Playing with Numbers - part 2


In the previous blog post I introduced you to the common JS API, and you used the method 'setVariableValue' to populate a variable defined in the Captivate project. That value was a random number generated in the JS window, using the Math.random() and the Math.floor methods. The values were integers, between fixed numbers 10 (included) and 100 (not included). In this second article you'll learn to know a new method 'getVariableValue' from the JS API, which lets you transfer a value to JS. We started with the mathematical operation 'Sum', now we'll switch to 'Subtractions' needing again the command 'Expression'. Because CP cannot handle well negative values, we'll have to take care of that as well.

The progress bar introduced with the Sum exercises, will be continued. You'll see that it is possible to change the state of an object, displayed for the rest of the project, from a slide where that object is not inserted. 

Scenario Subtract Slide

Subtraction will be with two terms, always integers. Whereas in the Sum slide I decided that all terms would have to be between 10 and 100, on this slide the user will be able to choose a Maximum number, and if he wants a Minimum number. The minimum number has already a default value of 10, which can be changed by the user, the maximum number is empty. The Max value needs to be bigger than the Min value, if that is not the case, the Max value will automatically be set to 'Min + 200'.
The same sticky figure (with states) and OK button (with state New) are used as described in the previous post for the Sum slide.
This Subtract slide can only be visited when 5 correct Sum exercises have been done, hence the 5 stars on the progress bar are in place on entering this slide. The progress bar is set to display for the rest of the project, and you can change the state (to 6 or more stars) from this Subtract slide, although the progress bar is not visible in the Timeline. New stars can be added after a correct subtract exercise, and after 10 stars, the Next scenario is executed (same as on Sum slide).
Here is a slide preview, after answering the first correct subtract question:

Used objects

The same multistate objects are used as on the Sum slide (see state panels on previous post):

  • Sticky figure with its states and a motion effect for the minus sign
  • OK button, which changes to a New button after the first exercise
  • Progress bar, which has been displayed for the rest of the project.

In this slide I only used TEB's, which I can control due to the presence of the CpExtra widget (InfoSemantics). The consequence is that this description is only valid for HTML output. For SWF output the TEB can be replaced by a Scrolling Text Interaction:

  • TEB_max accepts only numbers and is empty when starting - associated variable is v_max
  • TEB_min accepts only numbers and has a default value of 10 (changeable)  - associated variable is v_min
  • TEB_result accepts only numbers - associated variable is v_result (reused from sum slide)

Two shape buttons, that are alternatively enabled/disabled:

  • SB_Number is the OK/New button, triggers the advanced conditional action SubtractTerms
  • SB_CheckSubtract is the Check button, triggers the advanced conditional action CheckSubtract
To make the next state of the sticky figure interactive, it is covered by a Click box CB_Next2.

This is the Timeline of the slide:


Some variables created for the Sum slide are reused:

  • v_one, v_two, v_three, v_four: are reused for the values of the two terms, which will end up in v_one (first term) and v_two; those variables will be reset by the On Enter action of the Subtract slide
  • v_result: will store the result value typed in by the user in TEB_result, has to be reset as well.
  • v_check: will be calculated and used to validate the result given by the learner. 
  • v_progress: is a counter for the correct answers, will be used to change the state of the progress bar; this variable is not reset but starts with the value 5 (end value after the Sum slide)
  • v_null: empty variable used to clear the content of the displayed result for a new sum (see Where is Null?)
  • xprefTEBUpdateFromVariable:  for HTML output, one of the CpExtra variables. When assigning the value 1 to this variable (with CpExtra widget loaded either in the file, or headless) it is possible to change the associated variable of a TEB by an action, and it will be reflected immediately in the TEB. I used this to clear TEB_Result.

New variables are:

  • v_max associated with TEB_max will store the maximum value for the terms

  • v_min associated with TEB_min will store the minimum value for the terms

Advanced Actions

Shared actions were not possible. One Standard advanced action was needed (to reset vars) and two Conditional actions.


This very simple standard action, triggered by the On Enter event of the slide, clears several variables that are reused from the Sum slide:


This conditional action is triggered by the OK/New button SB_Number. It has 3 decisions:

  1. "CheckCorrect" will compare the values stored in v_max en v_min. If the maximum value is not exceeding the minimum value, the maximum value will be calculated by adding 200 to the minimum value.

  2. "RandomNum" will generate two random numbers and store them in the variables v_three and v_four. Reason is that the last decision will have to put the largest number into v_one and  the smallest in v_two. This could have been checked in the JS script window as well, but I wanted to keep the JS as simple as possible and checked with the last decision. 

  3. "CheckMax" compares the values in v_three and v_four. The largest value will be assigned to v_one, the other to v_two. This decision also calculates the result of the subtraction to be stored in the variable v_check (will be used to check the user's entry).


This conditional action is triggered by the check shape button SB_CheckSubtract and has 6 decisions

The first decision 'Checker', will check the entered value (v_result) with the correct value (v_check). It is the only decision with a Then and Else part. For correct answer, the state of the sticky character is changed, the counter (v_progress) is incremented,  the state of the button SB_Number is changed to another state and enabled again, while the button SB_CheckSubtract is disabled. For an incorrect answer, the counter is not incremented, and the sticky character is changed to another state.

The 5 other decisions 'ProgressXxxx' check the value of v_counter and show the appropriate state for the progress bar. The last decision 'ProgressTen' will also change the sticky Character to its state GoNext and enable the click box to proceed to the next slide (subject of the next blog post, with Multiply exercises).


In the previous post you learned to use 'window.cpAPIInterfaceSetVariable (x,y)' method to populate a variable x (to be entered as a string between quotes) with a value y. You calculated y by using a combination of two Math methods in JS: 

  • Math.random() which generates a random number between 0 and 1 (not included)
  • Math.floor() which will convert a decimal number to an integer by rounding it down (cutting off the decimals).

