Tiny Timeline Tidbits


No one can doubt about the importance of the timeline panel in Captivate projects, but from frequent questions during webinars and on the forum, it seems that not all aspects, functionality are that well known. With this posting I want to explain a little bit and offer personal tips. Screenshots are from Captivate 5 but a lot  is also valid for version 4.

Timelines in Captivate  (illustrated by Image Gallery)

Captivate has different kind of timelines:
  • Slide timeline, which is really the timeline for the background of the slide: Question slides (including Score slide) and Full Motion Recording slides (when created by Captivate during capturing) by default have only this timeline, although you can add objects later on.
    Have a look at image 1 (SingleTimelines) that shows a FMR, a Question slide and a Score slide. All other images have the slide timeline at the bottom of the stack (example in image 2: Normal).
  • Audio timeline: if there is audio on the slide it will have its own timeline, and this will be under the slide timeline; audio attached to an object has not an individual timeline, you have to look for a small audio-icon next to the object.
    An audio timeline (and audio attached to an object, in this case TEBChoice) is visible in image 3 (EffectsAudio)
  • Object timeline: on most slides you will have objects on the background, each object has its own timeline and the location in the stack defines the priority (Arrange command or dragging allows you to change which object will be in front). Have a look at the object timelines in image 2 (Normal) and watch the color code and information on those object timelines.
  • Effects timeline (only in CP5) is visible in image 3 (AudioEffects); duration of this timeline is synchronized with the duration of the object timeline. 
  • Slidelet timeline: a rollover slidelet has its own timeline as you can see in image 4 (SlideSlidelet)
  • Pro ject created from a Powerpoint-Presentation, before adding any object will have typically one of the timelines you'll see in the image 5: if you choose to use 'Automatically advance' on creation, you will have a slide timeline with a duration that is taken from Powerpoint. This is really a FMR-timeline, because animation will be included, but the typical red bar doesn't show up here. If you choose to use 'On Mouse Click', there will be a click box inserted at the end of the slide (0,3sec before end) that pauses at the end of the slide. If you want to have the possibility to click earlier, change the start time of this click box. Both typical timelines are visible in image 5 (PPTImport).
There are also timelines in the Audio and Video edting dialog boxes.

Color code of timelines

Yellow = mouse object  (not in CP6 it is more 'beige')  
Grey = slide background, audio
Blue = if no action from user necessary: Text Caption, Highlight box, Drawing object, Text Animation, Animation , Video
Green = when action from user: Zoom Area, Rollover Text/Image, Rollover slidelet, Click box, Button, Text Entry Box

In CP6: selected timeline will be dark blue. Groups of objects are light grey.

Tiny buttons and symbols

 The timeline panel has a lot of tiny buttons/symbols. Watch this Captivate-SWF where I try to explain the functionalities of those buttons.

Hiding is not always hiding?

On the timeline by clicking on the dot under the Hide and the Lock heading you can hide or lock. I had to answer different questions like 'Why should you hide/lock something on the stage? What are the consequences? What is the difference with desetting the visibility for an object ?

Lock is easy to explain: if you lock a slide, you cannot edit anything on that slide, no moving, no resizing no adding/deleting/editing objects.
If you lock an object: you cannot select, duplicate, move, resize, edit nor delete that object. This feature is useful when editing slide to avoid accidentally editing.
Locking slides/objects has no consequences whatever on your published SWF, no need to unlock before publishing.

Hide is a different 'beast':
  • If you hide a slide (click the Hide dot on the level of the slide Timeline) it will not be visible when previewing, not when published. It has the same effect as using Hide Slide from the right-click menu on the slide in the filmstrip or the stage. Shortcut is SHIFT-CTRL-H. In all the cases an 'eye' icon will appear in the filmstrip under the hidden slide.
  • If you hide an object by clicking on the Hide dot on the level of the object timeline, the object becomes invisible on the stage but not in the filmstrip. Moreover: when previewing or after publishing to SWF you will see this object. This 'Hide'-action is totally different from setting the visibility of the object to false. It is meant only to make selecting and editing of objects on a complicated slide easier. If you have such a slide there will be a lot of timelines and it is not easy to select an object that is under other objects in the stacking order of those timelines. You can always select the object on the timeline, or you can hide objects that are on top of other objects. One example: you have a click box on top of the timeline that covers up all the slide, you will not be able to select any other object on the stage in that case.  No need to unhide those objects before publishing normally, except when you want output to a Word-document: hidden objects will not be printed. That can be welcome if you want to hide some success/failure captions on the printed output.

Shortcut keys

Perhaps you know already that love using shortcut keys. And the timeline panel has a lot of them.

Zooming : In CP4 you could zoom in/out on the timeline using CTRL-mousewheel but that is no longer possible in CP5.  In CP4 there was also a menu (loupe icon with several settings) to change the zoom of the timeline, this is gone in CP5 too. You have to use the slider at the bottom of the Timeline panel in CP5. But for exact timing the timing part in the Properties panel is of course always available.

Spacebar or F3: alternative shortcuts for the play button on the timeline panel; use this for editing timing, for synchronizing but do know that it is not a real Preview like the other options under Preview! Use this 'Slide Preview' (you can also scrub) to position the Playhead, and you can then easily synchronize start times of objects with this Playhead position. If you insert a new object it will always have its start time set to this Playhead position.

CTRL-E: to extend the duration of a selected object till the end of the slide

CTRL-L: to move the start of an object timeline to the Playhead position, a great way to have multiple objects appearing on the same moment  (still waiting for CTRL-R to align end of timeline with playhead)

CTRL-P: to move the start of an audio timeline to the Playhead position

LEFT/RIGHT: moves start of an object timeline 0,1sec in the indicated direction, works also for audio timelines (they do not have a Timing part in the Properties panel)

CTRL-LEFT/CTRL-RIGHT: moves start of an object timeline 1sec in the indicated direction (also audio timelines)

SHIFT-LEFT/SHIFT-RIGHT: decrements/increments duration of slide timeline or object timeline with 0,1sec

SHIFT-CTRL-LEFT/SHIFT-CTRL-RIGHT: decrements/increments duration of slide timeline or object timeline with 1sec


3 responses
Really Awesome Tutorial Lieve - perfect 4 beginners, but also great review 4 anyone
Lieve, you never disappoint! Nice job with this... Time for you to write the definitive Captivate book... :)
Thanks, Rick, it is not a new post, but several questions on the user forum made me tweet the link again. But think that you would have preferred a real tutorial with VO, not?