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Intro

Seven years ago I started blogging about Captivate (with version 4 - 5). Most subjects on my blog are more advanced, you'll find lot of  use cases for advanced and shared actions. Meanwhile I also have spent thousands of hours on the Captivate forums and in social media,  answering questions and helping to solve issues. Moreover I am busy as a Consultant and as a Trainer (for Captivate and other Adobe applications), both through live and online classes, and one-to-one. Based on the combination of those 'Captivate' experiences with my former career as college professor, I decided to write this article to line up the three most important Challenges for any Captivate developer, especially for newbies.  It doesn't matter whether you are developing software simulations, soft skills training, responsive or normal projects, if you master these Captivate features you'll feel more comfortable and save a lot of time. (secretly expected Bonus: less questions on the forums  ).

Imagine standing before this natural stone porch, in the middle of the most amazing desert in the world (Sahara). You got that Captivate license, but how to start, where to go?

Stumbling block 1: Timeline

Why?

Captivate's Timeline is without any doubt  the first stumbling blocks for Captivate newbies. This strong conclusion is based on the many problems popping up in forums and social media, on my experiences with consultancy and while offering basic training. Captivate’s Timeline is not ‘normal if you compare with  video or animation applications. It shows all objects present on the stage from the start on, not when they are scheduled., Timeline is per slide, not for the whole project. Lot of reasons to be confused. Pausing the timeline by a command or by an interactive object is THE key to building interactivity in a Captivate course which is the main reason why you will have  chosen for an eLearning authoring tool instead of a video capturing tool. Understanding the Timeline and being able to control it should be the first priority of any Captivate learning (and training) process.

 

 

How do you stop this touareg caravan, walking hundreds of miles ?

Resources for Timeline

Nothing can replace a live (or virtual) training to roll away this stumbling block, but recently I published a sequence of 5 articles on my blog and in the eLearning Community to clarify this subject. Here are the links, not in the 'logical' sequence which I used for publishing, but ranked by importance:

    Pausing the Timeline, why and how?
     
Captivate Timeline(s) in cptx-file demystified
     
Introduction
     
Color codes and shortcut keys
     
Captivate Timeline in cpvc (Video Demo)

Stumbling block 2: Quiz

Why?

Captivate quiz and score slides have pretty strict rules. A lot of functionality is built in the quizzing and score master slides, using embedded objects. The two-step Submit process, the priority of the embedded objects in the z-order, cause a lot of problems for starting Captivate users. That explains why every blog post I ever wrote about Quizzing is very popular. Most of them, even after many years, are still visited daily. The stumbling block here is for the default Quiz slides, not for custom Quiz slides are created using standard objects, widgets, variables and advanced/shared actions. Those custom question slides are challenging for intermediate/advanced users (watch out for a later blog post for those users). Drag&Drop slides, used as Question slides can be included in the starter's 'stumbling block' because they probably make a quiz more engaging for the learner.

What a relief when the car transporting our cook and all the food caught up with us after a long quest of several days! Finished that monotonous diet of dried dates.

Resources for Quiz

Some of these blog posts do need an update due to new features in most recent version(s). However  most of the information is still valid

Question Question Slides - part 1     with the new Review buttons in Captivate 9 the confusion Next-Skip is gone
Question Question Slides - part 2

Knowledge Check Slides

Drag&Drop tips
Drag&Drop Captivate 9 - InBuilt states

Creative with Quizzing system variables
Fluid Boxes and Quiz slides

Stumbling block 3: Themes

Why?

It is one of the most hidden gems in Captivate: design of any project can be streamlined by using a custom Theme. A theme includes all object styles, master slides, skin and defaults for software simulations. Everything is based on a (custom) Theme colors palette, which can even be applied to most Learning Interactions. Creating or editing a theme before starting any project may seem a waste of time, but I guarantee that it will save a lot of time in the process. Small changes to the design, so often asked for by clients, are done in minutes. In many circumstances a well-designed theme makes a more limiting template superfluous.

 

The Architects/engineers of the Inca town Macchu Picchu knew very well how to prepare the 'design' of their city. Sorry for my adding the acronym TQT (Timeline, Quiz, Theme)  and scribbling my name to the 'room with three windows'.

 

Resources for Themes

Here are some links to get you started with Themes and Theme colors:

What's in a Theme/Template?

Theme Colors

 

Conclusion

This is my personal view on the challenges for Captivate starting users. I am not pointing to any step-by-step work flow which may seem astonishing. My focus is on what is causing most frustrations for the so-called 'newbies', whatever their experience with other applications. As a college professor I used Flipped classes long time before the word was invented: do not spend valuable training time by explaining processes that can easily be found somewhere (videos). Students do not need a trainer for step-by-step work flows, they can lean to master them by self-study. Spend class time by taking away obstructions that are slowing down the learning process. To reach that goal I was looking for an appropriate tool and was lucky to find... Adobe Captivate!

