Captivate's Timelines (master slide/normal slide cptx) demystified


After this introductory post, and the post about the typical Video Demo timeline this article will explain the specific features of the timelines in a cptx project: both for master slides and normal slides. The common features for cpvc- and cptx projects were explained in the introduction, if you missed it please take a look at that blog post.

Timelines CPTX project

Timeline panel in a cptx project is shared by Master slides and Normal slides (Filmstrip), depending on which panel is active at that moment. There are differences in look and features between Master slide timelines and Slide timelines. 

Contrary to the Timeline in a cpvc project, each  'track' in a cptx project can have only one item:the (master) slide has its timeline, audio has a separate timeline stacked under the slide timeline, each object, whether static of interactive has its own timeline. Result is that the Eye/Lock buttons will affect only one object, that each track can have the name of the object on that track.

The vertical arrangement of the timelines, also called the 'stacking order', is important when you have overlapping objects. Be careful with covering interactive objects by static objects: depending on the output, the interactive objects will remain active even though they are not visible. 

    Master slide Timeline 

    The timing of a master slide has no real meaning, master slides nor objects on master slides have any timing. The Timing Properties panel is not available neither. The timeline will show the default duration (normally 3 secs), which is necessary to show and edit the stacking order (vertical positioning of the object timelines). Here is a screenshot of the timeline of a Master slide:

    Objects on master slides never have an ID, which explains why you seen only icons in the first column to identify the object  type. That type is also visible inside the object timeline itself. The icons for Placeholders usually are included in square brackets [], to differentiate them from normal objects (no brackets). There are some exceptions (look at the Rollover Caption/Image in the screenshot).

    The only interactive object allowed on master slides,  is a shape button (shape used as button). If Pause Project  is checked in the Actions tab, the pause will be visible at the end of the timeline. This is the case for the uppermost object in the screenshot: look at the Pause symbol, the pause itself is at the location of the end of that timeline. This shape button is an object, the shape two tracks below is a placeholder (brackets). 

    The tiny icons between the control panel (with play button etc) and the zoom slider do not have any value because Time has no meaning for a master slide.

    Slide Timeline

    If you create a slide, based on a master slide, not all objects inserted on the master slide will be visible in the Timeline; have a look at this screenshot:

    • Placeholder objects (beige timeline) will appear in the timeline panel (I renamed them); if you don't use them (example: you don't add text, content, image), they will not appear in output. The icons are in square brackets.
    • Content placeholder (blue timeline) acts the same way.
    • Rollover caption/image (green) if inserted as Placeholders, will appear but they'll move to the bottom of the stack as you can see on the screenshot which shows a slide based on the Master slide shown above.
    • Static objects on the master slide, will be visible on the stage, but not in the timeline. They will be visible in output, with their formatting on the master slide (there is no such object in this case)
    • Shape buttons on the master slide will be visible on the stage, but not in the timeline. They will be visible and keep their interactivity in output. In the screenshot you see that the topmost object, the shape button on the master slide, is missing in the Slide timeline.

    The stacking order of the objects on the timeline can be changed by dragging the timeline or by using the Arrange option under the Right-click menu. Objects can be staggered on the timeline to appear at in sequence or overlapping partially. Contrary to the typical video timeline for a CPVC-project, all objects will be visible on the stage, independent of the time they'll appear. For people used to avideo work flow this can seem confusing, but it is very helpful for arranging objects on the stage. You can always check the sequence of appearance by Playing the slide (which is not a Preview). You'll see the playhead moving, and can stop it with the space bar or the Pause button to edit/synchronize (see also Shortcut keys later on).

