Reference/Registration point in Captivate?


The origin of this article is (again) due to a forum question: "I want to rotate a triangle around a certain point" using the Rotation effect. It is time to explain the importance of the reference or registration point for objects in Captivate. In other Adobe applications like Illustrator, InDesign, Animate you have lot of control over that point. Look at this small screenshot: it shows that reference point in two different locations. Sorry for the low resolution, it is very small in Illustrator: left image shows the reference point in the left center, the right image at the bottom right. It was that last point that was wanted by the OP in the forum, but ... Captivate doesn't allow changing the reference point.

Reference points Captivate

The Reference/registration point in Captivate is used in different situations. In some situations it is located at the top left corner of the bounding box, in other situations in the center of the bounding box. The 'bounding box' is the rectangle surrounding the object or the object group. You'll see it during editing, when selecting an object or a group.  The visual presentation of that box on the stage is not looking always exact, it can look larger than it really is. The correct size (px) of that box can only be seen in the Options tab of the Properties panel. 

Location, resizing, rotating

The X and Y value in the Options tab are the coordinates of one of the registration points: the top left corner of the bounding box, as you can see in this screenshot:

The red lines in this screenshot are guides. The dotted square is the bounding box. The blue circle indicates the first reference point, which is top left and has its coordinates in X and Y in the Options tab. If you uncheck the 'Constrain Proportions' option, and increase the Width (W) or the Height (H) you'll see that the reference point will not move, increasing width will move the right border of the bounding box, increasing height will move the bottom border.

However, if you use the Rotation button on the stage, or the Rotation option in the Options tab, the used reference point is no longer the one indicated by the blue circle, but the center of the bounding box, which is indicated with a white circle in the screenshot. Same point is used for Flipping and 90° rotation buttons in the Options tab. The reference point will (weirdly) not change in the X, Y coordinates when you rotate an object as is visible in the next screenshot: you see that the X/Y still references to the blue circle center, which is no longer part of the bounding box of the shape:


If you align two or more objects (use the Align Toolbar which you can open by Window menu) the result can be surprising. Have a look at this first screenshot: I kept the rotated arrow, added a rectangle with exactly the same width (300px), and having the reference point at the same X value. That means that the center point of both shapes has the same X value as well, centering the shape will not move them.  In a first test, I selected the arrow first for alignment (see right image in screenshot). 

The result for left align is to be seen in the left image: the most left point of the bounding box of the arrow has been used as reference. When the bounding box is turned off, there seems to be no 'alignment' between the shapes. The second image looks better.

Same alignment rules when you use grouped objects instead of single objects. The bounding box of the group is what matters.


For all effects the center point of the bounding box (white circle in the very first screenshot) is the absolute reference point. It is the case for all categories of Effects. Especially for motion effects, the new Guides are very handy to locate the start, end and intermediate points of the motion path as I showed in this post: Guides Rule!.

That was the original question which I mentioned in the introduction: how can you rotate an object, not around its center but around another point.  Since version 9 it is possible to apply an effect to a group. You cannot have individual effects for objects that are grouped (which is a pity). But in this case effect on a group provided a workaround for this particular question: 

  • Add an object that is 'invisible' to the end user, like a shape with a Fill Alpha = 0 and a stroke = 0.
  • Group that object with the object to be rotated, in such a way that the center of the group bounding box coincides with the rotation point you want to use.

This sounds more complicated than it is really. Have a look at this visual presentation: the wanted rotation point was the right bottom point of the triangle. Duplication of the triangle with rotation provided me with that 'dummy' object which I made invisible to the user (here I added a light grey border to make it visible):

The red lines are guides which will not be visible on publishing. You see in this screenshot that the bounding box looks bigger than it really is, because its exact size is indicated by the red guides.

Captivate 8.0.1 Install? Keep your Customisation!