Lilybiri

Gems in Adobe Captivate 2017

Posted by Lilybiri Jun 28, 2017

Intro

The latest version of Captivate (10), now labeled Captivate 2017 has been released. If you did visit my blog in the past, you know that I prefer to wait a while before posting my first impressions. My focus is also more on the non-hype features added in this release, I call them the ‘hidden’ gems. Some are mentioned in the documentation, some are not. You can read here about the result of a fortnight of exploration.

1. Retina screen – software recordings

Captivate 9 was the first release which could be used on retina screens. However to record a Video Demo or a Software simulation you did have to edit the AdobeCaptivate.ini file. It was a solution, but bit cumbersome. After the capture process you had to edit that same file again to be able to use Captivate on that screen.

In Captivate 2017 this is no longer necessary, thanks to the Adobe team!

Tip: : if your OS is Win10, check the Display setting before recording (both Video Demo/Software Simulation). The OS tends to set the display setting to a percentage higher than 100%. You’ll have to reset it to 100% before the recording to avoid problems.

2. Advanced Actions enhancements

The Advanced Actions dialog box has been refurbished, and many will have emphasized that it is now easier to combine standard with conditional actions. Personally I don’t find that so important because the condition ‘IF 1 is equal to 1’ worked as well, but much more has changed. I will post an article later explaining the changes in the dialog box more in depth.

2.1 Enhancements to Decisions

The existing functionality for multiple decisions in former versions has been preserved: adding decisions, moving decisions, duplicating decisions. The buttons got another look as you can see on this screenhot. There has been added two extra time savers,  if you have a lot of decisions in one advanced action:

    • A dropdown list showing all decisions, and allowing you to navigate and select  a decision (Section 3, to the right)
    • A control panel to scroll to the next, previous decision, and to the Last and First decision (Section 2, to the right).

2.2 New commands

I am very happy that the commands ‘Go to Next State’ and ‘Go to Previous State’ (one of my first feature requests when multistate objects appeared) are now available in the list with commands in the Advanced Actions. In Captivate 9 there were only available as simple actions (Actions Tab dropdown list). This improves efficiency quite a lot, as you will be able to discover in the example movie (see below).

2.3 While loop

It has taken a ‘while’ but finally we have a looping functionality in Advanced actions. It is no longer needed to switch immediately to JavaScript. In combination with the command ‘Delay Next Actions…. ‘ a lot becomes easier in advanced or shared actions. Just one example: create a countdown animation by combining a counter variable, a while loop, an effect and the Delay command. While loops can be combined with standard and conditional decisions as well.

Example interactive course

With a Flash enabled browser, you can watch the course live on http://blog.lilybiri.com/captivate-2017-s-gems. The example has two slides:

  • First slide shows a countdown animation and a progress bar. That slide is using the new While loop. Click the Start button to see the animation. A Reset button appears at the end of the animation. Here is a screenshot of the triggered advanced action (Preview):

  • Second slide is using the "Go to Next State" command (new)both for text items and images (sticky character). Use the Continue button. Again, a Reset button will appear when all states have been viewed. Look at the Preview of the triggered action:

You can download the published HTML5 version from this link.  Unzip the folder, and launch the index.html file.

 

3. Typekit integration

Finally we have access to the Typekit Library (I’m used to it using CC applications)! In the example movie I used two fonts which I already acquired with a CC subscription (Fira Sans and Rosario), but Typekit also has a free license. You have to check it out, time to get away from those limited set of websafe fonts. When publishing with Typekit fonts, you’ll need to add a domain name. For testing purposes you can choose for ‘Local host’. If you are collaborating on a project, you’ll have to be sure that the collaborators have a Typekit license as well. In that case when opening a Captivate project, Tk fonts will be synchronized on their system.

4. Responsive projects – two work flows

A lot of articles and tutorials have been published already to acclaim the use of Fluid boxes in responsive projects. However I am also happy that the ‘old’ way with Breakpoint views is still available as well. If you upgrade a responsive project from a previous version (8 or 9), it will automatically show in the Breakpoint view mode, since the development has happened in that mode. After two weeks with Fluid Boxes in CP2017 I don’t have enough experience yet to judge their full power. My first impression is that the kind of project will indicate (dictate?)  the choice of the development work flow:

1. Fluid Boxes mode development will be a big timesaver for text-heavy projects. No need to check all text container styles for font sizes in all breakpoint views, no need to adapt the margins, leading to have text fitting in a text container on any mobile device. The continuous slider to see the changes for all possible browser resolutions is great!
The design of a responsive theme with fluid boxes needs however a different set of mind: how to set up the grid with Fluid boxes in content master slides.
The minus point of working with Fluid boxes is that you lose some control. My teacher’s experiences learned me that you cannot use the same layout on a smartphone as you use for a laptop or even a tablet screen. That will make using Fluid boxes not appropriate for all courses. If you are a die hard designer, maybe you will not like the way that objects will be handled when the browser resolution changes?
Objects in a Fluid box are essentially in a 2D space: you cannot have overlapping objects. That is the reason why the Help explains that Zoom objects, Highlight Boxes and Click boxes are not allowed in a FB. Object groups,  line object and mouse objects are excluded as well. However you can use them in a static Fluid box.
 

