Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Working with multiple pages documents

Sometimes when working on a Captivate project you might find that you need to include additional information which would normally be best presented in a multiple page text document. Although it is possible create a link to say an MS Word document using the Open URL or File option of a slide or interactive object such as a click box there are many instances where this is not the result you or your client is looking for.

So is it possible to embed a regular text document into an Adobe Captivate 2 project file. Well, if you want this to be an MS Word document, then the answer is No! The same is also true if you want to embed a PDF file. However, if you own Flash Paper then you can actually embed a document into a Captivate file.

Although you can just insert a Flash Paper document into a Captivate project an as animation; the problem here is that in many case you will find that the Flash Paper doc will get automatically resized when you preview and or publish the your project. To get around this annoying little Flash Paper quirk, carry out these steps.

  1. Create a Captivate project with a single slide and insert the FlashPaper (FP) document as an animation so that it covers the entire slide
  2. Make sure that both in the animation dialog and also the Project Preferences all transitions are switched off and that the loading screen option (Project preferences) is also disabled.
  3. Publish the FP document as a SWF
  4. Open the project file you want to add the FP document (SWF) into
  5. Insert the published SWF file containing the FP doc as an animation
  6. With the Animation options dialog on screen set the transition effect to No transition.
  7. Publish your new Captivate project
View the sample file

In the example I have included in this post, I've hidden a button object behind the FlashPaper SWF file to ensure that the slide is paused. In order to advance to the next slide you would simply need to click the Forward button on the playback control.

Learn more about FlashPaper
FlashPaper Developer Articles - Part of the Adobe Contribute Developers Centre. You may need to scroll down to locate these articles.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Publishing to an Adobe Connect Server

If you are using an Adobe Connect server, you might need to download this hot fix file that addresses a problem of Adobe Captivate 2 only supporting HTTP references.Hot Fix for Adobe Connect Server users

Read the tech note: Adobe Captivate 2 content uploaded to Adobe Connect fails to playback.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Extending Captivate Projects with Variables - Pt2

Today's post continues on the theme of working with Variables in Adobe Captivate but this time the sample file displays the current frame plus all of the SWF frames in the Captivate project and includes a go to frame feature.

Using Variables with Adobe Captivate 2

The following commands were used to create this file:
  • rdinfoCurrentFrame
  • rdinfoFrameCount
  • rdcmndGotoFrame

Download the Goto Frame sample file.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Macrofireball Logo

macrofireball logoToday sees the arrival of my new macrofireball logo. A number of people have asked me how the name "macrofireball" came about so here is why I choose that name.

macro - In memory of Macromedia Inc who first introduced me to Captivate. At the time the product was then still called RoboDemo and for those interested it was George Fox - Dev Center Editor for Dreamweaver who first told me about this incredible application.

fireball - because of the way Captivate was taken my career to a new level and given me opportunity to work on projects I could of only dreamed of.

ball - cos' it is round.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Extending Captivate Projects with Variables - Pt1

Working for a company that develops software which integrates with Adobe software such as Dreamweaver, Adobe Connect and Contribute certainly made me wonder if there was any way of extending Adobe Captivate. Whilst Captivate does not include the ability install new components into the application the same way that you can with other Adobe products there are still ways using ActionScript code to communicate with Adobe Captivate and thus additional functionality. You can learn more about these in the Adobe Captivate 2 User Guide on pages 147 through to 148.

Before I go any further I would like to pause and offer my deepest thanks to my good friend Gaurav Satija who has kindly steered me through the murky waters of ActionScript. Gaurav your a pal!

To demonstrate this, let’s start with something very simple. Each of the Playback controls you add to your Captivate projects include an information box, not a lot of Captivate users tend to use and from what I gather even fewer end users ever bother to click on the Info button.

However, this still is a useful feature. This is especially true if you are creating section 508-compliant projects since project information such as the description can be read by a screen reader such as JAWs for Windows. Just as an aside the description is also useful if you are publishing to an Adobe Connect Server since content of this field is also used as your project summary.

To accomplish this all you would have to do is create a new Flash file with a small amount of ActionScript code that includes the following:
rdcmndInfo == 0 rdcmndInfo = 1

In plain English this means that if the Info box has an equality value of 0 or in other word is closed then set its value to 1 and open it.

You can see this in action by clicking on the graphic shown below

Ok, well that is all well and good, but now let’s move onto some a little more exciting.

For example let’s say that whilst testing your Captivate projects you would like to display the current slide, the total number of slides in your project and a previous and next button to boot. Well, using the following four commands you can:

  • rdcmndPrevious – Go to Previous Slide
  • rdcmndNextSlide – Go to Next Slide
  • rdinfoCurrentSlide - Slide currently playing
  • rdinfoSlideCount – Number of slides in the project

To see this in action please click on the image shown below.

