Play Audio once on First Visit

Intro

In a previous post I explained the possible workflows to force the learner to view a slide completely before the Next button appears, but only on first visit. This new use case is similar but for another goal. Most courses will have narration explaining how to use the functionality of the course: how to navigate, how to use the TOC, how to pop up extra information, how to use a dashboard/dynamic menu etc.  When the learner is free to come back to those slides, it can be annoying if she/he has to listen to the audio again. To avoid this I will explain two possible workflows:

  1. Using the On Enter event to trigger an advanced action, which will use the Play Audio command based on checking which visit it is to the slide. It is an easy workflow, with one drawback: for the Play Audio command it is not possible to use the Closed Captioning feature packed with Captivate.
     
  2. Since Closed Captioning is only possible with Slide audio, this alternative workflow will use micro-navigation to jump to a frame after the end of the audio timeline. If you didn't read my introduction to Micro-navigation, please use this link

Both workflows can be watched in this interactive movie. Be sure to check out later visits by using the Back button. As explained in the previous post, we'll need a tracking user variable. It starts with a default value of 0 and is incremented with each visit to the slide. 

Workflow 1: Play Audio

For each slide where you want to use this action, you'll need a tracking variable. For the slide in the movie where this action was used, the variable was labeled v_visit_PlayAudio. Look at the Preview of the action, which is triggered by the On Enter event of the slide:

It has two decisions:

  • TrackVar is not conditional, will increment the tracking variable (which started at 0).
  • CheckVisit checks the value of v_visit_playaudio. If the value is greater than 1, which means it is not the first visit, nothing will happen (Continue), if it is not greater than 1, which means the first visit, the audio clip will be played.

Workflow 2: Skip frames

Look at the timeline of the slide with the Touareg salt caravan (Ténéré desert):

The Next button appears at 16,5secs. If the visit is not the first, all frames in 16,5secs have to be skipped. We need a tracking variable, which will be labeled v_visit_SlideAudio. It is not possible to reuse the variable which tracked the visits to the previous slide where workflow 1 (Play Audio) was used. I suppose  free navigation is possible, hence tracking visits will need a variable for each slide where you want to use the workflow. However, the variable v_skip, which is used to store the number of frames to be skipped, can be reused for each slide where you want to use this second workflow. It doesn't matter if you want to skip part of the slide to avoid an audio clip to be played the second time, or to avoid that animatios are playing the second time. As you see in this screenshot, the advanced action looks very similar to the one in the first post 'Force first view'.

It is so similar that it was possible to create this action as a duplicate from the one in the post 'First View'. If you are not familiar with duplicating an action, have a look at  Advanced Actions Dialog Box

Afterthoughts

Such a situation with two (or maybe more) similar actions,  immediately triggers this question for me: can I make this easier, can I save time if using this action multiple times. Two possibilities:

  1. Change the advanced action so that the same action can be applied to both situations? There are two differences in the situations: the literal which is the duration in seconds to be skipped (was 10sec in the first post, 16,5sec in this timeline) Second difference is the tracking variable. For the literal a solution could be found, but that is not the case for the tracking variables because they have to be unique for each slide. This approach is not possible for the present situation.

  2. Convert the advanced action to a shared action, with as little parameters as possible. That would also make it much easier to transfer the action to future projects, and as you learned from my webinar (see summary in this interactive movie) due to the presence o the shared action in the Library, much easier to manage. How to do the conversion and use the shared action, will be the topic of my last post in this sequence.






Force First View (micro-navigation)

Intro

This question appears often: how can I force the user to view the slide completely before the Next button appears; but when revisiting the slide the Next button should appear immediately. From a pedagogical point of view, I don't think this will improve the efficiency of the learning, but that is off topic. 

Watch this movie: forcing view is used on the slide with the animated dices. The workflows for the audio slides will be explained in a future blog post.



I will explain my analysis and how to create the needed variables and advanced action.

Analysis

Look at the timeline of the animated dices slide from the movie.

This particular slide is just an example. You see that the Next button (a shape button) appears after the last animation has finished, the learner is forced to watch everything that happens on this slide before the Next button becomes available and learner can proceed. We don't want to put him/her throught the same ordeal when revisiting the slide. Here are three possible workflows:

  1. Create two Next buttons: the one at the end (visible at first visit) and another hidden button, with a timeline that starts from the start of the slide. That second button has to be made visible on second and later visits, whereas the first button will be hidden. Advantage: learner can watch the animations if he wants to, but also skip them by clicking the Next button.
    Problem: this will not be possible in responsive projects with Fluid boxes if you want the two buttons in exactly the same location. Even though they are not timed to appear at the same time, a normal fluid box doesn't allow this.

  2. One Next button, timed from the start of the slide, to be shown/hidden. Use the On Enter event to check tf it is a first visit. If that is the case, hide the Next button, use the command 'Delay Next Actions by....' and enter the time that you want to keep the Next button invisible, then Show the Next button. This looks a good workflow but you have to avoid to offer the possibility to the learner to pause the slide. The Delay command takes not into account any pausing. If  you cannot figure out how to script this solution, send me a note.

