Button states - Basics and Tips


Recently I answered several questions about button states, which proved that some information is missing. For that reason I checked the official Captivate document, and indeed to me it is not at all complete especially for buttons which are the most used interactive objects. You can have a look:

Work with multi-state objects in Adobe Captivate

Some examples: the InBuilt state 'Visited' is not mentioned at all. I couldn't find any information about the lock of InBuilt states for buttons and how to circumvent it. The recent added button types - SVG and Bitmap images - are not even mentioned. What is the meaning of the blue and red selection rectangles in button state objects? Several years ago I published an extensive blog about the InBuilt states for Drag&Drop objects (Inbuilt D&D states) to fill in gaps in the Help document.  With this blog I will try to summarize tips and workarounds for InBuilt states for buttons. After a short recapitulation of typical features of Button states, you'll get some examples.

Typical features

InBuilt states

Buttons of any type have by default three InBuilt states: Normal, Rollover and Down. Those three states are part of the object styles for text buttons, image buttons, transparent buttons and shapes (because they can always be converted to shape buttons). However no object styles can be created for bitmap images and SVGs used as buttons, the most recent types added in version 11.5. 

Less known is the fourth InBuilt state: Visited, probably because you always need to create that state. It cannot be included in the object style for the four mentioned button types neither which is a pity. Audio can be attached to the Visited state and Normal state, while that is impossible for the Rollover and Down state

InBuilt states will appear in specific situations. Rollover when hovering over the button, Down while button is pressed, Visited after the button has been pressed and released. However the Visited state can also be set using the Change State action which is impossible for any other InBuilt state (for buttons and D&D objects). Like with custom states, you can add Audio to the InBuilt states. Here are two tips based on that knowledge:

Tip 1: The Down state will disappear when you release the button. If you want to keep the down state after release, use the Visited state, looking identical to the Down state. This is valid for both responsive and non-responsive projects.

Lock Size/position

The size and position of the button is the same for all InBuilt states, based on what you designed for the Normal state. That is the reason for the lock symbol which you see on the stage when Rollover, Down or Visited are selected. 
The Normal state defines the clickable area, hence the Lock symbol. For all buttons, except the SVG used as button, this will always be the bounding box of the button. You can always edit or replace the content in a state but that content will be rescaled to the bounding box defined in the Normal state. In the example screenshot that content was a SVG where the clickable area was kept to the bounding box. That vector image type always keeps its height/width ratio. If you want to use another SVG in the Rollover or Down state, which needs more space, be sure to create a bounding box which is bigger than what is needed in the Normal state. Here is an example, the SVG in the Rollover state is wider, so the bounding box in the Normal state has a larger width.
In this example a different SVG was used in all the states. You cannot replace a SVG by a bitmap image, each replacement needs to be of the same type.

Tip 2: (answer to this thread in the eLearning community: Word Search) to create a highlight appearing after a click, use a shape button with 2 (or 4, the Rollover and Down are not important) states, one is the Normal state and the shape has no fill nor outline, the second one is a custom state where the shape has an outline. Use the action 'Go to Next State....' for that button. First click will show the custom state (outline), second click will revert to the Normal state.

Extra objects

Contrary to audio which can only be added to the InBuilt states Normal and Visited, you can add extra objects to all InBuilt states. However this is only possible in non-responsive (Blank) projects and in static fluid boxes. Normal fluid boxes do not allow adding extra objects to a state (due to the stack prohibition). 

This aspect opens a lot of tweaking possibilities. Those extra objects are not locked, nor do they need to be of the same type. Contrary to the locked button states which have a blue outline marker, extra objects will have a red outline marker (see screenshot under Tip 3). There is no real limit to the number of objects you can add. Whereas audio cannot be added to Rollover or Down states, you can add extra objects to those states.

Tip 3: Create a tooltip for a button by adding a text (or other object) to the Rollover state.

Tip 4: Quick Click/Reveal workflow, using a button with a custom state derived from the Normal state but with the Reveal objects added to it. Use 'Go to Next State' for that button, and you have a toggle button, which will hide the revealed objects when clicking again. When using a variable as explained here, you have even more control.

