Most – okay nearly all – final ranking lists appear in December, but here at E-Learning 24/7, it is all about breaking the boundaries.  It is all about doing something that others do not do – we all know that the readers of this blog – are trend setters!

So, stand up and say, “I’m a trend setter”, then run quickly out the door – you never know who is spying on you.

#20 Lectora Inspire

A desktop authoring tool that provides a wealth of features and additional software. Honestly, I wish they would do more with their “online” version, in comparison but they have not.

Fun Features

  • Comes with Flypaper 3.9, Camtasia 8, Snag-it 1, ReviewLink (a fantastic product – but only for 10 courses? What’s up with that?), Online fundamentals training (huh? I must have been sleeping) and  Fundamentals classroom training at the METS Center  – located in Kentucky, just outside of Cinn. (where Lectora is based).
  • Over 300 transparent professional images and 33 models from a variety of backgrounds and professions
  • Templates, themes, debug tool (nice), translation tool (nice too)
  • Tin Can API support, HTML5 output, ADA 508 and SCORM
  • Wizards (abracadabra) and as noted earlier a wealth of features and capabilities

Learning Curve

Beginners – zero tech skills to advanced – with tech skills – preferably ID and e-learning developer folks.  For the latter group with all the capabilities there is enough there to create an engaging course that goes beyond just the basics. 

For the former, you can definitely create courses and if you want to maximize it, then expect a bit of time to achieve it – and learn it.

#19 ProProfs Training Maker

Quite simply – it is easy to use and fast to create a course. It comes with a “LMS” which is some analytics – similar to what is happening in the space (have to attend DevLearn to find out what that means.. yuck, yuck). 

If you want uber robust in terms of features, ProProfs is not going to offer that, but if you want to build courses quickly and easily, then it will do the trick.

Fun Features

  • Can sell your courses
  • Can e-mail people with a link to your course
  • Includes an assessment tool and can generate certificates
  • SaaS

Learning Curve

Simple, no tech skills required.

#18 ITY Studio

With the latest rage being avatars, scenario backgrounds and creating games, ITY Studio shows up and delivers in a fun way.  I mean fun as in more fun than going to Disneyland with your family (which may not be fun) and more fun then winning $35 at the grocery store.

Fun Features (did I mention it was fun?)

  • Easy to use
  • 3D elements library
  • Scenario tree – think branching and boosting it up another level
  • Interface translations
  • SaaS
  • SCORM

Learning Curve

No tech skills or knowledge of ID (instructional design needed)

#17 eLab

A product that has constantly appeared throughout 2013.  Nice set of features, a detailed tree or hierarchy approach and apps available in iTunes and Mac store. It is easy to use and does a lot for a very affordable price.

Fun Features

  • Supports Moodle
  • HTML5 integration, SCORM
  • M-Learning with Android OS and iOS
  • Multilingual
  • Custom learning paths, templates

Learning Curve

No tech skills needed. A beginner could jump right in and start creating a course.

For those ID folks out there, you can do some things with the product, but I see it more for newbies and some intermediate level folks.

#16 Seminar Learning Systems – Seminar Author

Another super easy authoring tool to start building courses. What makes it an interesting find is that comes with just enough to make someone smile. However, if you are an ID or e-learning developer person, this is not the product for you.

Fun Features

  • M-Learning support
  • Branching
  • Simple to create and build a course
  • UI is similar to PowerPoint
  • Templates
  • SCORM

Learning Curve

No tech skills needed. For beginners or those who want to build a course and like the PowerPoint UI appearance.

Minor Break from Reading

I only have one question – where in the heck do you find a costume with a clock for a face? I want one!

#15 Smartbuilder-Suddenly Smart

My gripe in the past has not been tied to the features – which are strong, but the overall layout of the product i.e. UI.  However, it is not how it looks but how it looks when the course is done – and if you really maximize this product you can create an engaging and somewhat interactive course.

Fun Features

  • Output to HTML5
  • Variables, actions, objects, free-form, templates
  • Percent tracker (for end users)
  • Comes with a variety of assessments
  • Flowchart approach
  • RLOs (reusable learning objects – albeit we are talking courses and content)
  • Collaboration
  • Translation tool

Learning Curve

While beginners could jump in and start to create a course, I see it more as a product for instructional designers and some e-learning developers. Will it replicate those craving for an Authorware return?

Absolutely not, but it does offer some punch.  If you are not an ID person but have some course building knowledge, no worries – you can do well in the product.

#14 Mzinga Publisher

Another wonderful authoring tool that adds the “social learning” component to it. Last year, it was in the top ten, but this year drops to #14. That said, it is still a very good product and one I would have no problem recommending to any consumer.

Fun Features

  • Multilingual
  • Task management
  • Layers, objects
  • Tagging (and not the graffiti kind)
  • Project(s) dashboard(s) and Publisher dashboard
  • Text chat, rss, blogs, team collaboration
  • Publishes to HTML5

Learning Curve

Beginner i.e. newbie to advanced.  My take is that a newbie could go right in and start creating courses, but having someone who is at intermediate level or has some knowledge of course building would be the best way to go (at least one person). 

