Manage the Object Style Manager!

Intro

In a first introductory post I explained the importance of Object Styles in any Theme, the terminology and how you can create a custom style based from example object (created on a normal slide). In that article I already posted some screenshots taken from the Object Style manager, but didn’t really provide an in-depth explanation of that window.  Do you need to use it? Read this blog if you want to know the answer to that question.

Object Style Manager

You can open the OSM directly from the Welcome screen, without opening any project. The option is available under the Edit menu, or by using the shortcut key SHIFT-F7. Similar to Preferences, which can also be opened from that location (SHIFT-F8) any changes made that way to object styles are global changes, which means they will be applied to all future projects. If you open the OSM within a project, the changes will be applied only to that project. Of course, since Object Styles are part of a theme, if you save the customized theme you can applied it later to any other project as well.

There are some alternatives to open the OSM:

  • In Preferences, Defaults you can set up some General items like slide duration, color of guides … but also the default duration of a bunch of object types. You’ll get a hyperlink to the object style which is the Default style, which will open the OSM. In this screenshot you see this for the Highlight box; where the default style is the Blue Highlight box.:
  • Under Preferences, Recording you can set up the styles used during the creation of software simulations. You also find a button ‘Create new Style’ which will open the OSM.
The Object Style Manager has 2 main categories: all Quizzing objects/styles are in the second  category “Quizzing Objects”, the other objects/Styles in the first category “Standard Objects”. The triangle button is as usual meant to expand a category or a subcategory. There is one special object ‘runtime dialog box’.  Selecting an object in the top left part will show to the right to available styles for that object, and in the second half of the dialog box all the elements of the style. Down left you see a small ‘preview’ which is not always very WYSIWYG. These are the parts of the OSM dialog box. 
  1. Objects: I have selected the Quiz button ‘Submit’ in the screenshot. 

  2. Styles: a button has 4 InBuilt states, but only 3 are included in the style (Visited is missing). I selected the Normal state for the button. This is the default style, but you are free to choose one of the other styles in the list, and you could set it to be the default as well.  You can add a custom style (Clone button is highlighted in yellow) by duplicating an existing style and reformatting it. However it is not possible to have a shape button for this quiz button, because there is no original shape button style available in the style list. 

  3. Components: shows all the components of the style. In this case that is the Button type (here Transparent button, you can change to Text button or Image button), the formatting of the text (font, font size, attribute, faux attribute, color) and Fill/stroke settings for this button. If you switch to a Text or Image button, that will be a lot more limited.  The label on the button is not part of the style, you can only change it after insertion on the slide in the Properties panel.

  4. Under the Objects window you see a Preview. To be able to see it, the default Label ‘Submit’ is used here.

  5. At the bottom you find two buttons Import which allows to import styles that have been exported. The Export button has options which I expanded. The resulting file will have the extension cps.

Workflows

Creating a Custom Object Style

In the first post I explained how to create a custom style based from an example on the stage. Alternative is to create it  in the OSM, That workflow is the only way create Global styles (before opening any project).  The step-by-step workflow to create a custom Highlight Box will be used as an example. 
  • In the creation of a theme you  use only colors from the Theme Colors palette (step 1 for a custom theme). It is not possible to change the default theme, nor the color palette from the welcome screen (for global changes). That choice is missing in the Preferences. For that reason, you need to have the proper theme set as default theme, have the correct Theme Colors palette applied to it. For the example workflow here I set Windswept (packaged with CP2019) as default theme, and kept the custom Color palette linked with that theme. That color palette looks like  in this screenshot (only the main colors):
    The bright red (color 6) would be excellent as stroke color for the custom Highlight Box.

  • In the Object Style Manager, I find the object ‘Highlight Box’ in the category Standard Objects.  This object has 6 default styles. The first labeled ‘…Blue’ is set as default style, but nothing is blue :).  In some other themes this highlight box has a light blue stroke. That is not the case in the Windswept theme, because backgrounds are mostly blue: stroke is white; fill is also white but with opacity = 20%. There is no transition. 
    I expanded the style (with the triangle) and it shows two states: Normal and Rollover. For highlight boxes however the Rollover state is not functional (yet). Same styles can be used for Rollover area (and Zoom area), where a defined Rollover state will be visible. For the Highlight box we focus on the Normal state only.

  • Although I could edit this default style, I prefer to create a style with a more meaningful name. Use the Clone button to create a new style, and rename it to RedHighlight. In the screenshot see the changes. The color dialog box will always show the Theme Colors panel (highlighted first button) since we start from an existing Theme:
    Stroke width is increased to 3px, the option 'Fill Outer Area' is checked and set (visible in the Preview) to a 20% dark gray from the tints in the Theme Colors palette.

  • If you want this custom style to be used whenever a highlight box is inserted, check the option ‘Set as Default’. The Style will get marked in bold (Style box). You still have the previous 5 styles available to be used manually.

Tip: Same styles are also available for Zoom area and for Rollover Area, as well as  the new custom style, which will however not be the default style for those objects. 

Promoting style to Default style

In the screenshot Default styles are indicated by the Bold attribute. You can change that default style using the checkbox ‘Set as Default’ which was my action for the new custom style. Be sure to put the style you suppose  to use most as Default style. I often see themes where a lot of new custom styles are created, either on the stage from example, or by cloning an existing style, but the original styles are left as default styles. Themes are meant to save time, not to increase the amount of work by having to change the styles for individual objects. 

No panic needed when you forgot to save the theme under a custom name, but have edited a default packaged theme. You can always re-install the original themes from the original Gallery/Layouts folder to the duplicate folder in Public documents (Windows).

Promotion to default style can be done globally (as above) or project-based within an open project.

Cleaning up Styles

No one likes cleaning up! Sometimes the Styles list can become very long, and there is no way to rearrange its sequence (to have the most used styles on top). 

When a style is selected in the Style box, the Delete button will become active(look at the last screenshot where the RedHighlight is selected as style). Don’t hesitate to delete what you’ll never use. That may be default styles from the original theme as well (you did see how to restore the theme above).  

It is not possible to delete states (as for the Highlight box, where the Rollover state is unused), nor objects. You always have to keep at least one style for each object, and that will be the default style. If you try to delete a custom default style, you will be asked which style you’ll prefer to use as default style before the style is deleted.

When do I use OSM?

To check style components

OSM is the only place where you can see exactly what is included in an object style. That was the reason I mentioned it in my first post, and showed screenshots of different types of Objects. Remember: sometimes the Transition of an object is included, which is not to be found in the Properties panel, but in the Timing Properties panel. 

Set a global object style

One example: I don’t like the default Highlight Box style, which is too ‘bland’. The line is very thin, light blue, with an inner light fill (20% Alpha). I prefer to have a striking color, from the Theme Colors palette, wider stroke and have the outer area dimmed by another semi-transparent color of the Theme Colors palette. I always create that palette before starting with the Object Styles. You have to apply the color palette to the default theme. Before opening a project I will create this global style and set it as default style.  

Change Font for all styles

If the company has a style sheet,it will often include one or more specific fonts. There is no quick way to replace the used font in the theme (often Trebuchet in CP2019's packaged themes) by a company font. In that case I use the OSM and browse through all objects using text. Captions and Shapes do need the change, but if you only use Shapes as text containers, you can of course skip the Captions.  Some other objects use text as well: buttons, TEB’s, and quite a lot of Quizzing objects. Some styles with text will appear both under Standard Objects and Quizzing objects. 

Beware: if you use Learning Interactions, do not forget that they do not ‘obey’ to the OSM! You will have to change the fonts there as well. Some interactions offer the possibility to switch to the Theme Colors, but that is not available for other components of styles.

What is different for Responsive projects?

In a last post I will specify what is different in Responsive projects, both for object styles and the Object Style manager. Both workflows: Fluid Boxes and Breakpoint Views will be treated in that third article.

