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ToolBook user interface

ToolBook was a Microsoft Windows based e-learning content authoring application, initially released in 1990 by Asymetrix Corporation, now SumTotal Systems. ToolBook uses a book metaphor — a project file is thought of as a book containing pages of content. This is very similar to Microsoft PowerPoint’s use of the metaphor where presentations contain various slides. ToolBook was often compared to HyperCard[1][2][3] and Visual Basic.[4][5][6]

The first version of ToolBook was demonstrated in 1990 episode of The Computer Chronicles, in an episode about Windows 3.0.[7]

The final version of ToolBook, 11.5, was released in December 2012. SumTotal Systems ended all sales and support of Toolbook on December 31, 2021.[8]

Runtime environments


ToolBook allows for the creation of applications and training materials for Windows and/or the web. To support these two distribution models, ToolBook contains two different programming environments:

  • OpenScript: ToolBook includes a very capable built-in programming language called OpenScript, which is similar to HyperTalk. OpenScript is object oriented and event-driven, where chunks of programming code are associated to the different elements within the lesson. The OpenScript language only functions within the Native engine of ToolBook. It does not function in DHTML-delivered content.
  • Actions Editor: The Actions Editor is another programming environment where the syntax is virtually identical to OpenScript. The biggest difference is that the Actions Editor is not as powerful a language as OpenScript. Whereas OpenScript has over a thousand commands and functions, the Actions Editor contains perhaps 80. However, Actions Editor programming code works equally well within ToolBook (Native) as well as in a web browser (DHTML).



ToolBook’s key features are:

  • Catalog - The Catalog is a repository of objects that can be added to your project. For example: Text fields, Buttons, Question Objects, Rectangles, Navigation Controls. You can even add your own objects to the catalog so that they can be used later in different projects.
  • Book Explorer - The Book Explorer will display a tree-view breakdown of all objects on a given page.
  • PowerPoint Converter - The PowerPoint Add-on (called SumTotal Publish To ToolBook) will allow you to convert a PowerPoint presentation into a ToolBook file. Once installed, you'll find this Add-on within the main Ribbon within PowerPoint.
  • Simulation Recorder - The Simulation Recorder will watch and record you interacting with another application, and allow you to import that simulation into ToolBook as an interactive simulation (this is not a video recording).
  • Simulation Editor - You can create your own simulations manually or edit/modify a simulation you recorded using the Simulation Recorder. Simulations can be played back in 3 modes: Demonstration (sit back and watch), Practice (provides detailed next-step instruction to user, allowing them to complete the simulation), Assessment (let the user attempt the simulation by themselves).
  • Path Animation - Any object in ToolBook can be configured to move (animate) across the page using a simple or even complex path.
  • Media Players - ToolBook supports the ability to play Audio and Videos in a wide variety of formats, supported by these 4 media technologies: Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, QuickTime, Flash.
  • SCORM/AICC - ToolBook provides SCORM and AICC support within web-published lessons for use in SCORM/AICC compliant Learning Management Systems.
  • AutoPackager - In order to distribute a Native lesson or application to a Windows computer (in non-DHTML format), the AutoPackager is used. It has the ability to wrap your lesson into a Windows Installer so an end user can install it onto their computer.
  • Quiz - Many question objects (True/False, Multiple-Choice, Match Item, etc.) exist in ToolBook to allow you to create a training lesson. Various scoring behaviors also exist, such as Score This Page (or Range of Pages). Using the Actions Editor, you can design complex navigation within a lesson based on individual question scores.

Version history



  1. ^ Keep, Christopher; McLaughlin, Tim; Parmar, Robin (1993). "HyperCard". The Electronic Labyrinth. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  2. ^ Crabb, Don (July 9, 1990). "ToolBook Enables Easy Windows 3.0 Programming". InfoWorld. pp. 63–64. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  3. ^ Crabb, Don (August 26, 1991). "ToolBook upgrade easier to learn, faster". InfoWorld. pp. 60–61. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  4. ^ Gibson, Steve (September 16, 1991). "Windows developers finally have the right tools for the job". Tech Talk. InfoWorld. p. 38. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  5. ^ Schulz, Peter (August 19, 1991). "Microsoft Windows gets back to 'Basics'". InfoWorld. pp. 59–60. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  6. ^ Petzold, Charles (June 16, 1992). "The Visual Development Environment: More than Just a Pretty Face?". PC Magazine. pp. 195–237. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  7. ^ Windows 3.0, 1990, retrieved 2018-12-30
  8. ^ "PRODUCT END OF LIFE (EOL) NOTICE". SumTotal. June 2021. Retrieved 7 October 2022.
  9. ^ "List of ToolBook versions which have previously shipped". SumTotal Systems. Archived from the original on May 17, 2021. Retrieved 7 November 2023.