The magic 8 ball is a fun item to use. Sure, you have the same probability of forecasting by tossing a penny in the air, but for some folks the magic 8 ball is a soothsayer.

For my forecasts, the magic 8 ball does not apply. Nor does looking into a crystal ball speaking mumbo jumbo and watching it cloud up and show the future.

Nope, it is based on studying the market and analyzing it.

Fortune Forecast Cookies

Have you ever opened up a fortune cookie and said to yourself, “How did it know that about me?” or hold onto that magic strip of paper and place it in your wallet or purse for safekeeping?

Well if you did, then here are some forecasting fortune cookies you should save for a rainy day or honestly, right now.

Pan, Zoom and Pan again

This feature is showing up all over the place. From an interaction (listed as interactivity) to a feature within the product.  Because the industry as a whole is a lemming, I expect more vendors to come on board.

HTML5 output

I am still stunned that this is slogging away. Right now I am doing a survey on authoring tools (more on this at the end of the post) and so far 100% of all respondents state that HTML5 output is required in an authoring tool.  I do believe that HTML5 output will continue to grow as an authoring tool feature.  It is time to realize that Flash output just isn’t enough anymore for folks.

Layers, Triggers and Actions

If you are an e-learning developer or instructional designer this has always been a favorite feature of authoring tools. The problem has been (in the past) that the rapid content authoring tools have avoided adding it as a component.  Not anymore.

In just the past month, I have seen quite a few vendors add this capability in their product – and for the most part they are all RCAT products. The numbers clearly indicate that is on the fast track for real growth in the coming year. 

If you are an Authorware fanatic missing the old days, you are still going to miss it – because while these capabilities are being added to tools they are still not at the level of Authorware.  I for one, like that because it has run its course (look a pun!).

Audio Editing

Another feature on the rise. The problem though is it is extremely basic. How basic? Audacity which is free – destroys it.  How hard is it to offer such a capability within your product? Hmm..not much.

Interactivity (Interactions)

While it is true they have been around a long time – what is making this different – are the number that come with the tool, especially with cool capabilities.  It is as if someone finally turned on the light bulb and said to themselves, “Sheesh, why should we give Raptivity the entire market for interactivity templates.”

How many interactions am I talking about? Well some vendors have more than 15 come with their product. Others have at least 10.  So what is missing? HTML5 templates.  Anyway, I expect this number i.e. number of vendors to offer more than 10 interactive templates to rise.  And I’m sorry a FAQ or glossary interaction is not what I had in mind.

Speaking of templates…

Uber number of templates

The days of giving five or 10 are sooo gone.  Nowadays I am seeing vendors offer 15, 17, 25 and even 30 templates. Each can be customized – to a degree.  Templates have been around for decades and often look like the ones you get with PowerPoint – which are lame.  These new ones can go from lame to snazzy and snazzy is ideal.

Screen capture and recording

You would think this has always been a standard with authoring tool products – but you would be wrong.  Thankfully that is also changing.  More and more authoring tool vendors are offering a screen capture and recording feature and again, it makes 100% sense. 

Why allow TechSmith or someone else to have the market for screen capture/recording when you can have one that does at least the same thing, if not more.

I expect to see this to be another growth feature.

Video recording, web cam recording

Adding video via YouTube or mp4 or Quicktime or whatever has been in place for a long time.  What is new – ability to record your web cam or add video from a third party device – DV camera or even – shall I say it – mobile device.

Some vendors who are doing the web cam record include it with the screen capture and record, others are incorporating a more robust video record capability – including HD.

The leaders in the video recording via a DV camera or mobile device – smartphone and tablet are the video learning platform providers. But don’t assume that their video authoring product is only to be used with their platform – no sir-re, you can use it with your own LMS (you just have to purchase it separately).

Wake UP! Slow growth mode alert..Slow mode growth alert

Here are some features that are in super slow mode – but shouldn’t be.


Right now you are probably saying – what is he talking about – my authoring tool offers this and so do plenty of others. True, but what they are calling gamification is not gamification. 

Some gamification that hits the “Gee Whiz.. that sounds swell” rankings

  • One vendor has a gaming raceway for quizzes. Oh boy! I remember pushing my pen around my paper in junior high creating a race game too.  Now I realize I needed to add a quiz to it. 
  • Another vendor includes a FAQ under gamification – why not give everyone a free rock with that?
  • A few vendors include game templates – Yipee! Nothing says fun like templates of static images. Me first!

Video editing

Seems like a natural fit, right? Especially when they are offering video recording. But noooo. 

There are only a small handful of vendors including video editing. I don’t care if it is only three tracks and basic, include it.  Bonus points if you make it more robust – if you can find one that is free that is quite robust – you can have it in your product. 

Scenario Builders with your own voice and text

Just the other day I saw a really cool scenario builder that came with a bunch of avatars and had a voice playing. You could also change the text. But what it lacked was the ability for you to upload your own voice.  It also lacked the ability to customize your avatars or upload your own face and customize your avatars.

There are some vendors who offer the scenario builder and the ability to add your own voice.  However the ability to do everything I just mentioned above is extremely limited.  I guess that is why I loved Go! Animate, but it is just a piece you can put into your authoring tool as a mp4 or some other format – which I forgot.

Back in the early 2000’s I remember offering my end users avatars with our learning platform. People loved them and then to no surprise, wanted to have their own faces on the avatar bodies. 

How many people today want the same thing? I’ll give you a hint – more than a bag of candy.

Thinking out of the box

There are plenty of vendors who are doing this – but here is just a short sample of those who are offering components that should become a staple in authoring tools as a whole.  With the exception of two features, the rest of these are in growth mode but not enough to cause a run on red soda.

  • Storyboards – this is a staple to any instructional designer or e-learning developer – yet is rarely seen in authoring tools in today’s market – “exception  – extremely rare”
  • Spell checker – should be an automatic feature – it isn’t – small number, I expect solid growth
  • Image editing – several vendors are offering this – I expect more to follow suit – but not huge numbers by the end of 2013
  • Speech to text and vice versa – small growth. The text to speech has a better chance at solid growth
  • Action script programming, HTML extensions and other advanced feature sets targeting e-learning developers. Miniscule growth – despite a real demand more advanced feature sets for e-learning developers and instructional designers

Bottom Line

At one time you needed the Oracle to tell you where the future was heading.  Thankfully we have other options. 

But if you still believe in crystal balls and alike than I recommend visiting the magic 8 ball.

And let me know what it says.

Bonus note: I have a survey on authoring tool features that will be used for a blog post in April.

Please answer the four questions and you will be eligible to win one free license from a variety of authoring tool vendors that were listed on my top 20 rankings for Feb. One of the questions will ask you which  of the authoring tools you would be interested in winning.

Six of the top 10 are available including dominKnow, Articulate Storyline and ZebraZapps. The last authoring tool survey I conducted last year made a huge impact in the feature sets you currently see today in many authoring products. This is the best time to let the industry know what you want to see going forward.

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