In my previous blog post about my preferred new features in Captivate 2017 I mentioned that the dialog box for Advanced Actions got a nice new layout. It is like new shoes, sometimes it takes time before they feel as comfortable as those old sneakers :). The focus of this article is on clarifying that new dialog box. Maybe you'll discover some unknown gems here as well? I recommend to download the example published file, or watch it (as SWF output) in that article if you are using a Flash enabled browser on a desktop or laptop.
Structure - sections
The dialog box still has a fixed size (I wished it could be resized) and in this screenshot I indicate three sections, which I will explain more in detail below:
Section 1: with the Global control panel to the right, two dropdown lists and the Action name field. That field has to be filled in for an advanced action, but not when your goal is to create a shared action (see Dare To Share).
Section 2: has the control panel and navigation possibilities for the Decisions. Decision is the name used in the official Help documentation for those parts of the action that have the generic names 'Untitled_1'...(and function as buttons to navigate to a decision). When opening the dialog box a default number of 3 decisions will be present. You'll see in the screenshots that I am used to rename those decisions, certainly for an action with multiple decisions.
- Section 3: shows the type of decision, has the control panel for the Commands or actions. I prefer the word commands to avoid confusion.
Nothing has changed at the bottom of the dialog box, with the buttons Usage (for the active Advanced action; for Shared actions you'll find the Usage button in the Library), Variables (which allows you to open the Variables dialog box if you want to create more user variables or check the available variables, you cannot delete variables when entering the dialog box from this button), Save as Shared Action... (will open the Shared Actions dialog box), Save or Update Action and the Close button.
Section 1: Global
On the first row you'll have:
Create from: followed by a dropdown list. I call this the actions template list. It will have the default template 'Blank' on top, but also the name of all shared actions in the project. One of the possibilities of shared actions is to use them as a template for a normal advanced action. The list is not alphabetically ordered. You can type the first character to navigate to a template starting with that character.
Control panel with 6 buttons
Preview button: this button is still unknown by many users, and has become even more useful than before. In previous versions you could only see a conditional action in this Preview, but since the former standard actions are now embedded in the same interface, you can also preview standard actions. Here is a screenshot of such a simple standard action. Watch the indicator 'Execute Actions' which means that this is a standard action.
The biggest advantage of the Preview window is for advanced actions with a lot of decisions, because you'll get an overview of all decisions. However: the operators for conditions (like 'is equal to ') are translated in the JS and AS equivalents (== means 'equal to', && means 'AND"). Parts of the decisions are collapsed in this example (triangle buttons):
Create New Action is the + button. It is no longer necessary to choose first of all the type of action, which was the case in previous versions.
Import Shared Action: works only for shared actions (doesn't appear in the tooltip). That same button is to be found in the Library. Personally I always prefer to import (and export) shared actions from the Library.
Export Shared Action: works only for shared actions (doesn't appear in the tooltip), same button as in the Library.
Delete Action will delete the active action
Duplicate action: can be very useful. In some instances duplicate advanced actions are to be preferred to shared actions (maybe a future blog post).
On the second row in section 1 you see;
Action name: compulsory for advanced actions. Be careful with names (sorry for the repetition), do not use names that are used for other items.
Existing Actions: has a dropdown list, ordered alphabetically. You can type the first character to navigate to an action starting with that character.
Section 2: Decisions
This section has these items, starting at the top left:
- Control panel with 3 buttons (which now are not as tiny as they used to be in former versions):
Add decision (+ button): the decision will be added after the active decision (its name is bold and blue, non-active decisions have their name in regular black font).
Delete decision: active decision will be deleted
Duplicate decision: very useful. Look above at the second Preview example where decisions 4 and 5 are very similar to decision 3 and have been created with this button.
