Guides and Fluid Boxes: Best Buddies!


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.


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


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.

Feedback shapes in Captivate 2017

Why this short post?

If you have read my article about the 3 most important stumbling blocks for Captivate (newbie) users, you'll know that Themes are amongst them.  The components of themes are described in What's in a Theme/template. and in this post you'll learn about he use of Theme colors. Almost daily I see questions, comments on the forums like "I don't use a theme" which is  - sorry for the word - nonsense because every project is based on a theme. The theme with the least intrusive design is the Blank theme, which has no color palette and only offers the minimum set of 6 master slides. 

The themes packaged with Captivate 2017 have some issues with the feedback messages:
  1. Hint shape is using the Success Shape Style, should use the existing Hint Shape Style

  2. Failure shape is using the Success Shape style, should use the existing Failure Shape Style
Shapes are set as default for feedback messages, not captions 
The feedback captions use an appropriate style in the themes Easiest way to solve the problem would be to change Preferences, Defaults and choose for captions if that is not messing up your design.  Below you'll read how to ecit the themes.

Where are default Themes stored?

The original themes can be found under the installation folder, in the Gallery\Layouts for the language you used when installing. I am on Windows, installed the US version of Captivate and the path on my Win system is: 
C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Captivate 2017 x64\Gallery\Layouts\10_0\en_US. 
You'll also find the ThemeColors folder in that location. The included themes are: (Blank), Blue, Clear, Clean, OldPaper, Poise, Suave, White (which is the default theme). All themes are responsive, but can be used for normal, blank projects.

However, while working with Captivate, you will use the themes from a copied folder. In Windows that copied folder can be found under 
Users\Public\Public Documents\Adobe\eLearning assets\\Layouts.  
Reasons for this work flow are possibly:
  •  you cannot mess up the original themes
  •  the Public folder is accessible for developers which do not have administration rights. 

If a theme seems corrupted or is too messed up, you can always restore it by copy/paste from the Gallery (need for administration rights). If you have both CP9 and CP2017 installed, you'll see both Layouts in the copied folder. But the layouts folder for CP2017 has a subfolder 'bpthemes' containing all the CP9 themes on my system (not sure if that is the case when you only have a CP2017 install).

TIP: don't put custom themes in the sames folder as the default themes (Public). If you have to restore all themes by deleting the Layouts folder you will not lose the custom themes. I store them mostly with the project(s) they are used for.

Editing Default Themes 

Restoring the correct object style for the Failure and Hint shapes is pretty easy: open the Object Style Manager (SHIFT-F7), and replace the Success style by the appropriate style (which does exist) as you can see in this screenshot

I suspect you will want to keep the correct object styles for the feedback messages for future projects as well. Use the menu Themes, option Save Theme.  The result will be that the theme is edited in the copied folder, in the Public documents To change the original theme in the Gallery, you'll need to do it outside of Captivate, using Explorer and needing administration rights. However a user yesterday reported that the option 'Save Theme' was dimmed(?).  Reason was that he was working in a blank, normal project. All default themes in CP2017 are responsive. To protect the responsiveness, you have to edit the theme from within a responsive project. The option 'Save theme' will be available in that case. You can always use a responsive theme in a normal project.

Theme Colors


In my previous post I explained the work flow to create a custom Theme Colors palette, starting from an Adobe Color palette (ase). Theme Colors palettes can be applied to any theme, they are stored in the Layouts folder of the Public documents, they are not project specific. This article will show the consequences of applying a new Theme Colors palette to a theme. As you probably know a theme has three principal components: object styles, master slides and skin. 

Moreover Captivate 8.0.1 allows to apply theme colors to a bunch of learning interactions (not to all yet). That is a big improvement, because most of those interactions have their own themes and it was a lot of work in former versions to edit colors in the interactions to match the theme of the project. 

How are Theme colors used?

You can customize one of the existing themes by changing the Theme colors in the first place, then adding objects, changing styles, master slides etc. For a totally new theme you will probably start with the Blank theme. Maybe in a third article I will offer some tips about using Blank theme. In this post I will only talk about the other themes, and the way a new colors palette will interact with them.
In the dropdown list under Select Theme Colors, you'll see on top the category 'Custom Theme Colors' and to the bottom 'Pretest Theme Colors'. 

For each included theme you'll find two Theme color palettes in Captivate 8: one with the same name as the theme (in 'Preset Theme Colors'), and one with that name followed by Shade (in 'Custom Theme Colors'). Example: Flat color palette, and Flat Shade color palette. Only the Blank theme is an exception. 

When you open the Theme Colors window, and choose Customize for a palette, you'll see 10 colors. A name has been given to each color, but those names are misleading, as I will explain. 
I prefer to label them color 1-10. Why? What do you expect when seeing a name like 'Title', 'Sub-Title', 'Slide BG', 'Fill', Stroke? I naively (or is it my engineer's mind) supposed that the first color (Title) would be applied to the Titles on the Master slides, the second color (Sub-Title) to the subtitles on master slides, Fill and Stroke to shapes or other objects, Slide BG to the background of the slides (project background). But when I explored the themes, included with Captivate, I discovered that this is almost never the case :). If you download this file, you'll see two tables: one for text styles and one for the three states of Shapes. Some conclusions:
  1. Font color of the default Title Smart Shape Style which is used on the Master slides is the first color 'Title' in themes Flat, Green, Nimble, White and Woodgrain. Blackboard uses Text 2 (Color 4), Clean Blue, Clouds and Vivid use Skin 2 (Color 9), Half Tone uses Stroke (Color 6). 

