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.

Game: test your logical mind!

If you have watched my course about Using Shared Actions, you'll already know that this is one of my favorite features. It makes it possible for newbies to create rather complicated tutorials without need of programming skills. 

I already uploaded a game recently, here is another one. You can use this link or play with the embedded one:

It was created with SVGs (thanks to Illustrator), one shared action, two advanced actions (which could be converted to shared actions as well), Drag&Drop features, multistate objects. The setup makes the game very flexible. In the example sequences were all with 6 shapes, but you can create them with any number of shapes. You would have to find a new indicator for the degressive score if you have more or less shapes. The adult version can be converted to a kid's game, by using easier sequences . Have fun!

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.

Rollover in Fluid Boxes?


One of the type of objects that is indicated by the tracker as not compatible with HTML output are rollovers: rollover caption, rollover image, rollover slidelet, rollover shape. However if you ignore that warning for a non-responsive project, the rolloverrs will work fine when used with a mouse on a desktop or laptop screen (with the exception or the slidelet, which you should avoid at all times). Its functionality will not work on a mobile device, even not when using a stylus. But the 'mouse' users have that functionality.

However when you create a responsive project using Fluid Boxes, the options for inserting a rollover are greyed out. There is no way to add them. Is there a workaround to have rollovers for desktop/laptop users? That question appears once in a while in forums or social medai. In this post I will talk about my tentavies to mimick a rollover..

Example Movie

I cannot insert a responsive movie in a blog post. Use this link to have access to it. Try it out on a laptop or desktop screen: roll over the buttons in the left and in the right most Fluid box. You'll see rollovers for the big Blue buttons which do not have a real button functionality. The red buttons on the right are active, a hint message appears when rolling over the buttons. You can click those red buttons. This is a static screenshot of that slide (which appears after the poster image and the first slide):

If you try this on a tablet or a smartphone, rollovers will not appear. I tested on iPad and on an Android (HTC) phone.

First Mimick: Hint Messages

You did see the Hint messages for the red buttons when hovering over them. If you use a tablet or a phone they will not show up. Those buttons have the InBuilt States 'Rollover' and 'Down', but only the Down state will be visible on those mobile devices. This is the Object state panel for the second button:

For interactive objects it is possible to check the option 'Hint message' in the Actions tab. In all themes included with Captivate those messages are no longer in a caption but in a shape. The hint message appears wh

There are some problems with this solution:

  • Buttons and Hint messages will share the real estate in the (normal) Fluid Box.
    That is a waste of space especially for mobile screens where those hints never appear. and the buttons may shrink too much as you can see here:
  • I tried to use a static fluid box for each button+hint to be able to stack the Hint message over the button but that leads to very ugly flickering and is excluded.
  • You don't have control over the exact size of the buttons, and certainly not over the HInt messages (look at the screenshots above). This may be not so important since you'll only watch on a big screen, but nevertheless.

Second Mimick: Rollover State

With the blue shape buttons I demonstrated that you can fill the Rollover state with Text (mimicking a rollover caption), with an image (mimicking a Rollover Image) and with both. Here is a screenshot of the second shape button, having an image and text:

The effect is quite nice, provided you use rather big shape buttons as was the case here:

There is a possible problem when using images: they can be distorted if the option 'Maintain Aspect ratio' is unchecked. That was the case in the example, and can lead to distortion:

Shared Action for Red buttons

The active red buttons trigger a shared action which will change the state of a shape (showing explanations), add a star to a progress indicator and have it animated. If you have read blog posts written by me, you know that I am a big fan of Shared Actions.

Custom Failure Messages/Attempts - Drag&Drop


This article is written as an answer to a question on the forums: Drag&Drop with Advanced Action

For quiz slides you have the option to show more than one Failure message, linked to the attempts. That functionality is not available for Drag&Drop slides. As you can read in the thread, another user posted a solution using the Object actions which are executed after each drag action.  The solution I describe here is more similar to what happens on other quiz slides: the messages will appear after clicking the Submit button. This work flow is only valid for Knowledge Check slides, which was the goal of the user on the forum. As you can read in one of my former blog posts, a D&D slide which is not scored, is reset automatically when leaving the slide. This functionality is used here. You'll also see that I used the InBuilt states for the drop target, which i described in this post.


Watch this interactive movie to see the result. It is Flash-based, do not watch from a mobile device, please.

