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3 Types of Rapid Authoring Tools for Development

John has stacks of ILT material to be converted into e-learning courses. His experience of working on e-learning projects tells him it will take months to develop the courses and would cost him quite a few dollars. But he wants them to be converted quickly and at a lower cost as he is running short on his time and training budget.

On a weekend trip, he bumped into his long lost friend, Martin, who happened to be an e-learning professional. Hoping Martin could suggest a solution, John told him of his requirements. Martin advised John him to go in for rapid e-learning1 development which uses rapid authoring tools such as Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate. Martin also told him rapid e-learning cuts 40% of the development time and reduces costs by 50%.

Surprised at the revelation, John wanted to know what rapid authoring tools are and how they reduce e-learning development time and costs in a big way. Want to know the answers to these questions? Read on.

What is a rapid authoring tool?

A rapid authoring tool is an online training material development software that helps e-learning professionals create effective web-based training courses. These tools come with many built-in features that make the lives of online courseware developers easy. They eliminate the need for coding skills and multimedia tool expertise and enable learning experts such as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and instructional designers who have little knowledge of programming, make the best use of their features. From simple quizzes to interactive e-learning scenarios, rapid authoring tools allow us to develop a wide variety of e-learning courses easily and quickly.

Let us now look at the different types of rapid authoring tools.

Different types of rapid authoring tools  

There are 3 types of rapid authoring tools.

  1. PowerPoint add-ins
  2. Installation-based authoring tools
  3. Cloud-based authoring tools

Let us examine how they work and how they are different from each other.

PowerPoint Add-ins

These are plug-ins added to Microsoft PowerPoint.When you add them, you get a tab on the ribbon containing the features available in the add-in.  Here is a screenshot of the PowerPoint add-in – Adobe Presenter.

PowerPoint Add-ins

The major benefit of such authoring tools is that they are very easy to use. The learning curve is very low as anyone familiar with Microsoft PowerPoint can use them. These authoring tools are cheaper compared to the installed authoring tools. Articulate Studio and Adobe Presenter are examples of PowerPoint add-ins.

The drawback with these authoring tools is that they do not support customization of the features. You can develop a simple e-learning course with a few basic interactivities and assessments. But if you need to develop a highly interactive course, these tools may not be the ideal choice.

Installed-based Authoring Tools

Unlike PowerPoint add-ins, installation-based authoring tools are standalone products and do not need any other software to work. You have to install these authoring tools on your computer to work with them. They come with a lot of built-in features, which can be tweaked to develop highly interactive courses.

However, these tools are expensive and have a longer learning curve compared to the PowerPoint add-ins and cloud-based authoring tools. Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, and Lectora Inspire are a few examples of installed authoring tools.

Here is a screenshot of the installation-based authoring tool – Articulate Storyline.

Installed-basedAuthoring Tools

Cloud-based Authoring Tools

These authoring tools are usually offered as Software as a Service (SaaS) and are licensed on a monthly/annual subscription basis. They are hosted on the Internet and this eliminates the need to install them on your system. You can work on them, online, on any connected computer. All you need is to visit the tool developer’s website and login with your credentials.The built-in features of these tools help you develop interactive e-learning courses with ease. But, the learning curve is not as short as PowerPoint add-ins. Having said that, they are easier to use compared to installation-based authoring tools. Udutu, Claro, and Easy generator are a few examples of cloud-based e-learning authoring tools.

Here is a video of the cloud-based authoring tool – dominknow Claro.


They are cost-effective compared to installed authoring tools as you do not have to pay the complete license fee at one go. These websites provide you the facility to pay as you use.You can work from any place, on any device, as long as you are connected to the Internet. However, this advantage of the tool can be a disadvantage when you do not have an Internet connection or have a low bandwidth. As these tools are cloud-based, and this technology is still evolving, the security of your data can also be an issue.

When you want to select a rapid authoring tool, the pros and cons of the tools aren’t enough. You need to consider its support for the proposed instructional strategy, its learning curve or availability of experts, and its cost. So which of the three types do you use for your rapid e-learning development– PowerPoint add-ins, installation-based, or cloud-based? We would love to hear from you in the Comments section.

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