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7 types of e-learning authoring tools – Explore their pros & cons

If your organization is in the market for a new e-learning authoring tool, it can be tough to find the perfect solution. To make your search as efficient and cost-effective as possible, it’s important to weigh your options carefully. So, let’s get started with an overview of seven different types of e-learning authoring software.

Danielle Agass
authoring tools


What is an e-learning authoring tool?

An e-learning authoring tool is a software that enables you to create learning content and share it with your learners. Just as you might use Microsoft Word to write up documents or Microsoft PowerPoint for presentation slides, you’ll need to use an e-learning authoring tool if you want to create an online course.

But while the market for word processors and presentation decks is dominated by two or three big players, there are literally hundreds of tools available for creating online educational courses and resources.

That means choosing the right tool can be a daunting task for Learning & Development professionals. To make that choice easier for you, we’ve listed seven types of authoring tools you need to know about – and how you might benefit from each.

7 types of e-learning authoring tools

There are several different types of authoring tools, and each of them offers unique services and functions that could determine your content creation experience. To help you choose e-learning software that closely aligns with your organization’s goals, we’ve compiled a list of authoring tools and who they’re best for.

Choose the right authoring tool

Our experts created the ultimate guide to help you select an authoring tool according to your organization’s needs.

Here is a comparison of seven different e-learning authoring software:

1. Cloud-based tools

Simply put, cloud-based authoring tools exist online and don’t require you to install anything on your desktop. These tools are ideal for teams that collaborate remotely and on content creators who work across multiple devices. Let’s look at the pros and cons:


  • Accessible anytime, anywhere with any internet-connected device.
  • Accessible from both Windows and Mac devices
  • Ideal for remote collaboration, including co-authoring and content reviews


  • Inability to work offline since internet connection is required

Best suited for

2. Desktop-installed (locally hosted) tools

Locally hosted authoring tools require you to install software on your desktop before you can access it. These types of e-learning software may be ideal for employees that frequently work offline. They’re also usually designed for trained content creators, offering a range of creative functions. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons:


  • Ability to work offline
  • Wide variety of content creation functions


  • Usually comes with a complex user interface
  • Dependency on one device to complete the content creation process

Best suited for

  • Employees who frequently work offline
  • Professionally trained instructional designers or content creators

3. Rapid authoring tools

These are very similar to desktop-installed tools, but they come in the form of Microsoft plug-ins, allowing you to add assessments and interactivities to a PowerPoint presentation. Articulate Studio and Adobe Presenter are examples of rapid plug-ins. Here are the pros and cons:


  • Easy to use given that PowerPoint is widely known
  • Relatively cheap way to produce learning content quickly


  • Requires desktop installation of Microsoft software
  • Limited creative and interactive features

Best suited for

  • Microsoft users looking for e-learning plug-ins
  • Those new to e-learning who are looking for simple solutions

4. Quiz and assessment tools

If you want to create a simple quiz or an online assessment for your employees, there are a variety of e-learning authoring tools that focus on doing just that. However, do bear in mind they are assessment tools only. Their functionality is limited, which means you cannot add additional pages or information to your assessments. Here are the pros and cons:


  • Faster and cheaper than most authoring tools
  • Relatively easy to use
  • Wide range of question types


  • Limited features that only allow you to ask learners questions

Best suited for

  • Those looking to create specialized quizzes and assessments.

5. Specialized media tools

These tools focus on one specific form of content creation, like videos or animation. They usually work together with other e-learning tools. For example, you could create a video in one tool, edit it using a specialized tool, and then publish it on your LMS.

These tools offer many advanced media features because of their narrow focus on one type of content creation, which could benefit advantageous if your organization has a strong preference for a particular e-learning format. However, there may be compatibility issues, because these tools almost always rely on your other programs or e-learning infrastructure to deliver the finished product. Universal e-learning formats like SCORM help reduce compatibility issues, but incompatibility is still a risk that needs to be considered. Let’s look at the overall pros and cons:


  • Advanced media features thanks to its narrow focus on one content type
  • If it exports to SCORM, the content you create is compatible with other e-learning tools.


  • More complex user interface because of advanced features
  • Dependency on other e-learning tools as specialized media tools don’t have hosting capabilities.

Best suited for

  • Organizations that prefer publishing a specific type of content
  • Experienced content creators who can navigate complex design features

6. Authoring tools built into Learning Management Systems

While Learning Management Systems are primarily for storing and managing learning content, some do offer built-in authoring tools, allowing you to create simple e-learning pages. Still, an LMS won’t enable you to build an entire course or assessment. That’s why we recommend using an authoring tool that’s SCORM or XAPI compatible and can, therefore, be integrated with an LMS.


  • Offers an all-in-one e-learning solution that enables content creation, storing, and tracking.


  • Limited content creation features
  • Not optimized for course creation

Best suited for

  • L&D teams that prefer to work entirely in their LMS

7. Screen recording tools

If your e-learning activities include software simulations or visual step-by-step tutorials, then screen recording tools can be very helpful. These tools allow you to record voiceover commentary of your onscreen activities and even annotate them. However, these tools can be difficult to use, making the content creation process lengthy. You may also run into compatibility issues here, as these programs will generally work with specific file types and project files that won’t work universally.


  • Provide visual walk-throughs to guide learners through complex processes
  • Easy-to-consume content enables on-the-job learning for employees


  • Complex user interface, resulting in a lengthy content creation process
  • Compatibility issues as a result of limited file formats
  • Can’t be used to deliver e-learning courses

Best suited for

  • Visual performance support resources
  • L&D looking to provide visual simulations and step-by-step guides

Looking for a cloud-based authoring tool? Let us help you!

Easygenerator’s cloud-based authoring solution is among the best e-learning software when it comes to remote team collaboration and scalability. Being able to access the authoring tool from any internet-connected device means you can start the content creation process on one computer and continue it on another. Moreover, you can invite remote co-authors and have additional colleagues review your content.

At the same time, our user-friendly, drag-and-drop interface offers a zero learning curve, enabling anyone in your organization to create engaging e-learning content. This allows you to easily scale your e-learning output using Employee-Generated Learning — a peer-to-peer knowledge sharing approach that speeds up your content creation process and helps you save costs over time.

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About the author

Danielle Agass is the Content Marketing Manager at Easygenerator and has been writing ever since she could pick up a pencil. A Brit by birth, she moved to the Netherlands in 2018 with her husband and their cat, Ron.