Using Copy/Päste Appearance in 11.5.0

Intro

Copy/paste appearance is a new feature in the most recent release 11.5.0.476 of Captivate. Many call it a Format Painter like in MS Word, but I do not agree with that statement at all. I have sort of a ‘dual’ feeling about this added feature , Even the simple Format painter in Word can be a ‘two-edged sword'.  Same for Appearance transfer in Captivate: It can be used in a wise way or make your life as developer become a nightmarel.

Do I use the Format Painter in Word? Sure, when I have to write a quick short document, which I’m sure I will never have to edit later on. Even in that case I mostly use it for paragraph formatting, seldom for text formatting. When creating courses in Word  (which happened if they were mostly text-based switched to Framemaker when I could get a license in college, because it handles graphics and other assets lot better) I would NEVER use the format painter. Even Word has Styles for a professional workflow. Captivate is style-based as well, in the sense of Framemaker and InDesign.  Object styles are part of the theme you are using in a course, and I have published several posts about themes.

In this post I will try to explain which situations are suited for using appearance duplication. It is not possible for all object types, as you will discover, and has a hidden gem which you may not have discovered (yet). Let me know if my guess is wrong.

Objects supporting Copy/Paste Appearance

Not all object types can be used for duplication of its appearance to another. I checked them out and list up those who do have the options 'Copy Appearance' in their right-click menu.

Static objects

First requirement is that the object type had an object style. This means that images, audio, video, bitmap image as button, SVG used as button do not have the feature. Check the Object Style Manager. That is also the right place to detect the included features in a style. Example:  Transition (Fade in/out with its duration) is part of the object style. When using the Appearance feature it will be transferred as well. The supported objects for appearance pasting are a minority. You cannot use it for Highlight box, zoom object, rollover items although they have an object style. Only text containers:

  • Captions: in the themes packaged with the present versions, all used captions are transparent captions. But the older not-transparent captions are still available. They always come with the Callout pointer in several directions, the used pointer will not be transferred. Have a look at the screenshot below. You can transfer the style of the left caption (pastel orange) to the right caption (default style). top left pointer will not be transferred. But color, font, font size and attribute, alignment, margins, leading (space between lines) and transition will be pasted.

  • Shapes: can also be a text container, but that is not compulsory. Fill, Stroke, Transition and Text properties will be transferred. The shape itself is not part of the style and will not be changed.

After using the Copy/paste featuure

Look at the style names. For the shape the style has been taken over on the second shape, which is great!. However the style of the left caption has been applied but shows a + sign to indicate an overridden style.  I have tried this for quite a lot of captions, it seems to be always the case  and that is bad news! When later on you want to change something in the applied style (here MyCaption), that change would not be applied to the right caption shown  in the screenshots. Hence my

Warning

If you use Copy/paste appearance on text captions, and you have decided on the final look you will need to double-check the styles and avoid all overridden styles. If you forget to do so, the slightest edit you’ll have to apply in the future to that style will become a nightmare.

This problem doesn’t exist as you can see for shapes used as text containers. Double-checking at least some never harms of course. Another reason to reinforce my decision to use only shapes as text containers.

Interactive Objects

Text Entry Box, Text Button, Transparent Button, Image button have object styles but you cannot use the Copy/Paste Appearance for those objects, you need to apply object styles. A click box is invisible, so it doesn’t have an object style.

The only interactive object to accept Appearance duplication is the Shape button, my favorite Captivate object! Its object style includes the look of the Inbuilt Styles Normal, Rollover and Down (not Visited).  What is the result of a Copy/paste Appearance. Here are two shape buttons, and their Object States panels. The left button has a custom style MyShapeButton, the right button uses the Default Smart Shape Style of this theme:

Both buttons have the 4th InBuilt state - Visited - added. Its default look starts as the Normal state but I edited the style. After copy/paste appearance from the left to the right button, you expect to see this:

The good news is that the second button has now also the style MyShapeButton applied to it, same as for a non-button shape. Have a look at the new Object State panel of the right button:

As expected, the Visited state didn’t take on the look of the original MyShapeButton style, except …. for the font and its size! This observation leads me to the related:

Hidden Gem

Captivate has no individual Text Styles (no Character styles, no Paragraph styles), they are included in the object styles of the text containers (like shapes and captions, text entry boxes). Up till now I used Copy/Paste appearance to transfer styles between objects from the same type: caption to caption, shape to shape, shape button to shape button. However it is possible to copy/paste the text style between objects who are not the same type. That may not  seem unexpected between shape and shape button, but it IS ALSO possible between Caption and Shape or Shape button!

Workflow:

  • Go into Edit mode for the Caption, and select all the text if you want also to transfer the leading (F2, CTRL A)
  • Right-click, Copy Appearance
  • Go into Edit mode for the Shape, select all text (see above)
  • Right-click, Paste Appearance

If the shape is a shape button, the text style will appear in all the InBuilt states.

Of course the name of the styles will not be transferred, since a text style has non name. The style will show a +, which means it is overridden. If you decide to keep the text change in the shape, please create a new style.

Using Appearance Duplication

This new feature can be useful, but should never replace Object styles.  I would use it when being in “Draft” mode at the start of a project, when  discussing with the client about style choices. Certainly the easy way to transfer text styles is appealing to me, if followed by creation of an object style. But due to the fact that you can never be sure object styles will not be overridden (as is the case for captions) there is no way to create the custom theme before double-checking all styles. I start each project with a custom theme, because it can save so many hours of work in the future. The changes for themes in this new update are also very welcome, but that will be in another article.

Responsive Projects: Object styles

Intro

This is the last blog in a sequence of 3. In the first article I explained meaning of Object Styles when creating a custom theme, terminology and how to create a custom object style based on an example on the stage.