Setup D&D Slide

The Drag&Drop slide's Timeline looks like this screenshot:

From Bottom to Top you find these object timelines:

  • DragOne, DragTwo and DragThree which are the 3 Drag sources. Those objects have only one extra InBuilt state: the transparent DragOver State. D&D is set up so that the drag sources disappear behind the drop target.

  • DropContainer which is the unique Drop Target. It has 3 states as you see in this State panel
  • Text Tx_Question which has the Question

  •  Gr_Feedback with several objects; the whole group is hidden in Output
    • I_Fail and I_Success are the two sticky images
    • Shape button SB_Continue with a pausing point at 2 secs, which is later than the (default) pause of the D&D (1,5secs)
    • FB_One, FB_Two and FB_Three are the failure feedback messages for the 3 possible failures. The first two have an inserted variable v_attempt.

You don't see a Success feedback on the timeline, because I kept the default Success message for the D&D slide (unchecked the Failure message)? That Success message has just be edited (freeform shape).

The D&D panel, tab Actions has been set up as visible in this screenshot. Although the user provides 3 attempts, you see that I set the attempts to 1 in this panel:

Variable, Events and Actions

I used only one variable: v_attempt, with a starting value of 3. If you want to have more attempts than 3, just change that starting value. You can see its value in the example movie, center of the bottom bar. That variable is also inserted in the first two Failure messages.

SubmitAct, triggered by the Failure event of the D&D (see panel above)

This conditional action has 4 decisions, can easily be edited to have more than 3 attempts

  1. Decision 'Always' is a mimicked standard action, decrements the value of v_attempt by 1
  2. Decision 'First' checks if v_attempt is equal to 2, which means the first attempt (because the original value has been decremented in the first decision). If that is the case 3 objects out of the feedback group are shown: the first feedback message (FB_One), the image I_Fail and the continue button SB_Continue
  3. Decision 'Second' checks if v_attempt is equal to 1, which means the second attempt. The actions are identical to 'First', with the exception of the feedback message (now FB_Two)
  4. Decision 'Third' checks if v_attempt is equal to 0, which means the third and last attempt. It has similar actions to the previous two decisions. 

Here is a screenshot of the complete action:

SuccessAct, triggered by the Success event of the D&D (see panel above)

This standard action will set the variable v_attempt to 0 (necessary to have the last action ContAct executed correctly), shows the image I_Success and the Continue button. The success message appears automatically, since it is de original embedded message.

ContAct, triggered by the Success event of the Continue button

Here is the 'trick'! After each attempt I want the D&D slide to reset automatically. This is only possible when you leave and re-enter the slide. To achieve this, I used a similar (but easier) approach as explained in the blog post ReplaySlide. I inserted a dummy slide before the D&D slide, with a very short duration (0,1secs). Have a look at the script triggered by the Continue button, which is a one-decision conditional action:

When there are attempts left (v_attempt > 0), these commands are executed:

  • Expression cpCmndGotoSlide = cpInfoCurrentSlide - 2
    The first system variable cpCmndGotoSlide has an index starting with 0, whereas cpInfoCurrentSlide starts with 1. That is the reason why 2 is subtracted. In human language this command means Go to Previous Slide.You can replace it by 'Go to Previous slide' as well, but I like to repeat explanations like this. Sorry!
    Alternative: Go to Previous Slide

  • Continue: is necessary so that the playhead is released. It will quickly speed over that dummy slide (0,1 sec) and you'll see the D&D slide almost immediately, freshly reset because it was re-entered and not scored.

When no attempts are left the user is navigated to the last 'End' slide.


If you want to allow the same scenario for this slide, when the user revisits the slide, you have to reset the variable v_attempt to its original value, which can be done with the ELSE part of the action ContAct. It will have 2 commands in that scenario:

  • Assign v_attempt with 3
  • Go to Next Slide

To change the number of attempts, for example from 3 to 4:

  • Change the default value of v_attempt to the new literal
  • Create an extra Feedback message FB_Four and include it in Gr_Feedback (select both new message and group, followed by CTRL-G)
  • in SubmitAct
    • Duplicate the last decision 'Three', and label it 'Four'
    • Edit 'Four', replace 'FB_Three' by 'FB_Four'
    • Edit 'Three': replace the literal '0' in the condition by '1'
    • Edit 'Two': replace the literal '1' in the condition by '2'
    • Edit 'One': replace the literal '2' in the condition by '3'

No other changes are necessary.