Theme mysteries?

Why?

This short blog is meant for newbies,  and is (again) due to what I hear/read on the forums, during (intermediate) training and consultancy job. Recently I tried to answer users in two threads concerning themes:

Change color in theme

Main Master Slide

The last one reports a serious bug in the Help documentation, the first one is more a lack in that documentation. It is a pity that the Help is not something you can cout on, a problem which is not new at all.  I started blogging about 10 years ago because of lacks and bugs in the Help.  An “amazing application which is Adobe Captivate” (a quote of a fellow ACP who is not present in this portal) deserves better!

I’ll try to answer those two questions here, and offer extra tips for Themes..

1. Theme Colors

Editing or developing a theme start with the colors which will be used consistently in that theme.  Each theme  packaged with Captivate  has a Theme Colors palette which is labeled with the same name as the theme.  As described in an old post, that palette has 10 colors + 5 extra tints for each color. It is always available in the Color Dialog box as first button, A well designed theme will use only those colors: backgrounds, fill and stroke colors, font color etc. Most Learning interactions have a button to apply the Theme Colors as well.

If you want to change one color in the palette, as asked in the mentioned forum thread:

  • Rename te original theme (see screenshot: orignal was WindSwept, I renamed to MyWind) in the box with the Palette
  • Click the Customize button: the 10 colors will appear in a dialog box.
  • Click the color you want to change, you can use the Swatches palette, or the Color Wheel (where you can type in the hexadecimal code of the color or the RGB numbers).
  • When finished, confirm using the Save button

Warning!

I already mentioned that the theme has to be well designed, only theme colors should have been used (is not always the case). Moreover no object style can be overridden (+ sign in the Style field) because for those the style will not change.

Another problem are the backgrounds. In the screenshot you see one of Captivate’s default themes, using several bluish colors (first three in the palette).  Those colors appear also in the backgrounds of several master slides: Title slide, Blank slide, etc You’ll find those backgrounds in the Library as…. images! That means they will not change automatically when ou change one of those bluish colors. That will only happen for the colors when they are used in object styles: fill of a shape, stroke of a shape etc….

As I wrote already multiple times: do not rely on names of the colors, they nave no meaning. In the theme mentioned above, the first color (Title) is never used for any title.

2. Main and other Master Slides

User did read this in the Help documentation, quote

The main master slide is the first slide in the Master Slide panel. The name of this slide is the same as the name of the theme. Objects and background color of this master slide appear on all other master slides. Each theme has one main master slide.”

This is indeed not fully correct, text obviously was never upgraded since version….6. First, second and last sentences are OK, but not the one with the bold text.

2.1 Color Main Master Slide

Have a look at this screenshot, where I show the Master Slide panel in front of the Main Master slide:

The name of the main master slide is indeed the name of the Theme (it is a custom theme based on WindSwept). The main master slide has a solid white color as background. There is NO global project background, the used background is ‘Custom’, and that means that you can have a solid color, a gradient, or a custom image/texture. Those are the same options as for a shape fill.

You will see that the label is not appearing in the Properties panel. You can add a label but it will be added to the original name (MyWindSwept), not replace it.

None of the daughter master slides has the white color as background. It may not be very clear, but Content02, Conter07, Conclusion and the Quizzing Master slides also have a solid color background, however it is light grey, not white. All master slides in this theme  use a  ‘Custom’ Background. Look at the Properties of the MyContent master slide

You see that the Background is Custom, which means that the color of the Main Master slide is not inherited. In this case the background is fille with an image from the Library.

To inherit the color of the Main Master slide background, the Background has to be set to ‘Master Slide Background’. Here is a screenshot of the Pearl theme (default theme if you didn’t change it), which has originally a gray scale Color palette. I changed the background of the Master Slide (which is also set to Custom) to a Solid color, light green. You see here the Properties panel of the Title master slide, which inherited that color. It could also have been a gradient or even an image/texture, would have been inherited as well for master slides set to ‘Master Slide Background’.

Conclusion

Summarizing about background color main master slide::

  1. Project Background is always an image which can be imported from the Library or from another location.

  2. Master Slide: where it will inherit the background of the Main Master slide. That can be the Project Background or a Custom Background (solid color, gradient, image/texture). It if is the Project Background, the result of ‘Master Slide’ and ‘Project Background’ is the same for a daughter master slide.

  3. Custom: which can be a solid color, a gradient or an image/texture.

It is clear that this sentence in the  Help text ‘background color of this main master slide appear on all other master slides’   is iwrong.

Warning: identical to the one under Theme Colors. If you use images as background, you’ll have to edit them separately when changing the Theme Colors palette, their colors will not change automatically.

2.2 Objects on Main Master slide

In the first screenshot you see two system variables on the main master slide: at bottom left the name of the author, bottom right the slide number. Those objects are not part of the background, since they have to be generated on runtime.  You could also have shape button (like a Next button) on the main master slide.

They will be inherited on master slides, which have the option ‘Show Main Master Slide Objects’ checked off. In the screenshot of the master slide ‘MyContent’ you see those objects appearing, and the option (highlighted) is checked. On the contrary, the Title master slide for that same theme is not showing those objects:

Usually in the packaged Captivate themes both Title master slide and Blank master slide will not show the Main Master slide objects. Quizzing master slides can show them, but in many instances it would be better to turn them off. Be careful with the Blank master slide: it is meant to be used for PPT import, and for Software simulations.  It is not recommended to have extra main master slides on them.  In the WindSwept theme the Blank master slide has an custom image background, which is very strange, not at all the case in most themes.

Conclusion: 

About the objects on the main master slide, the Help text “Objects …. of this master slide appear on all other master slides” is wrong.

Themes and project types

Be careful when editing/creating themes because you have 3 different types of projects and you need a theme of that type:

  • A non-responsive theme cannot be used for responsive projects with Fluid Boxes, nor for responsive projects with Breakpoint Views.

  • A responsive theme with fluid boxes (as are most included themes in Captivate, can be used for a non-responsive project, the fluid boxes will be ignored. However be careful: if you edit that theme and save it, you’ll not be able to use it for a responsive project anymore.

  • A responsive theme with Breakpoint views is not included with Captivate. You need to check  at least the object styles where text is used, because they need a font size for each breakpoint. You can use it for a non-responsive project, with the same restriction as above when saving the theme.

Some more links for Themes:

Themes and Templates

Fluid-boxes and master slides

Fluid Quiz Slides

Editing/Repairing Themes

Object Styles in Themes


Object Styles in a Theme

Intro

A while ago I posted a blog comparing the use of a Theme for consistent design of a project, with the older Template workflow (which is buggy in the recent versions):

What's in a Theme/Template?

I always start any project by the  creation of  a custom theme, starting mostly from the Blank theme (has the minimum amount of master slides needed for a theme). More recently I offered some tips in Themes Q&A

Due to my past as civil engineer, I see a theme as the structure of a building :

  1. Theme colors palette (see Theme Colors) is the foundation. Palette is independent on type of theme: whether iit is non-responsive, responsive with fluid boxes or with breakpoint views.
  2. Object styles, the topic of this blog are the pillars (vertical structural elements). For Breakpoint views you need slightly different styles for objects containing text.
  3. Master slides are the beams (horizontal structural elements). As in a building there is a lot of interaction between beams and pillars, together they are the structure You will often going back and forth with object styles while creating the master slides. Master slides depend on type of theme.
  4. Can be considered as optional: Recording defaults and Skin, depending on the project if you need them

Now you are ready to complete the building by filling in the walls, floors…. In Captivate we call them slides.and objects.