Now, if you are reading this and thinking well this is all well and good but I don’t know ActionScript code and I have no desire to learn either, well the good news is that for the most part you won’t have to. Adobe Community Expert Paul Dewhurst. has already created a ton of Captivate widgets that you can just download and then insert as animation objects into your Captivate projects. Many of these have been around since Captivate 1 but Paul has already started creating some new widgets that take advantage of the new features available in Captivate 2 including one widget that automatically opens closed captions. Something I will be using in my future audio blog posts.

Feel free to use this SWF file in your own projects. Simply download it. Insert it as an animation in your Captivate project and set it's display to Rest of slide.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Training Simulation Project

I'm still crafting out my next big posting so in the meantime here is a link to one of the big interactive simulation projects I worked on last year for Adobe (at the time Macromedia Inc)

Getting Started with Dreamweaver 8

All comments welcome.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Macrofireball's Captivate Articles

The blog post that I was hoping to share today is going to need some more work, so in the meantime here is a list of the Captivate articles I have written over the last 18 months.

Adobe Captivate 2

Captivate 1

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Creating Audio blog posts with Adobe Captivate 2

Following a number of requests todays post outlines how to create an audio blog post using Adobe Captivate 2.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

On Tour with Adobe UK

I’ve just finished the first leg of the Adobe Acrobat 8 Tour where I had the privilege of introducing attendees to Adobe Captivate 2 and demonstrate how Captivate fits in the Adobe Connect family. This first leg of the tour took place in London in Regents Park. As you can probably tell from my previous blog posts I love talking about Captivate and it is always a joy when I have the opportunity to introduce new users to the program; not to mention showing existing Captivate developers some of the many new features that Adobe have introduced in Captivate 2 not to mention showing how Captivate 2 can be integrated into the Adobe Connect (formerly Macromedia Breeze) workflow.

The next leg of the tour takes me to Leeds on November 9 followed by Manchester 28 November so for those who are registered for those dates I look forward to seeing you there.

Without this sounding like the award ceremony at the Oscars I do want to take this opportunity to also thank all those who attended my sessions in Regents Park and to Adobe UK for making me feel so welcome. I look forward to catching up with you again later this month.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

An Adobe Captivate 2 Audio Blog Post.

In the second my blog posts today. I demonstrate how Adobe Captive 2 can be used to podcast. The possibilites here are endless and as somebody who spends a considerable time narrating you can expect to see alot of these sorts of posts in the near future.
Adobe Captivate 2 Audio Blog Post
Click on the graphic to launch the Adobe Captivate file.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Text Area boxes in Adobe Captivate project files, surely not!

Last weeks lack of posts were primarily due a project on teaching WebAssist users how they can customizing pure CSS layouts generated using SiteAssist 3.0. In a couple of the segments of this tutorial series I really wanted learners to have the opportunity to grab the customized CSS code that we had used to customize the web page layouts but how to do that in Adobe Captivate? Well the simple answer is that in Adobe Captivate alone you just cannot do it the solution was create these in Flash 8 using the Text Area component and add them to my project file.

This is something that I had experimented with in Captivate 1.0 and although I could insert the published text area component (SWF) as an animation when I tried and preview the text area just would not show. Publishing didn’t help that much either. In a published file although the text in the text area box was there, the learner couldn’t see it and asking them to select what appeared to be invisible text and pasting this into a text file just didn’t sit right with me.

In Adobe Captivate 2, the text area component is handled much better, the text area and the text is rendered correctly either when you preview and publish as a SWF or you publish to Adobe Connect Professional.

One thing that you have to bear in mind is that when you publish locally you must include the published text area SWF. Internally I believe that Captivate references the published component the same way the program does with Flash video files. Something I found out when I sent my test Captivate 2 file to my colleague and good friend Joseph Lowery, only to find that Joe could not see the text area / code box I had inserted into my Captivate project file.

Below are two sample files that show this technique in practice. Although the ActionScript code included in the sample Flash file works, I have since found a better way to handle CSS in Flash, which I will make available once I have had the chance to do some more testing.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Using the Library in Adobe Captivate 2

Want to find out all about the new Library panel in Adobe Captivate 2, then read my latest Captivate article now available at the Captivate Developer Center.