  3. Use what you learned about Micro-navigation:  except for the first slide visit, jump directly to the start frame of the Next button's timeline. That means that everything will be in place, animations are finished in this case. Check to have all objects timed for the rest of the slide (CTRL-E).  Since there is no stacking in this workflow, this workflow is also functional for responsive projects developed with Fluid Boxes. Focus of this article  is on this last workflow. Check the Timeline screenshot: the jump should be equivalent with 10secs , start of the Next Button timeline.

All workflows need to track if the learner visits the slide for the first time or not. That can be done by a user variable. We could use a Boolean, or a variable that is incremented with each visit. It is the increment approach that will be used here.

Advanced Action + Variables

The variable that will track the visits got the name v_visit, and a default value of 0. It will be incremented by 1 on each visit. Eventually you can show the number of visits by inserting that variable in a text container:

We have to jump 10secs ahead, which has to be converted to frames.You can use the system variable cpInfoFPS. We'll use another variable v_skip to store the number of frames (that variable could be reused on several slides):

v_skip = cpInfoFPS * 10

The advanced action will have two decisions, as you can see in this Preview:

In the first decision 'Always' which is not conditional, the number of frames is calculated and the tracking variable v_visit is incremented. The second decision 'JumpFrames' is conditional: if it is not the first visit, the playhead will jump as many frames ahead as calculated in v_skip. Since this action is triggered On Enter of the slide, the system variable cpInfoCurrentFrame corresponds with the first frame of the slide.

Afterthoughts

How will you manage if you have a lot of slides that need to get this 'Forced view' action?  What can be reused? Will you duplicate and edit the actions? What has to be edited? Try to find an answer to those questions. Look out for my reflections in two future posts: next one will show that a similar advanced action can be used for another use case, and in a third post I'll explain why this perfect to be converted to a Shared action, how to convert the present advanced to a Shared action to make it as flexible as possible.




Micro-navigation (introduction)

Intro

Recently I presented two sessions about the Timeline at the Adobe eLearning Conference in DC (25th of April 2018). Maybe you did read a previous post, where I offered some easy Timeline Tweaks, taken from the first presentation 'Demystifying Captivate's Timeline' which was aimed at clarifying basic features of the timeline, including the different ways of pausing the timeline. The second presentation 'Mastering Captivate's Timeline' plunged deeper into exploring advanced workflows, including use of variables, advanced/shared actions and.... micro-navigation. I created that term in this (old) article. The word has been adopted by many Captivate users. Time to upgrade this article to integrate the changes within newer versions (system variable names) and the switch from SWF to HTML output. If you have a look at that article, please use a Flash Player enabled browser to watch the embedded interactive movie (SWF).  The present post can be considered as an introduction to 'micro-navigation'. We will start with a comparison between navigation between Slides (macro-navigation) and navigation between Frames.

Navigation

Between Slides

You, Captivate user,  are aware of slides and master slides. Slides appear in the Filmstrip and each slide is based on a master slide Master slides have a dedicated panel, which looks very similar to the Filmstrip. In the Newbie UI when activating the Master Slide panel it will replace the Filmstrip in the left docking station. The Timeline panel can be used both for slides and master slides. Timing (horizontal scale) itself has no real meaning for master slides,  panel is used to change the stack order (or z-order) of objects. If you insert a shape button having a pausing point on a master slide,  pause will be visible at the end of the timeline. 
For sure you have used navigation commands for slides. In the dropdown list of the Actions tab for any event (slide event, interactive object event) or hyperlink navigation commands are available. They allow you to override the default navigation. 'Default navigation' means when the playhead reaches the end of a slide it will automatically move to the next slide.
The slide navigation commands are:
  • Go to the next slide

  • Go to the previous slide

  • Jump to slide ...

  • Go to last slide visited

Maybe you are not aware of the availability of dedicated Shape buttons in the Shape thumbnail dialog box, that have an advanced action to go to the Last slide or the First slide of a project?
Also less known are the system variables from the category 'Movie Control'  related to slide navigation. They be used in actions:
  • cpCmndGotoSlide  can be used to replace the simple command 'Jump to Slide'; beware: index starts with 0, whereas the index of cpInfoCurrentSlide starts with 1 (exceptional to make it possible to use in a progress indicator). If you want to restart a slide without re-entering the slide, you can use "Expression cpCmndGotoSlide = cpInfoCurrentSlide - 1"  

  • cpCmndNextSlide  is a Boolean variable with a default value of 0. With 'Assign cpCmndNextSlide with 1" has the same result as Go to the next slide     
  • cpCmndPrevious is a Boolean variable with a default value of 0. With 'Assign cpCmndPrevious with 1" has the same result as Go to the previous slide

Between Frames

A published cptx-file (to HTML or SWF) is an interactive movie. Each movie '(and animation' plays at a certain speed, the 'professional' name for that speed is 'Frames per Second' rate, or FPS. The quality of a movie depends on the resolution but also on that FPS number. The default FPS for a published cptx-file is 30FPS. You can see this rate in the Project Info panel.
 

It is possible to change FPS rate in Preferences, Project Publish settings.