Captivate’s Object Styles

Contrary to a word processor, Captivate has no Text styles as you know from MS Word:   a bunch of paragraph styles (includes leading, space before and after paragraph, indents, bullets….) and word/character styles. I will post a future blog about the Object Style Manager where you’ll find all object styles used in Captivate’s themes. This blog will show some screenshots taken from the OSM, because you can see what is included in each style:

  • Caption style: includes indeed the font, font size, eventually attributes (bold, italic, light), font color and leading, alignment but also the type of caption, margins within the caption, and the transition type. In the themes packaged with Captivate the caption type is mostly set to transparent, but that was not always the case in older versions and doesn’t need to be always transparent. It comes closes to what you know as text styles, but still... transition is unknown in MS Word..
  • Text Entry Box style: has the formatting of the text but also the Fill (color and transparency) and Transition setting. You cannot edit the stroke, not included.
  • Button style: is more complicated, includes formatting of 3 Inbuilt states (Visited, 4th state is not included).  In the screenshot, which shows a so-called 'Default style' (see later)  you see that when you insert a button (Interactions, Button) in these settings a Transparent button will be inserted. For each state  the text formatting of the label is defined (in case of a Text or a Transparent, button. That setting will not appear for an Image button which cannot have a label. For the transparent button , style includes also the fill (here a gradient, with full opacity), stroke (color, width and style) and the corner radius. Formatting for the two other types is much more limited.
  • Smart Shape style: the most versatile object in Captivate can be a text container, hence the text formatting similar to captions. SInce it can also be used as a button, you can define the formatting of  the same InBuilt states as for the Transparent button. The corner radius is missing  You can choose a rounded rectangle as start for a shape button, and it has a yellow handle to edit the corner radius.

Terminology

It seems useful to list up some important terms concerning Captivate's Object Styles:

Default Style: Previous screenshots showed styles set as ‘Default style’. The checkbox to mark a style as default,  is automatically dimmed in that case.  When you insert an object of that type, it will automatically be inserted with that default style. The other styles, not marked as default style, can be used but you’ll have to change them manually after inserting the object. Here is an OSM  screenshot showing the presence of 3 possible TEB styles. In a previous screenshot I had the Yellow Fill set as default style, this is one of the other styles that can be used:

Overridden Style: If you edit some formatting after inserting an object with its default or manually changed style on the stage, a + sign will precede the style name as you can see in this screenshot (I changed the transparency of the fill and the font size). This is labeled as an ‘overridden style’.

Using overridden styles is considered bad practice in any style-based application. Why? It means that if you have to make changes later on, this object will not be touched anymore. Maybe your client/boss wants to have another font for the TEB? If this is the only TEB in the course, you can find it and edit this TEB in place, thus creating an overridden style. When dealing with more TEB’s it is much easier to edit the object style itself (see later). The edited style will be applied automatically to all TEB’s in the course, exception are those with an overridden style.

Style menu in Properties panel : many sections in the Properties panel have a so-called ‘hamburger’ (or hotdog) menu button. The Styles part has such a mneu button. In this screenshot you see the style menu expanded for theTEB with the overridden style (previous screenshot). You  can choose to create a New style (if I want to keep the default style for later to be inserted TEB’s) or Save the changes to the existing style if you want all the TEB’s in this project to have this edited style. There is also a Reset Style to revert to the original style in this menu.

The option Apply this style to…. is a bit confusing for this situation. Suppose you have another TEB using the Default TEB Blue Fill Style you can use ‘Apply this Style to all objects with Style Default TEB Blue Fill, but it will be the original Yellow style that will be applied, not the overridden style. I would prefer to save first the edited Yellow style.

Creation of a Custom Style

You can create a style in the Object Style Manager, as I will explain in a later blog,  but it is easier to use the ‘from example’ workflow. Step-by-step:

  1. Have a quick look at the Object Style Manager to see what is included in the style for your object type. I showed several screenshots above. It is not always clear from the Properties panel which features are included in the style. Example: Transition is included in some styles, not visible in the Properties panel but in the Timing Properties panel.

  2. Insert an object of that type on the stage. It will be inserted with the style set as Default style.

  3. Edit the features which you detected under 1. until you have the wanted look. That is easier to verify on the stage than with the tiny Preview window in the OSM..  Do not forget the states (Normal, Rollover, Down) for interactive objects. The style field (Properties) will show the +sign to indicate the overridden default style.

  4. Open the Style menu (hamburger) and choose the option ‘Create New Style’

  5. Give the style a significant name and confirm with OK

The style will appear in the Object Style Manager. But you don’t have to use the OSM for these actions

  • Set the style as Default style: is possible from the same Style Menu. Beware: for the example of the shape button, I would not set this as the default style because all shapes would take on that style. Really hope that we can have a default shape button style which is different from the default smart shape style in a future release.

  • Apply this style for all objects with a specific style. This is a workaround I sometimes use: for shape buttons I don’t use the default smart shape style, but one of the other styles (like a hint shape style if I don’t use it in the project) as long as I am not sure about the wanted button style. When I decide to create the definite style for all shape buttons, I can use the Apply this style to replace all those ‘hint’ shape styles by the new shape button style.

This problem only exists for shape buttons. Most other object types are not used for two different goals.

If you want to include features which are not part of the style in a quick way, use the duplicate functionality (CTRL-D). It will keep not only the same style in the copy, but all features, including eventually attached advanced actions.

Third element of your theme (structure) will be the master slides. Advantage of defining object styles before the master slides is that the inserted objects on the master slides will have the new default styles. That can save time.  Just one example: if you use shape buttons on master slides, you will not be able to use 'from example' workflow to create a style for those shape buttons. Reason: the State view cannot be opened when on a master slide, and you need to set up the states. For object styles with a Transition feature, you'll not be able to define them on the master slides neither, because you miss the Timing Properties panel for them.



Shared or Advanced? Use case: Hide/show custom navigation

Why this use case?

I have been writing multiple articles about Shared actions (and Advanced actions), have presented webinars, trained developers.. Someone even labeled me as ‘Empress of Shared Actions’ but I still see this feature ignored by the big majority of even advanced Captivate users.  I will create a list of resources in another blog for those who want to learn more about them. This short showcase is an answer to a question posted recently in the portal. A typical use case for shared, actions, but the user tried to do it with one Advanced action. Since I couldn’t ask him for permission to use his question (being European I am respectful of his privacy), I will not point to the thread but explain the use case:
  • The navigation in the course is not accomplished by a default playbar but by custom navigation buttons. To make it simple, I will use only three buttons in my example: SB_Next,  SB_Back and SB_Home.

  • On some slides the navigation buttons have to be hidden, maybe because  dedicated buttons will appear at the end of the slide, thus forcing viewing the slide.

  • Because of that request, it is not possible to have the shape buttons on the master slide because they wouldn’t have an ID, which means you cannot control their visibility.

  • The Shape buttons have to be on the first slide, Timed for the rest of the project, always on top. This is only possible with shape buttons not with the three old types of buttons. Beware: if you use a responsive project developed with Fluid Boxes, objects timed for the rest of the project are not allowed.

One Advanced Action? Possible but tricky

The user proposed a solution where the value of the system variable cpInfoCurrentSlide was checked, and based on that number the buttons would be hidden or shown.  One great advantage of this system variable: the index starts with 1, which is exceptional because all the other incrementing system variables start with 0. Hence the Expression needed to restart a slide from its first frame (index of cpCmndGotoSldie starts with 0):

Expression  cpCmndGotoSlide = cpInfoCurrentSlide – 1

To make the use case specific: if I have  50  slides, and I want to hide the buttons on slides 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 45 that could be done with one Advanced action like this:

IF cpInfoCurrentSlide is equal to 5     OR
    cpInfoCurrentSlide is equal to 10   OR
    cpInfoCurrentSlide is equal to 15   OR
    cpInfoCurrentSlide is equal to 20   OR
    cpInfoCurrentSlide is equal to 25   OR
    cpInfoCurrentSlide is equal to 30   OR
    cpInfoCurrentSlide is equal to 35   OR
    cpInfoCurrentSlide is equal to 40   OR
    cpInfoCurrentSlide is equal to 45   

  Hide Gr_Buttons
  Continue

ELSE

  Show Gr_Buttons
  Continue

You see that I grouped the three buttons in Gr_Buttons, contrary to the user who had several Hide commands.

