Tags: photoshop


I am a lover of technology and cannot seem to get enough apps and programs and bits of code that help me to build great web pages and eLearning programs. I teach the Essentials of eLearning Authoring Tools for ASTD, have written a book about tools (Technology for Trainers) and have several articles published in the area of eLearning Tools and tool selection.

I'm the Tim Taylor of eLearning Tools. I'm going to use that, so don't steal it!

One thing I don't think I've ever clearly expressed are the tools I use in my every day work. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, below is a list of software that I use at least once a week, every week.

Graphic Design and Photo Editing Software

  • Adobe Photoshop CC
  • Adobe Fireworks CS6
  • Adobe Lightroom 5
  • Apple Aperture

Audio Recording Software

  • Audacity
  • NeoSpeech - I'm securing a license now, but have been using the trial. It is, in my opinion, the best Text to Speech editor out there.
  • Internet Jocks - the best human voice-over site out there. Once again, my opinion. Super professional quality and super fast turn around.

Video Editing Software

  • Apple iMovie - it's low end, but it does everything I need!

Screen Capture Software

  • Snapz Pro X (MAC)
  • Snagit 11 (PC)

Animation Creation Software

  • Adobe Flash
  • Adobe Edge Animate - not as powerful as Flash, but writes HTML5 animations

HTML/XHTML Writing Software

  • Adobe Dreamweaver CC

eLearning Creation Software

  • Articulate Storyline - this has become by goto software now that I can strip out the navigation interface and create my own. My clients love it, it plays well with all my other software and support is top knotch.
  • Adobe Captivate - this is my goto software for clients looking for training on computer based applications. If I need to teach someone how to use software, this is my goto. Yes, I choose Captivate over Storyline because editing your recorded movie slides in Captivate is heads and shoulders above the screen recording in Storyline. So, I dropped the cash and use both - best tool for the job

So there you have it...this is the list of tools used by a working professional eLearning developer. Does that mean you can purchase all of these tools and build like I do? Nope. I have my own creative eye and strengths in graphic and multimedia design that I bring to my eLearning visuals. However, some people have asked so I thought I would share.

Oh...and the picture at the top is of an adobe structure. Get it...adobe structure? Adobe Software?


This past week I finished up my last ASTD Essentials Webinar Series and again had a "virtual" room full of highly engaged, highly interested learners. It was interesting hearing from this group: they are all going to be the eLearning Obmudsmen I commented on in an earlier post. As I was going through the software examples and demos, I started getting some really good questions about process. I have a standard routine that I use when building my eLearning project from scratch, and I thought that it might be of benefit to my reading audience.

After meeting with a client and getting my first installment check (!), we start the following process:

1) Instructional Design Phase

Some of my clients have at least an outline of the content to the site, some have complete storyboards, but most are somewhere in between. Its my team's responsibility to take what they have and build out a storyboard for their review. We use a PPT based storyboard to document screens, activities and simulations in a way that makes it easy for the client to see how their program will function and flow.

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Graphic design programs have some critical functions for the eLearning developer. As far as I am concerned, these are the must have functions for anything I am going to use or install.

  • Web Optimization - reducing 300+dpi images down to 72 dpi jpg, gif or png format.
  • Crop and Resize - alter the image itself, tweezing the good from the bad
  • Basic Photo Editing - drawing and painting tools to get rid of red eye, lines, junk/dust on the frame etc.

I use Photoshop on the Mac and love it, but it really is the 400lb gorilla. It does so many things, but when all is boiled down, those three functions are what I use most. Yes, I develop interfaces from scratch and do a variety of other web related graphics development, but it all boils down to web optimization and image editing. Let's see what I found on the web that can perform these basic functions "in the cloud."

Picnik is similar to iPhoto in a lot of ways. You can tweak your photos, crop, resize and add text and special effects within the browser. You upload your photo and you get a variety of simple editing tools: rotate, crop, resize, exposure, color, sharpen and red-eye removal. When you are done editing, you can save the picture to a scrapbook, your computer or even to lots of social networking sites like Facebook and Flickr. You can save as jpg, gif or png, as well as tif and bmp and re-size them on export. It was really fast and really free!