The second post explored in depth the Object Style Manager, for creation and management of Object Styles.

In this last article the focus is on Responsive projects: tips and tricks to keep in mind for Object Styles in a responsive theme. Since CP2017 Captivate offers two workflows for responsive projects: first is using Fluid Boxes, second older using Breakpoint Views. Tips will be specific for each of those workflows. If you want to re-read the advantages/limitations of both workflows, may I recommend reading this post. I also mention the workflow of  Rescalable HTML project as alternative for responsive projects.

Fluid Boxes project

For such a project I recommend to use real fluid boxes whenever possible. It is the only way of having a real fluid layout. If you demote (use that negative word on purpose) a Fluid box to a static fluid box to circumvent some limitations like stacking of objects, you lose the real fluidity and the layout can look very weird on smaller browser resolutions.  A static fluid box keeps the width/height ratio, and that may cripple other real fluid boxes on the slide, even when you control the exact position.

Objects not allowed in normal Fluid Boxes

What are the limitations of real fluid boxes? Many objects cannot be used. For the Object styles, that means you don’t have to bother about styling those objects. They all are in the category of the Standard objects:


  • Highlight Box cannot be used because it is meant to be stacked over the object to want to highlight. If outer fill is selected, it is covering up the rest of the slide which is breaking the stack rule..
  • Rollovers are not possible in any fluid box (not even in a static fluid box): Rollover Area, Rollover Slidelet, Slidelet.

  • Zoom object cannot be used for the same stacking rule: Zoom Source and Zoom Destination

Font size in Fluid Boxes

The font size which you define in the Object style, will be used for the highest browser resolution. In the default setup, it is indicated as Desktop (default = 1024x627px). If you have set up a higher resolution for the desktop, maybe for a 1280px wide resolution, you could prefer a slightly larger font size.

No need to bother about the other browser resolutions. After publishing fonts will decrease in size smoothly until the minimum font size is reached. At that moment the famous ‘icon’ will appear to indicating text doesn’t fit in the available text container (shape or caption). Just one tip: set the minimum font size to 10p if you expect to have learners on small browser resolutions.

Breakpoints

To have complete control over the layout in different resolutions, you need to switch to Breakpoint mode workflow, using an option in the Project menu.

Objects not allowed in Breakpoints

All objects allowed for HTML output can be used in Breakpoint mode.  When you check the HTML5 tracker under Project menu, you’ll see warnings about unsupported items like Slide transitions, Text animations. The warning also points to Rollover objects. However they will be functional on desktop/laptop screens when a trackpad or a mouse is used. On Mobile screens, the rollovers will not be functional. I would not recommend to use the Rollover slidelet because it is no longer actively supported and can be buggy.

Font size in Breakpoints

In a Breakpoint views project, the font size will not decrease smoothly when you decrease the resolution of the browser. You have to set up the font size for all the Breakpoints you want to use in your project: from 3 (minimum) to 5 (maximum). Between those breakpoints the font size will remain fixed, equal to the setup for the  higher of the two breakpoints the browser resolution is situation: you’ll keep the font size of the Desktop view until the resolution of the landscape Tablet (if you activated it) or the Portrait Tablet is reached.

It is no secret that the Adobe team is promoting the Fluid Boxes workflow over the Breakpoints (which mean more work but offer more control to the developer). For that reason, there are no real Breakpoint views themes packaged with Captivate 11 (CP2019) anymore. A responsive project will always start with a Fluid Boxes, where you can use a packaged or custom theme. When switching to Breakpoints that theme loses all fluid boxes, but the object styles for fonts are not changed: all breakpoint views keep the same font size which is the maximum font size set up for Desktop (or higher Custom size) in the Fluid Boxes.

This is a situation where I use the Object Style Manager to start with the tedious work, eventually to be edited later on while designing the master slides. The OSM will now have a dropdown list for the activated Breakpoints, whenever font size is needed. That is the case for the Captions and Shapes under Standard Objects and for most of the Quizzing Objects. Of course, you don’t have to bother about Captions if you only use shapes and vice versa. Look at this screenshot, for the Title shape, common style in most themes:

When you check the font size for the 4 Breakpoints below the Desktop, you’ll see that the size is fixed. You need to decrease the size gradually. Minimum font size is 10pt. It is a bit guessing at the start to find a good distribution between the maximum and that minimum font size (which is for Mobile Portrait). My workflow:

  • I look for the smallest used font size on Desktop, that will have to be 10pt for the Mobile Portrait.

  • Once you have chosen Mobile Portrait in the dropdown list, that resolution will remain for the other styles until you change again. Edit all mobile font sizes at once, related to that smallest size.

  • Landscape Tablet doesn’t have to be much smaller than Desktop, unless you use a really big resolution for the desktop breakpoint. So I’ll set up all the font sizes for that breakpoint.

  • etc.

Here is a check list of the objects I usually edit. Know that I never use captions, only shapes as text containers. As for the buttons, only shapes and transparent buttons (compulsory for quiz slides) are used.  They appear in the same sequence as in the OSM.

  • Buttons: I edit the style(s) for the Transparent button and for the Quiz button here (both will also appear for Buttons in the Quizzing category)
  • Text Entry Box: edit only one style which I set as default style.
  • Text Entry Box button switch to Transparent button whose default style has already been edited
  • Smart Shape: for use as text container.
  • Title: often start with 16p for the lowest breakpoint
  • Subtitle: often start with 14p for the lowest breakpoint
  • Success/Failure/Hint Shape: all need same font sizes. Beware some included themes use same style (Success), you’ll want different styles but with same font size in breakpoints.
  • Quizzing Partial Correct Shape: all other shapes use a default style which has been edited under the Standard objects.
  • Quizzing Progress indicator
  • Quizzing Review Area: is only used on the score slide to store the text about passing/failing
  • Short Answer

IMPORTANT:  Do not forget to save the theme when you have finished. Indicate clearly that it is a Breakpoint Views theme. That way you will be able to apply the theme when you have converted another project to a Breakpoint views workflow. If you change the design a lot throughout , it may be worthwhile to create a Blank project with edited font sizes for Breakpoint Views projects.