Whiy is this tricky?  First of all, if you change the sequence of slides, add or delete slides, you’ll have to check the advanced action and change the literals (slide numbers). Moreover this long condition has to be attached On Enter for each slide, has to be evaluated on each slide, I don’t like that type of long conditions.  If you need to use this action for another course, you have to edit the condition, take into account the number of slides where you have to hide, and the exact slide numbers. Copying an advanced action from one course to another course is always a pain if the action is attached to a slide event, which is the case here .

Shared action

I have already blogged a lot about the advantages of shared actions. The action I designed for this use case, may seem bit complicated but it needed a lot of testing and understanding of the use of parameters which are literals. You can have a look at this published file. There is no content on the slides, I just indicated in the title if the buttons had to be visible or invisible. The used master slides is different as well. Reason: when you hide all buttons, there is no pausing point on the slide anymore. That is the reason why I added a transparent shape button covering the slide, and the mention ‘Click the slide to go to the next slide. A shape with two variables is inserted to follow the changes

I used three variables in this action:

  • v_show: has a default value of 1, because in the default setting the buttons are visible. This value is the only non-compulsory parameter, can be changed to 0 if the buttons have to be hidden.
  • v_visib: one of my popular variables which I import with a shared action as described in my recent post.
  • v_null: because I had to avoid double use of the literal 0, I used this variable with a default value of 0, it is also described in the same post.

The only variable that will be changed is the first one, you don’t have to bother about the other two variables.

The Shared Action, filled in with the two parameters looks in the Preview window as follows:


You have to add this shared action On Enter for each slide. This cannot be done for all slides at once. I’m sorry, but you always have to define the Button group as parameter, my request to be able to promote a non-variable/literal to the status of being always the same is not yet heard. The other parameter (value of v_show) has to be 0 for the slides where the buttons have to be hidden, and 1 for those where you want them visible. Here is an example for a slide where they have to be invisible.

In the Library you can check the usage of the action, 10 instances were used:


Extra

As a gift for 2019 you can grab this shared action:

NavShowHide

Import it into your course, the variables will be created automatically. You have to create only what you want to hide/show on the slides, group those objects and name them. Now you are ready to use that action On Enter for each slide. The group to be hidden/shown can have any objects, not only buttons. It is only necessary, that the group is displayed for the rest of the project.

Developing this shared action took a lot of exploring and testing because of two reasons:

  • If you use a lot of literals you have to choose carefully which one can be come a parameter to avoid issues with the action. That is very important if the same literal is used in multiple decisions. It led to my choice of having an empty variable. This kind of problem never happens for advanced actions. You need a different mindset, but that is of course my personal opinion based on lot of testing since shared actions appeared years ago.

  • Sequence is very important in any action, same as for advanced actions. Lot of consultancy jobs where I had to debug actions were due to ignoring this, combined with the typical behavior that you cannot break out of an advanced/shared action as is possible with programming languages.

I would like to explain this in depth, but not with a blog post. A webinar/training or live presentation is the only way to get this done. I expect this to remain a daydream…. very frustrating.

Random Questions; Do's and Don'ts

Intro

It may be a coincidence but recently multiple questions appeared s about using random question slides

  • :Why is it impossible to control custom objects on slides in question pools like Show/hide for a custom feedback in Review mode?
  • How can you create and use a timer for a quiz which has random questions,, and have actions done when a certain time has elapsed? Or show warnings when time has almost elapsed?
  • How can I use remediation for random slides?

There are of course the usual questions like: can I use random question ir Pretest, as Knowledge Check slides (now also in Interactive video), or quiz slides on hotspots  in a VR project?  Can I have a new subset of random ausetions at a new attempt...

In this post I want to explain why some of those workflows are impossible. For some use cases I have a workaround, will mention it but not offer it for free.

Tips for Question pools

You are for sure aware of the fact that all quiz slides, whatever the type, are based on the quizzing master slide (4)s, and the results slide on another master slide. Whether you are working with a responsive or a  non-responsive project, make sure to set up those master slides fully before creating the pools. That means; checking the object styles and edit them when necessary, check the sizes of the embedded objects. One example: if you expect to have long answers, make the answer area as big as possible, maybe by decreasing the height of the feedback messages and other objects. Do never delete an embedded object (they have no individual timeline). If you can uncheck some in the Quiz Preferences, that is fine. Do not forget to check the Default labels under Quiz Preferences. Please do never override object styles. This is eve more important for pools than for normal quiz slides. once I had to edit the master slides quite a lot in consultancy job because the developer has deleted embedded objects. Several pools were connected with the project. Updating the course after having edited the master slides took quite long, needed kot of coffee breaks.

I also prefer to use GIFT files (or the new CSV files) over editing all quiz slides individually. RE-importing a GIFT file is a lot less work than having to edit each individual quiz slide. It is even more important if you need the course in multiple languages.

You probably want all learners to have the same possible total score? In that case you'll need to give the same max score to each question in the pool.  Or use multiple question pools, each with a different score. I feel a T/F question is not 'deserving' the same score as a complicated MCQ  question. Keep the easier questions with a lower score in one pool, the more complicated in another pool.

Examples with (eventually) workarounds

1. New subset of random questions for new attempt in same session

As I understand the workflow with random questions generated from question pools on runtime: each random question placeholder will be replaced by one question from the associated pool based on a random number. That random number will then be excluded for the next random question. At the end all the random question have been generated and are treated like normal quiz slides, based on the setup in Quiz Preferences. They become static, the generating process will not be repeated when a new attempt on Quiz level is started. To confirm my suspicion I added a custom object to the pool questions, that object only appears when you insert new random questions, not on existing questions: there is no dynamic link between the pool and the inserted questions.

Workaround: you need to close the session, and restart the course. If you are transmitting to a LMS with bookmarking (Resume data), the number of attempts will be taken into account.

2. Random questions for Pretest/Knowledge Check slides

There is no possibility to use question pools for these slides, at this moment (log a feature request please) 

Workaround: use normal random quiz slides for them. For Pretest slides you'll not be able to store the data in the Pretest quizzing variables. If you have real quiz slides in the course, you have to be careful. You can convert the imported random slide in a Survey question (could be used of KC slides), or you can uncheck the option 'Reporting'. In both cases the score and percentage on the results slide will be correct, but some quizzing systerm variables will still take into account all questions as you coudl read in my blog about Quizzing System variables. 

3. Random questions in VR projects

You cannot use random questions on hotspots in a VR project. 

Workaround: insert 360 slides i a normal cptx project. Insert random question slides in that project. Use a  Guided status for the hotpsots which show content. The last hotspot can be used to navigate to the random question slides. Beware: when inserting 360 slides in a normal cptx-project the opion to have Overlay  Question slides attached to hotspots disappears. More info in this article.

4. Random questions in Interactive Video

Overlay Knowledge Check slides are supported for Interactive Video. But like normal KC slides, they cannot be random.

Workaround: Use norma random slides which cannot be used as overlay slides. However, you can use bookmarks to navigate to the slides, then navigate back to the video. I will post a blog about this workflow in the near future. 

5. Controlling custom objects in random slides

You can add custom objects to pool questions or even to the master slides, but be careful: for HTML output the stacking order will always be respected (I had a workaround for SWF output). That means that the embedded Quizzing objects will always be on top of the custom objects. Embedded objects do not have an individual timeline, not on the quizzing master slide nor on the quiz slide. You should never delete those embedded objects,  Some  can be unchecked in the Quiz Properties panel (examples: Clear button, Back button, Feedback messages), others not (Question title, Question, Submit button...).