Tip 5: Can you increase the size of a shape button in Rollover state, was another recent question? The forementioned trick with a bigger bounding box in the Normal state is not functional in that case. Here is another possibility:

  • In the Rollover state make the shape button invisible. Depending on its setup this means Alpha for Fill set to 0, border width set to 0 and eventually take out the text.
  • Add a bigger image of the shape button to the Rollover state and align it as wanted.

Of course you can this also apply on the Down state and/or with a smaller version of the button, see screenshot:

Tip 6: Starting with an invisible Normal state for a shape button (Alpha and stroke set to 0) and adding an object to that state within the bounding box of the shape button, allows you to create a rotating button. A full description of the workflow can be found in this blog post. Of course this means the clickable area will be greater than the image itself, but most learners will not detect that incongruity.


You'll for sure know about more examples to use button states in a creative way. Feel free to post your ideas in a comment, always appreciated.

Forced view - special use case


Another blog and example output, due to a question by a user today. 

“I have groups of slides. Each group consists of a handful of slides that has event video on each slide and nothing else. The videos autoplay. The user can enter these groups at any point and must watch each video before being redirected back to a main menu. “

After I had gotten all details, I created this example file. The assets panel in 11.5 was very useful as you can see. Only Chapter 1 has been worked out with 4 slides containing event videos. For Chapter 2 and 3 only one slide is available with a back to menu button. Try it out: you can start with any video, but then the sequence will be linear: 1-2-3-4, 2-3-4-1, 3-4-1-2 and 4-1-2-3 are all possible. You can use the Chapter 1 button on the main menu as many times as you wish. It should be foolproof. However… you have to watch the videos from start till end.

The embedded movie is at a fixed resolution. The project is published as Scalable HTML and you can also play it directly in any resolution from this link.



Four Boolean variables were created: v_one, v_two, v_three, v_four. They are meant to track each if a video has been viewed completely. Only when all variables are toggled to 1, will the learner being returned to the main menu slide. The default value is 0 and will be set by a shared action (see later).

Events and actions

Enter event of video slides 1-2-3-4

This event is used to trigger an advanced action which will check the value of the 4 variables. If they have all the value 1, the learner will be navigated back to the menu slide. Have a look at  the Preview of this action:

Exit event of video slides 1-2-3

For the first three video slides this event is used to trigger a simple action, similar to this one for the first slide:

Assign v_one with 1

Only the variable is different for the second and third slide. Since the sequence is linear, after that event the playhead will continue to the next slide. There is no pausing point on the slide, which makes it possible to use this event.

Exit event of video slide 4

The action is now more complicated, because two situations are possible:
  1. All video slides are viewed (learner started with first video)
  2. Not all video slides are viewed (learner did not start with first video)

The first situation means that the learner will be navigated to the main menu slide, the second that he still has to view video 1 and maybe more. This means we need a conditional advanced action. Here is the screenshot:

Since the exit event has also to toggle the variable v_four, I used two decisions. The first one ‘Always’ is toggling that variable. The second decision is the conditional one described above.

Success event of the Video buttons (Chapter 1 slide)

You would expect them to trigger a simple ‘Jump to Slide’ action. However, since the learner will return to the menu slide, and can restart viewing Chapter 1, there is a need to reset the variables. This event was used for that purpose as well. It is a perfect example of an action where a shared action can save a lot of time, because it will have only one parameter: the slide to jump to. All variables, and the literal ‘0’ do not have to be parameters. Here is the screenshot of a filled in action for the first video button:

Since both remaining chapters will have a similar group of video slides, this approach can be used there as well, to reuse the same variables. The advanced actions described before, can be duplicated and edited. The shared action can be used as it is without any change.

Overview 6 Button Types


Captivate ‘s most recent release, added two types to the button treasure chest. You all know that the button is perhaps the most used interactive object. If you are only creating non-responsive projects, you may sometimes replace it by a click box, but that is not a possibility for Fluid Boxes projects.  In this post you’ll find an overview of all button types, with their advantages and disadvantages. It will be a lot of reading, if you want a short overview and check some details later, check this post.