If you do use Breakpoint views because you have learners using a lot of devices and want to have a simple look for the smallest screens instead of having the same layout fluidized, please log feature requests. It should be possible to choose which workflow to prefer when creating a responsive project: Breakpoints or Fluid Boxes. Fluid Boxes should not be imposed by default  as is the case at this moment in CP2019.

Manage the Object Style Manager!


Copy/Paste Appearance, new feature in version 11.5: how does it fit with Object styles? Have a look at this post:

Copy/Paste Appearance

Intro

In a first introductory post I explained the importance of Object Styles in any Theme, the terminology and how you can create a custom style based from example object (created on a normal slide). In that article I already posted some screenshots taken from the Object Style manager, but didn’t really provide an in-depth explanation of that window.  Do you need to use it? Read this blog if you want to know the answer to that question.

Object Style Manager

You can open the OSM directly from the Welcome screen, without opening any project. The option is available under the Edit menu, or by using the shortcut key SHIFT-F7. Similar to Preferences, which can also be opened from that location (SHIFT-F8) any changes made that way to object styles are global changes, which means they will be applied to all future projects. If you open the OSM within a project, the changes will be applied only to that project. Of course, since Object Styles are part of a theme, if you save the customized theme you can applied it later to any other project as well.

There are some alternatives to open the OSM:

  • In Preferences, Defaults you can set up some General items like slide duration, color of guides … but also the default duration of a bunch of object types. You’ll get a hyperlink to the object style which is the Default style, which will open the OSM. In this screenshot you see this for the Highlight box; where the default style is the Blue Highlight box.:
  • Under Preferences, Recording you can set up the styles used during the creation of software simulations. You also find a button ‘Create new Style’ which will open the OSM.
The Object Style Manager has 2 main categories: all Quizzing objects/styles are in the second  category “Quizzing Objects”, the other objects/Styles in the first category “Standard Objects”. The triangle button is as usual meant to expand a category or a subcategory. There is one special object ‘runtime dialog box’.  Selecting an object in the top left part will show to the right to available styles for that object, and in the second half of the dialog box all the elements of the style. Down left you see a small ‘preview’ which is not always very WYSIWYG. These are the parts of the OSM dialog box. 
  1. Objects: I have selected the Quiz button ‘Submit’ in the screenshot. 

  2. Styles: a button has 4 InBuilt states, but only 3 are included in the style (Visited is missing). I selected the Normal state for the button. This is the default style, but you are free to choose one of the other styles in the list, and you could set it to be the default as well.  You can add a custom style (Clone button is highlighted in yellow) by duplicating an existing style and reformatting it. However it is not possible to have a shape button for this quiz button, because there is no original shape button style available in the style list. 

  3. Components: shows all the components of the style. In this case that is the Button type (here Transparent button, you can change to Text button or Image button), the formatting of the text (font, font size, attribute, faux attribute, color) and Fill/stroke settings for this button. If you switch to a Text or Image button, that will be a lot more limited.  The label on the button is not part of the style, you can only change it after insertion on the slide in the Properties panel.

  4. Under the Objects window you see a Preview. To be able to see it, the default Label ‘Submit’ is used here.

  5. At the bottom you find two buttons Import which allows to import styles that have been exported. The Export button has options which I expanded. The resulting file will have the extension cps.

Workflows

Creating a Custom Object Style

In the first post I explained how to create a custom style based from an example on the stage. Alternative is to create it  in the OSM, That workflow is the only way create Global styles (before opening any project).  The step-by-step workflow to create a custom Highlight Box will be used as an example. 
  • In the creation of a theme you  use only colors from the Theme Colors palette (step 1 for a custom theme). It is not possible to change the default theme, nor the color palette from the welcome screen (for global changes). That choice is missing in the Preferences. For that reason, you need to have the proper theme set as default theme, have the correct Theme Colors palette applied to it. For the example workflow here I set Windswept (packaged with CP2019) as default theme, and kept the custom Color palette linked with that theme. That color palette looks like  in this screenshot (only the main colors):
    The bright red (color 6) would be excellent as stroke color for the custom Highlight Box.

  • In the Object Style Manager, I find the object ‘Highlight Box’ in the category Standard Objects.  This object has 6 default styles. The first labeled ‘…Blue’ is set as default style, but nothing is blue :).  In some other themes this highlight box has a light blue stroke. That is not the case in the Windswept theme, because backgrounds are mostly blue: stroke is white; fill is also white but with opacity = 20%. There is no transition. 
    I expanded the style (with the triangle) and it shows two states: Normal and Rollover. For highlight boxes however the Rollover state is not functional (yet). Same styles can be used for Rollover area (and Zoom area), where a defined Rollover state will be visible. For the Highlight box we focus on the Normal state only.

  • Although I could edit this default style, I prefer to create a style with a more meaningful name. Use the Clone button to create a new style, and rename it to RedHighlight. In the screenshot see the changes. The color dialog box will always show the Theme Colors panel (highlighted first button) since we start from an existing Theme:
    Stroke width is increased to 3px, the option 'Fill Outer Area' is checked and set (visible in the Preview) to a 20% dark gray from the tints in the Theme Colors palette.

  • If you want this custom style to be used whenever a highlight box is inserted, check the option ‘Set as Default’. The Style will get marked in bold (Style box). You still have the previous 5 styles available to be used manually.