You can have an Advanced/Shared action on a pool question for the On Enter event (quiz slides never have an On Exit event).  A user wanted to use that action to make a custom object visible only in Review mode, using the quizzing system variable cpInReviewMode. That is a workflow which works perfectly on normal quiz slides. The variable is available for pool questions as well, but.... you cannot reference custom objects on the quiz slide. The added custom objects will never appear in the dropdown list for Show, Hide, Disable, Enable.... The user thought this to be a bug, but I don't agree and will try to explain my intuition.

When you add a random quiz slide to a project, as I mentioned it will be generated from the associated question pool. I suspect this to be a copy/paste act.: based on a random number a copy of a pool question is placed in the Captivate project. You probably have experienced in the past the effect of copy/paste to labels? Since every object needs a unique name, the names of the objects on the inserted random question will have a name 'similar' to the name in the original pool question but not the same name.  The advanced action should have been self-edited to reflect that name change. That seems not to be possible, hence the fact that custom objects do not appear in dropdown lists for pool questions. Same happens when you copy/paste a normal slide which has Advanced  attached to the slide events: in most cases those actions will be broken.  It is one of the reasons I always recommend to use Shared actions whenever possible, especially for slide event actions. It is a lot easier to repair the action in that case. However, for random questions that is not possible, you cannot attach a Shared action to a random question, you have to rely on the actions in the pool questions. 

Workaround: I do have a workaround which works perfectly, but I will not offer that one for free. 

6. Using Timer for random slides.

Captivate has a TImer and Hourglass interaction with similar features. You can also time using system variables and advanced/shared actions or JS. 

To use them for random slides, you need to insert the interaction before the first random slide on a normal slide which can be very short. However those interactions are not working very 'exactly', hence I always combine them with system variables.  No details about my workflow. 

7. Remediation workflow

A user asked if remediation would work for random slides, and there my answer is No. It looks very logical to me why this is an impossible workflow using question pools and random questions. Remediation means you have to link to a content slide from the quiz slide on Failure. The content slide needs to have the special command 'Return to Quiz' on a custom Next button. That action will only work when the learner gets to that content slide from a quiz slide, in other situations the Next button will proceed to the Next slide.

Why is this not possible with random questions? A question pool can be used in many files, how ca you exactly define the name or the slide number of the content slide to link to?  You need an absolute navigation link to that content slide, which is totally impossible.

Workaround: do not use a pool, but insert all the questions (with link tot the content slides) in the course. Navigate to a question based on a random generated number (with JS). Make sure that you don't reuse the same random number twice, nor that the non-selected questions can be visited. Turn on Branch Aware in the Quiz Preferences to have a correct value for the quizzing variables on the score slide. A lot of work!

 

 


4 Tips for Interactive Video

Intro

Interactive video is one of the new features in CP2019 (version 11). Over 10 years ago I did choose for Captivate because it had a lot of possibilities for interactivity in any cptx-project, Some users do think that 'interactive video' is the way to go, but to me it is a nice addition especially to make existing passive video a little bit more engaging. To avoid confusion, because already did see a lot of theoretical posts here that talk about normal interactive projects, not about interactive videos, I will continue to point at published cptx- projects as ‘interactive movies’ to show the difference with less interactive 'interactive video'. A standalone interactive video can be nice. However I honestly believe that the combination of interactive video slides with static interactive  slides in a cptx project is more powerful. Later on I will try to show with use cases what I mean. These tips are for 'interactive video' only. 

The first version of interactive video offers the possibility to insert:

  • Bookmarks: which out of the box can be used with the new command ‘Jump to bookmark’ to realize some branching often based on answer to  knowledge check slides.

  • Overlay content  slides: which appear at certain frames of the video on top of the video (can take up part of the screen, with  in a dimmed version of the video in the background). Most Captivate features can be used on those content slides, including advanced/shared actions.

  • Overlay Knowledge Check slides: which are based on the quizzing master slides.  Their appearance is the same as for the content overlay slides. Scored quiz slides are not possible.Contrary to the overlay Quiz slides in a 360 slide, these Knowledge Check slide do honor the used theme, their style can be full controlled. However, you cannot use scored Quiz slides in overlay (which is possible in a 360 slide). 

I will post lin the future a full description of the timeline of interactive video slides, and line up the differences with a normal video. An interactive video is always a slide (synchronized) video, never an event video. Consequence: interactive video is not possible in a fluid box which can only support event video, nor in the state of a multistate object.

In this blog post, I’ll offer some tips for using and enhancing the present functionality of interactive video. I posted an interactive video, as illustration in this article . Explanation of the tips is based on that example, I recommend to watch it if you didn't had time yet.

Tips

Tip 1: Prepare Master Slides for Overlay slides

Interactive video supports two types of Overlay slides; Content overlay slides and Knowledge Check  overlay slides. Both types can have the same size as the project size, but I prefer to have a smaller size for the overlay slides, so that the video itself remains visible in the background (dimmed). That can be done by using a duplicate of the Blank slide, on which you insert a shape with a smaller size than the slide, as background for your content or questions. As with normal content master slides, you can create as many as you need.  Have a look at the 3 master slides used for the example video mentioned before:

Next to the Blank master slide you see two content master slides :

  • OverlayTip: has a bubble shape, semi-transparent as background; the white space surrounding the shape will be ignored in the overlay and show the dimmed video.

  • OverlayWarn: has a different shape, less transparent and also white surrounding space.

The Quiz master slide which I used is a duplicate of the MCQ... master slide. It is necessary to use such a duplicate because you need all the embedded objects with their functionality. I used a rectangular shape as background, not transparent.
Beware: 

  1. use a non-responsive theme, because the Quizzing master slides in a Fluid Boxes theme have a setup with fluid boxes. 

  2. when creating a slides based on this master slide, you need to choose Knowledge Check slides, because normal Quiz slides cannot be used as Overlay slides for an interactive video.

After insertion of 5 overlay content slides and one KC slide, the Filmstrip looks like this (watch the hierarchy symbolized by the smaller size of the overlay slides, and by the icons at the bottom). :

Tip 2:  No fixed duration but a Close button

To me Interactivity means to offer as much control as possible to the learner. Some need more time, some want to proceed quicker. That is why I don’t like the fixed duration for Overlay content slides - which is the default setting.  No problem for the Knowledge Check slides,  the Submit button (with a pausing point at 1,5secs) takes care of keeping the slide available as long as wanted. Same would be the case for a slide with a D&D interaction or when using an interactive learning interaction.

For the static content slides however you need to pause the slide. To achieve that with minimum effort,  I used a shape button on the two master slides OverlayTip and OverlayWarn.:Look at this screenshot, where the Close button is at the bottom left:

For shape buttons on a master slide, the pausing point visible at the end of the Timeline is just an indicator. It will not appear in the Timing Properties because smart master objects have no timing. However, in the default setup, the shape button will pause at the end of each slide, hence the indicator. Look under the Actions tab for the shape button on the master slide. 

The action triggered by the Success event of that button is very simple: ‘Continue‘, to release the paused playhead. Since the pausing point is at the end of each overlay content slide, it will close immediately and the video continues.

Tip 3: Information button

That button is available for the full duration of the project, from the second (video) slide on. . I described the workflow in an older post, which dates from  CP2017: Interactive Video Buttons but is still valid for the present version. It is a simple click/reveal button, which pauses the video and has a close button. That close button takes care of hiding the information and releasing the video playhead.

Tip 4: Navigation Menu

With the Menu button the learner has a TOC to bookmarks available, to review only parts of the video. I described my workflow in this post.