For the sum slide we used a combination of those two methods, to end up with a random number between 10 and 100 (not included):


For the Subtraction, the maximum and minimum values are not fixed, but stored in Captivate variables v_max and v_min. Due to the first decision in SubtractTerms action, we are sure that v_max > v_min. Those value will be transferred to JS variables with the method 'window.cpAPIInterfaceGetVariable(x)' where 'x' is the name of the Captivate variable, entered as a string (between quotes). Example:

var max = window.cpAPIInterfaceGetVariable("v_max");       stores value of v_max in JS variable max

Instead of the fixed values 100 and 10, used for the sum slide, you use this time min and max to generate a random number between min and max. The two random numbers are stored in variables v_first and v_second. Since they are random, we do not know yet which one has the largest value:

var first = Math.floor(Math.random()*(max-min)+min);

var second= Math.floor(Math.random()*(max-min)+min);

You are already familiar with SetVariableValue to store the result of first in v_three - Captivate variable, and second in v_four. 



You earned a second star, soon a third part will be ready, up to multiplications and bit more of randomness.

Playing with Numbers - part 1


How to use Adobe Captivate to create a course for simple calculations, has been popping up on the forums several times. You can use Text Entry Boxes, MCQ's to reach that goal, but that is pretty limiting. Some examples can be found in this older blog post where the real goal was to have the score being linked to the attempts.

I started using JavaScript in Captivate projects since the release of the common API for JS (version 8) whenever the advanced actions did lack the wanted functionality. For those who want to start using JS, I wanted to explain some very simple use cases in a sequence of 4 articles that will focus on the 4 basic operators that are available in the Expression command: sum, subtract, multiply and divide. Each of the posts will introduce a JS example. The Expression command is not available as a simple command from the dropdown list in the Actions tab, it is only available in advanced/shared actions. 

This article will focus on the Sum operator, and introduce JS to make it possible to generate random numbers. You'll also see how to assign that generated number to a Captivate variable with the function setVariableValue from the API. That will allow to use the same slide for several sum questions. I will use the Multi-state object feature of Captivate 9 several times as well. In the next parts you'll also learn about retrieving a Captivate variable value with getVariableValue, how to format a number to specific number of decimals, how to avoid dividing by 0 (zero).

Scenario Summing slide

User will be allowed to choose for sums consisting of 2 up to 4 terms. The number of terms can be changed after completion of one exercise.

For a correct answer, the stick figure will change to another state, and a star will be added to the progress bar (also a multi-state object). For an incorrect answer the stick figure also changes to a state but no star will be ended to the progress bar.

After completion of 5 correct sums, the stick figure will change to a Next button. The user could still add more questions, but no more 'stars' will be added to the progress bar. 

In this screenshot, from HTML output, you'll see the situation after one successful answer, second sum has been created with 4 terms:

Used objects

Multi-state objects

Stick Character: see image Object States in Library below

OK/New shape button: see image Object States in Library below

Progress bar: see image Object States in Library below 

Special objects

Radio buttons - works perfectly for SWF output but formatting is not preserved for HTML output; labeled "Wd_TermNumber"

Scrolling Text interaction for SWF output, labeled "Wd_SumResult". It is possible to change the shown content in this interaction by changing the associated variable (v_result). However that functionality only works for SWF, not for HTML output. For that reason I needed an alternative which is a  

Text Entry Box, labeled "TEB_result" combined with the CpExtra widget and a specific command variable for HTML output. Since there is a bug in Captivate 9, which prevents using a TEB multiple times on a slide, I used a workaround. The default Submit button was deleted. It was replaced by a custom shape button (SB_CheckSum in the timeline) to trigger an advanced action. In this case an easy workaround, since I used that same shape button for the Scrolling Text Interaction for SWF output. The associated variable for the TEB is the same as for the Scrolling Text Interaction (v_result). Nothing had to be changed to the advanced action 'CheckSum' when replacing the Scrolling Text Interaction by a TEB.


v_one, v_two, v_three, v_four: will get the values for the (possible) 4 terms of the sum which are generated by the advanced action 'SumTerms'

v_result: will store the result value typed in by the user in the Scrolling Text interaction (SWF) or the TEB (HTML)

v_check: will be calculated and used to validate the result given by the learner in the advanced action 'CheckSum'

v_progress: is a counter for the correct answers, will be used to change the state of the progress bar

v_null: empty variable used to clear the content of the displayed result for a new sum (see Where is Null?)

xprefTEBUpdateFromVariable: only for HTML output, one of the CpExtra variables. When assigning the value 1 to this variable (with CpExtra widget loaded either in the file, or headless) it is possible to change the associated variable of a TEB by an action, and it will be reflected immediately in the TEB. I used this to clear the result when defining a new sum.

Advanced Actions

In this particular case it was not possible to use shared actions. Two advanced actions, both conditional, were needed:

SumTerms, triggered by the OK button (SB_Terms) after choosing the number of terms

This conditional action has 4 decisions, the first 'Always' is a mimicked standard action (will always be executed), prepares for a new sum by clearing the result and the terms. It also resets the state of the sticky character.
The three other decisions will show the correct number of terms, based on the choice made by the user. In these decisions, a Javascript command is used to generate random numbers (see later).

CheckSum, triggered by the Check button (SB_CheckSum) to validate the answer

This conditional action has 6 decisions.

The first decision 'Checker', will check the entered value (v_result) with the correct value (v_check). It is the only decision with a Then and Else part. For correct answer, the state of the sticky character is changed, the counter (v_progress) is incremented,  the state of the button SB_Terms is changed to another state and enabled again, while the button SB_CheckSum is disabled. For an incorrect answer, the counter is not incremented, and the sticky character is changed to another state.