Tip: Same styles are also available for Zoom area and for Rollover Area, as well as  the new custom style, which will however not be the default style for those objects. 

Promoting style to Default style

In the screenshot Default styles are indicated by the Bold attribute. You can change that default style using the checkbox ‘Set as Default’ which was my action for the new custom style. Be sure to put the style you suppose  to use most as Default style. I often see themes where a lot of new custom styles are created, either on the stage from example, or by cloning an existing style, but the original styles are left as default styles. Themes are meant to save time, not to increase the amount of work by having to change the styles for individual objects. 

No panic needed when you forgot to save the theme under a custom name, but have edited a default packaged theme. You can always re-install the original themes from the original Gallery/Layouts folder to the duplicate folder in Public documents (Windows).

Promotion to default style can be done globally (as above) or project-based within an open project.

Cleaning up Styles

No one likes cleaning up! Sometimes the Styles list can become very long, and there is no way to rearrange its sequence (to have the most used styles on top). 

When a style is selected in the Style box, the Delete button will become active(look at the last screenshot where the RedHighlight is selected as style). Don’t hesitate to delete what you’ll never use. That may be default styles from the original theme as well (you did see how to restore the theme above).  

It is not possible to delete states (as for the Highlight box, where the Rollover state is unused), nor objects. You always have to keep at least one style for each object, and that will be the default style. If you try to delete a custom default style, you will be asked which style you’ll prefer to use as default style before the style is deleted.

When do I use OSM?

To check style components

OSM is the only place where you can see exactly what is included in an object style. That was the reason I mentioned it in my first post, and showed screenshots of different types of Objects. Remember: sometimes the Transition of an object is included, which is not to be found in the Properties panel, but in the Timing Properties panel. 

Set a global object style

One example: I don’t like the default Highlight Box style, which is too ‘bland’. The line is very thin, light blue, with an inner light fill (20% Alpha). I prefer to have a striking color, from the Theme Colors palette, wider stroke and have the outer area dimmed by another semi-transparent color of the Theme Colors palette. I always create that palette before starting with the Object Styles. You have to apply the color palette to the default theme. Before opening a project I will create this global style and set it as default style.  

Change Font for all styles

If the company has a style sheet,it will often include one or more specific fonts. There is no quick way to replace the used font in the theme (often Trebuchet in CP2019's packaged themes) by a company font. In that case I use the OSM and browse through all objects using text. Captions and Shapes do need the change, but if you only use Shapes as text containers, you can of course skip the Captions.  Some other objects use text as well: buttons, TEB’s, and quite a lot of Quizzing objects. Some styles with text will appear both under Standard Objects and Quizzing objects. 

Beware: if you use Learning Interactions, do not forget that they do not ‘obey’ to the OSM! You will have to change the fonts there as well. Some interactions offer the possibility to switch to the Theme Colors, but that is not available for other components of styles.

What is different for Responsive projects?

In a last post I will specify what is different in Responsive projects, both for object styles and the Object Style manager. Both workflows: Fluid Boxes and Breakpoint Views will be treated in that third article.

Theme mysteries?

Why?

This short blog is meant for newbies,  and is (again) due to what I hear/read on the forums, during (intermediate) training and consultancy job. Recently I tried to answer users in two threads concerning themes:

Change color in theme

Main Master Slide

The last one reports a serious bug in the Help documentation, the first one is more a lack in that documentation. It is a pity that the Help is not something you can cout on, a problem which is not new at all.  I started blogging about 10 years ago because of lacks and bugs in the Help.  An “amazing application which is Adobe Captivate” (a quote of a fellow ACP who is not present in this portal) deserves better!

I’ll try to answer those two questions here, and offer extra tips for Themes..

1. Theme Colors

Editing or developing a theme start with the colors which will be used consistently in that theme.  Each theme  packaged with Captivate  has a Theme Colors palette which is labeled with the same name as the theme.  As described in an old post, that palette has 10 colors + 5 extra tints for each color. It is always available in the Color Dialog box as first button, A well designed theme will use only those colors: backgrounds, fill and stroke colors, font color etc. Most Learning interactions have a button to apply the Theme Colors as well.

If you want to change one color in the palette, as asked in the mentioned forum thread:

  • Rename te original theme (see screenshot: orignal was WindSwept, I renamed to MyWind) in the box with the Palette
  • Click the Customize button: the 10 colors will appear in a dialog box.
  • Click the color you want to change, you can use the Swatches palette, or the Color Wheel (where you can type in the hexadecimal code of the color or the RGB numbers).
  • When finished, confirm using the Save button

Warning!

I already mentioned that the theme has to be well designed, only theme colors should have been used (is not always the case). Moreover no object style can be overridden (+ sign in the Style field) because for those the style will not change.

Another problem are the backgrounds. In the screenshot you see one of Captivate’s default themes, using several bluish colors (first three in the palette).  Those colors appear also in the backgrounds of several master slides: Title slide, Blank slide, etc You’ll find those backgrounds in the Library as…. images! That means they will not change automatically when ou change one of those bluish colors. That will only happen for the colors when they are used in object styles: fill of a shape, stroke of a shape etc….

As I wrote already multiple times: do not rely on names of the colors, they nave no meaning. In the theme mentioned above, the first color (Title) is never used for any title.

2. Main and other Master Slides

User did read this in the Help documentation, quote

The main master slide is the first slide in the Master Slide panel. The name of this slide is the same as the name of the theme. Objects and background color of this master slide appear on all other master slides. Each theme has one main master slide.”

This is indeed not fully correct, text obviously was never upgraded since version….6. First, second and last sentences are OK, but not the one with the bold text.