More Captivate 2 posts coming soon

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Adobe Captivate 2 in anger

No this isn’t a rant about problems with Adobe Captivate 2, far from it. I have just finished creating my first real-world project, the WebAssist.com solution recipe PayPal Websites Payments Pro. Using any piece of software on a real project (opposed to testing the software during the development cycle) can be a daunting experience. Does the software live up to it’s expectations? Do the new features really improve the user’s workflow and most importantly when used under normal working conditions does the application remain stable?

Well, in the case of Adobe Captivate 2 I am happy to say that this project the program performed really well. I am still amazed at how quickly Captivate 2 saves project files, even those that during development consisted of over 140 slides still saved in a fraction of the time they used to in Captivate 1 and, as for the new Library feature – well you’re going to have to wait a little while longer before I talk about that one.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Transparent Text Captions

Today’s Adobe Captivate 2 feature is transparent text captions. Transparent text captions, I hear you say! What possibly could be so exciting about these? Well in Adobe Captivate 2 if you need to create a transparent text caption and you want your text color to be say white, the Text Captions dialog box temporarily fills the background with a color so that you can see what you are typing! How much do I love this feature? More than words can say!

Transparent Text Captions

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Preview Next X Slides

Project Preferences

Today’s Adobe Captivate 2 feature focuses on Previewing. When working on a project there as many instances when you only want to preview a certain amount of slides; although with Captivate 1.x you could preview the next five slides, there were many occasions when this simply wasn’t enough.

To address this issue in Adobe Captivate 2 you the user can now specify how many next slides the program should preview.

Another option in this dialog, is the ability to specify the default duration for newly created blank, image and question slides.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Keyboard shortcuts

Adobe Captivate 2 Keyboard shortcut dialog

One of the reasons why I decided to start using Captivate over other screen recording tools was because Captivate enabled me to create truly interactive simulations. For the past 8 years, I had been creating video-based tutorials for my former employer Virtual Training Company.

Whilst I have nothing against creating demonstration tutorials, the chance to create interactive simulations was something that for many years I had wanted to explore. So, needless to say having discovered Captivate and been offered the chance to create some interactive content, I leapt at the opportunity.

Last year one of the interactive projects I got to work on was the Dreamweaver 8 Getting Started series. Whilst Captivate enabled me to create a “fairly realistic” series of tutorials, I kept hitting two major problems:

  1. I could not attach a key board shortcut and a mouse click to the same object
  2. I was not able take advantage of the numeric keypad.

Thankfully, in Adobe Captivate 2 all this changes. Adobe Captivate 2 enables you to apply both a mouse click and keyboard short cut to the same object.

What is even more exciting is that you can also include the numeric keypad as part of your keyboard shortcut combination and ensures that the learner's experience is incredibly realistic!

For example it means that as well as learners being able to press say the Return key on their keyboard, they can also press the Enter key on the numeric keypad instead, which of course, is what many users in the real world do!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Automatic Slide Branching

Today, I want to focus on another of the Adobe Captivate 2 feature set: Slide Navigation.

Although Captivate 1.0 you could send a learner to another branch (part / section) in your project, using interaction objects such as click boxes, text entry boxes etc; if a learner landed on say slide 20 and you wanted to send them to say slide 45, and you didn’t want them to interact with the project, you were pretty well sunk.

In Adobe Captivate 2, the Captivate team has dealt with this limitation by including automatic slide branching. Now, if the learner lands on slide 75 and you want to send them to say slide 25 you can do so by simply setting the Slide navigation option to Jump to Slide 25 in the Slide Properties dialog.

Slide Navigation in Adobe Captivate 2

The complete range of navigation options are:
  • Go to previous slide
  • Go to next slide
  • Jump to slide
  • Open URL or file
  • Open other project
  • Send e-mail to
  • Execute JavaScript

The level of flexibility this offers is truly breath taking and provides Captivate developers with the ability to create paths that can seamlessly merge back onto a path in a previous or main section.

Adobe Captivate 2 eSeminar Series

Interested in learning about the exciting new features in Adobe Captivate 2, then sign up for the Adobe Captivate 2 one-hour online interactive seminar (09/13/2006 - 11/29/2006) and learn about the benefits of the new version of this awesome software .Plus you will also have the opportunity to get your questions regarding Adobe Captivate 2 answered to!

Sign up for the Adobe Captivate 2 eSeminar Series.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Adobe Captivate 2: Edit view

Adobe Captivate 2, Edit viewToday, I will reveal some of the cool new features that you will find in the Adobe Captivate 2 Edit view.

Open Adobe Captivate 2 and the first thing that you will notice is that at the very top of the view you now have a toolbar. This offers a convenient way to perform basic tasks such as cutting, copying, arranging objects, displaying object and slide properties as well as showing/hiding the grid and snapping objects to the grid. Over on the right hand side of the tool bar is a magnification menu enabling you to zoom in and out of your slide – you can also choose Best Fit.