    The specific indicators that can appear in the timelines for a cptx project on normal slides are:

    • Audio icon : if you attach audio to an object, a similar audio icon as you had for video clips with audio in a cpvc-track,  will appear in the timeline

    • Pause indicator: consists of two parts, the pause symbol (double vertical lines) and the exact location of the pause (thin vertical line) to the right of the symbol. You'll see this indicator in
      • Question slide timeline: mostly at 1.5secs for a default slide duration of 3 secs - pause is linked to the Submit button
      • Score slide timeline: identical setup as for question slides - pause is linked to the Continue button
      • Interactive object timeline:  if you insert a pausing Click box, the pause will be at the end of its timeline; for buttons, shape buttons, Text Entry Boxes, the pausing time is by default 1.5secs after the start of the timeline, it can be changed by dragging the thin vertical Pausing line or with the Timing Properties panel. That same panel can be used if to uncheck the pause.

        Other timeline pauses that are NOT visible on the timeline, only to be found in the Timing Properties panel:
      • A pausing shape button on the master slide. The pause is at the end of each slide timeline, but not visible on any slide timeline
      • Drag&Drop slide is by default pausing at 1,5secs (under Actions tab in D&D panel), but that pause is not visible on the timeline (linked to the Submit button, playhead will be released by either the Success or the Failure action)
      • Interactive widgets/interactions: do have a pause at 1 sec (check the Timing Properties panel). Beware: most widgets/interactions are static, not interactive. Examples of interactive widgets are the games. For a complete overview of interactions, have a look at two older articles on my blog: Learning Interactions  and  Widgets
    • Group  indicators: if you group objects, you can collapse the group with the collapse button and expand with the expand button.
      Tip: never group objects having effects, because the effects will be deleted without warning. You can apply an effect to a group.       

    • Effects: if you apply effects to an object the indicator 'fx' will appear on that timeline (and on the stage).  You get the same expand/collapse buttons as for groups. 

    • (Sticky) triangle: red triangle at the end of an object timeline means that this timeline is linked to the end of the slide; if you increase/decrease the slide duration the object timeline will move to keep the end glued to the end of the slide, without changing the duration of the object timeline.
      Do not confuse with an object timeline that is set to Display for the rest of the slide (CTRL-E): such an object timeline will have a fixed start point, its duration will change when the slide duration is changed. It has no special indicator.

    • Double arrows at the end of an object timeline: this object is set to Display for the rest of the project. You'll see its timeline only on this first slide, on following slides the object will be visible on the stage but not in the Timeline panel.

    • A Zoom object has a very thin vertical line in its timeline: this indicated the end of the zoom movement.

    • FMR (Full Motion Recording, created in a software simulation for mouse movementsslides: red line in the center of the slide timeline
    • CPVC slides: identical look to the FMR slide, but editing functionality in the Properties panel is different (will open the Video editor)


    You can see the slide timeline as one video clip in your course 'movie'. Whether the user will be aware of a transition between those slides depends on your setup. The playhead will continue seamlessly from the last frame of a slide to the first frame of the next slide (which is another video clip) if these conditions are fulfilled:

    1. No slide transition between slides
    2. Keep the default actions On Enter for the second slide, and On Exit for the first slide (No action)
    3. No pausing on the slide (look above for presence of pauses)

    Captivate could have put all those 'clips' on one long timeline, but believe me, it is much easier to manage and edit objects on the shorter slide timelines and the learner will never know this.

    The default duration of a slide is set to 3 seconds. There are (only) two possible valid reasons to increase that duration:

    1. If you add a Voice Over audio clip to the slide (slide audio).  The slide duration will have to match or be superior (allowing small gaps before and after audio) to the duration of the audio clip.

    2. If you want objects to appear in a certain sequence, staggered on the timeline, even if you don't have slide audio.

    What is NOT a valid reason to increase the slide duration: to give the user time to see/read everything, or in case of object audio to listen to everything. Captivate is meant to create interactive courses! Give your learner control, by pausing the slide. In that case he can take as much time as he wants to listen, watch the slide. This subject (about adding pauses) is so important that I'll treat it more in detail in a later post.

    In that case, give the user control over the movie, by adding Pause(s) to the timeline.