1. Thanks Craig…one area I get a lot of questions about and not coming from an authoring background, this is excellent information

  2. I like very much this list, thank you!

    But let me add some new actors in the scene:

    TalentLMS: Really simple (Zen) powerfull and flexible LMS.
    LearnDash and Sensei: New plugins to transform a WordPress into a fully functional LMS. LearnDash is Tin-Can ready.

    Finally, if you enjoyed Go! Animate, try Crazy Talk Animator, an offline application to create incredible animations.
    Just an example i did: http://sinlios.com/blog/2013/01/05/el-calendario-cosmico/

    Regards from Spain.

  3. Not impressed with this list. When did we turn to quantity over quality. Most of these tools are good for basic “rapid” development which is watering down quality. A good graphic designer and proper developer along with a instructional designer that knows how to utilize the talents of both of these resources is still the best way to make quality learning. I disagree with the current trend that one person can be great at all three components, Instructional design, graphic design and development. Unfortunately vendors are focusing on creating tools to spew content out as opposed to creating a good learning experience. We need Macromedia back. Worse thing to happen to the industry was Adobe buying them and it is funny I do not see an Adobe product anywhere on the list! Maybe I have just been in the industry too long but I miss the days of creating pieces that people were excited about experiencing.

    1. You are correct, but the days of Authorware are long gone. There are only a few hardcore simulation products out there – like Assima which runs over 25K per license, NexLearn Professional which offers a variety of monthly packages not free. The market has exploded because of rapid content authoring tools – and whether you are a fan of them or not, that is just reality.

      Personally, I would prefer a more hardcore e-learning developer tool over the PPT convertor products, but today’s audiences as a whole do not have strong tech skills nor are e-learning developers, instructional designers or instructional technologists. Can people learn how to be a good ID person? Absolutey, but you need to take the time to learn it – and our society in 2013, want it quick and now.

      I did not have an ID background but learned how to do it. Just as I learned on my own how to build in Flash, write HTML code and javascript. Then again, I have strong tech skills. You mention Macromedia but you forget that it was developed to build web sites, not courses. Then it started to include templates.

      Dazzler Max was similar to Authorware, but not as difficult to learn and Authorware itself was not an easy product to learn. In fact many people used Authorware and Macromedia Director – which again was not developed for course building, rather people – ID, developers turned to it and used it.

      1. I’m a little confused about the evaluation criteria used for creating this list…is it listing top rapid e-Learning tools? Authoring tools designed for anyone with limited experience in ID/graphics/programming? Authoring tools with enough muscle to make even instructional designers happy? Inexpensive authoring tools? I wonder why SimWriter was not mentioned. SimWriter Simplicity allows professional developers, trainers, department managers, instructional designers, etc. to rapidly create a variety of training approaches from PPT-style presentations to branching, story-based simulations (with output options including iPad and SCORM compliant objects). The more advanced SimWriter Professional continues to be one of the most robust immersive learning simulation authoring tools available. It has all the the same features as Simplicity, plus extended functionality to create complex immersive sims that replicate series of decision-making opportunities experienced in real-world scenarios (without the need to write code). And if SimWriter made the list, it wouldn’t even be the most expensive authoring tool mentioned. So, please offer some clarification regarding the criteria you used to create this list. I think SimWriter is worthy of a place on the top ten list.

      2. SimWriter:

        a. The UI is poor. The Simplicity product which I was told by staff in a booth – anyone could create it – is not true. The product is geared more towards an instructional designer/developer – which is okay, but not someone who is seeking a product like Articulate. So, if you are not a true ID or developer and are seeking something quick out of the box – this isn’t it. It has a real learning curve to do anything with the product.
        b. Confusing – I found the product frankly to not be worth the cost. I know recently, that SimWriter Simplicity was not inexpensive – unless you consider 9K a license as inexpensive. I see it is now $999 a license. Still, it needs a major upgrade with UI and feature sets. Just because it is for instructional designers/developers it should have forward thinking feature sets – it does not.

        a. Same issue with the UI as Simplicity. When creating a course you should have an engaging experience – even fun – I know hard to believe, but it is true. I found neither fun nor elation when creating a sim with this tool.
        b. Licensing fees – outrageous. Until recently, it was 13K for one license (as I recall) and now (well at TK13) the fee was 2K a month (unsure on number of liceneses, but I do know it was more than one – maybe unlimited?).