This long article offers more details than the published output in Tips for use QSP

Common features for all button types

Here is a short list of what you’ll find in any button, whatever its type:
  • The ability to pause the playhead or not by adding a pausing point, which you can do in the Timing Properties panel. The pausing point will appear with the typical pause symbol on the button timeline. Pausing point will not stop everything (see Pausing Timeline).
  • Two events ‘Success’ and ‘Last Attempt’ (this is not available with Infinite attempts) which you can use to trigger any possible action. Success event means clicking the button, Failure means clicking outside of the button.
  • Add-on of two extra InBuilt states on top of the Normal state Rollover and Down states. A fourth InBuilt state exists but is not automatically created; Visited. Inbuilt states typically appear in a situation. The form of the button in those states has size and location locked to the Normal state. however you can add more items in each state and define Custom states as well.

The 6 types can be divided in two groups of 3:

  1. Old types (which I have known since I started using Captivate).
  2. Newer types: one was added with Captivate 6, 11.5 added two more.

Old Button Types 

Those are Text buttons, Transparent buttons and Image buttons. They can be added using the Interactions button, option Button.  You will always get a Text button. If you want a Transparent or an Image button, you have to open the dropdown list under Style Name in the Properties panel. Image button is the second choice, Transparent the third. In this screenshot (same for most included themes) two more styles are visible, both for quiz buttons (which are also transparent buttons).

Common features for older types:

  • Button(s timeline is green.
  • They have  a default object style, which you can define in the Object Style Manager. The object style includes the InBuilt states Normal, Rollover and Down (not Visited). Like all object styles they will be included in the (custom) theme. Multiple object styles are possible for each type. To reuse such a button use either the theme, or you can export/import individual styles in a new project.
  • Bounding box of the button is the clickable area, whatever the shape of the button (for image buttons).
  • They cannot be used on master slides.
  • They cannot be timed for the rest of the project.
  • They can be used for the embedded buttons on quiz and score slides.
  • They cannot be used as extra (custom) button on a quiz or a score slide.
  • You cannot use copy/paste appearance, not even between buttons of the same type.
  • They will not show up in the Library.

Text Button

This type is always rectangular. Fill nor stroke can be edited. You can only make the button transparent, which results in only the Label showing up (see screenshot with dropdown list for the checkbox ‘Make Transparent’. Look at this screenshot for a possible ‘look’ of the states:

The text on the button needs to be typed under ‘Caption’ in the Properties panel, not in the button itself. The text can be formatted: font, font size, font color and attribute.

Tips for use

Since Captivate 6 I have never used this type anymore. Not being able to use theme colors for its style is a show stopper for me. Using the option ‘Make transparent’ is not very appealing since it still keeps the bounding box as clickable area. Personally I regret that this button type is the default type when using the Button option under Interactions.

Transparent Button

This type can be a rectangle or a rounded rectangle.  Fill can be edited, offers the same options as shapes: Solid color, gradient, texture or image fill. The button text needs also to be typed in the Properties panel (same as for Text button). Font styling has same features as with text button. There is no ‘Make Transparent’ option, but you can edit the Opacity for the fill and the width of the stroke. Setting both to 0 will result in transparency. The name of the button type is bit confusing, don’t you think. Usually that button is not transparent, but the most flexible of the old types. Have a look at this example:

Tips for use

Since quiz and score slides need an old type for the embedded buttons, this one is my preferred type. That is due to its better styling options, which makes it possible to give the transparent button exactly the same look as a shape button (which is still more flexible). You may wonder: why not an Image button? Read below why.

Image button

Before shapes appeared with version 6 I have created a lot of image buttons. You need a graphics application to do so:

  • Create three graphics (bitmap), you are free to choose the type. I mostly use PNG (allows alpha channel), but you can use BMP (was the original choice), GIF… Graphics need to be exactly the same size.
  • The images need to have the same name, but followed by _up, _over, _down.  You can see a lot of image buttons in the GalleryButtons under the installation folder:
  • Save the buttons in the same folder, doesn’t have to be the Gallery folder.You would need administrator rights to add them in that folder.
  • After inserting an image button, use either the dropdown list (for included image buttons) or the Browse icon (for custom image buttons stored elsewhere) and point to one of the graphics. Which one is not important, Captivate will recognize the other graphics and use them for the appropriate state.
    You see that the name on the button needs to be part of the image which is one of the disadvantages of this type of buttons. You need a lot of duplicates, each with its proper label as you could see in the excerpt from GalleryButtons shown above. You see also that the size of the button is mentioned next to its description, for the included buttons. Since those are bitmap image, it is best to use them at their original size. Increasing the size leads to loss of crispness as is very well visible in the last screenshot.
  • Whatever the shape of the image, the clickable area remains the surrounding bounding box.