The 5 other decisions 'ProgressXxxx' check the value of v_progress and show the appropriate state for the progress bar. The last decision 'ProgressFive' will also change the sticky Character to its state GoNext and enable the click box to proceed to the next slide (subject of the next blog post, with Subtract exercises).

JavaScript for random numbers

In the documentation provide by the Captivate team about using the common JS interface, you'll find a description of creating random numbers:

Common JS Interface

In this example I wanted to generate a random number between 10 included) and 100 (not included). The script window for the decision 'TwoTerms' of the action SumTerms (see above) had to generate two random numbers, to be stored in v_one and v_two; for the decision 'FourTerms' 4 variables had to get a random number:

Short explanation of this code:

The JS method Math.random() generates a decimal number between 0 (included) and 1 (not included).

The multiplication Math.random()*(100-10) will result in a random (decimal) number between 0 (included) and 90 (not included).

The sum Math.random()*(100-10) + 10 will result in a random (decimal) number between 10 (included) and 100 (not included).

The JS method Math.floor(e) will cut off the decimals of the argument e, round iit down to the nearest integer. As a result the full expression used in the JS window  Math.floor(Math.random()*(100-10) + 10) will result in an integer between 10 (included) and 99 (included). 

The method from the common API setVariableValue(x,y) allows to assign the value from the second argument to the variable indicated in the first argument. Beware: the variable name has to be identified as a string (text) by putting it between single or double quotes. For the value, which is a number, you can use the expression explained above. It is a method of the cpAPIInterface which is in the window object. That explains the total line of code, which in JS always ends with a semicolon:
window.cpAPIInterface.setVariableValue("v_one", Math.floor(Math.random()*(100-10) + 10));


You will be able to download the published files - both for SWF and for HTML, when the 4 articles are ready. If you succeeded reaching  this conclusion, you have won your first star!  Three more to go :)

Knowledge Check Slides - tips


Knowledge Check Slides have been introduced as one of the new quizzing features with version 9. The Help documentation is 'spartan' as usual. You can read this as Features (quote from the Help):

  • Knowledge check slide imbibes similar features of question slide without any results, reporting structure and interaction ids. 
  • Knowledge check slides do not participate in reviews. 
  • Random questions are not applicable to this knowledge check slide. 
  • Master slide and controls usage is similar to question slide. 
  • Knowledge check slides can be used to impart the learning on specific topics. 

I explored those KC slides in preparation for a workshop about new Quizzing features, and want to give you some more tips. Since the KC slides are very similar to normal quiz slides, I'll start with 'Recognizing KC slides'. Then I'll show the differences in default setup, and in some other aspects not mentioned in the Help,  the relationship with the quizzing system variables and - what did you expect? - a tweaking tip.

Recognizing KC slides

This is possible in different locations:
  • in the Filmstrip, KC slides get a special indicator at the bottom right, which the Quiz slides do not have; in this screenshot slides 1&3 are KC slides and have that indicator:
  • in the Quiz Properties panel you see more differences with normal quiz slides, most are due to the fact that KC slides are not scored by default:
  • The mention (KC) next to the type of question
    The lack of the possibility to choose between Graded and Survey (because KC slides are not scored)
    No partial scoring for MCQ slides with multiple correct answers 
    No points
    No penalty

  • in the Advanced Interaction panel you don't see a specific indicator. The score of the KC slides is set to 0,  they are not set to be reported but... contrary to what the Help tells, the KC slides have an individual Interaction ID. This is probably not used. Look at this screenshot:

There is no way to convert a KC slide into a question slide, nor a question slide into a KC slide!

Default setup KC slide

The default settings for a KC slide are bit different from those for a question slide:

  1. For a KC slide only the Incomplete feedback message is activated, not the Correct message as for Quiz slides
  2. For both KC and Question slide only the Submit button is checked off. The Back, Skip and Clear buttons can be activated, but they are not by default.
  3. Attempts are set to Infinite, with the Retry Message enabled. For question slides by default Attempts is set to 1. Because the attempts are set to infinite, you don't have a Failure message enabled for KC slides. You can decrease the attempts and in that case you can provide up to 3 Failure message, same as for Question slides.

You read in the Help that KC slides will not be visited during Review, they are not in the Quiz scope, except of course if they are nested in between normal quiz slides. Contrary to Pretest slides, the KC slides will not prevent navigation by playbar or TOC.

It is not possible to use question pools (see Help), random questions but it is also not possible to use GIFT format to import KC slides. 

Some options in the Quiz Preferences do work for KC-slides: if you check the option to Hide Playbar in Quiz, this will be valid both for question slides and KC slides. Unchecking the option 'Allow Backwards Movement' will only prevent backwards movement on question slides, not on KC slides. However, KC slides do not get a Progress indicator! IIf you want a progress indicator (question X of Y) you can have a look at this older blog post..

When you leave a KC slide, it is reset immediately which is not the case for question slides which are frozen until a new attempt on Quiz level is started. In that way a KC slide behaves like a Drag&Drop slide that is not set to be reported, had no score. There is no possibility to freeze the answer on a KC slide, which may be a game stopper sometimes.

As the Help mentioned, design of the KC slides depends on the same master slides as the normal question slides, with the exception of the new Review buttons which will never appear on KC slides. For navigation on KC slides you can use the Back/Skip buttons or add custom shape buttons.