        I never said expensive would knock someone out. Claro is not an inexpensive product – and you have to a pay a yearly fee (similar to Rapid Intake).

  4. I’m surprised you immediately jumped to Authorware when I didn’t even mention it in my post. Macromedia built many different tools one of which yes, was Authorware but there was Director, Flash, Captivate, Breeze and Dreamweaver. All capable of building interactive eLearning and to suggest Authorware was not designed for courseware building? Really? I completely disagree, in fact it and Toolbook were likely the only two products truly built for eLearning development.

    That aside, you help make my point in that we now have skilled ID people trying to be graphic artists and technical people. These are different skillsets and I do not believe a person can be an expert in all areas. They might get by and put out useable pieces but good eLearning is falling by the wayside in favour of disposable content.

    There is definitely “rapid” development and disposable content is a reality but there are static and core pieces to every organization that need to be built in a far better way and with experts in all the fields, unfortunately this is being lost as people are telling management they can do it all!

    1. I should have clarified and said Director was not built for courses, just as Dreamweaver was not. Authorware was built for course development.

    2. I agree with your sentiments DaveS. But rather than “…we now have skilled ID people trying to be graphic artists and technical people…”, I’d put it that we have skilled PowerPoint/Articulate/Captivate/clipart operators trying to be IDs, graphic artists and developers, all in one.

      “…people are telling management they can do it all!…”
      I think at this stage expectations have bedded down and it’s now management expecting (or assuming) that an “ID” possess all three skills.

      Very few people I speak to at management and HR level seem to have a grasp of what makes an effective instructional designer, beyond “experience at the authoring/design tools” and “knowledge of [the dreadful] ADDIE”.

      1. 100% true. IMO the rapid content authoring tool market has done some wonderful things, but it has hurt WBT in many ways – because it offers the premise that taking PPT and flipping it into a course is true WBT, which it is not, and as a result – the learner thinks that is the best we (as an industry) has to offer.

        It is one of the reasons I believe that we have so many poor web based training courses on the market – too many people relying on PPT as the cornerstone of their build. And the argument that people are not instructional designers does not fly with me. Take the time to learn. Pick up a book such as X. Surf the net. I did not come from an instructional designer/developer background – but I read everything I could and applied it to become one.

        It takes time like anything else – which ironically is what RCATS find advantageous – minimal time to build a course. Remember when a great course took months to build? Now you can build them in 30 minutes or less with some of the tools.

        It takes people to say we want to see this — in order for someone to listen – I am glad I’m starting to hear more and more people say – offer us a pure e-learning developer product and we will use it. I think now is the best time to do so.

    3. Interesting dialog between Craig and Dave. I too was surprised by the list and how much it leans towards PowerPoint on steroids tools. I don’t disagree that the industry wants rapid development tools and wants to turn IDs into developers and graphic designers, but seeing the quality day in and day out, I align with Dave on this one.

      1. It is a very valid point and one I often discuss with a friend of mine who is an e-learning developer. There is no doubt in my mind that if someone created a pure e-learning developer tool out there – then people would buy it. However it would have to stay in the under $1,500K a license, and ideally under 1K a license.

        The problem today is that to say there is 1 tool that rules them all – for e-learning developers, there just isn’t in my opinion.