For $24.95 per year, you get more effects, fonts, collages and ad free working. Is it worth it? If you don't want to pay $699 for Photoshop and just want to edit your pictures, you bet. I was very impressed with it. Even though it matched my three main criteria, I couldn't create anything from scratch, or combine pictures together to make my own collage. It was templated, which is fine for most users.

FotoFlexer calls itself the "world's most advanced online image editor". I had some issues uploading my picture from the main page, but I clicked "edit a sample photo" and it opened OK. I was then able to upload my test picture. Weird...maybe it doesn't like Macs or Firefox.

However, after I got in using the sample photo, I was able to upload my test photo without a hitch. Once I got in, I really liked it. You can have multiple photos on the work area and manipulate them independently. What I really thought was cool were the effects: bronze, sepia, old photo, painting etc. They were not at the level of sophistication as our friend Photoshop can do, but for an online app, they were tremendous.

Something else I liked about FotoFlexer was the ability to recognize multiple photos as "layers". You can apply opacity and flip stacking order, and this was a nice feature if you want to create your own collages. Rotating and cropping and resizing was also a snap.

Once I got in, FotoFlexer was a very, very sweet online app.

However cool both of these applications are, I was left hungry for an online tool that can help me design web or eLearning interfaces in the cloud. I found lots of tools that will develop a web page for you (Google Sites) , but nothing that will allow me to draw buttons, create backgrounds or set up a flat page as an interface for my eLearning projects. Lots of cool things for picture editing, but not so much for drawing an interface.

I did find some software for actually drawing (Artpad, QueekyPaint and a whole bunch at the Ag Design blog but nothing that allows me to create the sophisticated interfaces my eLearning clients expect.


In fairness to some other good vendors, and because I covered some big tools a couple days ago, I wanted to point out a few other good eLearning development tools that people are buzzing about. Again, I prefer to build everything from scratch using the Adobe tools, but I am aware that there are people who don't want to dive that deep into the development red tape. I completely respect that and, considering I talked about Lectora, Captivate and Articulate, I thought I would throw two more onto your radar.

Read more »


If you haven't seen it yet, Adobe has created an eLearning Suite and bundled my favorite software together. It's a really sweet suite:

  • Captivate - great for screen capture and for recording software demos. Really good tool and the current version is top notch
  • Flash CS4 - great tool, but I'm still fighting with Flash CS4 on the Mac...long story, but nested movie symbols in ActionScript 3.0 movies are slowing down the function of the application...on both Macs...I'm not alone in this, but they are finally elevating my issue...see here, here and here. They are working on it which is encouraging - I trust Adobe will make it right!
  • Dreamweaver CS4 - the best coding tool in the world!!!
  • Photoshop CS4- the best photo editor in the world, hands down.
  • Presenter 7 - Finally available at an affordable price (used to be $1500), this tool lets you use PowerPoint to create eLearning. I'm not a big fan of PowerPoint, so its great news for some, meh for me. However, it works really well Acrobat Connect Pro (formerly Breeze), so if you have that tool, you will love the way Presenter works with it. Note: It works in Office XP, 2003 or 2007. Great news!
  • Soundbooth CS4 - create and edit audio...I really, really like this software. It's the first thing that has started pulling me away from Audacity which is an amazing piece of free audio software.

So...my only question...where is Fireworks in the suite? Photoshop rules, but for web distribution, Fireworks has tools that could help the eLearning developer rapidly develop interfaces, convert to PDF and perform lots of cool navigation and button effects. The price point is a little steep ($1799) but worth it if you want to do be able to do everything (no seriously...everything eLearning!) The upgrade price is great ($599) if you have purchased any other suite. I have to say that, overall, I like it quite a bit. There is a lot of software here that can create anything you, the eLearning developer, can think up. However, if you have an extra $299.00 laying around, I'd pick up Fireworks too!

Now...if I can just convince Adobe to fix the Mac bugs in Flash CS4 and give me a version of Captivate for the Mac, I would go back to raving non-stop about their software. I'll rave about everything but Flash CS4, but really, really want to! If Adobe fixes the Flash CS4 bugs, I'll be their biggest evangelist yet! I'll keep running Captivate in Parallels, but it's not the same.

Very few people are creating technology exclusively for the online learning developer, so this site attempts to fill that gap. Whether you want ideas on how to use web technologies in your eLearning, or have questions about the what's and how's, this site is for you.

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