Authoring tools might not provide all of the support functions that an instructional designer or course development team needs for a project. Examples most often needed include audio editing and conversion, image editing and conversion, video editing and conversion, and screen capture and conversion. Designers may find it necessary to search for such help, or when the need for such a function appears.
Why use free software?
- If your anticipated use is limited to only a couple of projects, you may find that using free software makes sense.
- If you are new to authoring eLearning, free software may be a good way to get started.
Why use a product you have to pay for?
- If free software does not offer features or capability required for your projects.
- If free software is not supported by your platform.
- For the sake of support, look first at software that you have to pay for. Make your choice based on the feature set and the availability of support, not at price.
This article is an update to a similar list that I wrote for Learning Solutions in February 2021. Many of the tools listed in that article are either no longer available or no longer free. Instead of the comprehensive lists in the earlier article, I have reduced the 2023 listings to one or two tools per category by selecting the best in each, based on user ratings. I also selected one cross-platform example per category where one was available. Neither I nor the Learning Guild received payment for including any product in this article.
I have personally tried very few of the listed products and I make no guarantees about the suitability of any of them for your application. What I have tried to do is provide an easy-to-use listing and links. Software in each group was free when I made the list (May, 2023), and that means free to use, for the most part not requiring payment for a license and mostly not offering paid-for upgrades. Lists are in alphabetical order, and inclusion in a list does not imply any kind of recommendation or review—the first one listed in a category is not necessarily the best for your particular purposes. Not all of the software listed is compatible with all operating systems. Some of the software is simple to use and suitable for beginners; some is intended for users with more advanced skills and experience.
These lists are not complete and are not intended to be; my policy is to not add software to the lists after this article is posted.
Free audio editing and conversion
For audio in most projects, you don’t need anything other than Audacity. However, there is a learning curve for Audacity. If you have difficulty with Audacity, I would suggest trying Ocenaudio, which is also free. You may copy, distribute, modify, and/or resell Audacity, under the terms of the GNU GPL.
Best for beginners or simple projects. Cross-platform (but check the ocenaudio download page to verify support for the platform of your choice!)
Free screen capture and recorders
Free image editing and conversion
Free video editing and conversion
- OpenShot Video Editor
Cross-platform. Free, but ad-supported
If none of these are right for your project or for your situation, try a Google search, using the Google category name above for your search term. I hope you find what you need!