 
With the default rate (30), each second on the timeline has 30 frames, the smallest unit on the timeline  (0,1sec) 3 frames.  I use the word micro-navigation for navigation between frames. Contrary to the navigation to slides, there are no commands available for micro-navigation. It is only possible using advanced or shared actions which allow you to manipulate the system variables available for frames. The relevant frame system variables are:
    
From the category 'Movie Information'
  • cpInfoCurrentFrame: your best friend when exploring Captivate's timeline, debugging projects with advanced actions, micro-navigation etc. You'll find that variable inserted in a text container quite often in my tutorials. You can watch an example in this interactive movie   
              
  • cpInfoFPS: returns the FPS rate, by default set to 30 as explained above. This variable can be used in calculations (with Expression) to convert from seconds to frames.

  • cpInfoFrameCount: similar to cpInfoSlideCount (total number of slides in project) it returns the total number of frames in the project. It can be used in combination with the previous variales to calculate to the total duration of the project (as shown in the TOC).
    From the category 'Movie Control'
  • cpCmndGotoFrame can be used to jump to a frame using its frame number (similar to cpCmndGotoSlide); playhead will not be released, project remains paused.
  • cpCmndGotoFrameAndResume can be used to jump to a frame using its frame number and to release the playhead at the same time, project will continue.

Testing? 

It is just a proposal: test out what you learned by creating a one-slide project, similar to the one visible at the start of this post and as thumbnail.  Design is up to you, but this is required for the 'exercise':

  1. Replace 'No action' for the On Enter event of the slide by 'Pause'; the slide shouldn't start playing automatically.
  2. Insert the system variable cpInfoCurrentFrame in a text container (example has it bottom right); that will allow you to track the location of the playhead. When starting the slide it will pause immediately, it will show 1 (although the system variable starts with 0, there is a small delay).
  3. You need two buttons: one for navigation forward, and one for navigation backwards. I used two shape buttons from the category Buttons, but replaced the action (see below). In the example they are at bottom center.
  4. A number of objects staggered on the timeline. In the example I have 7 shapes aligned in a row. They appear 1 second later than the previous one. All objects are timed for the Rest of the Slide. Result will be that the slide itself will have a duration that is longer (8secs in my case). To move an object on the timeline one second to the right: select the timeline of that object and use shortcut key CTRL-right (see Colors and Keys for Timeline). Here is a screenshot of the Timeline in my example:

    You see a small gap (0,1 sec) before the first object. Reason is the delay I mentioned before: playhead is stopped at frame 1, I don' want that shape to appear immediately. Because this is a one slide project, I didn't need to pause the slide at all, not even at the end. Both buttons have no pausing point as you can see in the Timeline.

Three events are used on this slide for actions:

  1. I already mentioned the On Enter event of the slide, which is set to 'Pause'.
  2. The button SB_Next triggers a one-line advanced action that should look like this:
  3. The button SB_Back triggers a one-line advanced action that should look like this:

Test now, either after publishing and uploading to a webserver, or with Preview HTML in Browser! 
Everything is working as exptected? Great, you are ready for more advanced workflows with micronavigation. Watch out for the next article about micro-navigation: a shared action that can be used in different situations: forcing full view of a slide on first visit, but not on later visits is one of the use cases.


Where is Null in CP2017?

Intro

One of my most visited blog posts published 7 years ago (Captivate 5, 5.5)  is Where is Null?

Beware: the embedded movie is a SWF, you need a browser with enabled Flash Player to watch that movie. Everything worked fine for SWF output also in later versions. However it is now partially broken for HTML output in CP9 and CP2017. Several users contacted me to ask for a solution, hence the reason for this new post.

Use Case

The use case can be split up in two phases:

  1. Checking the entry in the Text Entry Boxes): user has to enter something, but it is not to be validated, cannot be empty. Because the way Captivate is treating the value of variables, you need to create an empty variable, which I use to label 'v_null'. If the TEB field(s) is (are) empty, a warning should appear for the user.
    That part described in the old blog post is still valid!  For that reason I will restrict the explanation in this post to one TEB on the slide.
  2. Reactivating the Text Entry Boxes) to allow a new attempt for the learner. Once the Submit button is clicked the TEB is deactivated by default. It is this second part that is no longer functional in recent versions for HTML output.  Focus will be on this second part.

Example Movie

You can watch the example movie by clicking this link

CheckTEB

Workarounds for Reactivating TEB

I propose two workarounds: the first workaround uses the dummy slide as described for another use case in a recent post as Tip 2 (Reset Slide). Since you will re-enter the slide, you can use the On Enter event to restore the initial settings. The second workaround uses micronavigation, which was also used in the original setup. But in this case micronavigation will be not be used to move the playhead before the pausing point of the TEB, but to re-enter the slide.

Solution 1: Using Dummy slide

In the movie this solution is on slide 3, the dummy slide (duration 0,1sec) is slide 2. You see the slide numbers at the bottom in the movie. That is the biggest drawback of this solution, you will have extra slide(s). Three events are used on slide 3:

  • On Enter event triggers the advanced action EnterEmpty which resets the situation when re-entering the slide: clears the TEB associated variable v_MyName, hides a Group Gr_Retry (message + button) which will be shown when the TEB is empty and hides another group Gr_OK (message + Next button) which will be made visible when the TEB has an entry.

