Who is afraid of ... Shared Actions - Crash course Introduction

For any Captivate user, new, intermediate or advanced.

Even if you are very new to Captivate, continue reading!

Contrary to Advanced Actions and JavaScript, Shared actions can be USED without needing to write out or edit scripts, nor to create variables. You don't need to be able to assemble an engine for your car to be able to drive, isn't it? What do you need?

  1. One or more shared actions created by a friend/colleague who is more advanced with Captivate
  2. To understand what a  'parameter' is (new term in your personal Captivate glossary)
  3. To learn how to add shared actions to your project, slides and interactive objects. Description and name of the shared action will help you (contrary to advanced actions).
  4. To choose the parameter values based on their descriptions. Automatic filtering by Captivate is a big help.

You read the introduction to a short ourse for adventurous newbies, including:

  1. A demo project with 4 useful interactions. All interactions can be realized using shared actions without having to create variables nor scripts.
  2. Explanation of the term 'parameter'

The course for newbies has TWO lessons. Each lesson comes in two 'flavors' to adapt to your taste:

  • Short video
  • Step-by-step text

To facilitate your learning/understanding, you'll get a start project  to practice the workflow.  You will also be able to use your personal project for the second lesson.  Both lessons are about one of the 4 interactions in the Demo project (see below). Depending on the 'welcome' by the community, may repeat this workflow for the other interactions or even for a game like  MatchStick game

Demo project

Watch this project, which includes 4 typical interactions:
  • Dashboard interaction (menu going to 4 chapters)
  • Slideshow
  • Click/Reveal
  • Toggle buttons

I used design elements from the new Quick Start Project ‘Diverse’. You can open the demo project using this link:

UsingSharedActions

Or watch it below  (fixed resolution):



What is a Parameter (in shared actions)?

This is my definition: a parameter is an ‘item’  replaceable by another item when you (re)use the shared action either in the same or in another project. That ‘item’ doesn’t always have a fixed type! It depends on the used command. Look at a some examples for clarification:
  1. Command Jump to slide: needs one parameter which is the slide. It is clear that you cannot change to another type of item than a slide.
  2. Command Change State of…: needs two parameters, first is the multistate object, second is the state you want to show. The first parameter has to be a multistate object of any type: shape, caption, button (for custom states), image, video, animation… Second parameter needs to be a state of that multistate object.
  3. Commands Hide/Show: need one parameter. Anything that can be shown or hidden is possible: shape, caption, button (for custom states), image, video. But also groups are possible! Look at the practice session below to see how this extends shared action functionality beyond what you are used to.

You may skip the explanation about the two types of parameters and go directly to the first lesson if you don’t like definition texts. Knowing the differences between parameters is not so important in this crash course, . BTW: the terms ‘compulsory’ and ‘candidate’ are just my personal choice, not official terms.

Compulsory parameters

All the items mentioned in the previous examples are compulsory: you will always have to choose them in any shared action.  Even though some will be the same in all instances of that shared action.

Candidate parameters

You probably know the command ‘Assign’ to store a value in a user variable or a system variable of the category ‘Movie Control’. A variable when used in a shared action can be a parameter, but it is not compulsory. If it is not a parameter, here is a rather unknown secret: importing the shared action in a new project will automatically create that variable, with the same name, description and value as designed originally. 
In some circumstances it is necessary to define the variable as parameter. You will see an example in the practice session for the toggle action.

In a conditional action you can have another candidate parameter, the ‘literal‘. Example: you want to limit a number of attempts by the learner to a maximum of 5. If you want to be able to edit that maximum number, you could define the literal as a parameter. This can be a bit tricky, but is beyond the scope of this basic blog.

Lightbox setup

Why?

Lightbox is a popular technique to make extra information (text, images, video…) stand out. Traditionally that information will appear on a background of an object which hides or dims the original objects on the slide. A way to close the lightbox is necessary, and will also make those objects visible again. In a way, the overlay slides in an interactive video are sort of lightbox as well. It is evident that such a lightbox is rather easy to create in a non-responsive project, but several limitations (like stacking) in Fluid Boxes project make it almost impossible. The example shown here, and the setup, was for a non-responsive project.