System variables 

Contrary to the Pretest slides, there are no specific system variables available for Knowledge Check slides. I have been looking for quizzing system variables that do get a value from a KC slide. Here is an overview of the variables that are not used by KC slides:

  • cpInQuizScope and cpInReviewMode, both Booleans will not be toggled from the default 'false' to 'true' when you enter a KC slide. If the KC slide is in between normal question slides, it can be 'true' but that is not due to the KC slides.
  • Variables linked with scoring are not used: cpInfoPercentage, cpQuizInfoLastSlidePointScored, cpQuizInfoNegativePointsOnCurrentQuestionSlide, cpQuizInfoPassFail, cpQuizInfoPointsPerQuestionSlide, cpQuizInfoPointsscored, cpQuizInfoPartialScoringOn, cpQuizInfoTotalProjectPoints, cpQuizInfoTotalQuizPoints 
  • cpQuizInfoAttempts: gives the attempts on Quiz level, as specified in 'Quiz Preferences, Pass or Fail'. Those attempts have no sense for KC slides, since the user can come back as many times as he wants to retake the KC question which is always reset when leaving the slide.
  • cpQuizInfoPassPercent and cpQuizInfoPassPoints: since KC slides have no score, those settings of the Quiz Preferences have no meaning for KC slides.
  • cpQuizInfoTotalQuestionsPerProject: contrary to the Pretest questions which are counted in this variable, as are the normal Question slides, the KC slides are not included in this variable. Same for the variables cpQuizInfoTotalCorrectAnswers, and cpQuizInfoTotalUnansweredQuestions

As you see not many variables are used by KC slides, but some are used! Moreover they can be very useful if you want to do more with KC slides:

  • cpQuizInfoAnswerChoice: one of my favorites as you could read in this old blog postIt can be used to tweak the work flow with KC slides as you'll read more later on. One exception: it is not populated when you use Advanced Answer option.
  • cpQuizInfoMaxAttemptsOnCurrentQuestion: can be useful as well, although having a similar system variable to cpQuizInfoAttempts for current attempt on question level would be even better. You need a user variable as a counter for attempts on question level. If you keep the default setting of Infinite attempts, this variable will have the value 32767 (no idea why?).
  • cpQuizInfoQuestionSlideTiming and cpQuizInfoQuestionSlideType are available for KC slides as well.

Tweaking tips

Here are some tips, which I tried out with success but will not explain in detail.

  1. If you do not want to keep the Attempts set at Infinite, but to a limited number it would be possible to count the number of correctly answered KC slides. Create a user variable v_counter with a default value of 0. Use the Success action of the KC slides to increment that counter. Later on you can show the obtained value for v_counter, and even use that value in a conditional action to offer feedback or navigate the user back to content slides.

  2. There is no Review possibility for KC slides as mentioned. If you offer limited attempts on question level, you could show a custom feedback message on the KC slide for the questions answered correctly, something like 'You have answered this question correctly'. When simulating a 'Review' situation, the user will be invited to answer only the KC questions that do not show that message. Be careful: all embedded question slide objects are always on top of the stack, you don't want the feedback to be hidden by those objects. That can be done by having a shape before the KC slide, timed for the rest of the project and always on top. This tweaking work flow was described in this article: Buttons on Question/Score slides?

  3. The use case described in this thread of the Captivate forums could be solved using the same system variable cpQuizInfoAnswerChoice in conditional actions, combined with a counter to track the number of attemptsl. You cannot leave a normal question slide to a content slide for remediation unless you follow the strict rules for remediation. If you want to limit the attempts to get a correct answer, remediation rules are broken. With a KC slide, the answers are reset every time, which allows a lot more freedom. However: if you need a real score for the slide, you'll have to use the workaround I described in this blog post: Report Custom Questions - part 2

    1 action = 5 Toggle Buttons


    In the past I wrote some posts about creating Toggle buttons. The oldest article explained the use of an Expression and a system variable for a button that kept the same style but could turn on/off a functionality (created for versions 5/5.5). My excitement about shape buttons, appearing in version 6, was the inspiration for several scenarios in which the style of the toggle button changed with the on/off situation. 

    When shared actions appeared with Captivate 7, I posted some articles about the difference with advanced actions. Captivate 8 enhanced shared actions by allowing variables and literals as candidate parameters. Although Captivate 9 seems not to add any improvements to shared actions (had hoped secretly for an easier way to edit them), combining shared actions with the new multistate objects will save a lot of time. The use case described here is a good example. Start by watching the example movie to understand my interpretation of Toggle buttons.

    Example movie

    This movie has 4 slides, the third slide shows the toggle buttons. Try them out, there are two instances of the shape button that toggles the visibility of an image or a group. They use a different user variable. Beware: images do overlap on the slide. The other shape buttons are muting/playing audio, showing/hiding Closed Captioning, Table of Content and Playbar. I choose shape buttons over normal buttons because they offer more freedom for styling the InBuilt states. To navigate to the last slide you have to 'toggle' on either the playbar or the TOC for navigation.


    All toggle buttons have in common to be associated with a variable that can be toggled by the developer: I'm talking about Boolean variables, which can have only two logical values '0' (False/No) or '1' (True/Yes). Both system and user variables are possible. On this screenshot you see the Timeline with the 6 shape buttons, labeled to identify their functionality (SB is my indication for Shape Buttons):


    The associated variables are in the same sequence as on the timeline, from top to bottom:

    • v_visgrp (user variable with Default value = 0) for SB_visib_group

    • v_visib (user variable with Default value = 0) for SB_visib

    • cpCmndShowPlaybar (system variable with Default value = 1) for SB_Playbar

    • cpCmndTOCVisible (system variable with Default value = 0) for SB_TOC

    • cpCmndCC (system variable with Default value = 0) for SB_CC

    • cpCmndMute (system variable with Default value = 0) for SB_Audio

    This list shows that one of the system variables doesn't have '0' as default value, cpCmndShowPlaybar. Solution for this discrepancy can be found in switching the states for the associate button, or in switching the variable itself to '0', thus hiding the Playbar. I used the second scenario: with the On Enter action for the third slide I did Hide the Playbar, which toggles cpCmndShowPlaybar to 0

    The shared action can be used for any button with such a, associated Boolean variable, system or user variable. Some examples are shown in the last slide of the example movie: cpLockTOC or a user variable to toggle an audio object.


