Fluid Boxes Or Breakpoint Views?

Intro

Captivate 2017 added a new workflow to develop a responsive project: Fluid Boxes. It doesn't mean that the existing workflows to make projects accessible with all devices are no longer important. In this post I will try to explain my way of choosing a workflow for such a project. It is possible that not everyone will agree with my point of view and I would welcome all discussions. At the same time I believe that the current work flow for those Fluid Boxes will be optimized in the future by the team as well, which will probably lead to editing this text. It is valid today, November 2017, about half a year after the launch of the Fluid Boxes method. More than ever, this post is valid today, November 2017 and will certainly change in the future.

Overview Workflows 

If you want to publish a project to be watched on any device, you have to forget about SWF output! Only HTML5 output can be used. presently Captivate offers 3 workflows:
  1. Scalable Projects: you can publish a blank (normal) project to HTML5 with the option 'Scalable HTML Content' activated. 
    This will not result in a real 'responsive' project, because the layout will be the same on all screens. Another word sometimes used for this type of project is 'adaptive'.
    Advantage of this workflow is that the development time will not increase compared with a project that is meant only for desktop/laptop. It can be a good choice for courses that will rarely be viewed on smartphones, and you don't mind to have only landscape mode. I just wanted to mention this easy workflow, but the rest of this post has its focus on the two other workflows.

  2. Responsive Project with Fluid Boxes which is the work flow introduced with CP2017. I see the result as a solution between the Scalable HTML projects (same layout on all screens) and a  esponsive project developed with Breakpoint views. Such a full responsive project can  have different layouts for diferent screen sizes corresponding with the Breakpoints. When using Fluid boxes the layout will be rearranged by the application depending on the screen size and the settings.  Some items can be left out for small screens but you will not have full control over the design for each size. Moreover there are some limitations which I will explain later on (with possible workarounds and tips). Developing time for this type of project will be in between time needed for scalable project and for a  Breakpoint Views project. Fluid boxes have a great way to make font size changing in a 'fluid' way.

  3. Responsive Project with Breakpoint Views is available since version 8. It is no longer the default approachn when starting a responsive project.  You have to switch to this workflow from the Project menu.
    This workflow allows fully responsive projects: you have control over the design for a maximum of 5 resolutions. You can not only leave out items, but also replace them by other items, like replacing an animation or video by a static image or even an icon to cope with smaller screens. Control over the design means control over size and position of each item in each breakpoint. However developing time for such a fully responsive project will be much larger.

Example Movies

I published two responsive projects, one developed with Fluid Boxes and another with Breakpoint views. They have the same content, but show limitations and workarounds for the Fluid Boxes, compared with the Breakpoint views development.
Both projects have 4 slides:
  • Titlee: not all  images which in the Breakpoint example could be used on the Fluid Boxes version because you cannot stack items. I could have combined the images in a graphical application to have one image for Fluid Boxes, but the different effects and timing didn't have a workaround.
    The images used for the mobile screen (Breakpoint) are different and smaller than for the other breakpoints. Not so for the Fluid Boxes example.

  • Buddies: similar: the ruler cannot be used for Fluid Boxes, at least not when stacked with other images. 

  • Content: different items can be clicked to show more information. For the Breakpoint version that information is stacked and Hide/Show is used. Text and images are combined in a group. For the Fluid Boxes I used the workaround by creating one object with different states. Grouping is not possible here.

  • Comparison: maybe less apparent, but I used an effect on a group (image + shape with text) for the Breakpoint view version, since grouping is not possible for Fluid Boxes I had to use separate effect on the items. 
Responsive projects cannot be embedded, use these links with any device please:

Breakpoint Views

Comparing setup Theme Breakpoints vs Fluid Boxes

As described in this article, setting up a theme means the creation of a Theme Colors palette, Object Styles, Master Slides, Skin and eventually Recording defaults. The main differences between Breakpoint Views and Fluid Boxes are in the Object Styles for Text containers and in the Master slides:

Object Styles

Design of Breakpoint Views for text, when decreasing the width of the screen, will keep the font size fixed until the width of the next Breakpoint is reached. That means that for any text container, caption or shape, and for button labels, you need to define a font size for each used Breakpoint. That can be a tedious process, because you have to test it out for all possible screen resolutions. A lot of text styles are needed, both for Standard and for Quizzing Objects.  To improve the readability I will often also increase the leading (distance between lines) since it is set to 1 (term used in Captivate for leading is Spacing).