Today an important patch for version 8 was released, to upgrade to version Like with the update to 7 I wonder why this is not a full 8.1 or even 8.5 because there are not only a lot of bug fixes, many features were extended and even added. Have a look at "What is new" for a summary. And Dr. Pooja Jaisingh already blogged and posted some other links: Free Update to Captivate 8. In this article  by my friend Michael Lund you'll find not only his first reflections but clear instructions about installing the patch. But none mentioned some of my favourite new features: using SHIFT to constrain an ellipse/rectangle shape to a circle/square and big improvements to color management. 

But this post is not meant as a personal summary of the new features! As an advanced user I'm used to customize Captivate of course: custom themes, custom theme color palettes, custom shapes, custom effects and... custom workspaces because I'm using Captivate 8 in Expert mode. And when following Michael's (correct!) guidelines for updating, most of those custom items will get lost. If you do not are happy with the default items, never customize, do not bother to continue reading. However, if you share my frustrations about losing precious work, maybe you could find some workarounds in this article. Some of them can also help when you have to 'clean' a tired Captivate application by killing its Preferences.


Before installing an update, before deleting the Preferences folder (or using the CleanPreferences files in the subfolder 'utils'):

  1. Find the custom items in these locations (I'm on Win7, will be different on Mac):

  • Workspaces in   \Users\<yourprofile>\AppData\Local\Adobe\Captivate 8.0\Workspaces   
    which means they will be refreshed because this is in the Preferences folder. Here you see the default workspaces, each defined by two files.

  • Custom Theme Color Palettes in   \Users\Public\Public Documents\Adobe\eLearning Assets\Layouts\8.0\ThemeColors
    Layouts is one of the folders you have to delete before installing a patch.

  • Custom Themes in  \Users\Public\Public Documents\Adobe\eLearning Assets\Layouts\8.0\en_US
    I will mostly not save my custom themes in this folder, but better check if you have some there. The last item in the path can of course be different if you didn't install the US English version as I did.

  • Custom Effects contrary to the themes, I like to have some custom effects in the Gallery with other effects in a subfolder Custom:
    The Gallery can have more custom items. Eventually check also the folder en_US in the installation folder. Maybe you have edited some of the files there as well.

  • Copy all the custom items to a safe place

  • Install the update, or Clean Preferences

  • Copy the custom items back to the same locations described above.

  • Of course, if you want to go back to Expert mode to be able to use the custom workspaces, you'll have to edit the Preferences again:


    Wondering what SFH means in this new setting:

    Success/Failure and Hint captions can now be replaced by cool shapes, also for Question slides! And it is no secret that I'm a big fan of Shapes over the older objects. Now waiting to be able to import SVG as shapes :)



    Reset Effects in Captivate 6


    For a recent webinar about conditional advanced actions I recreated a file in Captivate 6 to check a Sequence of clicks, as described in the article. You can play with this file in the Example section. In this version I used a lot of custom motion path effects to put the cards on a stack. If the sequence is not correct, there is a reset button to offer the user a new attempt. And that meant that the motion effects had to be reset. I was very happy to find an easy way for this work flow, and that is the goal of this article.


    Play with this movie that has only 4 slides: on the first slide you choose between two ways of playing and will be navigated to either the second or third slide depending on the choice. On slides 2 and 3 in case of wrong answer you can reset the cards to their original position, on slide 2 this will happen with the Next button, after you checked the sequence with the Question Mark button. On slide 3 you have a reset button? Last slide will only be reached in case of a correct answer. Want to cheat? The sequence is 57142

    Work flow

    The work flow is pretty simple: you have to return to the very first slide, and using an advanced action on entering that first slide, redirect again to the slide just left. And the objects that had moved will be back in their original place, the effect is reset. I tried out different other work flows like navigating to the previous slide, but for some reasons it only is functional if you return to the very first slide. In the example movie, the On Enter action for that first slide is a bit more complicated because I have some more actions to be done, but in the next example I keep it really simple, just having the focus on resetting the effects.