        That said as one reader listed below: SmartBuilder is someone to consider. It has an old style UI that reminds of me of the late 90’s, and somewhat like Authorware. What I don’t like about it – no HTML5 output, lack of robust features and the UI – bleech! http://www.suddenlysmart.com/features.htm

  5. I also find it interesting that Adobe Captivate is not on this list even though there are quite a few other similar rapid e-learning authoring tools there. I seem to remember that you left it off the same list last year as well. Frankly I find this not a little surprising given that Captivate is often regarded as the market leader in user licenses for this type of software and has a very robust feature set. What is the reason that you keep ignoring it?

    1. I provided an update on the blog. I have never been impressed with the product. Just because it is widely purchased does not make it the best product on the market. I give huge kudos to Adobe for its marketing and word of mouth. If you told people there were over 140 authoring tools on the market, I surmise they would be quite surprised, because their are just a few – you hear over and over again.

      Look, you want to be #1 – then offer features before others. I get that the reason Captivate lagged behind others regarding HTML5 output was because of Adobe Flash – but come on. When HTML5 was announced, they – Adobe offered a HTML5 toolkit for Dreamweaver. So it could have been done.

      They also lagged behind the leaders in scenarios, collaborative learning, mobile support, avatars/authors and a few other features.

      It is like the Honda Accord – you could have a billion of them sold, but it doesn’t mean it is the best car in its class or even the best car period. It is just the most popular car in its class.

      1. Sorry Craig but I’m not buying the line that Captivate was excluded because it didn’t have good enough HTML5 support. You INCLUDED several tools in your top 10 that had NO HTML5 support at all or were merely promising it at some future time. So I just don’t follow your logic.

        Captivate 6x does in fact have HTML5 support, and with each new update to Cp the support improves further (despite the fact that HTML5 is a nightmare of cross-browser inconsistencies). Perhaps you are just unfamiliar with the current version’s capabilities. When was the last time you built an entire e-learning course with Captivate 6 for example?

        You state that you’ve “never been impressed with the product” (Captivate). You are of course allowed to have your opinions, as are we all. And in MY opinion, leaving Captivate off this list (for the second year in a row) does indeed sound like a bias based on your personal dislike rather than the product’s capabilities.

        You are correct that the fact a given product is the market leader does not necessarily make it the best, but even the best marketing campaign in the world won’t fool the majority of people for version after version if a product is indeed a dud.

      2. I recommend you read my blog article: Articulate, Captivate and Lectora – Do they deserve your praise? – it provides additional insight.

        I disagree on marketing campaigns. How do u think IE became so dominate when Netscape was the leader? Marketing. I mean back in the day, IE was fighting with Sun and thus you how to go to Sun’s web site to download a file, but Netscape had no issues. Netscape was a far better product than IE.

        What about AOL vs. using your own internet provider – which was vastly superior? Your own Internet Provider. So who had huge market share? AOL. What about Prodigy – they were the first ones.. good product.. marketing was poor. Who beat them? CompuServe. Who beat CompuServe? AOL. All of it tied into marketing. You cannot honestly say AOL was an awesome product.

        Lexus vs. Infiniti – came out around the same time. Infiniti had the better car. Lexus dominated and still does..Why? Marketing. In fact the Infiniti story is a case study in how not do to Marketing, it was that bad. I could go on and on throughout history of products. Many products less superior than another and the less wins due to marketing.

        Heck look at Articulate Studio – at the end of the day it is a PowerPoint to Flash Converter product. You cannot edit the code, nothing. It hits ceiling quick. Are you going to tell me that is a better product than any other product on the market? Because it dominates due to marketing.

        I appreciate your comments. I always believe that if an article opens up discussion then it achieved its goal. Good, bad or otherwise.

      3. Craig,
        I think there are a lot of reasons why IE beat Netscape, or AOL beat Prodigy, or VHS beat BETA, or the Yankees beat the Mets.

        But NONE of those things have any bearing on why you left Captivate off your list.

        You said Cp didn’t make the cut because it didn’t have good enough HTML5 support. But you included other products that had NO HTML5 support.

        I’m still waiting to hear the reason for that.