    The shape buttons have three InBuilt states: Normal, Rollover and Down. For each button I added one custom state. That state will change the shape button to show the 'OFF' state, and if necessary additional objects are added in this state. In this screenshot you see the 4 states for the shape button SB_Audio:

    This shape button has a SVG added in each state. At this moment SVG cannot be used as a Fill image for a shape button (maybe in a next version?), they are separate objects. For some states I also changed the style of the shape itself (Fill):

    1. Normal: has a SVG indicating you can mute  audio (since cpCmndMute has a default value of 0, which means that audio is playing)
    2. Rollover: Speaker only (SVG), Fill different
    3. Down: Speaker only (SVG), Fill different
    4. AudioOn: has a SVG indication to play audio; this will be the state that is visible when audio is muted, cpCmndMute = 1.

    The buttons SB_TOC, SB_CC and SB_Playbar have a similar setup: for the InBuilt states text was inserted in the shape. The custom fourth state adds two line objects (cross) over a duplicate of the Normal state. Look at the screenshot for the SB_Playbar:

    Both instances of the Visibility toggle button use SVG's to change the style of the shape button (similar to SB_Audio), but they add other objects for the 4th custom state as you can see here:

    Shared Action

    The action has to be conditional, checking the value of the Boolean variable. Only two commands are needed, both in Then and Else part: to change the state of the shape button itself and to toggle the variable. Toggling the variable between 0 and 1 will switch the functionality between On and Off. If you write this out as an advanced action, in this case for the Audio button, it would look like this:
    When creating a shared action, it is important to identify the parameters. Compulsory parameters in this action are:
    1. the button itself (SB_Audio in the screenshot above)
    2. the state 'Normal' which is used and
    3. the state 'AudioOn' which is used as well

    Candidate parameters are:

    1. The variable cpCmndMute: it has to be a parameter, because we need other Boolean variables for the other buttons
    2. Literal '1': because I choose the 4 th state (custom) for each button with this action in mind, it is not necessary to define this literal as a parameter

    This leads to the definition of the shared action with 4 parameters, the compulsory and one candidate parameter. In this last screenshot you see the parameters with their values for another button, SB_Playbar. Watch the description of the parameters.


    In many situations using a Captivate playbar is not a good choice, and with states, one single shared action from your script library it is now really simple to create not only Next and Back buttons, but also every other toggle button needed on the course slides. If using shape buttons (as was the case here) you can put them on the first slide of the course, time them for the rest of the project. They will have each a unique ID, which allows you to take control of those shape buttons, to hide them when they are not needed on some slides. Good luck!

    Matchstick Game - shared actions


    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


    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


    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.


    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.

    Custom Hotspot questions in Captivate 8


    A couple of weeks ago I presented a session 'Enhance Effectiveness of Quizzes in Captivate 8' at DevLearn 2014. One of the subjects that I barely was able to tackle due to lack of time, is the creation of custom questions. You'll find several blog posts where I created custom questions using standard objects, widgets and learning interactions. On the forums I often suggest to replace the default hotspot questions by custom questions. And finally find the time to explain why I recommend this. The success of the Quiz blog posts and of this BYOL session at DevLearn make me wondering if an e-book with focus on Quizzing would be welcomed by the community? Looking for comments on that plan.


    The default hotspot question slide has some limitations. Here are the ones I find most frustrating:
    • hotspots are always rectangular
    • it is not possible to have partial scoring
    • you cannot add shape buttons to that type of slide, because any space outside of the correct hotspots causes failure
    Thanks to my favourite Captivate object, the shape button, it is pretty easy to create a scored custom hotspot question with
    • freeform hotspots
    • partial scoring, that can be reported to a LMS by SCORM
    • allowing to add shape buttons for more functionality

    Why not?

    What are the disadvantages of a custom hotspot question slide compared with the default hotspot question slide;
    • custom question slides always take more time (although shared actions can help), especially if you want to add all question functionality (Clear, Retake etc...)
    • if you like the animations that appear on clicked hotspots, they are not added automatically in custom hotspots, there is of course a way of showing the clicked hotspots
    • although the total score will be correct when using partial scoring, some quizzing system vars will consider each correct hotspot as being a separate question; you have to be careful when using a default score slide, in which you show number of questions/correct questions
    • it is not possible to use custom questions in a question pool


    Watch this movie. After the intro slide you'll see two Hotspot questions. Both questions have partial scoring. The fourth slide is the default score slide, to show how each correct hotspot is considered to be a question as is the case with all scored objects. To remediate, I added a custom score slide as last slide (use Continue button on the 4th slide). I didn't create a Reset or Retake situation. If you want to replay, refresh the browser window. Good luck!

    Concept Hotspot Question - version 1

    This question slide has one big shape button behind four shape buttons that indicate the form of the four countries to be clicked. The big shape button when clicked, will track a wrong click. I used 3 variables for this question:
    • v_attempt: number allowed attempts; will be reused for second question, number is assigned by On Enter action
    • v_counter: counts the clicks, to be compared with v_attempt;  will be reused for second question, reset to 0 by On Enter action
    • v_wrong: counts the mistakes, is not reset because it will continue to increment on second question, is used on custom score slide.
    Here you see the timeline of this slide. The correct hotspots, shape buttons, have been duplicated to create the covers that are normal shapes with a texture fill. 

