(Last Updated On: May 8, 2024)

What is an authoring tool? What can it do? How to choose the suitable one? Today’s blog will answer them all.

When you first come across or shift your attention towards the eLearning field, or when someone in the education area mentions several unfamiliar words, the authoring tool should be placed in a nice position in this list. What does it mean? What are the basic features required? All your questions will be explained in detail here.

what is authoring tool

What is an Authoring Tool, Exactly?

Authoring tool is a software that helps users to create online courses, and interactive presentations using multimedia formats (text, image, audio, video) with interactivity features (events-actions). 

Making a single element animate at your wish is not always an easy task, let alone a whole interactive project. Therefore, this software makes it useable for non-tech-savvy users without coding. You can see the output example at the end of this blog (spoil: Millionaire Quiz can be created from this tool, no coding required.)

Authoring tools come in different shapes and sizes, not every two are alike. There are online authoring tools with drag-and-drop activities that let you build courses quickly and collaborate with teammates. Also, desktop-based authoring softwares are strong at dealing with complicated interactions and gamification. You can visit SCORM authoring tools worth watching for 2023 to see the comparison to catch the overview. 

Authoring Tool Must-have Features

Screen Recording & Video Editing

Learning loaded text, and images, are somehow outdated and hard for learners to digest. They swim online for courses that are better provided than a long wall of text. 

Screen recording is by nature a media tool for teachers and educators to explain, visualize, and instruct learners from a small concept to bigger complicated lessons. 

When you record, it could not be perfect from beginning to end, so editing features should be a plus point (otherwise you have to switch apps back and forth), one app that can do both jobs: screen recording (screen & webcam) + video editing is the favorable choice.  Saving apps is as important as saving time. 

Most authoring tools would provide this screen recording feature (Chameleon, Articulate, etc.,) or integrate it with PowerPoint (like iSpring), but not every authoring tool would have editing features (like ActivePresenter). Hence, we kindly remind you to consider screen record & edit features as the entry requirement before sticking to any specific authoring tool.


Quizzes, Survey, and Assessment

Though LMS (learning management system) itself does provide quizzes like (multiple choice, and fill in the gap), these are the basic quizzes to start with. 

That is, the challenge eLearning has to deal with – is to (always) keep learners engaged with the lessons. For that reason, authoring tools can go the extra mile to provide better interactivity and visual content. There are around 13 types of quizzes available waiting to be customized that are not available in some LMS quizzes: hotspot, sequence, drag and drop, etc.,

Whatsoever, you can set the attempt to take quizzes, set passing score, and show pass or fail results in real-time when learners take quizzes. It is such a fortune upgrade to take advantage of authoring tools to build quizzes.


LMS – Compliant Export Formats (SCORM & xAPI)

Every authoring tool would allow users to export LMS-compliant formats (SCORM and xAPI). 

SCORM works as a set of guidelines that provide proper communication between computer applications and online courses. When you learn online, it’s like there is a common language that computers can use to communicate and share information.

While, xAPI functions as a digital record keeper that keeps track of everything you do online, including quizzes, movies, and gameplay. It functions as a personal notebook for recording your online activities, making it simpler to trace back on what you have gained.

With these standards, you can check the difference between SCORM and xAPI in this article. The other export options such as cmi5, AICC may vary in different authoring tools, so it is advisable to check out before hitting the payment button.

Authoring Tool Plus Features

The authoring tool has gradually surpassed people’s expectations to meet ongoing demands for better eLearning products. Here are several plus features to equip users with building eLearning projects

Interactive Simulation with Auto Annotation

This is a 5-star built-in feature to generate your on-screen operations automatically. You do not have to insert annotations (i.e., left clicks, press keys) manually in the editing process.

Let us take an example to help you understand quickly:

You record step-by-step tutorials to guide users on how to use the software. You want to make sure they follow along with your guide, for example, double-click here, and select this button. In your recording, the steps can take up to hundreds of mouse strokes or mouse clicks. After recording, you have to insert one-by-one to visualize what you have performed. This manual process can take you hours of editing work.

With the interactive simulation feature, you just have to record your software normally, and when you stop recording, the annotations are generated automatically for you. 

If you want to make it interactive, publish this project to HTML5, or LMS. If not, export to video is sufficient, though.

P/s: export to video cannot be interactive.

activepresenter-auto annotation
A slide-based demo of interactive simulation

Built-in character and templates

We understand building from scratch though gives you total freedom, but it can cause a huge hesitation to start off. If the authoring tool provides its media library & templates, it can minimize the gap to begin. Because the time to search for enough resources to begin may be x3, even x4 actual time for the main part. Thus, having templates set up is a big plus when selecting your proper authoring tool.

Authoring Tool Examples & Applications

What can the authoring tool do? How can I upgrade my eLearning project with an authoring tool? Here are the use cases of the 3 most common applications teachers and educators often take advantage of.

Authoring Tool Examples #1: Pop-up Quizzes in Videos

Have you noticed how big online courses such as Coursera and Udemy hold your attention with the learning process? They often check you out with small quizzes in between the video to (1) make sure you follow with the lesson and (2) let you recall and wrap the key points. And yes, this becomes very easy if you build this with the authoring tool. Wonder how to create pop up quiz in between the video, then you can not miss to watch the quickest way to add a quiz into a video

multiple choice quiz

Authoring Tool Examples #2: Gamification

Gamification transforms learning into an exciting adventure. Through elements such as points, badges, and challenges, it turns educational content into an interesting experience. Learners can earn rewards, track progress, and conquer challenges, all while absorbing important information and skills. Learners can learn and have fun at the same time – this is so-called edutainment.

Authoring Tool Examples #3: Branching scenario

Branching scenario is a type of interactive learning where you get in a situation and have to make choices and see what happens next. In other words, each choice you make leads to different outcomes, which bring new challenges and more decisions to make. Hence, it’s like a choose-your-own-adventure story, and it keeps your learning experience interesting and enjoyable.

How to Sort Out the Perfect Authoring Tool?

We summarize most common authoring tools to make it easy for you to compare:

eLearning authoring toolsActive
Adobe CaptivateiSpring SuiteArticulate Storyline 360Lectora Desktop
TypeStand-aloneStand-alone PowerPoint-based
Stand-alone Stand-alone
Ideal forCreate slide-based courses with highly interactive elements. Create video tutorials with integrated screen recording and video editing features.Create immersive learning scenarios, complex and extensive courses with VR elements.Creating slide-based instructional content, quizzes, and interactive learning materials from PowerPoint presentations.Teams who want to create collaborative eLearning projects.Quickly create WCAG-friendly interactive eLearning courses with highly customized elements.
Ease of useEasyDifficultIntermediate IntermediateDifficult
Supported eLearning formatsHTML5, SCORM 1.2, SCORM 2004, xAPI(Tin Can)SCORM, AICC, xAPI (Tin Can), HTML5,HTML5, SCORM, AICC, xAPI (Tin Can), cmi5AICC, SCORM, xAPI, cmi5HTML5, SCORM, xAPI, AICC, cmi5
PricePerpetual license
Monthly subscription
Yearly subscription
Yearly subscription
Yearly subscription
TrialFree trial without time limit.30-day free trial14-day free trial 60-day free trial30-day free trial

Final Words

Before opting for any specific tool, we advise you to carefully consider all the features each authoring tool brings to the table. Because no other two authoring tools are alike, you can book a demo for each tool, and take a trial to see if it fully matches your needs. 

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