To Blog or Not to Blog?

At the end of this posting I will offer a small 'toggle' tip. Feel free to jump my (first) personal reflections and get immediately to that tip.

Just one month ago I started a 'trial period' with this blog, and it is the moment to decide if I will continue?  Why did I start?

  • Using the Adobe Online Publishing application I had published several articles, tutorials about new and improved aspects in Adobe Captivate 5. But those articles were not that easy to find, and I felt a little bit frustrated. Several kind friends offered to post a link to them on their website/blog.
  • Publishing an article takes quite a lot of time. And I had so many ideas, tips I wanted to offer to the Captivate Community. I thought that a blog was an easier and quicker way to achieve that.
  • Have been tweeting small tips, sometimes adding a screenshot. But 140 characters (or less if using an image) are limiting of course.
  • As I am rather active on the Captivate user forums, some questions are repeated by several users, and being able to point to an example on the blog seemed to be a better solution than having to create static screenshots to try to explain each time. 
  • Until now I only rely on my intuition and experiences on the user forum to choose subjects for the articles and for the blog postings. The articles did get a few comments, and I was hoping to have a more active interaction with readers on this blog, to get feedback, eventually suggestions for new subjects.

What are my conclusions after this month:

  • Positive: I am really amazed by the number of views of this blog; but is this proving that it did help someone?
  • Negative: no interaction at all, no comments. Being a teacher that gets upset when a class of students is silently absorbing without any reaction or question, this is hard to deal with.

Here is the reason why I am wondering if I would be able to go on with this blog. This morning I sent a tweet asking for advice. Thanks to Rick, Jason, Jenise and Dieter for their reactions. Please, if you have read this until now, send me a tweet (@Lilybiri) or post a comment. Tell me what subjects you would like me to blog about, concerning Adobe Captivate and the eLearning Suite.



Play this project (it is only one slide), to see what I will explain. Everything has been done with the built in Effects in Captivate 5. Try the three buttons in the top right corner:

  1. Playbar:  clicking this button toggles the visibility of the playbar
  2. Mute: clicking this button pauses/plays the audio  (hope it will play, first time I post a SWF with audio on posterous)
  3. CC: clicking this button toggles CC on/off

What do you think? No, I did not create a conditional action to be triggered by those buttons at all. To be honest, I got this suggestion from the Adobe team. You only have to create an Standard Advanced Action for each button. And this action has only one statement, an Expression. In this screensho you see an example (for the first button 'Playbar'). If the system variable cpCmndShowPlaybar = 0 (playbar is invisible) this Expression will result in 1 and the playbar will get visible. But if the variable = 1 (playbar is visible) the Expression will result in 0 and the playbar will be hidden. The actions for the two other buttons are similar, but use the system variables cpCmndMute (for the Mute-button) and cpCmndCC (for the CC-button).

Workspaces in Captivate 5

In Captivate 5 workspaces are introduced, to make its interface line up with other Adobe applications. In a workspace panels are arranged normally in groups and have a fixed place in one of the three available docking stations or docks: the left, the right (both vertical docks) and the bottom (horizontal) dock. There is no docking station at the top, where you have the menu and a couple of toolbars. It is always possible to make a panel floating, and to put it elsewhere outside of the docking stations.

Which workspaces are provided with Captivate out of the box, and what is their arrangement and goal? I'll try to give some indications, since this is apparently missing in the Help. 

Classic Workspace

This is the default workspace that appears when you start Captivate for the first time, or when you have not changed any workspace arrangement. Probably you will be working a lot in this workspace because it has the most common used panels on board for working with a Cp-file.
  • in the left dock you have the Object toolbar (call it the Toolbox myself) and the Filmstrip. If you turn the Filmstrip into a floating panel, you can adjust its dimensions and it doubles as the former Edit view.
  • in the right dock you have the Properties panel, grouped together with the Library
  • in the bottom dock resides the Timeline
 Note: do I use this workspace? Yes, a lot, but I customized it  by adding the Master slide, Slide notes and the Effects panels to the bottom dock. When working with effects I will turn the Timeline in a floating panel and put it at the top of the stage.

Applying Skin Workspace

This is the same arrangement as the Classic workspace, but the Skin editor panel is added as a floating panel. It is meant to be used when you are editing the skin, TOC and borders included. 