For Fluid Boxes this is not necessary, because font size will adapt to screen size in a 'fluid' way when changing the screen width. It is limited by the 'minimum size', which is set at 14pt, which is IMO too high. In previous versions the minimum font size was 10pt which still leads to readable text on smartphones.

Master Slides

Since I am working in the Expert UI, I created two separate workspaces for Fluid Boxes and for Breakpoint Views because the work flow is quite different especially when editing master slides. In both workspaces I have Master slides and Filmstrip visible at the same time, which means they have to be in two different docking stations. For both workflows I will have Rulers active on the stage to be able t use guides for a consistent design.

Breakpoint views: the most important panel here is the Position Properties panel. In combination with Rulers/Guides you can size and position all items on the master slides, including the placeholders. For Breakpoint workflow all master slides can be used, including the main master slide. Main master slide is a great tool for items that are common to most slides, including daughter master slides.  The object styles defined in the previous step will be used automatically provided you defined them as default styles! If you plan to use quizzes, do not overlook checking the default quizzing master slides. Labels to be used on quizzing master slides  have to be defined in the Quiz Preferences.

Fluid Boxes do not need the Position Properties panel, except for Static Fluid Boxes. Fluid Boxes are defined with the Properties panel. You cannot use the main master slide for Fluid Boxes, because all default themes with the exception of the Blank theme, have fluid boxes set up.  Even when editing the Blank theme the option Fluid Boxes is unaviailable for the Main master slide. In two previous posts I described the work flow for quizzing master slides and content master slides. Do not forget to have a look at the post about Fluid Boxes and Guides, because those Guides are indispensable to set up a consistent design spanning all master slides.

Limitations and workarounds - Fluid boxes

Do not use objects on the main master slide. Most other limitations are due to the fact that fluid boxes have to be "twodimensional", which means that you cannot have objects overlapping or stacked in the same location, even if they don't appear at the same time in the timeline. Here are some of the the results of that 2D paradigm and possible workarounds::
  • Grouping of objects is impossible
    That is not only disappointing for management of crowded timelines, but it also means that group effects are impossible. THse group effects can be very useful, look at this article.
    A widespread workflow consists in having different texts, grouped and  stacked in the same location. Based on a click to show one out of the group can be done with a shared action with two commands: first hides the group, second  shows one text. That work flow is impossible in fluid boxes. You'll have to create duplicate advanced actions with a lot more commands.
    Lightboxes are also impossible with fluid boxes. 
    In many cases a workaround is possible by using one multistate object instead of the group. In the movies for which I posted the links, that approach has been used on slides 3 and 4. Compare both movies. A multistate object can also be an alternative for objects appearing staggered on the timeline, but in the same location. Using an On Enter action with the command Delay Next actions can be a workaround (see Autolists).

  • It is not possible to have an object timed for the rest of the project
    This is often used as alternative for objects like toggle shape buttons or a logo on the master slide. Since such a object has a unique ID, it can be controlled, hidden on some slides and shown on other slides. Controlling objects on master slides is not possible because they do not have an ID. You'll need perhaps more master slides when working with Fluid Boxes as workaround.

  • Some types of objects cannot be used: Zoom object, mouse object, highlight box, click box over another object and line object.
    Many users still stick to the the old work flow of putting click boxes over images to create a hotspot. Workaround is to  use a shape filled with the image, a workflow that is available since many years but apparently not well-known.
    For a highlight box: use a shape as well with multistates, one having a thick border and eventually a semi-transparent fill. No workaround however for the outer fill which exists only for a normal highlight box.
    The Line shape is a rebel, often causes issues (only shape that cannot be rotated in Options). You can replace it by a rectangle with a minimum width of 4 px which is the minimum.
If you really need to use a zoom object, mouse object or stacking items in the same location: use a static fluid box. That is the case for the default fluid box where feedback messages are stacked on the Quizzing Master slides. You have to be aware that static fluid boxes will just keep the width/height ratio, but are not really 'fluid'.