2.1 Color Main Master Slide

Have a look at this screenshot, where I show the Master Slide panel in front of the Main Master slide:

The name of the main master slide is indeed the name of the Theme (it is a custom theme based on WindSwept). The main master slide has a solid white color as background. There is NO global project background, the used background is ‘Custom’, and that means that you can have a solid color, a gradient, or a custom image/texture. Those are the same options as for a shape fill.

You will see that the label is not appearing in the Properties panel. You can add a label but it will be added to the original name (MyWindSwept), not replace it.

None of the daughter master slides has the white color as background. It may not be very clear, but Content02, Conter07, Conclusion and the Quizzing Master slides also have a solid color background, however it is light grey, not white. All master slides in this theme  use a  ‘Custom’ Background. Look at the Properties of the MyContent master slide

You see that the Background is Custom, which means that the color of the Main Master slide is not inherited. In this case the background is fille with an image from the Library.

To inherit the color of the Main Master slide background, the Background has to be set to ‘Master Slide Background’. Here is a screenshot of the Pearl theme (default theme if you didn’t change it), which has originally a gray scale Color palette. I changed the background of the Master Slide (which is also set to Custom) to a Solid color, light green. You see here the Properties panel of the Title master slide, which inherited that color. It could also have been a gradient or even an image/texture, would have been inherited as well for master slides set to ‘Master Slide Background’.

Conclusion

Summarizing about background color main master slide::

  1. Project Background is always an image which can be imported from the Library or from another location.

  2. Master Slide: where it will inherit the background of the Main Master slide. That can be the Project Background or a Custom Background (solid color, gradient, image/texture). It if is the Project Background, the result of ‘Master Slide’ and ‘Project Background’ is the same for a daughter master slide.

  3. Custom: which can be a solid color, a gradient or an image/texture.

It is clear that this sentence in the  Help text ‘background color of this main master slide appear on all other master slides’   is iwrong.

Warning: identical to the one under Theme Colors. If you use images as background, you’ll have to edit them separately when changing the Theme Colors palette, their colors will not change automatically.

2.2 Objects on Main Master slide

In the first screenshot you see two system variables on the main master slide: at bottom left the name of the author, bottom right the slide number. Those objects are not part of the background, since they have to be generated on runtime.  You could also have shape button (like a Next button) on the main master slide.

They will be inherited on master slides, which have the option ‘Show Main Master Slide Objects’ checked off. In the screenshot of the master slide ‘MyContent’ you see those objects appearing, and the option (highlighted) is checked. On the contrary, the Title master slide for that same theme is not showing those objects:

Usually in the packaged Captivate themes both Title master slide and Blank master slide will not show the Main Master slide objects. Quizzing master slides can show them, but in many instances it would be better to turn them off. Be careful with the Blank master slide: it is meant to be used for PPT import, and for Software simulations.  It is not recommended to have extra main master slides on them.  In the WindSwept theme the Blank master slide has an custom image background, which is very strange, not at all the case in most themes.

Conclusion: 

About the objects on the main master slide, the Help text “Objects …. of this master slide appear on all other master slides” is wrong.

Themes and project types

Be careful when editing/creating themes because you have 3 different types of projects and you need a theme of that type:

  • A non-responsive theme cannot be used for responsive projects with Fluid Boxes, nor for responsive projects with Breakpoint Views.

  • A responsive theme with fluid boxes (as are most included themes in Captivate, can be used for a non-responsive project, the fluid boxes will be ignored. However be careful: if you edit that theme and save it, you’ll not be able to use it for a responsive project anymore.

  • A responsive theme with Breakpoint views is not included with Captivate. You need to check  at least the object styles where text is used, because they need a font size for each breakpoint. You can use it for a non-responsive project, with the same restriction as above when saving the theme.

Some more links for Themes:

Themes and Templates

Fluid-boxes and master slides

Fluid Quiz Slides

Editing/Repairing Themes

Object Styles in Themes


Object Styles in a Theme

Intro

A while ago I posted a blog comparing the use of a Theme for consistent design of a project, with the older Template workflow (which is buggy in the recent versions):

What's in a Theme/Template?

I always start any project by the  creation of  a custom theme, starting mostly from the Blank theme (has the minimum amount of master slides needed for a theme). More recently I offered some tips in Themes Q&A

Due to my past as civil engineer, I see a theme as the structure of a building :

  1. Theme colors palette (see Theme Colors) is the foundation. Palette is independent on type of theme: whether iit is non-responsive, responsive with fluid boxes or with breakpoint views.
  2. Object styles, the topic of this blog are the pillars (vertical structural elements). For Breakpoint views you need slightly different styles for objects containing text.
  3. Master slides are the beams (horizontal structural elements). As in a building there is a lot of interaction between beams and pillars, together they are the structure You will often going back and forth with object styles while creating the master slides. Master slides depend on type of theme.
  4. Can be considered as optional: Recording defaults and Skin, depending on the project if you need them

Now you are ready to complete the building by filling in the walls, floors…. In Captivate we call them slides.and objects.