  2. Font color of the default Sub-Title Smart Shape Style, also used on Master slides is never color 2 'Sub-Title' except for the Flat theme. All other themes use another color.

  3. Font color of Caption text uses quite a myriad of colors: Stroke (color 6), Text 1 (color 3), Sub-Title, Sub-Title tint 5 (color 2 - see tints later on), Title (color 1), Skin 2 (color 9).

  4. Same for the three font styles on Question slides: Title, Question and Answer.

The default Shape style in the Object Style Manager has three states (Normal, Down and Rollover) because every shape can be used as a button. In the second table you'll see Stroke color, Font color, Fill color (Solid or Gradient, and Alpha) for the three states. Only the Font color seems to remain the same for each state - not always a good choice (sometimes unreadable because of change in fill). 

Why did I create those tables? If you change the theme colors, some of the object styles, master slides and skin will change based on the new colors and on setup of the colors in the original palette. This means that the same custom color palette will create a different look, depending on the theme for which it is used.  Not all object styles are using theme colors however, some will not change color: this is the case for the new Success/Failure/Hint smart shapes that you can use to replace the captions for interactive objects and question slides (Preferences). Of course, the old Success/Failure/Hint captions cannot apply theme colors neither, but for the shapes this is possible without having to create custom captions in a graphics editor. 


I created the color palette  'Lilybiri' based on my logo (see previous post). Browse this Picture Gallery. You'll see one slide, with that palette applied to the White, Vivid, Flat and Halftone Themes. Watch the colors of the master slides, Title, Subtitle, Caption and the 'rollover' state of an inserted shape button. You see that the result is totally different.

If you want to change just the theme colors for an existing theme you have to check the master slides and the object styles. I would have preferred to have more consistency in the use of the theme colors in the themes. Especially in this version, because to create a custom theme you need to start from an existing theme, certainly for responsive projects. 


In the first article I already explained that Captivate will create 5 tints for each of the theme colors, besides the base colors of the palette. Some of those tints are used in the existing themes: on master slides, in object styles and in the skin.
Contrary to the base theme colors, which I indicate now with codes 1.0, 2.0 .... 10.0, you do not have any control over the way those tints are created. I use code 1.1, 1.2 ... 1.5 for the tints based on color 1.0 in my code system. If you apply a custom theme colors palette, Captivate will create those tints, but my curious mind wondered "HOW"? Because the term 'tint' was used, I suspected that looking at the HSB code would be a better idea than the provided Hexadecimal or RGB codes. HSB is used in a lot of Adobe applications to indicate Hue, Saturation and Brightness. I have now a complete table with HSB-codes for all provided theme color palettes. I didn't include it here, it was meant to discover the logic of the tints creation. And there is some consistency, my conclusions (see also the image below):
  1. For gray colors (like 4D4D4D, E6E6E6...) you'll see that Hue and Saturation remain equal to 0 and only the Brightness will decrease from tint 1 to 5.  Same of course for Black (000000) and White (FFFFFF).

  2. For normal colors the Hue remains constant (there are small variations) for all tints.

  3. First tints (1-3 or 1-4) keep high Brightness but start with lower Saturation that will increase

  4. Last tints (4-5 or 5) keep Saturation of previous tints but decrease the Brightness

Depending on the default Theme you are using, the tints can be slightly different, but not in the same way as what I showed about the style colors in the previous point.

Learning Interactions - Theme Colors

Some learning interactions do have their proper themes. Now it is possible to apply the colors of the active Theme Colors palette to the interactions as well. However, they are not applied automatically, you need to use the Custom button. There are two possible work flows:

For the (older) interactions Accordion, Tabs, Process Circle, Pyramid Stack, Timeline, Circle Matrix, Pyramid Matrix, Glossary, Word Search and Certificate

  • The interaction themes are at the left, with default theme selected; use the Custom button at the bottom

  • Default Colors are activated, and you could customize them using the Customize button, but then you'll see the old cold dialog box, which has no link to your theme colors

  • Click on Theme colors: the preview will be changed immediately, and the Customize button now appears under Theme Colors

  • When using this customize button, you'll see the Theme colors with their tints when changing a color.

For the new games Catch AlphaNum, Jeopardy, Memory and Millionaire

  • After setting up the game, go to the second screen (mostly with an red arrow at bottom right) to Customize

  • Look for the button 'Color settings': in some games it is at the top, in other (like in the screenshot) at the bottom

  • Same work flow there: if you click on Theme colors the present color palette will be applied

  • Customize becomes available under Theme colors instead of Default colors and will show you the Theme colors palette with all the tints.

The other interactions do not yet offer the possibility to use theme colors.


  • Be careful when creating a custom color palette to apply to an existing theme: look at the two default palettes provided for that theme and try to assign bright colors to the same color number as those palettes, same for darker colors. Maybe the table I offered with the use of the theme colors in all themes can help.
  • Check the object styles after applying the new color palette, the easiest way is in the Object Style Manager; do not forget that shapes have colors for the three states

  • After checking the object styles, check the master slides: objects and background will have changed colors as well. If you use shapes for Success/Failure/Hint messages, check their style because they will not be changed to the new color palette.

  • I didn't mention the skin, but playbar as well as TOC settings will also get color changes when applying a new color palette, check them as well

  • When using learning interactions, try to change to Theme Colors if they offer that possibility, and double-check the result that you can edit with the Customize button.