Conclusion

Do not misunderstand my post, because it sometimes looks like I don't like Fluid Boxes workflow. It is a great way to create responsive projects in much less time than with Breakpoint views, but you need to be aware of what is possible. I am confident  that some of the present limitations will disappear in future releases. Use your design skills and knowledge to judge if a project is suitable to be developed with Fluid Boxes or if you need Breakpoint Views workflow. 

If you like Fluid Boxes, do not hesitate to enter feature requests for those present limitations that bother you most of all. It will be a big help for the Adobe Captivate team.

Guides and Fluid Boxes: Best Buddies!

Intro

If you do follow me since a while, you are aware of the fact that I am a big fan of the Rulers and Guides which appeared with version 9.0.1. They have a lot in common with the same feature in other Adobe applications (Illustrator, Photoshop to mention two). Shortly after the release I wrote an article about possible use cases in normal (blank projects): Guides Rule!

Using Fluid Boxes as alternative for Breakpoint views is an added feature with CP2017, about which you'll find a lot of articles, webinars and videos.  I am always stumped because none of them ever shows the use of Rulers nor Guides. This article will try to convince you that Guides are even more important for Fluid Boxes design than for normal projects.

Fluid Boxes and Themes

There are some limitations when using Fluid Boxes. Some objects cannot be used: zoom object, highlight box, click box (if placed over another object), line shape and some possibilities for multistates. You cannot use groups neither. Most of those limitations are linked with the 2-dimensionality of Fluid Boxes. Static Fluid boxes are a workaround, but you'll lose a lot of 'fluiditiy4. I will talk about my personal workarounds for those limitations in a later post.

Less known are the limitations for Themes. I start every project, even a small one, by customizing an existing theme or creating a theme (based on the Blank theme). Such a custom theme will save a lot of time later on, if small design changes have to be done. THe components of a Theme are described in more details here.

Object Styles

Fluid Boxes workflow will save you time when setting up object styles for Text containers: captions and shapes. You don't need to set up the font size for different screen resolutions, as is necessary for Breakpoint views. Text will rescale automatically when the screen resolution changes. Maybe you'll have to decrease the minimum font size which is set to 14p (for Breakpoint Views it used to be 10p, still readable on smartphones). 

Master Slides

All the included themes in Captivate have Fluid Boxes on the master slides (the 'virgin' Blank theme has them only on the quiz/score masters) . Two exceptions: you  will not find Fluid Boxes on the main master slide, nor on the Blank master slide. You'll see a lot of informational stuff where every presenter starts always with a slide based on the Blank master slide because it is also 'virgin'. Be careful when editing the Blank master slide, because it is needed for PPT-import and software simulation slides, edit only a duplicate).

I found it clarifying to explore the Fluid Boxes on the master slides of the included themes. Result of that exploration were two blog posts :

  • Fluid Quiz Slides: describes the setup of Fluid Boxes for the Quiz slides; interesting is the use of the static Fluid Box for feedback messages. The Blank theme has the same setup as the other themes.
  • Fluid Boxes and Master Slides: explores the content master slides in the themes, and how to use them. 

During the research for this post I discovered that it is not possible to insert Fluid Boxes on the Main Master Slide. I am used to have some information on that Main Master slide, which I want to show on all slides. Here is an example of the bottom part of the Main Master slide:

That is not possible within a Fluid Box. I tried to set up the Position Properties (which are available) but often weird positioning showed up when published. It is not possible to have different font sizes: either you let everything rescale proportionally and get very small text on phones, or you have to keep the size in px which will maintain the objects and font size fixed. Not really a workable solution.

Alternative for objects which you want on all slides, is to put them on the first slide and time for the Rest of the Project. However you cannot time objects for the rest of the project when using Fluid Boxes, not a workaround in this case.

My solution: insert the objects on each master slide you'll need in the project in Fluid Boxes. That is where Guides are indispensable to me.

Fluid Boxes and Guides

Turn on the Rulers under the View menu and you'll see that they are in percentage, not in pixels as for normal projects? 