Captivate’s Object Styles

Contrary to a word processor, Captivate has no Text styles as you know from MS Word:   a bunch of paragraph styles (includes leading, space before and after paragraph, indents, bullets….) and word/character styles. I will post a future blog about the Object Style Manager where you’ll find all object styles used in Captivate’s themes. This blog will show some screenshots taken from the OSM, because you can see what is included in each style:

  • Caption style: includes indeed the font, font size, eventually attributes (bold, italic, light), font color and leading, alignment but also the type of caption, margins within the caption, and the transition type. In the themes packaged with Captivate the caption type is mostly set to transparent, but that was not always the case in older versions and doesn’t need to be always transparent. It comes closes to what you know as text styles, but still... transition is unknown in MS Word..
  • Text Entry Box style: has the formatting of the text but also the Fill (color and transparency) and Transition setting. You cannot edit the stroke, not included.
  • Button style: is more complicated, includes formatting of 3 Inbuilt states (Visited, 4th state is not included).  In the screenshot, which shows a so-called 'Default style' (see later)  you see that when you insert a button (Interactions, Button) in these settings a Transparent button will be inserted. For each state  the text formatting of the label is defined (in case of a Text or a Transparent, button. That setting will not appear for an Image button which cannot have a label. For the transparent button , style includes also the fill (here a gradient, with full opacity), stroke (color, width and style) and the corner radius. Formatting for the two other types is much more limited.
  • Smart Shape style: the most versatile object in Captivate can be a text container, hence the text formatting similar to captions. SInce it can also be used as a button, you can define the formatting of  the same InBuilt states as for the Transparent button. The corner radius is missing  You can choose a rounded rectangle as start for a shape button, and it has a yellow handle to edit the corner radius.

Terminology

It seems useful to list up some important terms concerning Captivate's Object Styles:

Default Style: Previous screenshots showed styles set as ‘Default style’. The checkbox to mark a style as default,  is automatically dimmed in that case.  When you insert an object of that type, it will automatically be inserted with that default style. The other styles, not marked as default style, can be used but you’ll have to change them manually after inserting the object. Here is an OSM  screenshot showing the presence of 3 possible TEB styles. In a previous screenshot I had the Yellow Fill set as default style, this is one of the other styles that can be used:

Overridden Style: If you edit some formatting after inserting an object with its default or manually changed style on the stage, a + sign will precede the style name as you can see in this screenshot (I changed the transparency of the fill and the font size). This is labeled as an ‘overridden style’.

Using overridden styles is considered bad practice in any style-based application. Why? It means that if you have to make changes later on, this object will not be touched anymore. Maybe your client/boss wants to have another font for the TEB? If this is the only TEB in the course, you can find it and edit this TEB in place, thus creating an overridden style. When dealing with more TEB’s it is much easier to edit the object style itself (see later). The edited style will be applied automatically to all TEB’s in the course, exception are those with an overridden style.

Style menu in Properties panel : many sections in the Properties panel have a so-called ‘hamburger’ (or hotdog) menu button. The Styles part has such a mneu button. In this screenshot you see the style menu expanded for theTEB with the overridden style (previous screenshot). You  can choose to create a New style (if I want to keep the default style for later to be inserted TEB’s) or Save the changes to the existing style if you want all the TEB’s in this project to have this edited style. There is also a Reset Style to revert to the original style in this menu.

The option Apply this style to…. is a bit confusing for this situation. Suppose you have another TEB using the Default TEB Blue Fill Style you can use ‘Apply this Style to all objects with Style Default TEB Blue Fill, but it will be the original Yellow style that will be applied, not the overridden style. I would prefer to save first the edited Yellow style.

Creation of a Custom Style

You can create a style in the Object Style Manager, as I will explain in a later blog,  but it is easier to use the ‘from example’ workflow. Step-by-step:

  1. Have a quick look at the Object Style Manager to see what is included in the style for your object type. I showed several screenshots above. It is not always clear from the Properties panel which features are included in the style. Example: Transition is included in some styles, not visible in the Properties panel but in the Timing Properties panel.

  2. Insert an object of that type on the stage. It will be inserted with the style set as Default style.

  3. Edit the features which you detected under 1. until you have the wanted look. That is easier to verify on the stage than with the tiny Preview window in the OSM..  Do not forget the states (Normal, Rollover, Down) for interactive objects. The style field (Properties) will show the +sign to indicate the overridden default style.

  4. Open the Style menu (hamburger) and choose the option ‘Create New Style’

  5. Give the style a significant name and confirm with OK

The style will appear in the Object Style Manager. But you don’t have to use the OSM for these actions

  • Set the style as Default style: is possible from the same Style Menu. Beware: for the example of the shape button, I would not set this as the default style because all shapes would take on that style. Really hope that we can have a default shape button style which is different from the default smart shape style in a future release.

  • Apply this style for all objects with a specific style. This is a workaround I sometimes use: for shape buttons I don’t use the default smart shape style, but one of the other styles (like a hint shape style if I don’t use it in the project) as long as I am not sure about the wanted button style. When I decide to create the definite style for all shape buttons, I can use the Apply this style to replace all those ‘hint’ shape styles by the new shape button style.

This problem only exists for shape buttons. Most other object types are not used for two different goals.

If you want to include features which are not part of the style in a quick way, use the duplicate functionality (CTRL-D). It will keep not only the same style in the copy, but all features, including eventually attached advanced actions.

Third element of your theme (structure) will be the master slides. Advantage of defining object styles before the master slides is that the inserted objects on the master slides will have the new default styles. That can save time.  Just one example: if you use shape buttons on master slides, you will not be able to use 'from example' workflow to create a style for those shape buttons. Reason: the State view cannot be opened when on a master slide, and you need to set up the states. For object styles with a Transition feature, you'll not be able to define them on the master slides neither, because you miss the Timing Properties panel for them.



Feedback shapes in Captivate 2017

Why this short post?


If you have read my article about the 3 most important stumbling blocks for Captivate (newbie) users, you'll know that Themes are amongst them.  The components of themes are described in What's in a Theme/template. and in this post you'll learn about he use of Theme colors. Almost daily I see questions, comments on the forums like "I don't use a theme" which is  - sorry for the word - nonsense because every project is based on a theme. The theme with the least intrusive design is the Blank theme, which has no color palette and only offers the minimum set of 6 master slides. 