    For the incorrect hotspot (shape button) I created a conditional advanced action with two decisions:
    1. "Always" is a mimicked standard action, self-explanatory. Because this hotspot can be clicked multiple times, the last statement is necessary to place the playhead one frame back, in the active portion of the shape button.

    2. "ShowNext" checks if the number of allowed attempts is reached, and if that is the case will hide all the hotspots and shows the Next button.

    For the correct hotspots, that allow only one click, I created a shared action with two decisions

    1. "Always" is a mimicked standard action, self-explanatory. The parameters are highlighted.

    2. "Checker" is similar to the second decision for the incorrect hotspot. Parameters are highlighted.

    The On Enter action for this slide is a standard shared action that resets the value of v_counter and v_wrong to 0 and assigns a value to v_attempt.

    Concept Hotspot Question - version 2

    I will not explain this question as extensively as version 1 (maybe in a planned book about Quizzes). It has multiple incorrect hotspots, and uses an extra variable v_scorehot. Try to figure it out. As a tip, this was my timeline:


    As always I welcome comments about this example. As mentioned in the Intro, I would also like to know if you'd appreciate a book explaining the design, the tweaking possibilities and custom questions for Captivate quizzing.

    Customized Progress Indicator


    Do you use the Progress Indicator for Quizzes? I'm very frustrated about that indicator: you have the choice between a Relative or an Absolute indicator, you can adjust the style using the Object Style Manager, but... no way to change the phrasing of that indicator. It is always 'Question X of Y'. If you are an unhappy Captivate-user that needs to localize a lot of courses, this is really annoying. My Dutch-speaking students want a Dutch indicator, my French students want a French indicator etc.
    It is really not so hard to create your own Progress indicator for Question slides, using rather simple advanced actions and a dedicated Master slide. In this tip I will explain the work flow step by step


    Play this movie to check the result. In this Quiz I do have 6 question slides. The first 3 questions use a master slide with a progress indicator in English, the last 3 use a similar master slide but with an indicator in Dutch. Do not panic: all questions are in English.

    Work Flow

    • User variables: create 2 user variables, I labeled them
      • v_begin  to store the slide number of the last slide immediately before the first question slide 
      • v_current  to store the number of the question; since there is no accessible system variable for this information I will have to detect it from the current slide number

    • Advanced actions: create 2 advanced (standard) actions, I labeled them:
      • IndBegin: to be triggered on entering the last normal slide before the first question. It has only one real statement: to store the current slide number (system variable rdinfoCurrentSlide) in the user variable v_begin. First image in the Gallery shows this action.
      • IndCurrent; to be triggered on entering each question slide, it calculates the question number and stores it in the variable v_current. I do use the system variable rdinfoCurrentSlide again combined with the fixed  number stored in v_begin. Second image in the Gallery shows this action.

    • Attach the actions IndBegin to On Enter for the last slide before the questions and IndCurrent to all Question slides as the same On Enter action (can be done in one operation, select all the Question slides and use the Properties panel, Action accordion)

    • Master slide: create the master slide to be applied to all the Question slides. In this example I created 2 Master slides for the English and the Dutch questions, both based on the General master slide (for the background). Insert the text caption that shows the sentence to be used for the Progress indicator. The used variables in my Progress Indicator (see third image in the Gallery) were:
      • v_current the current question slide number, calculated with IndCurrent action
      • cpQuizInfoTotalQuestionsPerProject is a Quizzing system variable that shows the total number of questions in the project, you can of course also introduce this manually but I do not like to count myself
      • cpQuizInfoPointsPerQuestionSlice this is a bonus, not necessary but extra information for the learner, a Quizzing system variable as well. 


    Hope you liked this small tip, and will be inspired to use variables on master slides.


    Extended TextArea Widget: more functionality


    A couple of days ago, I "talked" about the TextArea widget coming for free with Captivate 5 for creating custom Fill-in-the-Blank and Short Answer Question slides. At that moment I told you that I did regret that it was not possible to change the associated user variable by an advanced action and have this visible in the TextArea Widget. Just when I was wondering if I would dare to ask some of the Widget princes of the Captivate Community to extend the functionality of this widget, Jim Leichliter simply offered such an extended version on his website: TextArea Widget with variables. It is a wonderful example of our dynamic community, and I'm so grateful to be part of it.
    In this blog post I will show the added possibilities for the same Quiz as in the previous post. The changes to the advanced actions and the new to be created variables are be explained in this article published with the Adobe Community Publishing app. Please check my conclusion:


    Example movie

    Play this movie with the same 4 Question slides, described in the previous movie. It has an extra slide after the score slide with new functionalities:  3 possibilities to Retry the quiz, please try them out. This was not possible with the original CP-widget. And I remember questions on the user forum: is it possible to have users only retaking the incorrect questions? That is possibility 3 in this movie.

    Extension of the widget

    This extension allowed me to manipulate the content of the TextArea visible on the slides. With the standard Widget, the text entered in the TextArea is stored in the associated user variable, but if you change that user variable this will not be reflected on the slide. If you watched the movie in the previous blog post, and tested the Retry work flow, you'll have noticed that the answers introduced before remained on the slides. You were able to change them manually, but I couldn't clear the text or replace it.
    With the extension this is possible. Here is my work flow for each of the 3 possibilities for Retrying:

    Possibility 1:

    The answer given the first time remain on the slides, the user can edit them - this was the only workflow possible with the default TextArea Widget, the user variable has not been changed.