  • Success event of the TEB triggers the shared action Check_TEB which is also used in the second workflow. It has 3 parameters: the variable associated with the TEB, what (group or object) has to be shown when the TEB is empty, and what (group or object) has to be shown when the TEB variable has a value. In this case the two last parameters are groups: Gr_Retry and Gr_OK.
  • Success event of the Retry button has the simple action 'Go to Previous Slide'.

Solution 2: Using micronavigation

You see this solution on slide 4. This solution needs one more user variable v_start to store the first frame number of the slide, using the On Enter event of the slide. The Retry button will use this number in combination with the system variable cpCmndGotoFrameAndResume to navigate the playhead to one of the last frames in the previous slide. This will avoid the creation of extra slides as with the first solution But the workflow is a little bit more complicated.  The used events and actions are now:

  • On Enter event triggers the advanced action EnterEmptyBis which resets the situation when re-entering the slide: clears the TEB associated variable v_myName, hides a Group Gr_RetryBis (message + button) which will be shown when the TEB is empty and hides a message  Tx_Welcome_20 (kept the generic name) which will be made visible when the TEB has an entry. It also defines the value of v_start with the current frame number, which will be the first frame of the slide. 

  • Success event of the TEB triggers the shared action Check_TEB  used in the first workflow. It has 3 parameters: the variable associated with the TEB, what (group or object) has to be shown when the TEB is empty, and what (group or object) has to be shown when the TEB variable has a value. In this case third parameter is not a group but the message Tx_Welcome_20.

  • Success event of the Retry button triggers an advanced action RetryAct with two commands: clears the variable v_myName, and calculates the frame number that is 2 frames less than the start frame of the slide. I prefer 2 instead of 1 frame because there could be a small delay which makes v_start equal to the second frame number of the slide.

Roundup

Drawback of both proposed workarounds, compared with the original solution (broken now) is possible flickering when the slide is re-entered. I have tried a lot of ideas to avoid that flickering which is an annoying issue since many versions (if my memory is correct since version 6): transitions (not slide transition which is unsupported for HTML output), Delay command, delay on timeline etc.. 

Drawback of the first workaround is that the total number of slides (cpInfoSlideCount) and the current slide number (cpInfoCurrentSlide) cannot be used directly to indicate slide progress due to the inserted dummy slides.

For the second workaround: if you want to apply this to multiple slides, it is possible to reuse the variable v_start which stores the first frame of each slide. If you use the shared action, the variable v_null is not defined as parameter. That means it will be automatically created when import or drag this action to the Library of a new project. As you probably know I am a big fan of shared actions. Maybe I will post some of my tricks to save time with shared actions. in a future post.





Easy Timeline Tweaks

Intro

Last week at the Adobe eLearning Conference in DC I presented two sessions about the Timeline. The first part 'Demystifying Captvate's Timeline' allowed me to explain the basics without having to rush as was the case in the Adobe Learning Summit at Las Vegas 2017 (watch the interactive version of that presentation in: Captivate's Timeline). The second part 'Mastering TImeline' had its focus on more advanced workflows, using micronavigation, advanced/shared actions and multistate objects. In the first part I didn't use any advanced nor shared action, just offered some small practical tips. For those who couldn't participate in the conference I will summarize those tips.In this article you'll find 3 tweaks.

Tip 1: Pausing all slides at the end

This request often appears in the forum, and is also useful when using Captivate for presentations  (as I usually do). The user has to take an action to continue to the next slide. Two possible situations: you are using a default playbar, or custom navigation. Both workflows are using a shape button on master slides. Shape buttons are the only interactive objects allowed on master slides. You can use them in non-responsive and responsive projects (both Fluid boxes and Breakpoint views).

With Default Playbar

  • Open the Master slide panel
  • Select the Main Master slide
  • Add a shape button, with Alpha = 0 for the Fill and width = 0 for the stroke to make it invisible to the user
  • Check the settings for that shape button in the Actions tab of its Properties panel, to look like this screenshot:

    No action is needed for this shape button, its unique use is to Pause the slide. Each shape button set up this way will pause slides using this master slide at the end of the slide, whatever its duration.
  • Check if the daughter master slides have the option 'Show Main Master Slide Objects' checked. With the included themes, that is the case for most master slides, with the exception of the Title and the Blank master slide.

With Custom Navigation

If you use master slides with an inserted Back and/or Next shape button for custom navigation, you can use that shape button with the same settings as described under the previous workflow. Those buttons will have a Fill and perhaps also a stroke, and they may not be on the main master slide but on other master slides. You just have to check that each master slide has at least one shape button to pause the slide.

Tip 2: Reset a slide

This tweak can be used in several situations:

  • to reset a knowledge check slide
  • to reset a Drag&Drop slide configured as knowledge check slide
  • to reset effects, including motion effects
  • .....