    Second example with details


    This example has 5 slides: Intro, TimeBased, ButtonTrigger, AATrigger and Summary. On slides 2,3,4 you'll find an effect applied to one object, first time-based, then triggered by a button and at last one triggered by an advanced action attached to another button. On slides 2 and 4 other objects with effects will appear, which was not possible for the slide with the button that triggers an Effect, because you can only apply one effect that way.

    Shape buttons

    I used default buttons from the Shape Button category, but changed the triggered actions. On the Intro slide there is only a Next button (used a rollover shape as tooltip). On slide 2 you'll find 3 buttons, timed for the rest of the project (and hidden on the last slide Summary). Each of them has a tooltip as well, and they all have a pausing point near the end of the slide, but play button pauses a little bit before the others:

    Reset button: the default action for this button is 'StartSlide', and this is what I wanted it to do.

    Play button: has a different functionality, depending on the slides

    • on slide 2 (TimeBased), slide is paused on entering, and this Play button will just release that pause by the statement 'Assign cpCmndResume with 1'. The playhead will continue, and the three objects that start on different moments will get visible with their effect.
    • on slide 3 (ButtonTrigger): no need to pause on entering, I covered the original play button with a transparent shape button that triggered the Effect on the hexagon by a simple action, thus limited to one object with effect.
    • on slide 4 (AATrigger): no need to pause on entering; again I covered the original play button  with a transparent shape button that triggered an Advanced action NewApply with two statements: "Apply Effect..." and "Continue". This button pauses at exactly 1secs, whereas the other objects appear after that time (see timeline). The Continue statement is needed to release the play head so that the other objects appear with their effect.

    Advanced Action EnterIntro

    This action, triggered by the On Enter event for the first slide (Intro), has to be conditional. It has to check if this slide is visited for the first time. To achieve this I created a user variable v_visited (no default value, so empty to start with) that will be set to 1 when the slide is visited for the first time. On all following visits, the user is navigated back to the last visited slide, the slide on which he clicked the Reset button. And that makes the magic happen: the object that was moved by the applied effect is back in its original location. The conditional action is rather simple:

    IF v_visited is equal to 1

    THEN Go to Last Visited Slide

    ELSE Assign v_visited with 1

    When returning to the last visited slide, all objects will be in their original place. Even if you have clicked twice the Play button! Try it out with the example movie. You'll see a different behaviour depending on the slides:

    1. On Slide 2 (TimeBased): pressing the Play button a second time will not have any effect, since the play head has stopped at the pausing point of the Next/Reset button and all effects have been played.
    2. On Slide 3 (ButtonTrigger): pressing the Play button another time will replay the Effect, since it is triggered by that button. But motion effects are always relative to the present position of the object. So.... the hexagon will move outside of the stage. 
    3. On Slide 4 (AATrigger): if you press the Play button again, the hexagon will move again (outside of the stage), but not the other objects. Their effects were time-based and the play head is at a position after those effects. If I had applied the effect to those objects by the Advanced action as well, they would have played. But then it was not possible to start the effects at different times.

    Editing Motion Paths and Reusing Customized Effects

    One of the new features in Captivate 5 are Effects. Krishna Kiran posted an interesting introduction to those effects in the Captivate blog. Here is the link:
    Effects allow you to apply special formating such like dropdown shadows and bevel and to create simple animations without having to use Flash. In this tip I will show how you can adapt motion paths when using motion effects. It is possible to save customized effects and use them again in the same project or in another one. Once you have re-used a customized effect, it will be added in the dropdown-lists to a special category, labeled  Custom. If you want to see the custom effect also in the Advanced actions dropdown list, you'll have first to apply it in a time-based version to an object.
    It is also possible to reorganize the effects in folders, but this involves deleting the Preferences folder in order to have this reorganisation reflected in the dropdown lists of the Effects panel.
    I created this demonstration SWF to show how to customize a motion effect, to save and to reuse it.