5 Mac Apps to Make the Life of an E-learning Professional Easier

Dec 9, 2015


It is no big secret that most professionals, regardless of occupation, have a set of favorite tools that save them time and help them do their job better. A well-crafted toolbox saves you time, makes routine tasks easier, and helps you do your job with a smile. E-learning professionals are no different. Let me introduce five free Mac apps I cannot imagine doing without. 

I will not waste your time talking about Evernote or Dropbox - those are well-known and widely used. Instead, I would like to bring your attention to a few apps you may not have heard about, but that are no less useful, and can really help you out in your day-to-day tasks.


When creating a course, having to strictly adhere to the customer’s design means you have to keep to the specified styles and measurements, and it is usually required that you use the provided color palette as well.

In such situations, Sip is a life-saver. It enables you to pick colors from photos, pictures, web pages, or running applications with a single click. Just hover the cursor over the object, click left mouse button, and the HEX color code is saved to the clipboard, to be inserted in your course authoring tool. If HEX is unsuitable for you, choose among RGBA, HSL, HSLA, CMYK, or one of the many other formats the app supports. By default, Sip remembers the last five colors you picked. It also gives you its best guess at the names of picked colors.

The app is free and takes up little disk space. A paid upgrade to the professional version is available, bringing with it a number of additional features. The ones I found to be the most useful are the ability to automatically create a palette complementing a color of your choice, and to edit the selected colors right from the quick access panel in the Mac menu bar .

Sip could be very useful for case scenario when the client showing you an image they found somewhere on the Internet and asking to “just make it look like this”.



Okay, we have got the colors covered. However, when using a mockup provided by the client, getting the measurements right is every bit as important. This is where PixelPerfect comes to the rescue. It gives you the ability to make a mockup semitransparent and overlay it upon the image produced by a different application - for example, your course authoring tool. This makes it really easy to notice even minor differences between what you have got so far and what your client or boss want to see. When adhering to the mockup is essential, PixelPerfect becomes an indispensable tool.



No course is complete without images. Besides the purely illustrative pictures meant to set the tone for the course, it is often necessary to add screenshots with the requisite callouts. For example, there is no getting around it if your course teaches the use of a software product. Now, there are literally hundreds of apps out there that make screenshots, but I recommend Lightshot, for a number of reasons. First, it is free. Second, there is both a Mac and PC version. Third, unlike many of its counterparts, it does not attempt to make screenshots, capture video, and brew you a mean cuppa tea, all at once. It knows exactly what it sets out to do, and its minimalism is admirable. And finally, Lightshot gives you the ability to add callouts to the screenshot without the need to use an image editor - very handy.

If this was not enough, Lightshot also enables you to share your screenshots with a single click. Alternatively, you can upload them to the Lightshot cloud by logging in with your Google or Facebook account - this will also let you access your screenshots from any computer. All in all, Lightshot is a fantastic little piece of software that I cannot recommend enough. I will let you in on a little secret - for me it replaced a different screenshot-making tool I had happily used for seven years prior to trying Lightshot, and that is saying something.




When you are trying to explain a particularly tricky concept or scenario, a single screenshot might not get the job done. You are presented with the ugly choice of either stringing together four or five of those, complete with the requisite callouts and explanations, or, figuratively speaking, calling in the artillery and making a video. However, both options fail miserably when you need to provide instructions at a moment’s notice and send them by email. This is where Recordit shines.

Do you remember GIFs? Animated images from the dawn of the Internet that nobody could agree on how to pronounce correctly? Yeah, the Imgur people are still obsessed with them. More to the point, Recordit operates on a similar principle. It captures a portion of the screen, including the movements of the mouse cursor and any clicks you make, and makes a .gif image file out of it. The resulting image is uploaded to the Internet, and you are given a link to access it. That is all Recordit does. One trick pony? Sure, but the one trick it does, it does ever so well. Click a button, select the portion of the screen to capture, start recording, done. Simple as that.

You can see Recordit as a pared down screen capture or video editing tool, one that produces not courses, but .gifs. On the upside, it is completely free. It is a real life-saver when you need to quickly demonstrate something to a client or a colleague. Because the resulting screencast is a .gif and not a video, it is much easier to send it in an email. GIFs take little disk space and require neither the Flash plugin nor a video player or codecs for playback.

Recordit comes in especially handy when you need to quickly demonstrate an issue that the other party cannot reproduce on their side. But enough with the talking. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is one to let Recordit show off its chops:


When the burden of creating a mockup for the course rests upon your shoulders, you are usually required to show the client the work in progress every now and then. Until the course is ready, there is usually no content, so text blocks are filled with nonsense text - most usually Lorem Ipsum. 

LittleIpsum is a handy little program that generates its namesake on demand, saving you the trouble of visiting websites of similar function. It can generate the requisite number of words, lines, or paragraphs of text and save them to the clipboard - all it takes is literally two clicks of the mouse. Like all the other programs presented here, LittleIpsum is lightweight and free, as well as convenient and easy to use.