In the second presentation I explained an advanced workflow using micronavigation, but this workflow is easier, though it will increase the number of slides, which means that you cannot use the system variables cpInfoCurrentSlide and cpInfoSlideCount to show the progess of the slides. Try this out:

  1. Insert a short dummy slide before the slide that you want to reset. Give it a timing of 0,1sec (shortest possible).
  2. On the slide to reset, insert a (shape) button which you can style as you wish.
  3. The success action of that button should be: Go to Previous Slide'. When you click that button, the playhead moves to the previous slide which is so short that it is practically invisible. Since the content slide is re-entered it will automatically be reset for the situations mentioned above.

This workflow is also valid for all types of cptx-projects, responsive or not.

Tip 3: Avoiding frustration in Quiz

Quiz and score slides have a default pausing point at 1.5secs. That pausing point is visible on the Timeline, but is not present in the Timing Properties panel. Here is a short description of the 'role' of this pausing point:

  1. On Quiz slides it is linked with the two-step Submit process (and Submit button). In the first step the playhead remains paused while the learner sees the feedback messages. In the second step, the playhead is released. If you keep the default Success/Last Attempt actions set to Continue, the playhead has to visit all the frames in the inactive part of the quiz slide (part after the pausing point) before reaching the next slide. You could change those actions to 'Go to Next slide', but sometimes (depending on the setup for transmitting the score, bandwidth etc) this could lead to problems.

  2. On the Score slide the pausing point is linked with the Continue button. Contrary to the Submit pausing, the actions triggered by that button which you specify in the Quiz Preferences (If passing/failing grade) are only done when the playhead reaches the last frame of the score slide.

In both cases you can avoid frustrations by dragging the pausing point closer to the end of the slide timeline, but not completely till the end (leave a small inactive part). 

Moving the pausing point is even more required when you have slide audio on the question or score slide. In almost all cases, that slide audio will result in a longer slide duration than the default 3 seconds.  You have to know that it is not possible to pause slide audio on a quiz/score slide by a pausing point, as is possible on other slides when using an interactive object. You may not be aware of the pause at all, audio will just continue. Many users are confused by that.  If you leave the pausing point at 1,5secs, the learner will have to wait a frustrating long time when completing the Submit process (quiz slide) or leaving the score slide with the Continue button. Make sure to drag the pausing point in such a situation:

Tip 4: Forcing views

As a professor with a lot of experience in tutorials for adult learners, I really dislike this request that appears too often on the forums: how can we force a learner to 'view' all the content on a slide. Forcing viewing doesn't mean understanding, nor learning at all, can even have the opposite effect. But that is off topic.

You have to forget the default playbar in this situation. Each slide will need a Next button. The timeline of that button has to start after all content has appeared and all audio has been listened to. Timelne will look similar to this screenshot:

Such a setup will become very annoying if you allow the user to revist the slide: he will have to wait again until all audio has played and all content has appeared to be able to proceed. Is there a solution? Sure, but not without advanced/shared actions. Watch out for a next blog post, linked with the second part of the Timeline presentation. I will offer you a shared action that makes it very easy to avoid that boring situation on second and later visits. 



3 Audio Tricks

Intro

Last week I answered several questions about audio on the forums with pretty simple workflows Maybe you will like them? Contrary to what you are used to read in my blog, this is a short article, there is no example movie.

Trick 1: Audio when hovering over a (shape) button

Buttons and shape buttons have 4 InBuilt states: Normal, Rollover, Down and Visited (only available in CP2017).

Quite a while ago I explained what I mean by an 'Audio Object'. It is a shape or a highlight box, which you make invisible to the user by changing the stroke width to 0 and set the Alpha for the Fill to 0 as well, but attach audio to that object. If you want to learn more about them have a look at this post.

This screenshot illustrates the workflow. The audio (Cymbals) will only play when hovering over the button.

Trick 2: avoiding overlapping audio on quiz slide

A problem occurs on quiz slides with following setup:

  • Slide audio plays explaining the question
  • Object audio is attached to the Feedback messages

Problem is that when a learner submits the answer(s) before the slide audio ends, there will be overlapping of the slide audio with the audio of the message that pops up. It is not possible to control the appearance of the Submit button, since it is an embedded object, has no individual timeline. Submit button in all Captivate themes is of the type 'Transparent button'. This was my workaround, and the user confirmed it was working perfectly:

  • Create an image that is similar to the Submit button. That is perfectly possible with a shape: same fill, same stroke, same font, font size and font color as the quiz buttons.
  • Take out the label 'Submit' from the original Submit button, set the stroke width to 0, alpha for the Fill to 0 so that it becomes invisible. It will still be active.
  • Put the image in the same location as the invisible Submit button (use Align menu).
  • Change the start of the timeline of the image, so that it begins just at the end of the slide audio.
  • Move the pausing point of the quiz slide to be after the end of the slide audio. Only way to do that is by mouse dragging. That pausing point is not in the Timing panel.

Why is this working? Because the Submit button is an embedded object, it is always on top of added custom objects (the image). That means it is active! Only when the learner would click by accident on the 'invisible' active button, the problem will occur. But in most circumstances the learner will not be aware of that possibility and will wait patiently until the audio finishes and the 'Submit' indicator appears.