The menu button has a custom state, which is used to close the menu (similar to the Pause/play button of the example video). It triggers this action:

The menu items are hyperlinks triggering advanced actions, which jump to the wanted bookmark and close the menu. As mentioned in the past, for some weird reason the option 'Execute Shared Action' is not available for hyperlinks, or I would have used a Shared action instead of duplicate Advanced actions.

Custom Play/Pause button - version CP2019

Intro

Several years ago I have already created a blog about this topic.

Meanwhile Captivate has added a lot more features: multistate objects, changes in system variables, easier commands etc. Since that question often appears on social media and the old post is also still visited daily, time to offer an easier way. It is also a use case illustraing use of a system variable, following to my recent posts about system variables.  Here you'll discover how you can use an Interactive Video to as training asset for a workflow. It is up to you: video or step-by-ste textual instructions with screenshots.

Why do I prefer a Shape Button?

Buttons have InBuilt states and can have supplementary custom statesI. You can find more info in this  article: States and State Commands

Captivate has 4 types of buttons, which  have 4 InBuilt states: ‘Normal’, ‘Rollover’, ‘Down’, and ‘Visited’. They can all have extra custom states, which allows to create nice toggle buttons showing the situation at that moment. Examples: TOC open/closed, Audio playing/muted, CC visible/invisible etc (have a look at: 1 action = 5 toggle buttons).  The three first states are included in the object style of the button or the shape, the Visited state is not included. Custom states are neither included in the button style.

Text buttons, Transparent buttons (which are not necessarily transparent), Image buttons can NOT be used on master slides, can NOT be timed for the rest of the project.  A shape button can be used on master slides, can be timed for the rest of the project. For a toggle button Play/oause this is a big advantage: you need only one shape button for your project. If you prefer one of the older button types, you would need a button on each slide.

Workflow - Interactive Video

The movie is based on a Video Demo. The CPVC-file was captured at 1280x720. It is embedded as interactive video in a cptx-rpoject with a resolution of 1024x627. The ratio widht/height is not the same because the synchronized interactive video has a top control bar. I extended the functionality of Interactive video, you'll find some tips in my next post.

I will not embed the video in this post, it would be too small. I offer you two links: the first is to the unscaled published movie, where you'll have the best quality which is important to watch the sometimes very tiny features of the Captivate UI. If you want to see it oscaled to your browser resolution, you can use the second link, which is to a rescalable version. It may look more blurry on a very big screen, but you need to use this version if you want to watch on mobile devices:

Fixed resolution: Custom Play/Pause

Rescalable: Custom Play/Pause


Workflow Step-by-Step

Step 1: Creation of the Shape button

You have to know the  situation at the start of the  course. By default (after having launched the course) this will be 'Play’ situation. Consequence: the start look of the Shape button has to be ‘Pause’.  It is not possible n Captivate to create states for a shape button on a master slide . You have to create that button on a normal slide,.
  • Create a shape and check off the option ‘Use as Button’.
  • Open the State panel, using the button ‘State View’ in the Properties panel.
  • In the Normal state, fill the shape with an image and/or text you want to show when the course is playing, to pause the course.
  • Delete the InBuilt states ‘Rollover’ and ‘Down’, using the right-click menu on those states (you cannot use a simple Delete key).
  • Add a Custom State, and name that state  (I use 'Play' as label)
  • In this custom state fill the shape with an image and/or text you want to show when the course is paused, to resume Playing.

Here is a screenshot of the states I created in the video:

Step 2: Location Shape button

Once the button is ready, you have to decide where to put it, and take out the Pausing point. Reason: you want this button to be available all the time, but not a pausing point like you need for a Submit or a Next button. There are two possibilities for its location;

1. On Master slides

If you want to use the Play/pause button on all slides, and you are creating a non-responsive project or a responsive project with breakpoint views, the easiest way is to copy/paste the button to the Main master slide. The daughter master slides can inherit the button. Careful: in some themes the Title master slides is not using the main master slide objects, you’ll need the button also on that master slide in that case.

For a fluid boxes responsive project, you cannot use the main master slide (cannot have fluid boxes). You will need to insert the button on each used master slides where you want that functionality.

To turn off the pausing point: open the Actions tab of the button, and uncheck the option ‘Pause project until user clicks’.

2. Timed for the rest of the project

The alternative for the master slides, is to have the Play/pause button on the first slide, and time it for the rest of the project, always on top. That has to be done in the Timing Properties of the button. At that same place you can also turn off Pausing:

For a Fluid Boxes project: object timed for the rest of the project is normally not possible. I explored and found it iw possible but with the requirement that you use the same master slide for all content slides.

Step 3: Create Advanced Action

The success event of the button has to trigger a rather simple advanced action. Check the ‘Conditional Tab’ and create this action:

Explanation: I am checking the value of the Boolean variable cpCmndPause (see article). If that value = 0, the course is playing.

In that situation I will use the command ‘Pause’ (‘Pause’ is exactly the same as ‘Assign cpCmndPause with 1) and change the state of the button SB_PausePlay to the Play state.

If the course is paused however, that variable would not have the value = 0 (but = 1) and the ELSE commands are done: the state of the button is reset to Normal, and the playhead is released by the command ‘Continue’ (which is the same as Assign cpCmndResume with 1, which is also setting cpCmndPause back to 0).

Warning: not everything is ‘paused’!

As I explained more in detail in my sequence of blogs about the timeline, even an absolute pause (‘Pause’) will not pause everything.  Here in short the most important:

  • Animations of all type (animated GIF, SWF, OAM….).
  • Event video if it is playing
  • Audio which was started with the command ‘Play Audio’

For more information:

Pausing Captivate's Timeline

Pausing Timeline and Audio

You would have the same  situation  with the Pause button on default Captivate playbars. It is not due to the fact that this is a custom button.


Discover/Use Captivate's System Variables - Part 2

Intro

In a first blog about System variables I offered a free table with description an references for all system variables. If you didn't get that table yet, please get it from that article. That older post described shortly all caregories. It had focus on the variable categories s which are read only, and how they can be used to show information in a course and/or for editing/debugging reasons (like cpInfoCurrentFrame).  Not treated in that first part was the Quizzing category because I already had a detailed explanation in this blog post.

Here the focus is on that very special category 'Movie Control'. It is special because those variables cannot be inserted for viewing in a course.  More important is that they can be controlled, changed by the developer on runtime which is not possible for any variable for the other categories. Learning how to control these variables can be a good step up to getting started with advanced or shared actions: more complicated actions than the simple actions which you find in the dropdown list on the Actions tab of an interactive object.

Terminology

Since this post is meant for users starting with variables, I want to explain some terms that are important expecially when working with system variables of the Movie Control category. You can skip this part is it sounds familiar to you.

Slides versus Frames

In questions on the forum I often see confusion between those two terms. A normal cptx project is slide-based. That leads many users to suppose that Captivate is functioning like Powerpoint, but that is not true. Essentially Captivate will lead to a movie, not to a sequence of slides which is typical for a presentation. That movie is more than a simple video, because interactivity is based on offering control to the user and to do so you need to  pause the movie. This is not the case with a video: the learner can pause the video, but the developer has no influence of therm with the exception of the interactive videos. I use the term interactive movie for a fully interactive published Captivate file. An interactive video is not better at all, more of a hype at this moment, because is interactivity is more limited. Although a PPT can have animations with some duration and seqeuence, it is not a real movie unless you capture it as a movie. 

Any video/movie is played at a certain 'speed'. The speed is defined in frames per second or FPS. The default speed of a published cptx file is set to 30FPS (but a video demo at 15FPS). If you keep the default length of a slide in CP, which is 3 seconds, that means that you have 90 frames in that slide. 

I explained these terms already many times. As you can see in the table, several system variables in the Movie Control category are linked to navigation between slides or frames. Understanding the difference is required.