      4. Adobe is a large massive company many of those others are not. Thus, it would make sense if you are a billion dollar company that HTML5 should be in existence. I also noted in my previous blog that they use the term “slides” – if you are a tool for instructional designers you would know the correct term is “pages”. Going back to HTML5, as I also noted.. in Dreamweaver they had the kit out, but they did not offer such with the previous version of Captivate.

        Lastly, I never said they were off the list, I said if you want to be #1 you need to have HTML5. Both #1 and #2 have HTML5 – and had it way before Captivate. No excuses.

      5. Craig, I’m beginning to think you and I are doomed to disagree.

        For example, I take exception to your bald statements to the effect that: “No e-learning developer or instructional designer would ever say “slides”. If they did, they would have to walk the plank.” (Quoted from your post about Captivate last September)

        Where on earth are you getting this stuff? Who is making these foolish rules?

        I happen to be a contract e-learning developer working now some 10 years or more in the corporate sector and I’ve never been berated by anyone…even Instructional Designers…for talking about slides. In my workday world, if you start talking about “pages” and “chapters” the SME’s and clients immediately think you’re referring to documentation, not e-learning.

        Rage against the corruption of instructional terminology by PPT if you want, but the online world DOESN’T need to always refer to itself using metaphors originating from the hardcopy print world. This applies especially when you’re building highly interactive or dynamic content that would be impossible to do on a printed page. Pages and chapters become meaningless.

        And in reality, if I refer to something as a “slide” or a “page” it makes no difference if the content is the same effective instructional material. Quite frankly neither the users NOR the clients care what you call it as long as you deliver it.

        Our relationship is not all hopeless though. One thing I DID agree with was your comment in your review of Captivate last September where you referred to it as the “king of authoring tools”. I continue to use this tool every day (though I have several others in my toolkit) because it still fulfills my needs well, despite a few warts I’d rather see it lose.

        However, if your first and second picks got there because “they had HTML5 before Captivate”, then by your logic Captivate “the king of authoring tools” ought to be right behind them. But it’s not.

        Yes Adobe is a huge company, with a lot of smart people, but that doesn’t mean they should be rushed into pushing out a product until THEY think it’s ready. And personally, from the complaints I’m seeing in tool forums around the world where people are trying to use HTML5 output in multiple browsers on multiple devices, the whole HTML5 standard is still undercooked and poorly supported. I’m not willingly jumping into it until the ground is a lot more stable.

  6. I’m really surprised that Suddenly Smart’s Smart Builder didn’t make this list. It’s a great product and very similar, if not better, than most on this list. Overall, a good list of authoring tools though. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Please note that this is the first list of three. Secondly it is only the top 10 and not the top 25. Lastly, I have it at #15 right now. The downsides are: poor UI – it looks so 1999 and lack of updated feature sets.

      Change the UI to a more modern look and update the features and it works.

  7. I would be interested in hearing why Captivate was excluded. I have no doubt there are reasons, but as the guy with all the research under his belt I would like to hear your take.

      1. Excellent. Exactly my reasons as well. Good to see I’m on the same page :). I’m thoroughly frustrated with it at this moment just because of the HTML 5 output. Definitely more of a hassle than Storyline.

  8. I noticed that Captivate is not on your list. Can you all say more about that?

  9. I like what DaveS is saying about the skill sets required to produce robust elearning vs. quick development of what we used to call “shovelware,” when written or face-to-face training was ported to CBT without much creativity.
    I am wondering why you did not mention Captivate at all. It was ranked #1 last year by some developers. Any comments on it?
    Thanks for the article.

  10. This is very useful information. Thanks for posting. (And for the record, I agree with DaveS that a robust partnership between interdisciplinary teams is the best way to go, but many of us don’t have that luxury anymore. We rely on authoring tools, and for that reason, I find this list invaluable.)