Trick 3: Audio in states

Just want to refresh your memory: it is possible to attach audio to states. When you change a state, the audio of the previous state is automatically stopped. A feature that you can use in many ways as I illustrated in these movies:

Automatic Lists

Drag&Drop Object Actions

You can even create a shape with states that are invisible but have all audio clips. Let your creative mind wander....


Poster Image - AutoPlay

For CP2019 users:  the last hack to get rid of the rectangle surrounding the play icon is no longer necessary. It is removed in this version.

Intro

This short blog post is meant to help solving an issue that pops up in the forums once in a while: "How to get rid of the white screen and Play button on mobile devices?". When publishing to HTML the AutoPlay is automatically disabled,  Reason is that some devices and OS (iOS) do not allow Autoplay. For SWF output you had the choice: it was possible to change the default setting which was to have a movie playing automatically after loading. I often disabled that option when embedding SWF's on my blog (look at older articles), especially when audio was involved because it is not very polite to have audio being pushed to the reader automatically. 

Consequence of the AutoPlay being disabled without your control as developer, is the appearance of a big white screen with a small play button right in the middle. The button looks like this (but originally one is smaller, 96x96), black arrow in black circle with transparent background:

Such a button will not always blend well in the design of your project.

Poster image

To get rid of the white screen, you need to create a "poster image"? That is a static image, preferably with the same resolution as your project. For a non-responsive project, published with Rescalable turned on, the poster image will fill up the screen. All embedded HTML movies in my blog were using this type. 

Mostly I duplicate a slide from the project to create such a poster image, Duplicate because it may need some editing, especially if you also want to have a better looking Play arrow. I will take a screenshot of that slide while it is playing to save as a PNG (or other image format) and then hide the slide to avoid it to be included in output. 

When the image is ready, set up the Preferences, Project, Start and End: turn off AutoPlay and indicate the poster image.

Play Arrow

My personal hack to have a play arrow that is fitting with the design of each project is this workflow:

  • I created a copy of the original image  C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Captivate 2017 x64\HTML\assets\htmlimages\PlayI_icon.png and edited to turn it into a full transparent image 
  • I renamed the original image and put the empty image in the same path.
  • On the poster image I created an arrow, mostly I use a triangular shape, rotated 90°, using colors from the project Theme Colors palette. You will have seen them in previous blog posts.
  • That Arrow has to be centered horizontally and vertically. 

Dimmed or not Dimmed?

The uploaded published HTML project will by default have a dimmed Poster image (Alpha = 70%). It was meant to have the original Play icon stand out from the background. But that black play icon is gone:

A helpful user on the forum posted the solution: Mark Sabrento  Thanks a lot, Mark (screenname sabre123). I tried it out and it works great. You find it in this  thread

Look for the file CPM.js, which you'll find in the published folder under \assets\js

Open his file in an editor (I use Brackets, but even simple Notepad is possible). Change 0.7 to 1 in this line to set the opacity(alpha)  to 100%

cp.autoplayImage.style.opacity=0.7

Update

An expert posted a solution  in a thread to get rid of the focus rectangle surrounding the play icon. Sorry, but I forgot to bookmark the thread, which means I cannot pay credit to that expert by name, but found it worthwhile to complete this blog post with that solution:
  • Find the file CPLibraryAll.css in the published folder under assetscss.
  • Add these lines before the existing script:
       *:focus {
       outline: 0;
       }
In that same file you could also change the width and height of the original Play icon which is set at 116x116px. 

Drag&Drop Actions

Intro

In the webinar which I presented on 2018/3/15 about Shared Actions, I showed several workflows with shared actions. If you want to have a look at the presentation used during the webinar, look at my previous blog post. You'll find a link to the published interactive movie

One of those examples, was a Drag&Drop slide where both advanced and shared actions were used as Object Actions. It can help you with the tough task to choose between the two types of actions. A similar example appears in the presentation, where only a shared actions was used. It had 7 drag sources and two drop targets:

Example movie

You can watch this movie to understand the goal of the D&D slide. It has 6 drag sources and only one drop target. You will be asked to drag only the correct new features in CP2017 to the drop target. Only when the answer is correct will you see the Next button. There is a Reset button for the D&D, which is not the default reset (because of the states used on the drop target) but uses an approach which I have explained already multiple times.


Setup D&D slide

Auto Submit Correct Answers is activated, and the Submit button has been dragged to the scratch area. The drop target accepts all drag sources, which will disappear behind the target but the count is limited to 3 (because there are 3 correct answers). Due to the Auto Submit which only will happen for the correct answer, the Next button will only appear when the answer is completely correct (Action 'On Success'). 

The drop target is a multistate object. I didn't add InBuilt states in this case but three custom states, using a gradient edited for each state with 'Edit Gradient'.

On the slide, not overlapping with any object, there is a multistate shape, labeled 'Comments',  acting as feedback container. The normal state is blank and you see the other states in this screenshot:

Advanced Action DD_CorrectAct

I imported the shared action used in the presentation to the project Library and used is as a template for this Advanced action DD_CorrectAct. I added the Play Audio command. First I tried to add the audio to the state 'Correct' of the multistate shape 'Comments', but that proved not to work in this case, probably due to the Drag&Drop limitations. After the duration of the audio clip (4secs) the shape reverts back to the Normal state, which is invisible to the user (Alpha and Stroke set to 0).