Boolean variable

A variable can have any value in Captivate: a text (often called string) or a number. When you look in the table you will see the typical values of the system variables. Many of them also aren:  from the 'Boolean' type. That is a variable that will have only two possible values: 0 or 1, true or false. You can interchange them easily, I prefer using the numbers 0/1 because it is less typing.  In the Movie control category many variables are indicated as Boolean: cpCmndCC, cpCmndMute, cpCmndNextSlide, cpCmndPause, cpCmndPlaybarMoved (pretty useless, internal), cpCmndPrevious, cpCmndResume, cpCmndShowPlaybar, cpCmndTOCVisible and cpCmndLockTOC.

Like other variables Booleans have a default (or start) value which you find also in the table. Often it is 0, which means the situation described by the variable is turned OFF. But there are exceptions. Some examples:

  • cpCmndMute: default value = 0, which means that audio is playing
  • cpCmndPause: default value = 0, which means the course is not paused
  • cpCmndShowPlaybar: default value = 1, which means that the playbar is visible
  • cpCmndTOCVisible: default value = 0, which means that the TOC in overlay is not visible

Toggle

When used as a verb, this means 'switch between two situations'.  I didn't use the word 'state' to avoid confusion with states in a multistate object. You can toggle a playbar between the visible and hidden situation, audio between muted and not muted, a TOC in overlay between expanded and collapsed, any object or group between visible and invisible. There is a close relation between Boolean variables and toggling. For that reason a couple of versions ago the new command/action Toggle' appeared in the dropdown list of the Actions tab, and in the advanced actions dialog box. 

Some people also use Toggle to indicate a Toggle button. That is a button which allows to switch between two situations£. Several buttons on the Captivate playbar are toggle buttons: turning CC on/off, play or mute audio, pause or continue the movie. 

Use Cases

Toggle buttons

CC on/off

If you use custom buttons instead of a playbar, which is recommended for any non-linear project, you can create a toggle button to turn Closed Captioning on/of. Beware: in versions before CP2017, Closed Captioning was always turned off when the course started. That is the reason why the default value of cpCmndCC  is still indicated as O. With the new more elaborated features for CC, you also have the possibility to turn CC on for a project. In that case the variable will have the value 1.  To create a toggle button for this feature you can use a shape button on the main master slide (no need for pausing) if you are in a non-responsive project. For a responsive project with fluid boxes, using the main master slide is a bad idea (no fluid boxes possible), you'll have to use the other master slides. Use guides for the creation of the footer fluid box, so that it is consistent for all the master slides.

Create this simple action to be triggered by the Success event of the button:

Since you don't need this button to pause the slide, you have to uncheck the option 'Pause Project until user clicks'.

Audio on/off, Playbar on/off, Overlay TOC expand/collapse, TOC lock/unlock

The workflow is exactly the same as for the CC toggle button. In the screenshot you see that the appropriate system variables show up and can be selected.

It is of course possible to replace a toggle button by two  buttons. Example: a button to show the overlay TOC  and another one to hide it. In that case you could use the commands 'Show TOC' (same result as Assign cpCmndTOCVisible with 1) and 'Hide TOC' (same result as Assign cpCmndTOCVisible with 0). This is  an alternative for the tiny expand/collapse buttons attached top left of the slide. A toggle button saves space on the slide, easier to manage. 

Two buttons are also possible for Playbar on/off  (Show Playbar/Hide Playbar) and for locking/unlocking the TOC for navigation (Lock TOC/Unlokc TOC). 

For Audio on/off you do NOT find such simple actions in the Actions tab.  'Play Audio' is meant only to play an audio clip, but has no effect on slide audio, object audio, nor background audio. Similar with 'Stop Triggered Audio' which can only stop clips started with the command 'Play Audio'. If you want two buttons, you will need to use the system variable cpCmndMute, with the Assign command:

  1. Assign cpCmndMute with 1    will mute audio
  2. Assign cpCmndMute with 0     will have it play again

To create a toggle button with a different look when the situation is toggled, you'll need an advanced or shared action. Have a look at: 

1 action = 5 toggle buttons

Shape category ‘Buttons’ – Challenge

Being a tutorial for newbie (no advanced/shared actions, I will not explain using the navigation system variables for two reasons:

  1. You probably never will use the slide navigation variables  for navigation between slides. It is intuitive to use ‘Go to Next Slide’, muc more than ‘Assign cpCmndNextSlide with 1’
  2. The navigation variable cpCmndGotoFrame is  very important in micro-navigation but that is a more advanced topic that needs the use of advanced/shared actions. If you are interested, have a look at: Intro to Micro-navigation

However I have a challenge for you! The shape dialog box has a special category labeled ‘Buttons’.

Typical for these shapes: the option ‘Use as button’ is checked off (no pausing point by default). They will trigger an action, which for most buttons is a simple action. You will see that the Mute button  is assigning “1” to the system variable cpCmndMute. The three buttons marked in the screenshot trigger an advanced action: the Home button and the Start button (both marked in red) use the advanced action ‘startSlide‘, the End button (marked in green) uses ‘endSlide‘.  You can open th action in the Advanced Actions dialog box,  by clicking the Browse icon:

Look at the use of the system variables in startSlide :

  • Assign cpCmndGotoSlide with 0          this means: go to the first slide (index starts with 0)
  • Assign cpCmndResume with 1              is the same as Continue

Can you explain the script ‘endSlide’?

More?

A lot more is possible when using the movie control variables in advanced or shared actions. I already posted some links before. Here is a link to a blog post about ‘Replay Slide‘ where you’ll find different scenarios. It will help to understand the importance of frames: if you only get back to the first frame of the slide, reset will not happen if this is done by an On Enter action, or if you have Text Entry Boxes/Drag&Drop slide.

For newbies I plan a third article about user variables and simple use of them (still without advanced/shared actions). Would love to get some comments.

Discover/Use Captivate's System variables - Part 1

Intro

Many years ago I did write out some tutorials explaining how to use variables. They are still available in Adobe's Knowledge base, but of course the screenshots are outdated since they were created in Captivate 4 and 5. Inspired by a recent thread in the forums, where it took a while to explain the use of variables, I want to write out some posts about Variables. This first article will focus on System variables and include a downloadable table which you can use as reference for them.

What is a Variable?

If you 'google' to find a definition of a variable you will get thousands of results. I would say that it is a container identified by a name and the content can change or be changed (is variable). It is a term used in programming languages and applications. It makes them more flexible, powerful. If you are a maths lover, compare this equation: 5 + 6 = 11 with  a + b = c. The a, b, c are variables, and the second equation allows you to create tons of small sums. The first equation uses 'literals', and you have only one sum.

Captivate has by default 6 categories of System variables and 2 automatically defined user variables. This article is only about system variables, they are available for your use in any project. All the system variables start with the characters 'cp'. Lables are, as usual in Captivate, unique for each variable and they are case sensitive. It may be confusing that the two  user variables,  created for each new project (cpQuizInfoStudentName and cpQuizInfoStudentID) also start with the same characters..  When you open the dialog box  Project, Variables the type 'user' is automatically selected, and you see only those 2 variables. Be sure: those are NO system variables, they are necessary for the workflow of Internal Server reporting, but can also be used with many LMS's. The certificate interaction uses  cpQuizInfoStudentName as well.

 

Categories of System Variables - table

You can download the table from this link.

Captivate has 6 categories of system variables. To see them switch to System type in the dialog box:

  1. Movie control: is a very special category, which I will explain in a second post.  They offer a way to control your course by changing a system variable. This is not a normal behavior of variables, and can be considered as a, add-on to more complicated advanced/shared actions. These system variables are also different from those of category 2-5 because their value cannot be displayed in Captivate output.