For all to be used master slides, I want a setup, with a Fluid Box at the bottom to accomodate the text and button(s) as shown above. That FB should have a height of 10%. That FB will be divided in two: 70% width to the left (text), 30% to the right (buttons). To achieve that, create two Guides

  1. Horizontal Guide at 10% from the bottom by double-clicking on the 90% mark of the vertical ruler
  2. Vertical Guide at 70% by double-clicking on the 70% mark of the horizotal ruler
  3. Lock the Guides (View, Lock Guides)
  4. Turn on "Snap to Guide" in View menu

The guides will be visible as well in Master Slide as in Filmstrip view. You can change guide color in the Preferences, Be sure to change the Guide% color.

Switch to the Master slide panel. You'll get the step-by-step work flow to add a 10% Fluid Box at the bottom of two master slides (Title and Custom master slide), and have two child fluid boxes in that first FB.

Edit Title Master Slide

All included themes (also the OldPaper theme I use in this example) have one Fluid Box on the Title master slide, filled with one Title Placeholder. It is not possible to add a Fluid Box, the button Fluid Box on the Big Button Bar is dimmed. To solve this and be able to recover the placeholder:

  1. select the placeholder
  2. check the option 'Unlock from Fluid Box' on its Properties panel
  3. drag the placeholder off the stage in the scratch area
  4. uncheck the option 'Unlock from Fluid Box', later on we'll drag it back on the master slide

Select the parent fluid box (drag a rectangle half off the stage). You can now insert two vertical Fluid boxes. You will have to change the setup of the Parent Fluid box. The wrap option 'Squeeze in a column' is fine as are the alignments, but in order to use all available space you need to activate the options Stretch to fit, both Horizontally and Vertically.

Use the horizontal guide to change the height of the bottom Fluid box. This Fluid box needs these settings:

  • Flow: Horizontal
  • Wrap: Squeeze in a Row (to have text and buttons alwas next to each other), 
  • Horizontal: Space Around (eventually define some padding) and Stretch to fit
  • Vertical: Middle Align and Stretch to fit

The top fluid box: I choose vertical Flow, kept all the other default settings.

You can now insert two horizontal Fluid Boxes and change their width using the vertical guide, Flow horizontal for both.

The left Fluid box needs to have Left Align horizontally and the right one Right Align. I choose a horizontal padding for both and a vertical for the right Fluid Box. You can now insert the text (doesn't have to maintain the aspect ratio) and the Next Shape button.

I dragged the Title Placeholder back on the slide and created this Title slide from the edite Title slide:

Custom Master Slide

If none of the content master slides fits your purpose, you can start from a duplicate of the Blank Master slide. Insert two vertical Fluid Boxes. Although that master slide doesn't have a starting Parent Fluid box, it will be automatically created when you insert fluid boxes. The work flow to set up the bottom fluid boxes is pretty much the same as for the main master slide. You can now add a Back button as well. If you want more fluid boxes, go ahead. Here is a example of a custom master slide, which you could try to reproduce: And get a (Belgian) beer after success.

Conclusion

Now it should be clear why I love the Rulers and Guides for designing any project, but especially when using Fluid Boxes workflow. The Guides which you set up are saved with the project, you can hide them from the View menu and they'll always be ready to help you out when necessary :)




Fluid Boxes and Master slides

Intro


A while ago I published a post explaining the setup of the Quizzing Master slides, compulsory parts of each theme, even the almost empty Blank theme. In this article I will try to explain my experiences using Fluid Boxes on Content Master slides. Most themes shipped with Captivate have several content master slides (exception = Blank theme). Let us first start with the master slides that are not behaving like the content or quiz master slides

Main master slide, Blank and Title master slides

Main Master slide

It is not possible to insert Fluid boxes on the main master slide: the button seems active but both options (Vertical and Horizontal) are dimmed. Objects placed on that Main master slide, and inherited by the daughter master slides, are to be set up using the Position Properties panel. Example: the text container with my name and copyright in the example movie.
However after some more testing on iOS devices, the Position properties set up for those objects are not correctly displayed in portrait mode. 
TIP: at this moment avoid putting objects on the Main master slide, since they don't display at the correct location on some mobile devices.

