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Toolkit: eLearning Tools Year in Review (Oh, Goodness!)

by Joe Ganci

December 30, 2013


by Joe Ganci

December 30, 2013

“I’m always astonished when I see a tool vendor being interviewed on the subject of authoring tools. Do the interviewers expect them to be unbiased? That’s too much to ask of anyone who’s put their heart and soul and oodles of cash into building an eLearning tool. I haven’t built such a tool, I just use a lot of them, so it’s easier for me to be impartial.”

2013 will be seen as the turning point in … well, not really a turning point, more like a harbinger of … well, gosh golly, just what was 2013 in eLearning tools? You know how some years Hollywood seems to produce only sequels, and nothing original?

This year there were lots of new tool versions but few new breakthrough tools that have garnered much attention (yet). There has also been an acceptance, finally, that mobile learning is here and now and no longer the wave of the future, even if, well, it may not have taken hold just yet in most organizations in a big way.

Based on the classes I teach and the clients I have, most of you are interested in knowing about what’s happening with the big-name tools, so I’ll cover those first, but keep reading because you owe it to yourself to know about other tools that may … just … save ... your … life (or at least help your career).

I won’t be able to cover everything, so be sure to use the Comments section below to add your own favorite new tool or tool version and why it’s your favorite.

You can find full reviews I’ve written for many of the tools below here:

The big names

These are in alphabetical order because I value my credibility in not favoring one tool over another. Rather, when I’m hired to evaluate tools for an organization, I always research the heck out of their needs and then propose one or more tools that will best serve their requirements. I’m always astonished when I see a tool vendor being interviewed on the subject of authoring tools. Do the interviewers expect them to be unbiased? That’s too much to ask of anyone who’s put their heart and soul and oodles of cash into building an eLearning tool. I haven’t built such a tool, I just use a lot of them, so it’s easier for me to be impartial.

  • Adobe Captivate 7.01

    Lots of new features were added to Captivate 7, some of which you’ll find very useful. Here are the top ones, though there are several others:

    1. Drag and drop: very flexible and versatile
    2. New interaction wizards for a total of 24 now
    3. An equation editor if you ever need to show scientific or mathematical equations
    4. Live web pages and YouTube videos
    5. Shared advanced actions (something I’ve wanted for years)

    Adobe also released a free update, v7.01. You can see all the new features and learn more in my full review:

    Adobe Presenter 9

    Adobe added at least 15 new features to Presenter, its PowerPoint add-in tool. Among the most important are:

    1. Drag and drop. Not as flexible as that in Captivate but pretty good
    2. New video and audio options and improvements
    3. Collaboration options for learners, a very cool feature
    4. Scenario templates
    5. New player and technology support

    Read my full review:

  • Articulate Storyline

    Storyline released its third and fourth updates to version 1 this year. Essentially Storyline looks and feels the same as in its first release, but the updates have fixed a whole bunch of bugs and also added some minor user-interface improvements. I expect Articulate to release version 2 of Storyline sometime next year as it has now updated Studio (see below). You can see all the fixes and additions here:

    Also be aware that if you buy Storyline, you get a copy of Replay, Articulate’s new video editor tool, for free.

    Articulate Studio ‘13 Pro

    After five years, Articulate Studio fans finally got a brand spanking new release. Borrowing some features from Storyline, it retains ease of use. Studio Pro includes four tools: Presenter, Engage, Quizmaker, and the new Replay. Here are the new features and updates:

    1. New Publish and new Playback options in Presenter, Engage, and Quizmaker.
    2. Characters, which are photos of people in different poses you can use in in Presenter, Engage, and Quizmaker. You can also use videos in all three tools.
    3. Double the number of interaction wizards from 10 to 20.
    4. Web objects that can now be added to not only Presenter and Engage but also to Quizmaker feedback layers.
    5. Replay, Articulate’s new video editor that lets you add lower thirds, picture-in-picture effects, audio and images, and more.

    Read my full review:

  • Composica

    This is a cloud-based tool that focuses on group and social authoring. Used judiciously, this means you can create learning faster and take advantage of a lot of great features. You can author with desktop, tablet, or smartphone in mind. Note: while this is a cloud-based tool, you need to use Windows and IE 8+.

    See my full review here:

  • dominKnow Claro

    As a cloud-based tool, Claro is incrementally updated all the time. This is the nature of cloud-based tools and is also the way more and more tools are being offered. Claro is powerful, with over 100 interactive templates for creating eLearning and Learning. It also boasts a library of over 5,000 images and characters you can include in your learning. It doesn’t require any programming, and it has some huge fans in the field.

    See more at

  • Go!Animate

    I love this tool for creating animated videos quickly and with great results. It’s cloud-based and easy to use and is always updating itself with new features and updates.

    See my full review:

  • Harbinger Raptivity

    Raptivity is a popular tool that you install and that contains a set of interactions you can use individually or in other tools. This year brought to Raptivity:

    1. A much sleeker and easier interface that enhances productivity with fewer clicks and other shortcuts.
    2. An increase in its Himalaya set from 180 to more than 190 interactions, almost all of which are now HTML5 ready.
    3. Support for the Experience API (xAPI) as well as SCORM.

    More at

  • iSpring Presenter 7

    Among its other excellent products, iSpring’s Presenter is best known for creating eLearning. This new version boasts:

    1. Lessons that will adapt themselves to screen size and orientation across almost all devices, including iPads and Android tablets, with iSpring’s new Universal Player.
    2. A new editor for recording and adjusting presenter video and audio narrations and the ability to import as many audio and video files as you like at the same time.
    3. Additional narration options that give you the ability to restrict or skip areas as well as the option to set up customized scenarios.
    4. A new quiz editor with lots of new options and customization possibilities.
    5. Experience API (xAPI) support.