Note: do I use this workspace? No, for this goal I just open the Skin editor (SHIFT-F11) on top of my customized classic workspace. Perhaps because this Skin editor is not used that many times during the editing of a project.

Navigation Workspace

This is also the arrangement of the Classic workspace, this time with the Branching view on top as a floating panel. This is clearly meant for navigation in more complex projects, where the linear Filmstrip is not sufficient. I think that the Branching view is really underestimated and am using it a lot.

Note: do I use this workspace? Yes, for more complex projects it allows me more quickly to pop up the Branching view than having to use the Window menu or trying to use the complicated shortcut key SHIFT-CTRL-ALT-B (cannot do this blindly, my hand doesn't like a combination of more than 3 keys).

Quizzing Workspace

This workspace is the most different one (and I like it). It has these panels:

  • in the left dock you still have the Toolbox, but the Filmstrip has been replaced by the Quizzing Properties panel
  •  in the right dock only the Properties panel is left
  •  in the bottom dock you will have 3 panels: Timeline, Question Pool and the Filmstrip (banned from the left dock) with the Filmstip in focus
This workspace is recommended while working with Question slides. When editing a Question slide you need both the Quizzing Properties (configuration of the Question itself) and the Properties (for formatting, layout of the Question slide) a lot. That is the reason that they have been separated between the left and the right dock. Question pool is right available in the bottom dock too. 

Note: do I use this workspace? Yes, and I customized it a little bit: added the Master slide panel to the bottom dock and the Library to the right dock. When checking the scores I will often open the Advanced Interaction view as a floating panel on top of this workspace, but that is easy using shortcut F9. You see my customized workspace for Quizzing in this screenshot.

Review Workspace

This is again a Classic workspace with one modification: the Comments panel is added to the right dock, not in the same group as Properties and Library but in the bottom part.

Note: do I use this workspace? No, certainly because until now I did not have any reviewers. But I think that I would prefer to have the Comments panel in the left dock and put the Filmstrip in the bottom dock in that case because the properties panel needs all the 'real estate' it can get. 

Widget Workspace

Similarly to the Review Workspace the bottom part of the right dock is here filled by the Widget panel. It is meant to be used when inserting Widgets.

Note: do I use this workspace? I have tried to use it, but changed it quickly and docked the Widgets panel in the left dock grouped with the Filmstrip. The bottom part of the right dock is too small.

Some Ideas for Photoshop Roundtripping with Captivate in eLearning Suite 2

I really do like the new feature in the eLearning Suite 2 that allows you to edit the source file in Photoshop from Captivate. In Captivate 4 you had already the possibility to import a layered Photoshop file, indicate which layers you wanted to use. But after import each layer was converted to a PNG-image. If you wanted to change an image, you did have roundtripping to Photoshop and it worked fine. But if you had to change multiple images, that were all imported from the same Photoshop file, you had to repeat this 'trip' for each of those images separately.

In Captivate 5 you can edit all layers at once using the 'Edit Source PSD file'. If you never used this possibility I created a small demonstration to show the workflow. In one of the Photoshop-files I created with reusable objects I have two buttons, using five layers as you can see in this screenshot. When imported in Captivate, as you'll see in the demonstration I can create each of the buttons using three images: an Text image (Nee or Ja), a background color (RoodNee or BlauwJa) and the Overlay (which I use for both buttons). Both text and background color have to be changed.

Similarly I created Photoshop files with all kind of arrows, with text balloons etc. The idea is to be able to reuse those items, and when necessary to change quickly the color by using the roundtripping feature I described in the demo.

Customize your Quiz using Advanced Actions (CP5)

Captivate has a lot of predefined question slides on board of all kinds. Formatting options have been greatly improved in version 5 using the Object Style Manager and the Property Inspector. But those Question slides are different from normal slides, and you have much less control over them. Just some examples:

  • you do not see the different objects on the Timeline, it shows only one 'interactive object', although you have a lot of Text Captions, dropdown lists, Text Entry Boxes and buttons on the slide
  • you can have only one type of Question on a slide,
  • the score for a Question slide is always 'black/white', correct or incorrect, you can never have a partial score
  • you can add only non interactive objects on the Question slide (no buttons, no click boxes, no Text Entry Boxes)
  • you can customize the success/failure captions for each Question slide
  • even have up to 3 different failure captions but... Review message wiil be the same for all Question slides