Sorry for the generic label on he drop target. You probably know from my previous blog posts that renaming an object used in a D&D interaction, will kill the set up. 

Since this action is used with exactly the same feedback text and same audio clip for 3 drag actions it is much better to use an advanced action in the situation. 

Shared Action DD_IncorrectAct

The previously described Advanced action DD_CorrectAct is used as source to create a shared action. Since there is no state change needed for the drop target, the fifth command can be deleted. Five parameters are needed (due to the fact that audio couldn't be embedded in states). Four of them are compulsory parameters, one candidate was turned into a parameter: the literal for the delay time. That delaty time has to be at least as long as the audio clip to be played.

You just need to apply the advanced action and the shared action to the proper object actions: 

Want more?

Goal of this simple example was to show when to use a shared action instead of an advanced action? It could have been done with 3 duplicate advanced actions, which is what I see most clients doing. Start to appreciate the advantages of shared actions over duplicate advanced actions:

  • Ease of transfer to other projects
  • Management in the Library
  • Possibiity to use as template

Give it a try. If you want to learn more, give me some feedback, please.






Webinar Shared Actions!

Update

Thanks to all who attended the webinar, mentioned below. As usual I created a presentation with Captivate (2017) for this webinar. This allowed me to convert it to an interactive movie, which I want to offer to all readers of my blog.  I hope you'll enjoy it and learn something about Shared Actions, which are so ignored by most Captivate users. 

As for a normal training I like to use the subject of the training in the presentation. As you can see in this screenshot of the Library many shared actions were used in the presentation:

Their usage can be found in the Advanced Interaction panel, with the exception of the shared action which was used on the Drag&Drop slide:

I plan to explain some of those shared actions in future blog posts. Another plan is to write a more elaborate workbook for Shared Actions, which can be used for exploring in-depth, but also as a 'cookbook' because it will have recipes. A typical use case for Shared actions are Custom question slides, which are not treated in this short presentation. If you think a workbook would be help you  please send me a note or post a comment.


Invitation

If you are interested in a live session about using Shared Actions, you can register for the webinar on March 15, at 4pm CET (8am PT).  You'll find the link to the registration form for  webinar 'Dare to Share: Power of Advanced Actions in Captivate'. at the end of this invitation.

The majority of my blog posts are dedicated to advanced and shared actions. Advanced actions is a feature of Captivate since version 4. It allows to extend Captivate's functionaltiy in many ways, without having to learn a programming language. With the point-and-click interface of the new enhanced Advanced Actions dialog box in CP2017, you can realize scripts that will be converted to JS on runtime for HTML output (if you still use SWF output, will be converted to AS3).

Shared actions were new in Captivate version 7. They are a more flexible alternative to Advanced actions, with focus on reuslability. Due to the presence of parameters, to be filled in on assigning a new instance of the shared action to an event, you can adapt the action to each new situation. In Captivate 8 variables and literals became possible parameters as well, thus increasing that usability. Shared actions have some other important advantages over Advanced actions: they will appear in the Library like any other asset. Using the External Libraries feature this makes exchanging shared actions between projects very easy. The Usage button is available for Shared actions.

Variables that are not defined as parameters will be automatically created in a new project when you import the shared action using it. That is a real timesaver.  Some parameters can have only one type (variables, literals, states, audio clips) but most of them can have different types:  they can be a group, an image, a video, whatever you need in that project.

Less known is the ability of using a shared action as a template for the creation of an advanced action. That can be a great time saver. Learn about this feature as well in the webinar


Poster

You're welcome to particapte in this webinar, Here is the registration link:

Dare to Share

Be sure: you’ll walk away with many creative ideas!  As a plus: you’ll be working in the brand new Advanced Actions dialog box of Captivate 2017.

Shared or Advanced actions?

Why?

Shared actions were a new feature in Captivate 7 and were improved in Captivate 8. Nevertheless I rarely see examples of shared actions, and there is also lot of misunderstanding.  Some users think they can only be reused in other projects. I did see experts claiming that they are totally useless, that it is much easier to duplicate advanced actions. I don't agree with that opinion, about 90% of all the project I have developed do include shared actions. They are especially useful for responsive projects as well. In a recent article you can find links to tutorials about shared actions.

 A problem that still remains is that you cannot edit an existing shared action, had hoped that would have been solved in 9 in a recent version but it didn't happen. The reason is probably that since they are not much used, this improvement doesn't get on the priority list. If you want to learn more about how to create shared actions and see some examples, have a look at this recent article in which I summarized several older posts. This post is a showcase, where I'll try to explain when to use a shared action, and when you cannot use them. The origin of this showcase is due to this question in the forums. The answer I gave there is working, but has a serious drawback, I will explain both this first simple answer, followed by a second version that will work in all situations. I hope you learn from that workflow: test out all possible situations, even though they seem to be improbable. As a trainer/coach never underestimate how trainees will explore courses.

