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.

Matchstick Game - shared actions

Update: new version of this game, with HTML5 output and using images as buttons to be found under this link


Intro

This post is inspired by a question on the Captivate forum, have a look at this thread: 'Advanced actions for a Matchstick Game'. After reading the question, I accepted the challenge. Some advanced actions are used, mostly to reset the game, but the two 
most important actions are shared actions. It is also a good example for a lot of tips I have offered in this blog:
  • Setup of a labeling system that makes it easier to choose parameters when applying a shared action.
  • Sequence of statements and decisions in a conditional action is very important because Captivate will always evaluate each statement and decision in sequence.
  • Choice of optional parameters for a shared action.
  • Using On Enter Slide events to reset variables and objects.
  • Using groups to simplify advanced/shared actions.

Game - rules

You can play the game:
  • goal is to create a word from the initial set of matchsticks by removing some of them;
  • clicking on a matchstick will remove it and a ghost image will appear instead of the original matchstick
  • you can reset the matchstick by clicking on the ghost image
  • maximum number to be removed is 6; you will be warned when you reach that number
  • you can try to remove a seventh matchstick, but I consider that as cheating :)
  • you have a Restart button

Objects - Labeling

The game is on one slide after the intro-slide. This is the Timeline panel:

From bottom to top you see:

  1. Gr_Match: group with the images of the matchsticks. For labeling I divided them in 3 groups. I_MS_11 is the most left matchstick of the first group, I_MS_22 is the upper matchstick of the second group, I_MS_35 is the bottom one in the third group, etc. Those numbers will also be in the names of the Outlines, the Click boxes and the associated variables. This group is initially visible.

  2. Gr_Outline: group with the grey ghost images (outlines). Same labeling discipline: I_OL_11, I_OL_22, I_OL_35,...This group is initially invisible

  3. Gr_Txt: which is expanded on the screenshot has the three messages that are used in the game. This group is initially invisible.

  4. Gr_CB: group with click boxes over the matchstick images+outlines. They follow same labeling system: CB_11, CB_22, CB_35...

  5. Bt_Restart:  the button to restart, reset everything

  6. Tx_Task: the title

  7. Tx_Rules: the explanation

Variables

To track the status of each matchstick, I created a boolean variable with initial value of 0 for each of them. Labeling is similar to those for the images, outlines and click boxes: 

  • v_11, v_12, v_13, v_14, v_15   for the first group

  • v_21, v_22, v_23, v_24, v_25   for the second group

  • v_31, v_32, v_33, v_34, v_35   for the first group

Three extra variables were needed:

  • v_moves: will track the number of removed matchsticks

  • v_correct: will track the number of correctly removed matchsticks

  • v_visit: needed to track if the intro slide is visited for the first time; a jump to that slide is used in an advanced action to reset the game

Actions

Advanced actions

I will not explain the simple and the 2 advanced actions, article would be too long. In a planned cookbook for shared actions I will explain everything in depth:
  • EnterIntro: conditional advanced action with two decisions that is triggered by the On Enter Slide event for the first slide 'Intro'. It will check the value of the variable v_visit and jump to the second 'Game' slide if it is not a first visit. 

  • ResetGame: a standard advanced action is triggered by the Restart button Success event, and by the On Enter Slide event for the second slide 'Game'. It will reset all the variables and restore the initial view of this slide (no outlines, only images).

  • Simple action 'Go to Previous Slide' is triggered by the On Exit event of the second slide 'Game'.

Shared Actions

Two shared actions are used:
  1. MatchStickNOK: to be triggered by a click box over a matchstick that should NOT be removed. This shared action is used  9 times. It is a conditional action with 3 decisions: 'Doing', 'Checking' and 'Cheating'. In the screenshot you'll see this action, with as an example parameters are set to the '11' matchstick. That is a matchstick that should in this case trigger the second shared action.
    This shared action has 6 parameters. The only optional parameter is highlighted in this screenshot, it is the tracking variable v_x associated with the matchstick. No need to define the other variables (v_moves, v_correct) nor the literals as a parameter.



  2. MatchStickOK: to be triggered by a click box over a matchstick that should be removed. This shared action is used 6 times in this particular example. The first three decisions 'Doing', 'Checking', 'Cheating' are pretty much the same as for the previous shared action, with one exception: increment or decrement for the variable v_correct. This shared action has a fourth decision 'End' that will display a Success message if all correct matchsticks are removed. Since this can only happen when the user removes a correct matchstick, this decision was superfluous for MatchStickNOK action. The sequence of decisions is very important: the condition 'IF v_moves is equal to 6' (decision 'Checking') will also be True if 6 correct matchsticks have been removed, but the commands in 'End' will override those of 'Checking' because of the sequence. There are two screenshots here:

    This shared actions has 7 parameters since the Success Message has to be added. Only optional parameter that was upgraded to a real parameter is again v_x, the tracking variable associated with the matchstick.


Enhancements

I hear you! How will it be possible to use those shared actions for a Matchstick Game with another setup? I have some ideas, what about you? Please post your suggestions in a comment.