To have more control you can create your own Question slides. Of course this is possible using Flash (or Dreamweaver). Using standard objects, variables and Advanced actions can however result in constructing most of the Question slide types, except for the types that involve drag-and-drop (as can be used in Sequence and Matching Questions). I published several articles for different usecases. In the articles I provide a Captivate SWF to show the result and start files (for downloading), to enable you to practice the workflow described in the article. Here are the links:

  1. Creating a test resulting in multiple scores: using Advanced Standard and Conditional actions you will construct a test that will collect scores about the learning type of the user (Auditory, Visual, Kinesthetic). Contrary to a normal Quiz resulting in one score, here you will obtain three scores. Those scores will be used in the next article:

  2. Conclusion based on multiple scores: based on scores obtained in the previous article, you will use one Advanced Standard and one Advanced Conditional action to show the conclusion. I meant this article to be an introduction to the new User Interface of Advanced actions.

  3. Create question slides with partial scoring and customized feedback: one of the issues with the default Captivate Question slides is that the user never can get partial scores if his answer is partially correct. In this article I created a hotspot question slide with multiple hotspots and the user can get a partial score.

  4. Create customized feedback: in this video tutorial you will learn how to use an Advanced Conditional action (with multiple decisions) to show differentiated feedback based on the score of a Quiz constructed with the default Question slides of Captivate. This video is meant as an introduction in the terminology and workflow of Conditional actions.

I hope this can help to start using Advanced actions. Please, feel free to comment and suggest other usecases.

Editing Motion Paths and Reusing Customized Effects

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

Curious about Variables in Captivate?

Since Captivate 4 you have access to a whole bunch of system variables, and you can create your own variables. It is possible to change variables and thus taking more control over your Captivate-movie.

If you feel uncomfortable with or puzzled by this introductory paragraph, please read on. Probably you never used a scripting language, or you never liked... maths? But I think it is really worthwhile to get some hints about the power of those variables are and their possible use. For this reason I did create a starters tutorial, with practical examples and ... without writing any script (called Advanced actions in Captivate). If you want more later on, I do plan to write a second part, where simple advanced actions will be used to give you even more power with the variables. All examples can be used in Captivate 5 as well as in Captivate 4.

Not curious yet? Do you know how to hide the playbar temporarily for a couple of slides? Or to turn off the navigation in the Table of Contents? Or to show the score of a question slide without having to type a lot? Then have a look at the examples in this tutorial:

Use the power of variables in Captivate 5 and 4 - without advanced actions 


Warning: be Careful not to Assign same Shortcut Key to Multiple Objects on a Slide

Normally the action linked to a button or a click box is activated by clicking on them. However it is possible to add a shortcut key as an alternative method of activation or even to replace the click entirely by a shortcut key. You should be careful: it is not possible to have different active objects (like buttons, click boxes) on one slide to have the same shortcut key, not even when they are visible at different moments in the timeline. If you assign the same shortcut key, only one object will react to it: the object that is the lowest on the timeline (= the first created object if you did not change the order). Flash-adepts will use the words Z-order or stacking order.

To illustrate this I realized a small SWF with Captivate. It has two introduction slides. On the second introduction slide I used the Interactive label Widget, created by Yves Riel (@Whyves_  on Twitter - Slides 3-6 seem identical, they have four interactive objects, two buttons (that show a hidden Text Caption) and two click boxes over a drawing shape that jump to a following slide (YellowSlide/BlueSlide). The only difference between the four slides is the stacking order: on each slide another interactive object will have the 'priority place' in the timeline. The shortcut assigned to the objects is the Enter-key and it is not an alternative, it is the only way to activate the button or click box. Try it out, use Enter on pages 3-6 and you will see that on each slide only one object can be activated. You will be able to see an image of the Timeline corresponding with each slide to check the stacking order. Timeline is in a rollover image, that you can open when rolling over the information caption.

Tip: Flowing Text in Shapes

Flowing text in shapes is no longer available in CP-versions later than 5.5.

I plan to post some small tips for Captivate 5. This first tip is a less known, but useful new feature: you can put text directly into a closed shape, such as rectangles, ovals and polygons. Moreover the inserted text will automatically adapt to the form of the shape. In previous versions of Captivate this was a tedious process: put a Text Caption on top of the shape, and try to adapt the text by inserting spaces and breaks.
I created a small Captivate-demonstration to show the workflow. Hope you enjoy watching it!