Recently a Captivate posted a question in the Adobe forums.: ‘How to create a lightbox within a state of an object‘. She was upgrading an older project, where the developer used a slide for each lightbox, by using multistate objects to replace the multiple slides.  After having asked for some extra information, it turned out to be more complicated than just the creation of lightboxes.  It was about a two-step process for extra information:

  1. Clicking a ‘question button’ would show the answer to the question as a popup (Click-Reveal workflow). That popup didn’t really need a way to close it, but clicking another question button should replace the content by new content. OP was correct that using a multistate object was the perfect workflow for this first step, with a Normal state which was invisible by setting Alpha (for the Fill) and Stroke both to 0. I have demonstrated this use multiple times in blogs.

  2. The content needed to have a way to open a ‘lightbox’ (in the traditional sense explained before) with more information related to the question/answer already shown. 

Problem

States in a multistate object, with the exception of the Normal state cannot have interactive objects! In both steps such an object is necessary. In the first step it is needed to open the proper lightbox, in the second step to close the lightbox.

Such an interactive object can be a button, a click box or… a hyperlink. Quite a while ago I wrote a couple of articles to demonstrate the power of hyperlinks which is ignored by many. However, for HTML5 output in the recent version (11.5.1) its use to run advance actions seems not always to be functtional, needs lot of testing. Originally when creating the sample output, I planned to use hyperlinks in most cases, but had to give up for the reason just explained. BTW all actions triggered by hyperlinks worked perfectly for SWF output. So I had to revert to buttons in most cases. I will explain the complete setup in a blog.

Example project

Watch this project. There is no real content for questions, answers nor lightboxes. Focus is only on the structure and workflow. There is one slide after the title slide, which has 5 question buttons:
  • Clicking a question button will show a popup which should contain the answer, and there is a (image used as) button to open the lightbox. The question buttons shows a ‘Current state’ when clicked.

  • Clicking the button opens a lightbox: cover, shape with content, and a hyperlink used to close the lightbox. When the lightbox is closed, the question button will revert to a ‘Done state’. It is not a Visited state, but a custom state.

You can watch the project below (fixed resolution) or using this link (rescalable output)


Setup

Objects – timeline

See the setup, using this screenshot of the timeline panel:

From bottom to top:

  • Five question buttons, which are shape buttons labeled SB_Quest1….SB_Quest5. They have a pausing point at the default 1.5secs. For those buttons I deleted the InBuilt Rollover and Down states, but added two custom states: ‘Current’ and ‘Done’. 
    .
  • A group of shapes used as text container for the answers SS_Answer1…. SS_Answer5. I could have used a multistate object as well. I started using individual texts because I hoped to use a hyperlink for the lightbox switch.

  • A shape used as Cover. Its position in the stack order is important: it needs to be above the answer and question objects, but under the multistate object SS_ExtraInfo. That cover is a shape, filled with dark gray, partially transparent. Beware: it is also used as text container: look for the text ‘Close Lightbox‘ which has been converted to a hyperlink triggering an advanced action.

  • Multistate object SS_ExtraInfo which has a state to appear in the lightbox for each of the answers. The Normal state is empty (Alpha and Stroke shape = 0).
  • Button Bt_Info (used a button from thitOt not necessary to be on top of the stack, Its position in the stack order is not important, because will be hidden when the lightbox appears.

Variable

One user variable v_quest was created. Default value can be empty. It will store the number of the question chosen by clicking the question button. That number is necessary for two advanced actions. as you’ll see below.

