In this article, we will review the essential features of the three most popular eLearning authoring tools: Adobe Captivate 2019, Articulate Storyline 3, and iSpring Suite. Each of these tools is well suited for a particular type of scenario. One solution will work for you when it’s necessary to immediately launch a large amount of eLearning content, while others provide a complex and detailed basis for authoring.
To make your choice a little less confusing, we’ve compared these authoring tools in terms of their distinctive features. So, let’s dive in!
1. iSpring Suite
Rating: 4.8/5–254 reviews (G2 Crowd)
Vendor’s promise: “Create dynamic, engaging, and responsive eLearning content in record time. No training required to begin!”
iSpring Suite is a fully stocked eLearning solution for rapid course authoring. It works as a PowerPoint add-in, which makes it very easy to use. After installing the program, you’ll see a new tab on the PowerPoint ribbon.
The toolkit includes special modules for different types of training tasks. There’s a quiz maker for assessments, a video and audio editor for managing video lectures and screencasts, and a conversation simulation tool for mastering communication skills. You can make your learning content more visual with interactions. There’s a whole set of ready-made interaction templates for creating glossaries, catalogs, timelines, references, and FAQs.
Thanks to all these features, there is no need to manually configure complex interactive elements, thus allowing you to focus on content development. All the groundwork has already been done for you.
iSpring Suite is the easiest and fastest way to move a company’s official instructions, manuals, and textbooks online. If you already have PPT presentations, you can turn them into ecourses in just a couple of clicks. You can also quickly convert your Word and PDF documents into interactive ebooks with a realistic pageflip effect.
iSpring Suite provides automatic adaptation of courses for mobile devices. You don’t need to create different versions of courses for smartphones, tablets, and PCs. Once done, your courses will work smoothly on virtually all devices.
Here you can see an example of an online course created with iSpring Suite:
Ease of Use
Most instructional designers value iSpring Suite for its seamless integration with PowerPoint and ease of use. If you’ve ever created presentations, you’ll be able to start using all the tool’s features immediately and produce content without needing to contact tech-savvy specialists or take training classes. However, despite its ease of use, iSpring Suite allows users to create complex scenarios, if the situation so requires.
iSpring Suite costs $770 per author/year.
2. Articulate Storyline 3
Rating: 4.6/5–233 reviews (G2 Crowd)
Vendor’s promise: “Create interactive courses for any device.”
Articulate Storyline 3 is an advanced standalone tool for creating online courses. Its interface is somewhat similar to PowerPoint, but it doesn’t emulate it in its full capacity. On the one hand, you’re not limited by PPT logic and have greater opportunities for customizing your eLearning content. But, on the other hand, building courses requires much more time, since everything that you add semi-automatically in PowerPoint, has to be created manually in Articulate Storyline 3.
For instance, Articulate Storyline 3 doesn’t include a specialized conversation simulator, although it has all the capabilities for making dialogue simulations. However, to do this, you need to go deep into working with layers and states of objects, and spend a lot of time on learning, and then fine-tuning, setting up, and testing.
Like iSpring Suite, Articulate Storyline 3 has a full set of tools for adding different objects to the slides and supports HTML5, which is the standard for mobile learning. Thanks to an adaptive player, courses created with this tool play beautifully on any device.
Ease of Use
Articulate Storyline 3 is a robust tool that has enormous content creating capabilities, but it takes a lot of time to explore all of them. So, if you’re not ready to invest the time in training, authoring efficiency can be limited.
This toolkit works great for large eLearning departments where there are all levels of developers, both beginner and expert, and all levels of course complexity are required.
The price for a perpetual license is $1,329.
You can try Articulate Storyline 3 free for 30 days.
3. Adobe Captivate 2019
Rating: 3.9/5–153 reviews (G2 Crowd)
Vendor’s promise: “Conquer new learning landscapes with a smart authoring tool that lets you create all kinds of fully-responsive eLearning content.”
Adobe Captivate is a standalone eLearning authoring solution which is suited both for solving simple training tasks (creating a presentation or a test) and for developing complex interactive courses. It has robust capabilities for creating Virtual Reality (VR) projects, and making interactive videos and studio-quality HD videos by simultaneously recording webcam and on-screen content.
There’s no special tool for building conversation simulations in Adobe Captivate, but it includes a module that allows you to generate software simulations with the help of effects, triggers, and slide settings. It will definitely require some skill and time. A wide range of interactions is another strong feature of the toolkit. You can make eLearning fun with drag-and-drops, puzzles, games, and other interactions.
Captivate license holders can find images, people cutouts, themes, scenarios, VR environments, interactions, and other assets for creating eLearning content, in Adobe Stock and its Content Library.
One of the main focuses of this toolkit is creating mobile courses, with a feature that lets you customize output content for all types of devices and screen sizes. Given that fact, there are some unique features whose purpose is to create a better mobile experience. For example, the tool supports geolocation, and has special variables that can be used in your mobile course. For instance, in geography courses, you can show learners the symbol of the city where they live.
Ease of Use
Adobe Captivate is a powerful tool that uses new future-ready technologies. It has great capabilities for delivering progressive learning experiences, but comes with a steep learning curve. Though there are a lot of video tutorials, you definitely need to take training classes before you’ll be able to take advantage of all its capabilities.
Captivate is better suited for advanced eLearning instructional designers than for novice or intermediate-level specialists. It’s worth purchasing only if you or your company need to create complex courses and are ready to devote a lot of time to training.
You can buy a perpetual license for $1,299.
Adobe Activate is also available by subscription. You can subscribe for $33.99 / month (annual commitment and monthly payments required; early termination will incur a cancellation fee)
You can download and install a free 30-day trial version of Adobe Captivate.
The Best Authoring Tool
Every eLearning authoring tool has its pros and cons. More importantly, each of the reviewed software aims for different goals and different audiences. That’s why it wouldn’t be correct to choose the best one from among them. Still, we can state what each of the authoring tools is best suited for.
- iSpring Suite is the best solution for people who are under a deadline, develop courses on their own, and for those who need to turn pre-existing PowerPoint presentations, Word, and PDF documents into e-courses.
- Articulate Storyline 3 is the best authoring tool for instructional designers who develop courses as outsourcers, have large training departments, and have a basic understanding of programming.
- Adobe Captivate is the best authoring toolkit for advanced developers who need to teach how to use software, who develop courses as outsourcers, and have a basic understanding of programming.
Whichever one you choose, make sure you enjoy the tool you’re using. If your authoring experience is causing you headaches and forces you to deal with technical issues instead of making cool learning content, perhaps trying another tool would be a better option.
All the tools mentioned here offer free trials, so we invite you to dig in and discover which one is the best tool for you! If you want to produce content without consulting tech-savvy specialists and spending time on training, start with an iSpring Suite 30-day trial and explore all its features right away.