    I was surprised to see Brainshark here but not Captivate. I’m not a huge fan of Captivate, because I find it confusing to use, but it seems to be the eLearning tool of choice for so many organizations. Why didn’t you include it, considering how much it can do for the generalist instructional designer?

  11. It may not be a full e-learning authoring tool, but as far as text-to-speech goes I’ve heard of iSpeech being used by quite a few people. The voices are a bit more human sounding than most, making them easier to listen to over time. http://www.ispeech.org/text.to.speech

  12. Craig, great list that you have put together here, Knowledge Anywhere has an authoring tool that I am not sure you are aware of called ICE (Instructional Content Editing tool). The tool is unique because it will enable anyone to create SCORM-compliant courses quickly and cost effectively. Have a look at stage.knowledgeanywhere.com/ICE/flash/ . ICE integrates inot any learning management system that is SCORM-compliant seamlessly. Feel free to reach out to me to ask specific questions if needed,

  13. I am interested is a ranking of Authoring Tools with percentages and comments gathered from a survey. From maybe 1000 eLearning developers?

  14. Claro looks great until you begin working extensively with it. Have you only tried it or have actually used it for massive project? Our productivity time has increased exponentially since we use the tool. It is full of bugs that will make you swear on a hourly basis. We all loved the creativity perspective when we first started using it nearly 6 months ago. We are now making a business case to change the tool. DomiKnow’s response to fixes is too slow and we are wasting a LOT of time with this tool. I dont think it should even be in the top ten, cretainly not #1 !!! This has got to be biased.

    1. My list is never biased. I have used all the tools on this list and most that are in my directory. I never had an issue. That said, I have heard from folks who have had problems with Articulate Studio, storyline, captivate, Lectora, etc.

      1. The idea of how Claro is built is definitely genius. Combining the design capacityof a “Photoshop” like interface with course building features was something I was hoping to see in ELearning design. And no-one can argue that the review feature is amazing. But I feel like it is too early to have Claro on this list. There are too many problems with the software that they need to fix, we have been putting up a list a while ago and are adding items to it on a daily basis. Once those issues are fixed (which could take a while considering the delay in response we have been getting thus far) I can see it becoming one of the best authoring tools. But for now it remains a tool in it’s initial stages of development that is very frustrating to work with.

      2. Have u contacted them regarding the issue? I only ask because a vendor will work with you to fix it, but they need to know about it. I have found that a lot of people love the product. On a side note, I know of people who have issues with Studio, Storyline, Lectora, Captivate, etc. – it is just the nature of the business. I know it shouldn’t happen, but sometimes it is the user’s fault (I’m not saying this is the case) rather than the vendor – but regardless they will still work with you to fix it.

      3. I wanted to give an update: Authoring tool vendors are reading the comments. I am aware that Claro has contacted you. As noted: if you do not notify the vendor they have no idea.

    2. Hi Phillippe – I’m definitely sorry to hear about your frustrations with Claro. As I’m sure you know, we met not long ago with some of your colleagues and have included many of the feature requests they provided in our roadmap for upcoming releases, which are typically scheduled on 6-8 week intervals. We definitely encourage customer feedback and, as you know, make our client requests public so clients can add to or vote on features. As Craig has pointed out, if there are bugs in Claro we definitely want to know about it, and I’ll be checking the support tickets shortly to see if what items might be outstanding from your team and contacting you shortly. Bug fixes that we know about get resolved asap, and don’t need to wait for feature releases to be rolled out. We definitely appreciate the feedback, and always want to know what our clients need/want Claro to do next. I only wish we could add features every 6 to 8 days!

  15. …full of bugs that will make you swear on a hourly basis. …’s response to fixes is too slow and we are wasting a LOT of time with this tool…

    Philippe could equally be talking about the much-venerated Articulate, whose products (Pr, Eng, QM and Storyline) always feel to me and others I speak to SO buggy as to warrant the term “alpha” and whose stock response on their forums so often seems to be “please make a feature request”. Feature request? Many of the “bugs” are simply ill-thought-out or simply lacking obvious software features Yet they cultivate a reputation for being highly supportive.