    See more at

  • Qarbon ViewletBuilder 7 Enterprise

    ViewletBuilder was updated to version 7 this year. If you’ve used it before, you’ll find that it has a new workflow that is much easier: 1) Capture, 2) Edit and Enhance, and 3) Publish and Share. Other new features include:

    1. Publishing to FLV, MP4 and YouTube
    2. New quiz questions, both graded and survey
    3. Master slides and layers
    4. Importing PowerPoint slides
    5. Macros … and much more

    See my full review:

  • Techsmith Camtasia Studio 8

    Camtasia is a robust video-editing tool that is also used to create limited eLearning with the ability to add to your videos:

    1. Images
    2. Animations
    3. Audio and more video
    4. Hotspots that viewers can click to learn more
    5. Quiz questions, including multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, true/false, and short answer.

    Read my full review:

  • SmartBuilder

    This year SmartBuilder was updated to version 3.14 and with it some nice enhancements and, of course, bug fixes. Probably the nicest new feature is a new Table object.

    You can see all the new features and learn more at

  • Trivantis Lectora Inspire 11.3

    Lectora Inspire is now up to version 11.3 and boasts an easier interface along with many new features. Inspire includes Lectora, the authoring tool, along with a version of Camtasia, Snagit (for capturing screen images), and Flypaper, that lets you create Flash-based learning objects.

    Some of Lectora’s new and improved features include:

    1. A Question Creator, for building multiple-choice questions
    2. A new Action pane and also a new Media library pane that slides out
    3. The ability to embed several social-media options
    4. Experience API (xAPI) support
    5. Mobile support

    Read my full review of the earlier 11.1:

More valuable tools

Beside the tools above, you have probably heard of the following, all of which are garnering fan bases of great intensity if not yet huge numbers. That may change in 2014.

  • Allen Interactions ZebraZapps

    If you’ve been to any eLearning conference in the last three years, you’ve caught glimpses of ZebraZapps, a wonderful tool from Allen interactions. It’s very, very powerful, and it doesn’t take long for you to start creating some very interactive eLearning. ZebraZapps is cloud-based and now comes in several versions: Creator, Pro, Pro Plus and, coming soon, Enterprise.

    There are a bunch of tutorials and videos that help you get up to speed quickly. Check out ZebraZapps at

  • Easygenerator

    Easygenerator launched a new web (cloud-based) edition which is free and Experience API (xAPI)-compliant. It will publish to completely interactive HTML5 files. In the November update, easygenerator added the ability to let you publish to its free web host. In the first quarter of 2014, the company will release a more robust version on a subscription basis. This month, the current Windows-based edition of easygenerator will be completely rid of the need for Adobe Flash, as all of the Flash elements in the tool will be replaced with HTML5.

    See more at

  • LumiMobile

    This is a very interesting new product (at least new to me). It is unlike any other in that you create surveys, limited learning apps, and more as actual panel apps that run on smart phones. Learners and users subscribe to your apps and they can update automatically, so that they can always get the latest and greatest. On top of that, you can track every access and move, and generate reports online. Because they are pushed to the devices, learners can use the tools even when they’re offline, and their progress uploads the next time they’re online. It’s a tool I’m researching more as we speak.

    See more at

  • Skilitics Interact and Thrive

    Skilitics is a relative newcomer to the industry, though you may have known it as Roleplay in its earlier version. The tools it brings to the eLearning market are probably the most intriguing I’ve seen in the last couple of years. The first is Interact. It focuses mainly on helping you develop what I consider the best form of eLearning, role-play scenarios, especially in the area of soft skills. However, it is not superficial by any means. The depth of features is quite remarkable. Skilitics is also about to release their analytics product called Thrive. Working together with Interact, Thrive will allow organizations to not only deliver the best soft-skills training I can imagine at the moment, but also create analytics reports that are truly useful and provide all the data necessary to evaluate both learner progress and the effectiveness of the learning itself. I’m excited to see their effect on the industry. This is the most unique tool I’ve seen in quite some time.

    Learn more at

Any other tools, Joe?

Oh, definitely! There are many dozens of tools, some of which are free. Free usually means limited, but not always. Academicians often use many tools unknown in corporate and government environments, but there’s no reason they should have all the fun. Here’s a partial list of other tools and services you may want to research.

  1. Adobe Connect
  2. authorPoint
  3. CourseLab
  4. Dipity
  5. Edmondo
  6. Edublogs
  7. Elucidat
  8. Lectora Integrator
  9. Liquid Authoring
  10. Madcap Flare
  11. MagPointer
  12. Plotagon
  13. PowerPointForce
  14. Questionmark Perception
  15. Scratch
  16. Snap! By Lectora
  17. Swift Presenter
  18. Vyew
  19. Wondershare PPT2Flash Pro
  20. Zembl
  21. Zenler Studio

Have others you think deserve exposure? Use the Comments section below. You’re also welcome to write to me to suggest a tool I should review in 2014. My email address is Happy New Year, everyone!

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I'm still a fan of ToolBook from SumTotal Systems.
Toolbook was a good product, agreed. It has been languishing for a few years, though, and has lost many of its adherents. If you can still use it today, all the more power to you. :-)
I definitely agree! The tools I like the most are Adobe Captivate, Articulate Studio & Storyline, and Camtasia. I think Adobe Presenter is gaining some popularity - however I find it to be a horrible product and would definitely advise others to stay clear! Just FYI if anyone is looking for training on many of these eLearning tools - ThinkB!G has a great selection of training courses: .
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