie dust.

  • Willow Neilson
    2 years ago

    I feel really duped by Adobe. I bought Captivate 8 about 6 months ago and then see they don’t offer an upgrade price for education customers, since I bought it at the education price.

  • Paul Wilson
    1 year ago

    Keep in mind that Adobe releases a new version about once every 12 – 18 months. If you are upset they came out with a new version six months after buying version 8 than you should stick with the subscription model. Also version 8 is by no means obsolete. Except for a handful of features most of what you can do in version 9 can also be done in version 8. I use both versions 8 and 9 almost every day. I jump back and forth depending on what I’m doing. I don’t know about the rest of you but using Captivate is just part of doing business for me. Having the latest copy gives me cutting edge tools and considering that my entire year’s income is based on me having this software, it’s just a cost of doing business.

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