The themes packaged with Captivate 2017 have some issues with the feedback messages:
  1. Hint shape is using the Success Shape Style, should use the existing Hint Shape Style

  2. Failure shape is using the Success Shape style, should use the existing Failure Shape Style
Shapes are set as default for feedback messages, not captions 
The feedback captions use an appropriate style in the themes Easiest way to solve the problem would be to change Preferences, Defaults and choose for captions if that is not messing up your design.  Below you'll read how to ecit the themes.

Where are default Themes stored?

The original themes can be found under the installation folder, in the Gallery\Layouts for the language you used when installing. I am on Windows, installed the US version of Captivate and the path on my Win system is: 
C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Captivate 2017 x64\Gallery\Layouts\10_0\en_US. 
You'll also find the ThemeColors folder in that location. The included themes are: (Blank), Blue, Clear, Clean, OldPaper, Poise, Suave, White (which is the default theme). All themes are responsive, but can be used for normal, blank projects.

However, while working with Captivate, you will use the themes from a copied folder. In Windows that copied folder can be found under 
Users\Public\Public Documents\Adobe\eLearning assets\\Layouts.  
Reasons for this work flow are possibly:
  •  you cannot mess up the original themes
  •  the Public folder is accessible for developers which do not have administration rights. 

If a theme seems corrupted or is too messed up, you can always restore it by copy/paste from the Gallery (need for administration rights). If you have both CP9 and CP2017 installed, you'll see both Layouts in the copied folder. But the layouts folder for CP2017 has a subfolder 'bpthemes' containing all the CP9 themes on my system (not sure if that is the case when you only have a CP2017 install).

TIP: don't put custom themes in the sames folder as the default themes (Public). If you have to restore all themes by deleting the Layouts folder you will not lose the custom themes. I store them mostly with the project(s) they are used for.


Editing Default Themes 

Restoring the correct object style for the Failure and Hint shapes is pretty easy: open the Object Style Manager (SHIFT-F7), and replace the Success style by the appropriate style (which does exist) as you can see in this screenshot
image

I suspect you will want to keep the correct object styles for the feedback messages for future projects as well. Use the menu Themes, option Save Theme.  The result will be that the theme is edited in the copied folder, in the Public documents To change the original theme in the Gallery, you'll need to do it outside of Captivate, using Explorer and needing administration rights. However a user yesterday reported that the option 'Save Theme' was dimmed(?).  Reason was that he was working in a blank, normal project. All default themes in CP2017 are responsive. To protect the responsiveness, you have to edit the theme from within a responsive project. The option 'Save theme' will be available in that case. You can always use a responsive theme in a normal project.

What's in a Theme - a Template?

Intro

When trying to help Captivate users, I often bump onto confusion between themes and templates. Same confusion can be found in many training schedules and books. There has been a lot of evolution in Captivate since versions, slowly but steadily. Those are not the big hype features that were emphasized everywhere. You know that I often appreciate more the hidden gems, which help any developer to save time and frustration. This article will explain how I am creating custom Themes, and also why I am using Templates a lot less than in earlier versions of Captivate (before version 6). 

Theme versus Template

The goal of a Captivate theme is to keep a consistent design throughout your project. It can be 'applied' to any project, even after creation. Although most themes will be created for a certain resolution, when designed carefully it is not necessary to apply it only to projects with the same resolution. When you apply a well designed theme to a project, the 'look' will change immediately and you'll not have to edit the design a lot afterwards. A theme is saved in a file with extension cptm. You can have themes for a normal (blank)  or for a responsive theme. Captivate 8 and 9 both have several themes in the box, most of them being responsive themes. They show up as thumbnails when you click on the Big Button 'Themes'. Those Captivate themes are stored in the Public Documents, under the subfolder 'Layouts' of the 'eLearning Assets', at the same level as the Theme Colors palettes.

You can store your custom themes in this folder or wherever you want. The Thumbnails view (under Themes button) has a Browse button which allows you to navigate to any folder. I will mostly save a custom theme in the project folder when working for a client. But you see in the screenshot that I have a custom theme (CP8Theme) in the default folder. That folder is a copy of the original Layouts folder in the Gallery under the Captivate installation folder. If you ever have messed up one of the themes in the Public documents, you can restore it from that original folder. If you delete the whole Layouts folder in the Public documents, while Captivate is closed, on restarting the application a new copy of the original folder will be installed in the Public documents (see also my article: Keep your Customisation).

To save a theme you need to use the Themes menu, not the big button 'Themes'. Use the option 'Save Theme as' if you started from an existing Captivate theme.

template in Captivate has to be chosen before you create a project. You have to use the option File, New Project, Project from Template. This means that a template needs to have exact the same resolution as you want for your project. As for a theme, there is a difference between a template for a responsive, and one for a normal (blank) project. A template file has the extension cptl. When you create a project from a template, it will get the normal extension cptx. You can edit a template, and that will the only reason why you would save it again as a cptl. It is also possible to create a template from a normal cptx-file with the option 'File, Save As'. There is no 'reserved' folder for templates, Captivate has no included 'templates'. The term is often wrongly used: most Captivate 'templates' that you can find on the web, are just cptx-projects, not templates in the Captivate language. 

When a template is saved, the used theme, preferences etc are saved with the template. However you can always apply another theme later on. 

Components of a Theme

It is rather important to know what exactly will be saved in a custom theme. . Remember: if you ever want to use that theme in a responsive project, be sure to create the theme in such a project. I will list up the components in the logical sequence to be followed when editing or creating a custom theme :

1. Theme colors palette

The start point for design consistency in a project is guaranteed by the consequent use of a Theme, which starts with the creation of a palette with 10 colors that will be used for object styles, master slides, skin, and within learning interactions. I have written some articles about the creation of a Theme colors palette:  Colorful 2015  and   Theme Colors. Beware: it is no longer possible to save an ASE file with Adobe Color (as described in the first article): that means that the Swatch Manager is not very useful anymore. My recommendation is to ignore the Swatch Manager and focus on the Theme Colors Palette, which is available in any Color Dialog box.
When saving a theme (using the Themes menu), the used theme colors palette will be saved with the same name. In the mentioned articles you'll find a way to save a theme colors palette independently from a theme as well.