Tips for use

Since shapes became available, which can be filled with an image (see Turn an image into a button) I never used image buttons. Now, with 11.5 you can use both bitmap images and SVG’s directly as buttons. In my series about Tweaking Quiz slides, I mentioned them as only solution for a Fluid Boxes project to Tweak a Results slide. As you can read in that post, I used it exactly because it was possible to make an image button totally transparent, which is not possible for a Text Button nor a Transparent button because of the label. That is the only exceptional situation where I recommend an Image button?-.µ

None of the previous types are available in the new Assets panel.

Newer Button Types

Common features

You did read in Part 1 about the common features for all buttons, and those common to all the three older button types. These are the common features for the newer buttons:
  • They can be used on master slides. Those will not have an ID, cannot be controlled by actions.
  • They can be timed for the rest of the project. That way you create one button with a unique ID which can be controlled (Hide/Show, Enable/Disable)
  • They can not be used as embedded buttons on quiz and score slides.
  • They can be used as extra (custom) button on a quiz or a score slide.

This list is not as long as for the old trio. To see specific features for each type continue reading.

Shape Button

A smart shape with the option “Use as button’ checked in its Properties, is not so new anymore. Since many years my number 1. Why?  Have a look at this 7 years old blog post: “Why I like Shape Buttons“. I even presented several webinars for Adobe about this type of button.

Such a shape button has some features taken over from the old trio:

  • Its timeline is green. A Smart shape has a blue timeline, which turns green when you check the option ‘Use as button’, identifying it as an interactive object.
  • Shapes have multiple default object styles, which you can check/define in the Object Style Manager. However you do not see a default style for a Shape button. Since any shape can be used as a button, each of the styles has the  InBuilt states Normal, Rollover and Down (not Visited) included. Similar to all object styles shape (buton) styles will be included in the (custom) theme.
  • They will not show up in the Library, are not available in the Assets panel neither.

Shape button has also some similarities to the Transparent button, concerning the style: you can fill a shape with a solid color, a gradient, a texture or an image. You can also indicate color and width of the stroke. But, a shape button can have any shape, transparent buttons are limited to rectangle and rounded rectangle shape. This  is even valid for the states: you can switch to another shape in the InBuilt or custom states. Only rule is that the original bounding box location/size of the Normal state has to be preserved. Look at the Object state panel of (maybe too exaggerated style) of this shape button:

Personally I appreciate also the fact that the label can be typed in the shape, you don’t need to use the Properties panel (Text and Transparent button). I defined an object style for this button. It will include the edited image (Normal and Down state), the gradient and the text style for the Rollover state, and all strokes. Object style will not have the different shapes (Normal state is a freeform shape).

Shape button is the only button type which will allow Copy/Paste appearance as well! Read more in Copy/Paste Appearance.

If you are not yet convinced that this a very flexible type of button, look at the common features for the three buttons in this post.

Here are some minus points:

  • If you want the shape to be filled with an image, only bitmap images can be used (as for trnasparent buttons). To have a crisp looking image, create it in exactly the same size as the shape button. More details in ‘Turn an image into a button
  • You will find no Shape buttons in the Library,  only images if you used them s fill. I recommend to create a subfolder for images used in shape buttons. The Buttons section in the Assets panel neither has shape buttons.
  • Shape buttons automatically shrink when pressed, trying to simulate a a real button.  Some developers do not like that effect (which you’ll also see in the two other button types of this post). Mixed feelings: I don’t care about this feature, but not everyone agrees. It would have been better to leave the choice to the Captivate developer.

Bitmap image as Button

New type available since version 11.5. Instead of filling a shape with an image you can now convert a bitmap image (PNG, JPEG, GIF…) directly to a button. Just check the option in the Properties panel. You’ll see immediately that the default three InBuilt states appear in the panel:

You can swap images in the states, using the button indicated in this screenshot by a red rounded rectangle. In this example I used three different images from the series Brady (Illustrated category). You can add a text container in each state, but it is not really embedded in the image itself, or you can choose an image which has text in the graphics. Here I just used the character images.