Events and Actions

On Enter slide event: "EnterAct"

This simple non-conditional action is meant to set the slide to its original situation:

If I had used a multistate object for the Answer popups, with a Normal state that was invisible (like for the SS_ExtraInfo), I would not have needed the second command (Hide Gr_Answer). By hiding the Cover, I also hide the hyperlink since it is a text in the cover. No need to hide SS_ExtraInfo since the Normal state is invisible. Why didn’t I use a hyperlink instead of the button Bt_Info? Because the advanced action was not triggered as it does when using SWF output. Too bad.

Question buttons:  Shared Action "QuestAct"

Another non-conditional action, based on this Advanced action:

I converted it to a Shared action, with these 6 parameters:

If you prefer a multistate objects over a group for the answers, you will still have 6 parameters, but the Group will be replaces by the name of the multistate object, and the Answer object by the wanted state.  I already explained my choice for a group.

Button Bt-Info: Advanced action "ShowLightBox"

This is an action with 6 decisions. The first decision is non-conditional, the five remaining decisions are conditional because a different state has to be shown based on the question number in the variable v_quest.  Those decisions have only one command and can easily be created with the duplicate decision button.

Hyperlink: Advanced action "CloseAct"

The hyperlink in the Cover shape triggers a 6 decision action very similar to the previous one:

More…

You can extend the described workflow to more than 5 questions. The shared action can be used, and you may have to add decisions to the two longer advanced actions.

I didn’t provide a close button on the answer popups, for learners who don’t want to see the lightbox, for whom the answer popup is sufficient. It could be done with a hyperlink or an extra button.

It would be possible to have something happen when all question buttons have been clicked, but that will require the creation of one extra variable for each button, a Boolean to be toggled from 0 to 1 if a button has been clicked.  The check for the extra happening has to be added to the CloseAct.

Showing Hint with a Delay

Why?

Recently in this thread user asked how to control the appearance of a hint caption.  It was meant to save some frustrations to the learner: hint should appear automatically after some seconds (to be defined), but should not appear when the learner had performed a certain action before that time. This is clearly not possible with the inbuilt Hint messages for interactive buttons. They only appear when the learner is approaching the place where he should click. A custom solution needed to be found. Three solutions were posted, interesting to have a look and compare them. Personally I always bear in mind that someone would like to use this workflow in a fluid boxes responsive project, and that limits the possibilities because stacking is not allowed in normal fluid boxes. We have multistate objects and since a couple of versions a “Delay Next actions….” command.

Example movie

Watch this simple example before reading the explanation:

You will see two slides where a Hint can appear if you are not successful within a delay: slide 2 (arrows) and the Drag&Drop slide (3). I used an almost identical workflow for both slides with a Shared Action triggered with the On Enter Slide event, and a simple advanced action triggered by the arrows (slide 2) or by the object actions (slide 3). Both slides have a hint which is a multistate shape. No variables were used. Slides 4 and 5 show the used actions.

If you prefer to watch the rescalable version, use this link.


Workflow

Hint = multistate object

Both Hints on slides 2-3 are multistate objects. The normal state is the green text bubble, the second state ‘Void’ is completely empty:

On Enter Shared Action

The on Enter action has to perform 4 commands:
  • Hide the Hint shape
  • Wait for a number of seconds
  • Show the Hint shape
  • Apply an effect (I used an emphasize effect).

Only two items needed to be defined as parameters: the Hint shape itself (compulsory parameter) and the literal used for the Delay, to make it possible to have a variable delay if wanted. The Parameter dialog box will look like this:

TIP: although both slides 2 and 3 are pausing at 1,5secs (default pausing point), the command ‘Delay Next Actions by…. ‘ will NOT be paused, timer just continues. That behavior is a big advantage for this particular use case!

Advanced Action ArrowAct

It would have been possible to use a simple action in this case, but the advantage of an advanced action was that I could assign it in one workflow to all the arrows on this slide.

What is the purpose of the Continue command? An advanced action will not release the playhead automatically as is possible with a simple action. On slide 2 a Next button has been added, with a timeline starting after the pausing point of the Arrow shapes acting as buttons. Release of the playhead is necessary to make the Next button visible.