Problem

User did look for a solution to apply to this use case:

  • Drag&Drop slide with two drag sources and two drop targets
  • Each drag target should accept only one drag source
  • Depending on the sequence of the dragged items, one out of two texts should appear.
  • Learner can switch the drag sources
  • Auto submit for the answer.
  • Slide needs a reset button

Example movie

Watch this embedded movie (rescalable HTML), where you'll see the two solutions after publishing. As an alternative you can also watch it directly using this link. You can test the problem with the first solution as well. Everything works fine if you switch only once, like first dragging the First text to the Top target, than drag the Second text to the Top target. However if you switch a third time, First text to the Top target, you'll see that the functionality is lost. This will not happen with the second solution.


Setup Drag&Drop slide

The setup is the same for both solutions. Drag sources are shapes and labeled SS_DragOne and SS_DragTwo. The shapes acting as drop targets are labeled SS_DropTop and SS_DropBottom. The feedback will appear in another shape SS_Feedback, which has 3 states: Normal, OneTop (first scenario with SS_DragOne in SS_DropTop) and TwoTop (second scenario (SS_DragTwo in SS_DropTop). 

Since Auto Submit is turned on in the Actions tab of the Drag&Drop panel, I dragged the Submit button out of the way to the scratch area. 

That means that both possible answers have to be defined as Correct answers. This can be done with the button 'Correct Answers' on the Options tab of the Drag&Drop panel.

Each drop target should accept only one drag source, but the learner can switch them if wanted, as long as no correct answer has been defined. For that reason editing the dialog box 'Accepted Resources' is necessary, because the default setup is that each Drop target accepts all drag sources. This dialog box can be opened from the Format tab of the Drag&Drop panel, when a drop target is selected. It has to be repeated for both targets. Rest of the setup like snapping behavior is not important for the rest of the workflow, do what you like.

First solution

This solution is using two variables: v_first and v_second. They are related to the first scenario (SS_DragOne in SS_DropTop and SS_DragTwo in SS_DropBottom) and the second reverse scenario. Default value of the variables is 0. 

I used the same shared action for all object actions, for both targets. It is pretty simple, conditional with one decision. It has three parameters:

  1. First parameter is the variable associated with the scenario, v_first or v_second. 
  2. The multistate feedback object is the second parameter
  3. The state to be shown, which fits the scenario is the third parameter.

This was the original idea:

  • When the first drag action occurs, it fits into either scenario 1 or scenario 2; the appropriate variable is set to 1.
  • If the drag source is replaced on that same target nothing happens.
  • When the second drop target is filled with the other drag source, it has to be in the same scenario. Checking if that associated variable has a value=1, means that both targets are filled, and the feedback is shown, depending on the scenario variable.

What is the problem with this action? It works fine until the user changes the object twice on the first target: in that case the feedback will be shown to early. That was the reason for the second solution which does avoid this problem.

Second solution

Besides the two scenario variables, a third variable to track the number of drag actions was created: v_counter. It started also with a default value of 0. The shared action now has 3 decisions as you can see in this Preview:

The first decision 'Always' is a mimicked standard action. The increment command for both v_counter and the associated scenario variable (v_first or v_second, depending on the object action) will always be done.

The second decision 'Complete' checks if both targets are filled, which is the case when both v_counter and the associated scenario variable have the value = 2. In that case the correct feedback is shown (similar to first solution).

The third decision 'Incomplete' is the one that solves the problem with solution 2. If there has been 2 drag actions (v_counter is equal to 2) but the associated variable for the active object action is still set to 1, that means that the user has switched the drag sources on one target two times. In that case the variable for the other scenario (which probably has already a variable different from 0) is reset to 0. 

It is not necessary to define v_counter as parameter, since it will be used as counter whatever the scenario. This action needs 4 parameters, because both v_first and v_second are used in the action; whereas in solution 1 only one of them was used..

Reset 

This is not the default Reset from Drag&Drop, because it will not reset the variables nor the state of the feedback container. I used the usual workaround (micronavigation as explained in 'Replay Slide' is not possible yet due to a HTML5 bug in CPwhere the On Enter action is not executed) to reset the variables and that feedback container. Two dummy slides with a duration of 0,1sec are inserted: one before each D&D slide. The reset button triggers the command 'Go to Previous Slide', thus forcing the playhead to re-enter the D&D slide.

The On Enter action 'EnterDD' is also a shared action and looks like this:

I used that action for both D&D slides, even though v_counter is not used in the the first solution. 

I hear you! Why a shared action, you only need it twice, and the only edit to make to a duplicate advanced action is the label of the feedback container. If you were one of my college students, you would know that 'Weymeis never acts without a reason....'. I will try to explain why I preferred a shared action with two parameters, instead of two advanced actions.

When you import this shared action in a new project by dragging it to the Library from this project opened as External Library (see Libraries) the variables v_counter, v_first and v_second are created automatically in that new project, with their definition and default value. That is a time saver, something to take into consideration when creating shared actions. This happens only for variables that are not defined as parameters.

Offer

Do you want to try out those actions? Send me a mail (info@lilybiri.com) and tell me if you use shared actions, or will use them in the future?  As a 2018 offerI will send you a project that you can use as external library with the two shared actions (EnterDD and DragSequence) described in this blog post, and instructions how to use them.