You cannot define an object style s.

If you open the Assets panel, you’ll find a group titled ‘Buttons’. All the buttons in this group are of this type. However, the three InBuilt states will show identical images. In a previous article about the Asset panel I offered a tip to make it possible to have different images show up when inserting a button from this panel. That make it a lot easier to reuse buttons from this type: insert them from the Assets panel.

Common features described at the start are valid for this type as well.

Features which are less appealing:

  • Contrary to all buttons discussed before, this type keeps the blue timeline of any non-interactive object.
  • It is a bitmap image, which means quality loss when rescaling. Rescaling happens for Rescalable HTML output and in responsive projects.
  • Shrinking happens for this type as well, may be very visible (with simple buttons like the ones in the Asset panel) or barely visible for a big character button like I showed in the screenshots.

SVG as Button

I have already blogged about this type in the already mentioned blog with Tips for the Assets Panel, but also in “Edit SVG’s“. Up till now it has never been possible to use a SVG in an interactive object like a shape button or a transparent button. For the first time you can use a vector-based image as a button, which is great news for responsive projects and rescalable HTML5 projects. They share the common features with the two other types of this post.

SVG’s also may have a smaller file size than their bitmap counterparts. I have converted some png-files from the Characters, Illustrated category to SVG’s. File size reduced to about 30% of the png filesize.Look

At least as exciting is the fact that the clickable area for a SVG need NOT be the bounding box of the image. Look at the Properties panel:

Watch the option ‘Fit to Bounding Box’, with the associated slider (blue rounded rectangle). In the default situation the slide will be at its maximum (to the right) which means the bounding box is filled with the SVG. I created some padding as you can see, by moving the slider to the left. The green rectangle indicates the option to define the clickable area. Default setting is ‘Enable Click’ which means the legacy situation where the bounding box is clickable everywhere. I unchecked it, and now the clickable area is limited to the SVG space. Expect in the near future to see a use case where this innovative feature will be used.

Similar to Bitmap image as button, no object styles are possible. The used SVG’s will appear in the Project Library. If you used the same SVG for each state its name will appear with a usage of 3 or more (if you have more states). For a more complicated image, I recommend to create the SVG’s separately (I use Illustrator) and import them to the Project Library. In this screenshot you see a Delete button, for which I used one of the provided Icons in the Assets panel, converted it to a button.  But unlike the Bitmap images, there is no way to include a different image for the other InBuilt states.

Negative points:

  • Like its twin (Bitmap as button), this type keeps the blue timeline of any non-interactive object. Should have turned green (logged feature request).
  • Shrinking happens for this type as well,
  • No easy way to reuse a SVG button with all its states.


Here are my personal conclusions:

  1. If I need a button which maintains a high quality image on many different screen resolutions use a SVG aton.
  2. If reusability of certain buttons is important, and I need to localize them as well, I will use a shape button except…
  3. For quiz and score slides as embedded buttons I have no choice but need to use Transparent buttons.
  4. I am not tempted by bitmaps as buttons, except for a rare complicated button. Even though it is bit more cumbersome, in all other situations will use a shape button filled with the image.
  5. I never use Text buttons.
  6. I only use an image button in that Tweak situation described in the first post.

Would love to hear your ideas!

4 Tips - Assets Panel


Do not expect a complete overview of the Assets Panel in this article, may be later. The user interface is rather simple, intuitive. Opening  the panel is possible  with the big button Assets in the right part of the Big Button Bar. For he expert UI this will be the only button in the right part, fo the newbie UI the Assets button will be with the Properties and Library button. Opening is also possible using the Slides button,  option ‘Asset Library…’ on the left side of the bar.

At this moment the stored  assets are restricted to those available with Captivate (under Assets tab  or to downloaded assets (under Downloads tab). You cannot add custom assets fto the panel. For those custom assets remember that you can use external libraries.

The center tab – Discover – has two choices,  ‘Templates’ (confusing term, not the cptl template files) with a submenu or ‘Characters’. Both link to the site of the eLearning Brothers. Once downloaded, they will appear in the Downloads tab.

Tip 1: Projects/Slides

This is the first option under the Assets tab, opening by default with Slides selected. It allows you to choose individual slides for insertion in an existing project after the active slide. Under Projects you will see 6 Quick Start Projects (QSP), first of them is the Branching file. That file is meant for developers disliking variables and actions. It is based on the last QSP, labeled ‘Aspire’. 