Advanced Action DragAct

Although the advantage of being able to assign the advanced action at once to all the object actions doesn’t exist (could have used a simple action), it was so easy to create a duplicate of the first action that I kept with an advanced action/

It has been assigned to the 4 possible Object Actions in that dialog box, which you find in the Properties panel for the Drop target, under the Format tab. 'Object Actions'.

Custom Play/Pause button - version CP2019

Intro

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

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

Why do I prefer a Shape Button?

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

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

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

Workflow - Interactive Video

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

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

Fixed resolution: Custom Play/Pause

Rescalable: Custom Play/Pause


Workflow Step-by-Step

Step 1: Creation of the Shape button

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

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

Step 2: Location Shape button

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

1. On Master slides

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

There is a problem with this possible workflow due to the fact that shape buttons on master slides do not have an ID, and that means they cannot be used with the Chang State command. You can not show a custom state for shape buttons on master slides. As a workaround (not explained here in detail), you can combine the functionality of that button, with a two-state image which is on the first slide, timed for the rest of the project. That image will have an ID and you change the state of that image. The shape button on the master slide needs to be transparent (you can keep a stroke if you want) so that the images will be visible.

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

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

2. Timed for the rest of the project

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

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

Step 3: Create Advanced Action

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

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

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

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

Warning: not everything is ‘paused’!

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

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

For more information:

Pausing Captivate's Timeline

Pausing Timeline and Audio

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


Hotspots in non-VR project? Workflow 1

Why?

This is not a blog post for intermediate or advanced users. Since CP2019 is released, with the hotspots for 360 images and videos in a VR project or a normal project, I see the same question appearing regularly: why cannot we have that feature for a 2D image? Hence my idea to offer you some possible workflows with a step-by-step explanation and a free downloadable project file. This first post shows a project where the functionality of VR hotspots is being duplicated as close as possible:

  • When user clicks a hotspot, text, image and/or audio will appear, and automatically disappear after a specified time (here you can also use video, which is not possible in a VR project)
  • The hotspots get a checkmark after having been clicked.

However only the status ‘Exploratory’ is used, not the ‘Guided’ status. I would be able to reproduce that as well, but the workflow will be more complicated.

Example movie

Watch the result in this movie with 3 slides. After the title slide you’ll see the hotspot slide. The last slide lists up the steps explained below, if you want to create the workflow from scratch. I will also offer you the project file, you can also copy/paste the hotspot slide to your project, thus allowing to skip some steps.

Copy/Paste Slide

You can download the project file (created in version 11.0.1.266) from this link.

You can copy/paste the hotspot slide (slide 2) to your project. Replace the image. You can edit the design of the hotspots (names start with HS_), change the content of the states in the Multistate object labeled SS_Info.

Have a look at the Library, folder Shared Actions. You’ll see that it has been used 6 times, once for each hotspot. If you change names of the states in the multistate object, you will have to edit that parameter. Same for the duration. The other parameters are always the same for each hotspot: the name of the multistate object and its Normal state.

Steps, from scratch

Create hotspot

I used a shape button as hotspot. It has several advantages over the older type of buttons. You can choose any shape or create a custom shape (here I used just a circle), you can fil it with any color from your Theme Colors as solid color or in a gradient (I used a gradient) or even fill the shape with any image. Moreover you can type text in the shape. I kept the hotspot very simple: just a question mark. But you can replace the text or the fill as you like. It is important that the shape button – hotspot has at least two InBuilt states: the Normal and the Visited state. You could also use the Rollover and Down state, which I deleted in the example file/movie. This is the state panel of the hotspot:

Duplicate hotspot

I labeled the used style as ‘Hotspot’. However, the Visited state is not part of the style (which I regret a lot). For that reason I did duplicate the hotspots (CTRL-D). In the project the names start with HS_.  In the example movie you’ll see 6 hotspots.