However, this is one extra little surprise. Select any object and you will notice that the position and size text fields also appear. This means that for the first time you can position and size your objects with pixel level accuracy.

Adobe Captivate 2 also makes the Slide notes much easier to discover as these are now located at the bottom of the Adobe Captivate 2, application window.

Another great addition in Adobe Captivate 2 is the ability to float the Filmstrip. This is an ideal feature for those who have two monitors or very large screens. Simply tear-off the Filmstrip, drag it to the desired location and resize it.

Lastly, one of the great little new tools is the Go to Slide option. Located in the Edit menu and available by pressing Ctrl + Shift + G, this ensures that have to scroll through the Filmstrip trying to locate the desired slide is a thing of the past. It might be a small feature but it is a great timesaving tool that many Captivate users will be thankful for.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Meet the Adobe Captivate 2 Development team

Today, instead of looking at the Edit view, I have decided to share the Excellent Captivate 2 file created by Adobe Captivate 2 Quality Engineer - Randeep Singh.

Adobe Captivate 2 Team
This rocks and shows the type of amazing presentations you can create with Adobe Captivate 2! A big thanks to Randeep for letting me link to this.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Adobe Captivate 2 - Quiz Sample

For all those who create quizzes in Captivate here is a sample Quiz created in Adobe Captivate 2.

>Creating quizzes used to drive me nuts, you could never get contents of the question slides to align correctly and although you could apply a background image to the questions because the Results slide was only generated at run-time (when you preview or publish) typically many Captivate users would just leave this slide with it's default white background color.

Well, with Adobe Captivate 2 all that changes, as you now have the ability to position all your slide objects with pixel-level precision and most importantly the Results slide is now included in the Edit view so adding background image and aligning your result object in their desired locations is no longer a problem.

Adobe Captivate 2 - Recording - Pt 2

Full Motion Recording in Adobe Captivate 2
The biggest full motion capture improvement is that technically, there isn't any maximum length; essentially the only restriction is the performance of your computer system. If your full motion recording is very long, Captivate will simply split the full motion recording into multiple slides.

Adobe Captivate 2 also includes the ability to automatically create full motion recordings using mouse wheel actions.

Monday: The Edit view

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

First Adobe Captivate 2 Sample file

Ok, so I couldn't wait any longer. Here is the first Adobe Captivate 2 sample file. To see the file in action, just click on the image shown below.

In this example I show the following

  • The new Adobe Captivate 2 Skin and menu feature
  • The Zoom Area effect
  • Fill outer area Highlights
  • Closed Captioning with Interactive objects such as Click boxes.

A big thanks to Joseph Lowery - Author of the Dreamweaver 8 Bible for letting me use one of the original Dreamweaver 8 Bible techniques to demonstrate these features.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Adobe Captivate 2 - Recording - Pt1

With the announcement of Adobe Captivate 2 and having received permission from Silke (Product Manager for Captivate) I am delighted to be able to create my first post on key new features in Captivate 2.

Below is the first list of key new Recording features:
  • Pause during Capture: In Adobe Captivate 2 you can press the Pause key on your keyboard to move the red capture rectangle and then resume the capture by pressing the Pause key again.

  • Instant Text Entry Boxes: With Adobe Captivate 2 whenever you are auto-recording you can automatically add text entry boxes for text boxes.

  • Record actions in real time: With this new feature if it takes you 20 seconds to click on say a button then the resulting slide will be 20 seconds long.

Tomorrow - More on Recording.

Introducing Adobe Captivate 2

Well it is official, Adobe has announced Adobe Captivate 2. This is an amazing new version of Captivate and the main reason why I decided to create this blog! Over the next few days and weeks I will be posting lots of exciting information on Captivate 2 and samples, so, stay tuned!

Congratulations to all members Adobe Captivate 2 team, you have done us proud. A special word of thanks to Kenneth and Silke [you know why :-) ] I really appreciate all the support you have provided!

Update: The Adobe Captivate 2 product page is now live!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Right-Click menu article for Captivate

Today whilst trawling around the Captivate Developer's Center, I came across a new Right-Click menu article - Using Animations to Extend Macromedia Captivate for Right-Click Capability. This technique uses an animation to enable Captivate users to add right-click functionality to their projects. If you haven't seen this one yet, it is definitely worth taking a look! I've only done some basic testing on the techniques used but so far, so good!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Macrofireball Lives

In preparation for some exciting news about one of my favorite Adobe applications Macromedia Captivate, here is the first post from my new blog "Macrofireball"