Why I like Shape Buttons - Captivate 6!


In my first blog post  and video about the recently released Captivate 6 I mentioned that my favourite feature is not Themes (certainly not :-)), nor HD Video, nor HTML5 publishing, nor Quiz enhancements, nor Actors/interactions but the new Shapes! Beware: I do not love them because of the design of the default shapes (why not enable adding custom shapes, or inserting SVG-images), not because of the editing possibilities (too limited, lacking tools for editing Bezier curves like pen),  little bit because they are vector-based, but really because they double both as Text containers and as BUTTONS

Today I want to show you why Shape buttons are for me the feature that will save me a lot of time.


Difference between buttons and Shape buttons

Both regular buttons and Shape buttons have the same list of possible actions (on Success/After Last attempt), including the possibility to execute an Advanced action or Javascript. 

Creating a custom shape button is easier than creating a normal button: you can use one of the default shapes, convert it to a freeform shape and edit to your wish. You can fill it not only with a solid color, but also with gradients, with textures or with an image. 

The real value of a Shape button over another button (or click box) is:

  1. You can use a shape button on a Master slide, even on the Main master slide, which is not possible for any other interactive object, not even for the Rollover slidelet (kind of hybrid between non-interactive and interactive). This is a timesaver, because it allows to put custom buttons that have to appear on all slides on the main master slide, or if you want different sets of buttons, put them on normal master slides.
    Drawback: the shape button on the master slides will not have an ID (label), so it cannot be addressed by an (advanced) action. I logged a feature request to have this ability in future versions. Another drawback is that for buttons on the Main Master slide, you do not have an option 'Master slide objects on top', so you have to be careful that the button is not covered up in the normal slides.
  2. You can put it on the first slide of a project and set its Timing for the rest of the project. That is an alternative for buttons that you want to see on all slides. Moreover the shape button will have an ID in this case, which means that it can be addressed by an (advanced) action, like being hidden on certain slides.
    Drawback: an issue that I already discussed in this article 'Stack order and Master slides' is that the button will normally be at the bottom of the stack on slides where it is not really present (from the second slide on in this case). It will be even under the master slide objects, and unchecking 'Master slide objects on top' doesn't help. It is possible however to check the option 'Place object on top' when timing for the rest of the project.

Here are some negative points:

A normal button has three states: Up, Over and Down to show user's activity, the Shape buttons are more limited: when pressed the image will shrink a little bit. For small shapes this is not that visible. 

Contrary to normal buttons, a shape button cannot have a score attached to it, nor report to a LMS. They will show up in the Advanced Interaction view (F9). 

Shape Buttons on Master slide - setup

After checking the option 'Use as button' in the properties panel, you can choose to have a Hint caption (no Success/Failure captions possible), to show the hand cursor, have a double click and opt for a click sound. All those are to be found in the Options accordion. 

Do not look for a Timing accordion, there is none because the Master slides have no fixed duration, they'll adapt to the slides that do use the master slide. And objects on the master slides will always be shown for the duration of the slide. But you have the possibility to have a pause for the shape button, also to be found in the Options accordion. Timing of that pause will always be at the end of the slide (like for click boxes).

As I mentioned before no label cannot be attributed to smart shapes on a master slide. They all show up the same way on the Timeline panel as you can see in the screenshot.

Use Cases

Shape buttons on Master slides are great if you want to have them on all slides (Main Master slides) or on a lot of slides (normal master slides) and you do not need the ability to change them on individual slides. Some examples:

  • A Next/Back button as you did see an example in previous screenshot. For this Next button I used the simple action 'Go to Next Slide'. The shape is a rectangle, filled with an imported image.
  • Toggle buttons to show/hide Playbar or Closed Captions. I use a standard advanced action, not a simple action so that the play head is not released (see recent video about simple vs standard action)

Shape Buttons Timed for rest of Project - setup

Such a shape button, on a normal slide, can be labeled as you can see in the screenshot below.

Check the same option 'Use as button', and in the Options panel you'll find besides the Hint, now also Success/Failure captions. You'll miss the Pause option here, because it has been transferred to the Timing accordion that is now available, just like for normal buttons.  You can time the pause, but be careful: this setting will apply to every slide, and is not dependent on the slide duration, so do not pause too early. You can delay the timeline for the button, which is not possible for shape buttons on a master slide. In the screenshot the shape button, timed for the rest of the project, will show on each slide after 1 second and pause after 2 seconds. 

I checked the option Place Object on top, to avoid that the shape button could be covered by another object on the slide or on a master slide. This is not always necessary, but you have to be aware of the shape button being at the bottom of the stack if you do not check this option.

Use Cases

Shape buttons timed for rest of project allow you to time the pausing point or the duration of its timeline on each slide but they are really better suited than shape buttons on master slides if you want to hide/show them on some slides without having to create another master slide. And they are also great if you want to simulate a changing button to indicate the state when toggling. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Next button has no sense on the last slide; with a timed for rest of project button this is easily solved by hiding the shape button on entering that last slide
  • Audio toggle or Play/Pause button, showing the state: this will be the subject of my next video... will keep you informed

Buttons Category

In the Smart shape flyout panel you'll see a category 'Buttons'. Have a look at them, most have a simple action attached to them (Go to Last Visited slide, Open URL/File), but some trigger an Advanced action. And personally I hope that we soon will be able not only to create and save custom shapes in that panel, but also to edit/create the advanced actions attached to them.