    I too don’t like Captivate but at least it’s a robust product compared to Articulate’s.

  16. The Madcap people were ex(disgruntled)-Adobe-RoboHelp staffers who went on to create a well-spoken-of help-authoring tool (Flare). I haven’t had a chance to investigate them but there are a whole lot more Madcap products now, including I believe suitable for e-learning dev.

  17. Craig, I’ve noticed your enthusiasm for CourseLab before and have to agree, I really liked this lilttle gem when I found it. Its functionallity is quite limited, though, and it doesn’t seem to have been upgraded for several years.

    My favourite has long been and remains iSpring. I’ve been enthusing about their Presenter since v4 and as you say, they’re shortly going into v7. Much much less buggy than their better-known namesakes and very very sound on the mechanics – e.g. quick, flawless publishing that doesn’t hijack the clipboard.

    By the way, though you say of easygenerator “Proof that you do not need to be based in the states to have a very cool product”, you do realise, don’t you, that both CourseLab and iSpring products are entirely Russian-made.

  18. The following may be of interest — Social Executable English Knowledge Apps for Explainable Database Question Answering.

    You can write database apps by typing Executable English knowledge into a browser, using your own words, jargon and phrases.

    Then, you can run your apps over large networked databases, and get English explanations of the results. Think evidence-based medicine, food security, energy independence, etc.

    The data are there, what’s missing is the knowledge to use it.

    You can Google Executable English to find this, or go directly to http://www.reengineeringllc.com . Shared use is free, and there are no advertisements.

  19. I have to agree with Philippe. We really wanted Claro to be a great tool…and are finding it far too painful to use. We just can’t afford the significant increase in development time it’s costing us – especially as it’s still resulting in a lower-quality end result. I think over time DomiKnow has the potential to develop an excellent tool. At this point, they still have to iron out a lot of the basics.

    The one thing I do like about Claro is the reviewer functionality – as long as you come to agreement with reviewers on best practices for review notes. 🙂 Sadly, that feature is not enough to keep us using the tool at this time.

    1. Appreciate the response. I have found the product to be ideally suited for instructional designers/developers. I still see it as #1 though. : )

  20. Wow! I am really surprised to read some of the negative comments in regard to Claro. We’ve been using Claro for almost a year and have produced some very rich, interactive courses which have received excellent feedback from our learners. We are currently reproducing some of our award winning flash courses in Claro to make them tablet compatible. As we all know producing html5 courses that have the look and feel of flash is not so easy, however I am very impressed with how Claro is handling this and have to say that the outcome quality is not lacking at all.

    When I fist began using Claro I made simple mistakes in building the courses which did lead to a few problems in playback, (I skipped the training and just dived right in) however, the guys at Claro responded immediately and went all out to help. I can honestly say hand on heart that I have never found such excellent customer service and a team who really go that extra mile for you! When I send them a mail they respond straight away and take the time to walk you through whatever you need to know on a 1-21 basis. So I am astounded to read the comment stating that response time is slow! A couple of days ago I accidentaly deleted a page from my course, and after contacting customer service my deleted page was restored within the hour… How is that a ‘slow response time’??

    I think we have moved on from ppt slideshow type courses and boxed content. I found Articulate borning, Captivate is not as user friendly as it could be, and Lectora is probably my second favourite next to Claro… What lets Lectora down for me is that you can’t synch audios with the images and have to use a plugin like popcorn (unless you are building a flash based course) and it doesn’t resize for tablets. Claro is the most user friendly tool I have used, it resizes for mobile devices and is capeable of handling more than ppt type slide shows! I believe that the negative comments above are very unfairly given, Claro is constantly being updated and improved with new features added, and the guys at DomiKnow do actually listen to their customers and readily invite suggestions and feedback, and what’s more, they readily act on those suggestions and have added a number of features that we have suggested.

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