For instructional designers that product could be a sound solution, but don’t expect to be thinking this is the utopia of authoring tools for ID folks – it isn’t nor is it trying to be.

#13 Opus 8 Pro- Digital Workshop

Let me ask you a question. Doesn’t this name Opus 8 sound mystical? I mean doesn’t it say, “wow, I have powers beyond the realm?” – okay, maybe that is just me.

Anyway, this newcomer to the rankings, is not going to blow you away with its UI. But if you are missing the UI days of Dazzler Max, well – the holidays have come early for you.

Fun Features

  • Actions, scripts, programming
  • Hierarchical approach and UI that will remind you of Dazzler Max (long term ID folks will recall this product)
  • Extensive assessments, oh and you can customize them too
  • Database support using ODBC
  • Branching, themes
  • A new version Pro 9 is coming soon
  • SCORM

Learning Curve

I’d say that this is one product that is better suited for instructional designers/e-learning developers who loved Dazzler Max (late 90’s, early 2000’s product) or like the ability to do some customized actions, scripts and programming. 

That said,  if you have moderate course building knowledge or are willing to spend the time to really maximize your courses check it out.  Can a newbie us this product? I’d say yes, but just the basics. 

Again, don’t go into it and think the UI is some magical force and then come and gripe to me.  Because I will be chillin’ with Merlin and can’t be bothered.

#12 iSpring Pro 7

Last year a top ten tool, this year it drop’s to number 12. Before you push it off and say, “well, it must not be as good as last year, ” I say poppycock! The reason it drops to #12, is that this year’s final top 10 features some newbies that bumped iSpring out of the top 10.  Oh, and for Adobe Presenter fans? This product – Pro 7 crushes it.

Fun Features

  • PowerPoint add-in – appears in the ribbon
  • HTML5 output
  • Right to left languages (multilingual) and btw, very few authoring tools offer R2L, let alone LMSs (just in case you are wondering)
  • Constantly updates – not often seen in desktop solutions
  • Can record video and view it in (h.264), audio recording – both have timeline capabilities
  • Tin Can API support
  • Can convert Flash to HTML5
  • ADA 508, SCORM
  • One big downer – no assessment capabilities

Learning Curve

None. If you know the basics of PowerPoint, you can use iSpring Pro 7.

#11 ZebraZapps

For most of the year it was in top three, but it has dropped to #11 for the final tally. Two major reasons:

a. No HTML5 output, despite numerous updates throughout the year – which makes Zero Zapps sense

b. Seems to be trying to be both an authoring tool and a product that creates apps.  Personally, that is not something I’d like to see in an authoring tool – pick one or another, but don’t try to be both.

Fun Features

  • Uses a free flowing approach to connect learning objects
  • Actions, properties, events
  • Assessments
  • Connect your ZebraZapps projects to a LRS (note: ZZ does not come with a LRS, rather this is for connecting to your LRS via a LMS that has one, or a standalone LRS)
  • Has something for everyone – you can jump right in and start creating
  • Create your own apps – build them, offer them in ZZ’s store for free or fee, ZebraZapps comes with its own apps too

Learning Curve

None. You can jump right in and start creating a course. If you have course building knowledge or some tech skills and are familiar with events, actions, properties – then you can do quite a bit more.  On the app side, the product has a nice tutorial for that, actually it has a nice one for the course creation too.

BONUS - If you are not going to be attending DevLearn, then you will be unaware of the top 10 authoring tools for 2013, which is part of my presentation – along with the latest trends and 2014 forecasts.

While I cannot list the actual rankings, I can list who made the top 10 for 2013 (and just in case you are wondering – if I will post the final rankings – the answer is yes – it will be on my blog in my special Halloween edition – which is a review of DevLearn)

And yes, it will include my forecasts for 2014.

The Top 10 authoring tools (in alpha order)

  • Adobe Captivate
  • Articulate Storyline
  • Aura Interactive – Shift
  • Courselab Pro version
  • dominKnow Claro
  • GoAnimate – have to attend to find out why – trust me, you will be amazed or will want to hurtle your smartphone on me
  • Lumesse Coursebuilder
  • Quicklessons
  • Training Bricks – Bricklayer
  • Zenler Studio

BONUS 2 – An updated and more robust authoring tool directory will be coming out the first week of November. Includes new authoring tools.

Note – At last count there are 182 authoring tools in the market.  Articulate Studio 2013 was not considered because it just came out. 

Bottom Line

Yes, the rankings are in. Each and every vendor who made this list should be rewarded with a “Hip, Hooray” or a badge with a funny looking graphic on it.

Sadly, I ran out of them.

But no worries, because you don’t need a badge to know you are something special.

These rankings prove it.

E-Learning 24/7