    Possibility 2:

    All answers are cleared. I created extra user variables:
    • v_pos: will store the value 1, 2, 3 corresponding with the Retry possibility chosen, will be used in a conditional action
    • Start: has the text 'My answer: ' as content; in an advanced action the variables associated with the Short Answer TextArea widgets on the first 3 question slides will get this content, replacing the text input by the user, thus clearing the previous answer
    • Null:  is a user variable that is empty: in an advanced action the variables associated with the 3 widgets in the FIB Question will get this content, thus creating empty fields again.

    Possibility 3:

    Only incorrect answers are cleared, using the same user variables and technique as in possibility 2; correct answers with the given score will remain, using similar statements as for the Review work flow.

    What next - Ideas?

    One comment was about possibility to report to a LMS with custom questions: this is partly possible, will try to post my experiences shortly. But there are more widgets in the treasure box coming with Captivate to explore too. Please do not hesitate to comment or let me know your ideas.

    Widgets and Custom Questions - part 2


    As promised, here is the second but not last part of my soap about using (free) widgets to create customized questions. One of the most versatile widgets for this goal is the TextArea widget, it will be the only 'star' today. Not only is it a very fine alternative for Text Entry Boxes because it allows for better formatting, text wrapping and if necessary the appearance of a vertical scroll bar, but it can be associated with a variable, which makes it accessible ...for advanced actions!

    I will illustrate the use of the TextArea widget for Short Answer questions with a lot more scoring options than the default Short Answer question and for Fill-in-the-Blank questions.

    In this blog post I will explain how to use this widget and its possibilities, In detail explanation of the advanced actions can be found in this article

    Using TextArea widget for Custom Questions 

    Example movie

    Explore the TextArea widget by playing this movie. It has and intro-slide, 4 question slides and a score slide:
    1. Short answer question (roundtripping): score will be based on keywords, all keywords have to be in the answer to get the score.
    2. Short answer question (languages): partial scoring but also on keywords, each correct keyword adds to the score
    3. Short answer question (web apps): only one out of 2 keywords needed to get the score
    4. Fill-in-the-Blank question (twitter): with partial scoring, each correct word adds to the score

    On the score slide you will be able either to Review the questions or to Retry all questions and increment your score.

    TextArea widget

    This widget can be associated with a user variable, but you will have to define that variable separately (Project, Variables), same way I described for the Radiobuttons and Checkboxes widgets in part 1 (Widgets and Custom Questions - part 1). The first image of the Gallery shows the properties of the widget used on the first question slide (about roundtripping), WidgetRound, . Those properties are easy to configure, and the user variable is v_roundtrip. When exploring this widget I was excited by the fact that this variable will store the complete text that is entered. This looked like a promise for multiple possibilities in Short Answer questions. I never used the default Short Answer question because the score can only be attributed if the Short Answer is totally correct! And this is rarely necessary as I heard as well from other users on the forum. Usually the short answer should get a score when it mentions some keywords, not when it is exactly the same as the "correct entry".

    Tip: while exploring this widget I detected that it will only be functional if it has its place in the Z-order (stack order) on the timeline above all interactive objects. In the Gallery the second image shows the Timeline of the first question slide about roundtripping. On this slide ShortAn1 you'll see the stack order from bottom to top:
    • TitleSA1 = title of the slide (text caption)
    • Quest1 = question (text caption)
    • BtSubmitRT = button Submit (interactive)
    • BtContRT = button Continue (interactive)
    • WidgetRound = TextArea Widget
    • RTFeedback = text caption with Feedback (non interactive)
    • ScoreRT = text caption showing the score (non interactive)
    • RetryRT = text caption that will show up if the question is retaken (non interactive)

    If you switch the place of the Widget with one of the buttons, it will not be functional! I had to put the three last captions on top of the widget because they are partially covering up the widget's text box when they appear. They do not interfere with the widget's functionality because they are not interactive.

    Question slides - description 

    1. Short answer - all keywords necessary

    This question has a score of 5 points. This score will be attributed if the answer contains both the keywords Photoshop AND Soundbooth. Probably some users will also add Powerpoint, but this will not be taken into account for the score.  It is annoying that not only the names of user variables are case sensitive but also the values! I assumed that users could type both Soundbooth and soundbooth, Photoshop and photoshop to create the unique but complex condition for the Submit button. You can see the settings for the Widget and the objects on the timeline in the Gallery.
    The Buttons Submit and Continue are timed, the Continue button will only appear after the Submit button has been clicked, same setup as described for the custom questions in Part 1.

    2. Short answer- partial scoring

    Up to 4 keywords can result in a score, each keyword adds 2 points, the max. score thus being 8 points.
    Setup of the widget and the objects on the timeline are the same as for the first question. The big difference is of course the advanced conditional action attached to the Submit button. Here it is a combination of 4 different decisions, one for each keyword.

    3. Short answer - one out of two keywords

    Two possible correct keywords (Flash + Dreamweaver), but the user needs only to have one mentioned in his short answer. The situation is the same as for the first Short Answer, with one condition in the setting 'Any of the conditions true', but again taking into account the case sensitivity. Widget Properties and objects on the timeline are similar to the first question.

    4. Fill-in-the-Blank - 3 fields with partial scoring

    In the third image of the Gallery you will see the Timeline of this slide, that uses 3 instances of the TextArea Widget. Perhaps you wonder why I prefer TextArea to Text Entry boxes? The user input in a TEB has to be confirmed, either by  a Submit button or by a shortcut, which is not the case for TextArea. The user can change his input if he wants and the value of the associated user variable will be adapted in real time.
    Possible issues: you'll have to try a little bit to have the right size and position for the widgets. I first typed the correct terms and positioned the widget on top of those, but had to adapt the position even with the same font/fontsize.
    In this FIB you cannot give the user the possibility to choose from a dropdown list, only to type the answer.