All projects and slides are available in two formats:
  1. Non-responsive project (Blank project in Welcome screen)
  2. Responsive project with Fluid Boxes (none available for Breakpoints)

If you insert a slide in an existing project created in one of those types, the inserted slide will automatically be of the same type. A master slide may be added, and object styles but I’ll leave more details for another blog post about using QSP's

However, some users asked me "how do you open a full QSP in the wanted type"? There is no choice available after selecting a project.

Workaround which works for me: open first a project in the wanted type, either a blank project or a responsive project. Anyway you need an open project to launch the Assets panel. Selecting a QSP to open as new project, will open it in the same type as the already opened project. You can then delete the first project..

Tip 2: Characters

Contrary to previous versions, the characters packaged with Captivate are only installed on your system as thumbnails. You can find them in the Content folder under the eLearning assets. Each character has a folder bearing a number as name, and a subfolder Children, where you find all the thumbnails. When you insert a character in a project, the image is downloaded and stored in another subfolder with the name of the character (in this screenshot David), either in the High or the Low subsubfolder, depending on the chosen quality (Normal or High resolution):

Screenshot is taken on a Windows system. If you download a extra character from the eLB site, it will be stored under Characters_11_5, not in the Content folder.

It is still not possible to download more than one or all characters from a set at once (please log a feature request). However, if you like the Illustrated category, here is a tip. Characters in that category are based on one drawing file, which you can download as well. You have some choices for the format, I prefer AI (Illustrator). If you are comfortable with that vector image application, you can extract all characters from that file and export them not only as PNG, but also in other formats inclucing SVG (smaller file size and vector based, crisp look whatever the resolution - interesting for responsive projects). Those drawing files are always labeled ‘Name: Illustrated work files’. You can also use that file as reference file. After download it will be stored in the subfolder ‘Others’ under eLearning assets, (not in Content, nor Characters).

Tip 3: Icons

The files in this assets category are SVG’s. Once inserted you can convert them to a button. Editing the colors is very easy as I explained in a previous post.

Those icons are stored in a subfolder under the Contents folder in eLearning assets. When screening that folder you'll see that the 'icons' are in JPEG format. However when you insert an icon, the SVG is created in the same folder as the original JPEG image.

Tip 4: Buttons

I am finalizing another blog about the 6 button types available in Captivate 11.5, including advantages and disadvantages of each type. Which type of buttons do you insert from the Assets panel? That was bit of a mystery at first. When you insert a button from this asset category, it is a PNG image (bitmap) with the option ‘Use as button’ checked off. The three InBuilt states (Normal, Rollover, Down) which are normally included in a button object style, are identical. You have of course the possibility to edit the image for the other states once the button is inserted. However I was bit curious when watching the name of the image. Look at this screenshot of a button:

That name ‘Deep-download_up.png’ reminded me of the name convention needed for an (old) image button. For image buttons you need to create three images in the same size, with an identical name followed by _up (for normal state), _over for rollover state and _down  for the down state. Looking in the Buttons folder (under already mentioned Content folder) taught me that all the buttons had a similar name structure ending on _up.  The folder has is similar to the Characters and Icons subfolders: numbers as folder names. Each folder contains only one image file for the ‘up’ state.

Of course you can edit the states in the project, using the Object state panel and copy/paste the button if you need more instances.  But you will not be able to reuse that button with the edited states in a future project.  I tried out a workflow based on my CP-intuition:

  • I duplicated the _up file in the Content\Buttons fokler for the button 5751 ‘Bubbly_downloads_up'
  • renamed the duplicates to Bubbly_downloads_over and Bubbly_downloads_down,
  • edited the duplicates in Photoshop, watch the result in this screenshot:

Success! When inserting the 'Bubbly....' button in a project, it had three InBuilt states. Not only when inserting in the same project, but also in other projects. You cannot have an object style for Images used as buttons, as is possible for shape buttons, text buttons, image buttons and transparent buttons. However this workflow opens an alternative for re-usability  (one domain where Captivate excels over other authoring tools). One drawback: Assets are only edited on the used device, they are not in the cloud.

More about buttons in a future blog as promised.