Previous/Next buttons: will navigate and make that previous or next decision active. These button have also 'grown up' :)
- The last group at the right is also a navigation panel, but will mostly be dimmed, unless you have more decisions that can fit in the fixed width of the dialog box as you can see in this global screenshot:
Those buttons allow to navigate, but will not select the decision you are navigating to, the present decision will remain active. First button scrolls to the first decision, second/third to the previous/next decision without making them active, last button scrolls to the last decision. Personally I suspect that I will not use those buttons often because you have another way:
- Dropdown list with names of all the decisions is to be found under the triangle button at the end of the line with the decision buttons (which you can of course also use to navigate to a button). Of course, I am a labeling freak as you can see in the screenshot. When you select a decision from this list you'll navigate to that decision and it becomes active. Beware: the width of the dropdown list is limited, use short names or at least have significant characters at the beginning of the name. The list is ordered in the sequence of the decisions, you can use a first character to switch to a decision name starting with that character. More reason to label: if you leave all names at Untitled, you'll not get any help from 'U
Section 3: Commands
Select a decision by clicking on its button (Untitled_x as generic name or with a custom name). It is possible for each decision to choose its type: Standard, Conditional IF, Conditional While (loop). Look below for the differences. In this section you'll see several instances of the same control panel with a sequence of 8 buttons, some having a shortcut key (I use a Win system):
- Add (CTRL-N) will add an extra line after the last line of that part
- Remove (Delete): deletes the selected line(s)
- Copy (CTRL-C) will copy the selected line(s).
- Cut (CTRL-X) the selected line(s)
- Paste (CTRL-V) copied or cut lines: will work in between actions as well, as long as it is in the same part (depends on the type of decision)
- Insert (CTRL-I) will insert an extra line before the selected line
- Move Up: the selected line(s), can be useful because of the importance of sequence of commands.
- Move Down: the selected line(s), can be useful because of the importance of sequence of commands.
Type 1: Standard
If you leave the check box before 'Conditional action' unchecked, you are ready to create a sequence of commands, formerly named a 'standard advanced action'. This screenshot shows such an action and before (under Control panel of the Global section 1 I showed a Preview of such an action):
This type has only one control panel, since there is only one part in this type: the list of commands that have to be done in the chosen sequence. As told before, you can select a number of commands and paste them to the clipboard. They can be used within the same advanced action, in other decisions of any type, but only in the so-called 'Actions' part. However you can paste the copied lines also to another advanced action, with the same restriction.
Type 2: Conditional IF
To create a decision of this type, you have to check the check box before 'Conditional action', and choose the option 'IF' in the dropdown list as is visible on this screenshot:
This screenshot shows two parts of the complete decision, to see the last part 'ELSE' you have to click on the ELSE button at the bottom of the Actions part in the first screenshot:
The three parts of this action: Condition, THEN (is not mentioned like that, second part under the Condition, ELSE have a control panel as described before. You can always copy/paste between the Actions part (THEN and ELSE), but the Condition part is 'standalone'.
The first screenshot also shows the dropdown list, because you can define different conditions with AND (all conditions have to be fulfilled), OR or a combination of both (be careful with the last option).
Type 3: Conditional While (loop)
To create a decision of this type, you have to check the check box before 'Conditional action', and choose the option 'While' in the dropdown list as is visible on this screenshot:
For the Conditions the situation is identical to Type 3 (AND, OR, Custom). This type has only two parts however: the Condition and the list of commands that have to be repeated as long as the condition part results in True. Two parts means two control panels, not interchangeable. But you can copy/paste from another decision or action, as long as you remain in the same part (condition or Actions).
I hope this bit boring overview was useful for you. Promised: next blog posts will be practical, still busy with examples concerning Pausing the Timeline (focus on audio). Explanation of usage of the new While loop, with some examples is on the way as well. Not to forget: the very useful integration of Go to Next/Previous State in advanced actions: you'll get a tutorial for a user controlled or non-controlled presentation as well.
TIP: for complicated actions with many decisions of all types, I add an extra character to the name: '..._S' for a standard decision, '...._C' for a conditional IF decision, and '...._W' for a conditional while loop. Easier to identify.
If you have questions, issues with the Advanced actions of any kind, please fire away!