2. Object Styles - Object Style Manager

Most design-oriented applications have a work flow for creation and use of styles (Word, InDesign, Framemaker). All experts and good trainers will tell you to use styles, and to avoid overridden styles. Captivate is no exception in that world: it has a great Object Style Manager to be found under the Edit menu (or by using the the shortcut key SHIFT-F7). Object styles can be saved individually, have the extension cps, only useful in case you want to export/import such an individual style. In most use cases you'll save all the object styles necessary for a project in a custom theme, no need to export/import styles anymore as was the case before themes appeared in Captivate.

If you are working on a responsive theme: first define the breakpoint views you want in the theme, before launching the Object Style Manager. In the styles you will be able to define the look for the breakpoints that are available in the project.
Make some decisions about which objects you'll be using in the theme as well. Just an example: if you prefer using shapes instead of captions for feedback messages, capture messages etc you do not need to change all the caption styles. A similar situation exists for normal buttons vs shape buttons. 

Some tips:

  • Use only colors from the palette defined in Step 1.
  • Do not hesitate to change one of the (grayed out) styles between brackets [Default...]. You can overwrite those styles, since you are working on a custom theme. Those are the styles that will be applied immediately when you insert an object. Another approach is to clone a style and set it as Default style. The problem is that you'll end up with tons of custom styles, which makes selecting the proper style in dropdown lists not easier. That is why I always change existing default styles. 
  • For buttons: the InBuilt states Rollover and Down are available together with Normal  for change in the OSM, do not forget to check/edit those states. This is valid for Text Buttons, Image Buttons and Transparent buttons.
  • For shapes: you cannot define a default style for text and another default style for buttons (too bad), but any shape style that you define should include InBuilt states (Normal, Rollover, Down) because any shape can be converted to a button.
  • Quizzing objects are in a separate category. Quiz buttons cannot be replaced by shape buttons (yet), but you can define an individual object style for each quiz button. Feedback captions can be replaced by shapes.
    Feedback captions and shapes not always use theme colors in the default Themes included with Captivate. Be careful: if you want to have consistent colors in your project, you'll need to check those styles.
  • It is not possible to define real Effects in an Object style. Only the 'old' Transitions can be defined.

3. Master slides

The Object styles defined in step 2 - at least the default styles - will immediately be applied to the objects on the Master slides.  If it doesn't look well, you can edit the object style and redefine it, while working on the objects in the Master slides (It can be done with the Properties panel). Be sure to make all added objects responsive (check all the breakpoint views) on the master slides. 
Each theme needs at least 6 master slides (Blank Master slide, 4 Quiz master slides and a Score master slides), besides the main master slide, but you can create as many master slides as you want. You can add different type of placeholders on master slides, but be careful with the 5 master slides for Quiz: the embedded objects (without individual timeline) have a lot of functionality built in!

Some tips

  • Use the new Rulers to assist you for designing master slides: Guides Rule!
  • If you ever will use the theme for software simulations: keep a real Blank master slide, because it is used both for software simulations and for PPT import. You don't want those slides covered up with other stuff.
  • Remember that shape buttons can be used on master slides, they can have actions. This can be a big time saver for custom buttons like the ones from these posts: Toggle buttons   and Replay slide button
  • Do not forget to label the master slides

4. Skin

Use the theme colors palette to customize the skin: playbar, borders and Table of Contents. You can even insert a logo on the TOC and eventually custom expand/collapse icons.

5. Recording defaults

This is only necessary for themes (also) to be used for software simulations. Although you have set up Default object styles in step 2, you still have to indicate which styles have to be used when capturing simulations. Just one example:
  • Create a default style for the highlight box in step 2: with a big bright red stroke and outer fill. Set it to display as default highlight box style.
  • Open Preferences, Recording, Defaults and check the default Highlight box style: it will still be set at the original default style in the original theme. Bit annoying, but it also allows you to save two different sets of object styles within a theme: one for normal slides, and one for software capture slides.

Do not forget to save the theme (using the Themes menu)!


Do you need a Template?

I ask this question often everywhere: with all the design power and flexibility of a custom theme, why would you still need a template? Before themes existed, I used templates to be able to reuse variables and advanced actions (see: Template for reusing script). With the present version of Captivate, we have shared actions which I store in a separate project to be used as external library in any project. Variables, used in those shared actions, get copied automatically when the shared action is dragged into the Library of the new project.  When you copy an object, that triggers an advanced action, the action will be copied along when pasted into another project. 

I used templates to have footnotes on each slide, pointing to the name of the project, showing the slide number and the total amont of slides. But now you can put them on master slides, using system variables or user variables that can be populated later on. 

When would I use a template in Captivate 9? For courses that have several modules, where you want to have some slides in common, maybe have custom navigation/control buttons that cannot be put on the master slide, but need to be timed for the rest of the project. I would rarely use it to have placeholder slides, unless some team members need to have that assistance. Lot of placeholders have fixed object size, which can just be annoying. If you do have a lot of advanced actions (maybe variables), that cannot be replaced by shared actions, identical entries in Project Info, variables not included in shared actions: those would be situations where I would think about creating a template.


Conclusion

I hope this post did clarify the difference between a theme and a template. If you ever see somewhere my question 'Do you need a template', this will no longer be a mystery, right?