    Partial scoring is however possible, the advanced conditional action attached to the Submit button is rather similar to the one used for the second question (Short answer with partial scoring). Again you have to take into account the case sensitivity.

    Results Slide

    The results slide has the same setup as described in my first blog post about Widgets and custom questions. To allow the Review/Retry I used a user variable v_try that will have 3 possible values:
    • v_try = 0  is inital value, when the user takes the quiz for the first time
    • v_try = 1  when he retakes the quiz
    • v_try = 2  when he reviews the quiz

    Those values will be used to re-initialize each question slide (see article).

    One drawback of the used widget: it is not possible to reset the value of the variable to void/null/empty! You can reset the associated variable to a Null value, but this will not be reflected in the display of the TextArea on the slides. Once the user has entered something, it will stay there until he changes it himself. You can watch this with the Retry functionality in the sample SWF.

    Timer widget... to stress your learners


    Perhaps a coincidence, but I answered this week twice a question about having a timer for a learner while taking a Quiz. It is possible to have a time limit and appropriate action set up in a LMS, but with the Timer widget that you get out of the box you can also provide this (stressful) information. Once I wrote about using the system variable cpInfoElapsedTimeMS (Quiz showing elapsed time) to display info about time spent on a slide. In this post I will try to explain the possible uses of the Timer widget. It is a small but useful widget that is associated with a user variable which allows to create advanced actions.

    Use cases for Timer widget 

    As is the case for most of the widgets coming with Captivate, the Timer is a static widget. As I explained in the post about the Button widget (Using the button widget) this is great news, because you can use the widget on master slides and on question slides. In the example movie you will that I used the widget twice:

    1. In its digital appearance (left at the bottom) it is counting down from the maximum allowed time for the total time on the question slides
    2. In its analog appearance (right at the bottom) it is counting up to the maximum time allowed per question slide
    I will explain the workflow for both timers. Watch the movie first, I provided 10 sec for each question slide, but without any consequence if this limit is passed. For the total time the limit is 30sec and once you pass that limit you will not be able to continue with the next question but will be navigated immediately to the score slide. I re-used the questions described in the blog post (link).

    Timer for total time - workflow

    • Create a user variable, I labeled it v_time;  it is not possible to create this from the dialog box with the widget properties.

    • Insert the widget on the first question slide and configure it as in the first picture of the Gallery: digital version, count down, with a message when count gets to zero and I formatted the characters;I labeled this widget 'TimerWidget'

    • Set the timing of this widget to diplay for the rest of the project (Properties panel, Timing accordion)

    Because I do not want this Timer widget to stay visible on the last slide, the score slide, I created an advanced action EnterScore (screenshot in Gallery) that is executed on entering this slide with 3 statements.
    Hide TimerWidget        (digital countdown timer for total Quiz time)
    Hide TextTime             (text caption before the digital timer)
    Assign v_time with 0    (to reset the variable and allow the user to review the quiz)
    Limitation: it is impossible to restart the timer widget  Since I did hide this TimerWidget (total quiz time) the widget will be invisible during review.

    Timer for individual Question time - workflow

    Since  I did not want to have an action based on this second timer in this example, it is not necessary to create a user variable, nor to point to such a variable in the Properties dialog box.

    • Insert a second instance of the widget on the master slide that is used for the question slides
    • I configured this widget to be analog, to count up (to the maximum of 10sec) and changed the colors (see third screenshot)
    I did not hide this timer during review. You cannot hide an object that is on the applied master slide. If you want to hide it, you will have to insert this widget on each question slide and use a condtional action to test and hide the widget on second visit. Remember: you can execute an advanced action on entering a default question slide, but not on exiting that slide. Moreover you cannot trigger advanced actions by the buttons on the default question slides. If you create custom question slides you do not have those limitations, but in this post I only want to demonstrate the use of the Timer widget.

    Advanced action TimeCheck

    Each advanced action has to be triggered by an event. Here I chose to have this action triggered on entering each question slide. This is not really necessary for the first question slide, because the timer sits on that slide and the user variable will always be set to 0 (False). This is a real simple conditional action: if the user variable contains the value 0, the user will be navigated immediately to the scored slide (see fourth screenshot in the gallery), if not (Else action - no screenshot) the statement Continue is executed.
    This means that the learner gets a little bonus: his time is not exactly limited to 30secs, if he has entered a question slide before the counter got to 0, he will be able to answer that question, but the message will pop up. 
    Mystery of the user variable: Want to warn you that the associated user variable doesn't store the time left, but only boolean values 0 or 1. And it took me a while to discover this. If you show the value of the user variable in a text caption (my way of debugging) it will show 'false' as long as the timer did not reach its limit and the value 'true' when time is up. So I tried out the condition 'If v_time is equal to true' but this did not work. You have to use the numerical values 1 (true) or 0 (false). This explains the decision:
    if v_time is equal to 1

    Captivate 6 users - warning

    If you use the described work flow in version 6, there are possibly some problems:

    • when trying to associate a variable to the widget, not all characters will be accepted (like underscore) and some characters will be turned automatically into capitals; be sure to check that the defined variable has exactly the same name as the one you enter in the widget properties: Vtime will be accepted, but v_time not;
    • the values to check for the user variable Vtime are not 0 and 1 but true and false
    • having an action that on exceeding time will jump to another slide will not be functional if you use the new feature 'Submit all'

    And for 6.1 users:  try using the new Countdown widget, it allows you to have an action immediately after the countdown reaches 0, contrary to the Timer widget that needs an extra event (like On Enter slide) to trigger an action. Will blog soon about the new widgets in 6.1.

    More ideas?

    Try this out with customized question slides, gives you a lot more control.
    You can also create a more complex condition: if a user exceeds the time allowed for one question slide, jump immediately to the score slide or skip one or more question slides.