Contrary to the hotspots in a VR project, these hotspots have a timeline. I kept the default setup: duration of  3 seconds and pausing at 1.5secs. That pausing point is where where the playhead will pause, exactly like for the hotspots on a VR slide.

Multistate object for popups

I put all the popups in one multistate object which is also a shape: it has 1 state more than the number of hotspots. The Normal state has to be ‘invisible’ by setting the Alpha for Fill = 0 and the stroke width = 0. Each of the following states has the assets for one popup. You will see that I have states with only a text container (background in any color, partially transparent), but some have also an image, audio and one even has an event video (which is not possible on a 3D slide).  You can choose any location, it is not locked to the Normal state location. In the example file, the Object states for this shape looks like this:

Import Shared Action ‘HotspotWorkflow1’

Use File, Import, External Library and open the file you downloaded. Find this shared action in the floating Library panel which will be opened. Drag that action to the Library of your project in the folder Shared Actions. More info about external libraries in this post.

Add shared action to hotspots

Select a hotspot. In the Actions tab of its Properties panel, for the Success action choose ‘Execute Shared Action’. Click on the tiny button {p} to define the parameters which are:

  • Multistate object with the popups (labeled SS_Info) in my example file. That parameter is the same for all hotspots.
  • State: having the info to pop up for that particular hotspot
  • Time you want to leave the popup on screen, can be different for each hotspot
  • Normal state of the multistate object, is same for all hotspots.

Here is one example screenshot for the hotspot referring to the Virtual Reality project:

Conclusion

Maybe you’ll already feel that this workflow could be optimized. I would prefer to give the learner control over the time he needs to watch the popups by adding a close button. Or maybe cover up the distracting background in a lightbox style? What about the next button only appearing when all hotspots have been clicked? Or a warning if not every hotspot has been visited when the learner clicks the Next button? Lot more workflows are possible, let me know which one you would prefer?

Hotspots in non-VR project - workflow 2

Intro

A week ago I published a first showcase, explaining how to replicate the hotspot workflow for VR projects on a 2D image. This second article about using hotspots for a 2D image is not duplicating as closely that same feature: instead of showing the popups for a duration defined by the developer, this workflow will offer a close button for the popups. The learner decides when to close a popup and proceed (eventually) to the next hotspot. I also used a technique, often labeled as 'lightbox': to have the popup stand out of the rest of the content, it will have a semi-transparent cover in the background dimming the rest of the slide.

Example movie

I used the same image (welcome screen) and content for the popups as i the first workflow. Only  some small color changes and changes in the location have been applied . Watch this 3-slide movie: after the title slide (doubles as poster image) you can test the new hotspot slide, and the last slide gives a short Step-by-step list if you want to use this slide in your project. 

Try it out: quick workflow

You can download the project file from this link

If you do not need to have more than 6 hotspots, and you are happy with the resolution of the project (1024x627) and its Theme (Pink Icing), you can quickly use the hotspot slide using these steps:

  1. Create a blank project, with that resolution and theme. Create your title slide, and eventually a poster image as explained in his older article
  2. Copy the hotspot slide from the sample project and paste it into your project. The object names will get an extra number, but you don't have to bother about that. The advanced and shared action is automatically adapting to the new names.
  3. Select the Image..  'WelcomeScreen.png' and replace it by your image (Properties panel).
  4. Move eventually the hotspots to the right location. If you need less than 6 hotspots you can hide some of them in output. Deleting is also possible. Start by hiding or deleting the last hotspot(s). The sequence of the hotspots is starting with HS_Responsive (first in first row), going to the right and then to the second row. Last hotspot is for the PPT.
  5. Open the multistate object SS_Info.. which is just on top of the 'Cover' (needs to be there). Click the State view button in the Properties panel to open the Object State panel.
  6. Leave the Normal state alone. Replace the content in the other states by your content (follow the sequence described under 4.)  You don't need to rename the states, nor to delete the last unused ones (just leave them as they are).
  7. Start testing with 'Preview HTML in Browser' (F11).