Some examples of (advanced) actions for the buttons category:

  1. Mute: is a simple action triggered by the audio button 'Assign cpCmndMute with 1'. Be careful, since it is a simple action, clicking on the button will release the playhead. You can convert it to a toggle by replacing the current action by 'Assign cpCmndMute with 1-cpCmndMute' but the issue with releasing the playhead will remain, and the button will not reflect the state (muted or not). I will explain in a video how to create a real toggle button for audio with changing states.
  2. startSlide: triggered by both the Start and Home button is an advanced action:
    The first statement navigates to the first slide. Wondering about the strange expression? It is linked with the fact that slide numbers start with 0, so to navigate to slide 1 in the filmstrip you need number 0. The second statement releases the play head, will try to explain in a future blog post the changes to the advanced actions for pausing/releasing.
  3. lastSlide: similar to the startSlide action:


I hope you understand why I like the shape buttons that much. And I will try to post more about them: tips to change the advanced actions, how to create changing states for toggle buttons etc. Let me know if you have other suggestions, please, post in a comment.

11 responses
Nice overview of the shapes as buttons opportunities, Lieve! There definitely are a lot of possibilities there. Can we create custom shapes in the same manner as custom captions in previous versions? Also, can we edit the margins on the shapes?
Mary, I tried to focus on shapes used as buttons in this text. Of course they also double as text containers and you can adjust the top, right, bottom and left margins individually, lot of control. The pointers in call out shapes are adjustable. As for creating custom shapes, I really hope this will be extended in the future. You can edit an existing shape by turning it into a freeform shape, with possibility to edit, change the Bezier curves etc. Add to that the Fill functionality with gradients, textures, images. That is very nice but... you cannot save your custom shapes in the shape library for future use. You do not have them in the normal Library either. To have custom shapes available you'll have to choose the way of templates.
Fill/stroke are in the Object styles. It is possible to clone and create different Smart Shape styles. When saving within a theme you'll have them available for future projects based on that theme, because the OSM is part of a theme. Perhaps my long explanation would have been better in a new blog post?
Great overview of shape buttons from Lilybiri. http://lilybiri.posterous.com/why-i-like-shape-buttons-captivate-6
Thanks for more explanation, Lieve. I did a short webcast for the training developers in my company a short time about about making custom captions. While they are very useful and make a project look much more finished, they are also very fiddly. I have a feeling that not being able to save shapes (other than within a template) for future use is going to be a limitation to their usefulness.
Lieve, I'm always learning something from you. This is a wonderful article showcasing the difference between shapes and buttons. I never knew there were smart shapes that could act like playbar controls. Nice find!
@Maryv Perhaps I'm so used to always working with a template, because I want to have my favourite advanced actions, a crosshair group for positioning motion paths etc that I don't mind that much. The time that can be saved by using shapes as buttons over having to copy buttons (or other interactive objects) over and over again is worthwhile. Switching the fill/stroke of a shape in a template is very smooth, if you do not have to recreate the attached actions. Having a bunch of object styles for the shapes saved in the theme can help as well. And shapes are vector based, double not only as button but as text containers (easily to be changed, not only fill/stroke but also the form and pointer) and rollovers. My intuition tells me that they will replace the old bitmap captions in the future. Of course, I want to be able to save custom shapes with attached scripts as well (was my first request when I did see the shapes as tester) and full editing possibilities (with pen tool, being able to draw my own shapes from scratch, not only based on an existing shape).
@CaptivatePro Thanks Jim, it was great on a Monday morning to read your comment (and a similar one on the user forum). You know I'm a control freak, and this new feature (not much talked about like has been done about themes, interactions, characters, HD video and HTML5 publishing) is for me one of the features that opens a lot of of possibilities, if enhanced (hope they will listen to feature requests) for the future. And Jim, you can trigger Javascript by button shapes as well :-)
How do you create the Button_up, ..._down, ..._over effects/images with Smart Shapes?
I really likethe idea of not having to have seperated text containers but need the effects of mousing over changingthe color.
The effect for shape buttons when pressed is, as I pointed out, not the same as for default buttons. They shrink a little bit when pressed. No need to create three images, this effect is added automatically. But there is no change of color when rolling over, you can choose to show the hand cursor appearing.

I was afraid you were going to say that.    Thanks for getting back to me.<o:p></o:p>

I've only been doing Captivate a couple of months and would not have survived without your videos and blogs…. THANKS SO MUCH!<o:p></o:p>

From: Posterous [mailto:

That is fine, reason why I started to blog and more recently to post on my YouTube channel as well. Personally I do not care that much for the rollover effect for a button, since the shape buttons have so much more possibilities. Do you know they can also double as rollover shapes?