  2. Movie Information: typical for this movie are the number of slides/frames, the speed (FPS), which frame/slide you are at this moment, etc… All variables of this category are read only. Their value can be used by the developer, they can be displayed in a Captivate file, during Preview and after publishing. I will point out some examples later on that could save you time while developing. In the table you’ll find some references as well.

  3. Movie Metadata: you can add metadata to a course, lot of it can be done using File, Project Info.  The behavior and usefulness are similar to the previous category. More tips below the examples below.

  4. System Information: data about present Date, Time, or which OS you are using if watching on a mobile device are in this category. Like 2-3 these variables are read only but can be used in the same way as those from Movie Information and Movie MetaData. Look in the table for examples.

  5. Quizzing: will not expand on this category because I already posted a blog about using Quizzing System variables

  6. Mobile: has only one system variable which is exceptional because it stores 3 numbers. It cannot be displayed in a course, only be used in actions.

This blog has focus on categories 2-3: they are very useful when you insert them in a course, either during debugging or to be able to show their value in output.  The workflow is the same for all variables that can be displayed (not category 1n nor 6).

Display a Variable

The best way to insert a variable to be displayed is this workflow:

  • Create a text container: either a caption or a shape on the slide
  • Go into edit mode, by double clicking or using the function key F2.
  • You’ll get the Character part in the Properties panel. Find tesee three buttons

    First button inserts a symbol, last button a hyperlink, but you need to click the second button to insert a Variable
  • Switch from the default User type, to System.
  • Choose a category under the dropdown list which has by default ‘All’ as choice
  • Select the wanted variable.
  • The ‘length’ is set by default to 50 characters, but you can edit this number. It is essential to do so if you expect the value to be greater than 50 characters (spaces included).
  • Confirm the insertion with the OK button.
  • While editing the variable will appear as in this first screenshot, between double $$. When previewing or after publishing that placeholder is replaced by the value (second screenshot)

Edit and Runtime view 

Some Examples

1. Slide counter: Slide X/Y

You use two system variables from the category Movie Information: cpInfoCurrentSlide and cpInfoSlideCount. Insert this text on the first slide of your course, and display it for the rest of the project.  Do not forget to check off ‘Always on top’ for the text container.

2. Author name in Theme

You will use the variable cpInfoAuthor from the category Movie Metadata. While creating a custom theme to be used in multiple courses, insert this variable in a text container on the main master slide. Master slides are part of the theme. Do not forget to warn your colleagues to fill in the fields under File, Project Info.

3. Course name in Theme

If you use a Title master slides, you can insert the variable cpInfoCourseName on that master slide as title. That variable also blelongs to the category Movie Metadata. Same comment: Project Info has to be defined by the developer. You can also use this variable in a footer of course.

4. Debugging Timeline

As I mentioned many times, understanding how to pause the timeline, and its consequences on objects is very important. I always recommend to insert a text container with the variable cpInfoCurrentFrame to watch pauses while Previewing the project. It is a variable from the category Movie information. You can see that I apply this recommendation myself in this movie:
Captivate’s Timeline

You’ll certainly find more examples. When used in combination with advanced or shared actions, lot more is possible but that is beyond the scope of this introduction.  One example: to show the elapsed time on the course (the real time spent, not the developer’s time based on slide durations), you cannot just insert the variable cpInfoElapsedTimeMS (from Movie Information) because it is defined in milliseconds. You need to do some simple maths to make it readable to the learner, and that means …. advanced action.

What Now?

Have a look at my next blog post, where you'll start to take control of your courses with the system variables of the Movie Control category. It is a good 'step up' to challenge your next goal: using advanced/shared actions.


About State Commands and a Progress Bar

Intro

Recently a user posted a question about using the 'Go to Next State' command used in Advanced actions. You can read our discussions in this thread.

Time to write out some tips for multistate objects. This blog wants to give an answer to the user, and has its focus only on that solution. I plan to publish more about the basics of states and their commands later on.  To me personally the introduction of multistate objects is in the list of my favourite features in Captivate, closely following Shared/Advanced actions and Shape buttons.

Example movie

Watch this published rescalable interactive movie. The second slide has three shape buttons, navigating to three slides where you can read and confirm reading, or click hotspots, or answer questions. Each of your actions will result in changes to the progress bar on that second slide. Beware: whenever you have clicked an interactive object it will be disabled!


Terminology Multistate objects

InBuilt States and Custom States

You can add custom states to any object, static or interactive.  In those states you can have many object types: graphics, video, audio... but no interactive objects nor hyperlinks.  The Normal state is the default state, which will always appear unless you have changed to a custom state using a command (in a simple or an advanced/shared action). You have a lot of freedom for custom states: contrary to the InBuilt states, nothing is locked tto the default normal state. You can have objects in a custom state that are in a totally different position from the Normal state. Custom states are always controlled by commands, not by a situation. If you want a custom state to remain for future visits to the slide where the multistate object is sitting, you need to check the option 'Retain state on slide revisit'.

Inbuilt States exist for these object types:

  • All types of buttons Shape buttons, Image buttons, Transparent buttons and Text buttons.  You have four of those styles: Normal, Rollover, Down and Visited. The first three are part of the button style.  You don’t have the same freedom for location of those states, they are locked to the Normal state (look for the Lock indicator).
  • Drag sources and Drop targets on a D&D slide. For more information see: InBuilt states for D&D

I will only talk about shape buttons here. Contrary to custom states Inbuilt states appear automatically in a situation: when not hovering over button (Normal), when hovering over button (Rollover), when pressing button (Down) and when after clicking/tapping (Visited, if it has been created). You can only control Normal and Visited by a commandif necessary, not the Rollover/Down states.. 

State commands

These commands are available both in a simple action (dropdown list in Actions) and in the Advanced Actions dialog box, to be used in advanced or shared actions:

  • Change State of …. to 
  • Go to Previous State  …..
  • Go to Next State ….

When you use these commands as a simple action, from the dropdown list inthe Actions tab, they can only be applied to multistate objects on the same slide as the event triggering the action (Slide event, interactive button events) The Hypelink even thas only the first command (Change State). 

If you insert one of the commands in an advanced/shared action they seem to be able to apply also to multistate objects on other slides. That is indeed the case for the ‘Change State’ command, but is NOT functional for the commands Go to Next/Previous States. I have logged this as a bug, because you are able to choose multistate objects on other slides, however without any effect. That was the reason of the question in the forums, described in the Intro. 

You could see in the Example movie that I have a workaround. How?

Solution with variable and While loop

YOu will need one user variable v_counter,  to track the number of clicks while being on other slides than slide 2 with the Progress indicator SS_Progress (a multistate object). This progress indicator starts with a Normal state which is a shape with Alpa and Stroke = 0.

That variable starts with a default value = 0. The clicks on the OK buttons in slide 3, on the hotspots in slide 4 and on the correct answers in slide 5 do increment the variable, besides other commands. 

When returning to slide 2 (which has the progress indicator) using the shape button ‘Back to….’ (is on the used content master slide) an advanced action On Enter for that slide is launched, using the While loop:

Example: if the user has performed 3 actions on any slide, v_counter would be 3. The while loop will then be done 3 times, which means the 4th state of the progress indicator will appear. At the same time, the variable will be set back to 0 at the end of the loop. The learner can continue to visit another slide, and the variable is ready to track again.

This is just an example, many variations are possible. Maybe you want to allow visits and actions to consecutive slides before returning to the main slide, this can easily be achieved. Or have feedback appearing on the main slide after all slides have been visited, based on the obtained progress.. 

More?

I didn’t explain all actions in this post. The slide with the hotspots is based on a recent article about Hotspots in a 2D image.

Maybe you are wondering if I used the Visited state or a custom state for the OK buttons (slide 3) or the hotspots? What the quickest workflow is to create the states for the Progress bar? Did I use shared actions or advanced actions, and why did I choose that way? Why did I disable the buttons? If you are interested, I can explain… on demand.