As you probably know, it is not possible to have shape buttons timed for the rest of the project when you use Fluid boxes. You could put a shape button on the main or one of the other master slides but you cannot control it because it has no ID. In the example movie I preferred to have a Next button on the individual slides, because ton most slides it is hidden until the learner has visited everything. However a toggle shape button for Audio, for CC, for the TOC could be on the Main Master slide. They will not behave like objects in a Fluid box however, but act as defined on the Position Properties panel for size and location.

Blank Master slide 

This master slide has no Fluid boxes by default but you could add them. As I have explained in previous articles, you should prefer to duplicate the master slide for editing, don't edit the original slide because it is used for Powerpoint import and for software simulations.

Title Master slide

That master slide has one Fluid box (parent fluid box) but no child fluid boxes. It is set up as 'Squeeze in a Column', and vertically and horizontally centered. Because the title placeholder is inserted directly in that parent fluid box, you are not able to insert child fluid boxes.  Because each new project, using the default theme White will start automatically with a Title slide, this has caused already many frustrations when starting with the use of Fluid boxes. If you want to use fluid boxes on the first slide, you have to change the master slide from Title to Blank (exception Blank theme which starts with a Blank slide).

TIP: if you want to add objects on the Title master slide, first take out the Title Placeholder, to be able to insert child fluid boxes. Then put back the Title Placeholder in one of the child fluid boxes.

Content master slides

It can be a time saver to use a content slide that has already Fluid boxes. In a future next article I'll explain how to create a custom content master slide with the help of Guides, but for now let us focus on an existing master slide, and see how we can tweak it.
In the example movie, the second slide is based on the Content04 master slide from the Theme 'OldPaper'. I didn't customize the theme, just applied the correction explained in my last post

Look at the setup of the Fluid boxes on the master slide: the parent fluid box (FB_15) has two vertcial child FB's (FB_16 and FB_17). The top one is meant for the Title placeholder: 

The bottom Fluid Box has 4 child FB's, (FB_19,FB_20, FB_21, FB_22), which are set up to wrap Symmetrically (when width is too small, two FB's will move to the next row), and have a padding both vertically and horizontally to have some spacing between the FB's. Each of them has a placeholder for an image.

Example movie

Play with this responsive movie (will open in a new window) which has only 3 slides: Title slide (with inserted Next button, and taking over my name from the main master slide), a slide based on Content04 master slide, with a lot of tweaking, and an End slide. The Next button on the second slide will only appear when you have clicked all available shape buttons and seen all the content. 

Refining slide based on Content master slide

The FB setup on the master slides can be tweaked on a slide based on that master slide. You can remove all fluid boxes, but that is has not much sense. To demonstrate I did a lot of tweaking for the second slide of the movie which you just watched:
  • I deleted the image placeholders


  • I decreased the height of the top fluid box (FB_MS2_16) to 10%, originally it was 15% (edited font style as well)

  • I added a third vertical child FB under the parent FB_MS2_15, it is labeled FB_9
    TIP: this will not affect the master slide, if you use Reset Master Slide button in the Properties panel of the slide, you'll get the original layout


  • That last FB_9 got two horizontal FB's, FB_37 (70% of the width) and FB_38 (30% of the width); the last one will be used for the navigation buttons (Back/Next)

  • The setup for FB_38 is visible in this screenshot
  • Each of the four FB's in the center (FB_19,FB_20, FB_21, FB_22) has no longer any object (see 1) and can be divided in two new vertical child FB's


  • As you can see on the screenshot, the top FB will have the button and explanation text (originally hidden, but cannot be grouped in FB's), the bottom one has an example of the style (also initially hidden).

  • Setup for the top FB's here is visible in this screenshot; for the Shape button ('Normal') the option Maintain Aspect Ratio is kept, but not for the Text container, so that it can change for smaller screen sizes (especially in portrait mode).

More questions?

You will have seen that I always had Rulers and Guides activated. My next blog post will focus on the use of that great tool, which almost no one seems to use?

Sure, I have several advanced actions in that movie, but that was not the goal of this post. No explanations here about those actions.