2.   Breakpoint mode development is a lot more work, but gives you more control for layout differences between devices and for design. You can have overlapping objects, use object groups and with the exception of the Rollovers, Likert question slides,  you have almost no limitations.

Tip: to switch to Breakpoint view development use this option in the Project menu

To be able to change a normal (blank) project to a responsive project is a much asked for, very useful addition. The reverse is not yet possible (responsive to non-responsive).

After some more experience with using Fluid Boxes, my opinion could change of course. Anyway I am persuaded already that the customisation of a theme withFluid boxes is more important than ever. If you wonder why, maybe have a look at this article: ‘Exploring Themes and Templates

More?

This personal view on some new features/enhancements in version 2017 (10 under the hood) is based on a limited time of exploration. It is not a complete list. In a future blog post (or showcase) I will give more details about using the While loop, creation  of the example movie, use of fluid boxes in quizzing master slides. As promised, the overwhelming number of buttons and features in the new Advanced Actions dialog box will be the subject of another tutorial. Looking forward to your comments.

Do you have questions, use cases that you cannot figure out if they are possible? Fire away…

Intro

Quite a few years ago I wrote an article about Timeline secrets in version 5 of Captivate: Tiny Timeline Tidbits

Since the change in the UI with Captivate 8, the default (newbie) User Interface minimizes the Timeline panel, which is a pity IMO. Some of the questions I read on social media and forums, are at least partially due to that decision to hide the Timeline:

  • 'I want to get rid of the timeline, don't need it at all'
    (user thinking that Captivate is just a Powerpoint clone).

 

  • 'Why is the timeline not showing the whole project, so user unfriendly'  
    (user supposing Captivate is a mini video application)

  • 'Why do I see all the objects on the slide, even when the playhead is in a part where some objects shouldn't be visible, not intuitive' 
    (user with  an Animation background)

For those reasons I suspect it is "Time" to refurbish that old article, to explain the ins and outs of the Timeline panel with its latest additions like CPVC-projects and -slides, Effect Timelines, Drag&Drop, etc.

The Timeline panel, in close collaboration with the Timing Properties panel is at the core of the Captivate application. Personally I'm persuaded that it should be a top priority in the skillset of any Captivate developer, whatever its level.

Since I cannot offer you a 'digestive' (limoncello, grappa, schnapps, single malt...) I will split up this (important) subject in several articles. At this moment you are reading the introduction. Four more posts will treat topics: 'Timeline in a cpvc-project', 'Timelines in a cptx-project', 'Why/how to pause a timeline?' and 'Color coding and Shortcut keys for Timelines'.

Why do you need a Timeline?

Many users talk about the output of a Captivate project as being 'a movie'. Although this is only completely true when the Captivate file is published to mp4 - a video format, the word 'movie' indicates well that Captivate is related to video applications like Premiere Pro and After Effects.

No one will doubt the importance of 'time' for video. A movie has a playhead, which moves at a certain speed. That speed is usually indicated by the term 'frames per second', or FPS.

Frames remind me always of the traditional way of producing cartoon movies: each frame, drawn by a graphic artist, was slightly different from the previous and the next frame. By playing those frames at a certain speed,  movement could be simulated: the slowness of our eye/brain makes it possible to see fluid movements from those frames.

Captivate has two types of 'raw' (editor mode) files: the cptx-files (slide-based) and the cpvc-files (less-known, Video Demo files). Both types have a Timeline panel but with some differences, as I will try to explain in the second and third posts. Let us start with those features that can common to the Timeline in any Captivate project.

 

Common features

You can either read the following text, or discover this interactive Captivate movie (scroll to the first image which is clickable).

Some items are available in all Timeline panels: for cptx and cpvc projects:

  1. Contrary to some video or animation applications, the Timeline ruler in Captivate is always in Time units (seconds), cannot be changed to frames (look at the horizontal ruler in the top of the Timeline panel). The smallest increment in the timeline is 0,1 seconds. With a default rate of 30FPS (which can be changed) 0,1seconds = 3 frames
  2. The Playhead is represented by a red rectangle. When you use the play button in the control panel (see 4), you'll see its movements. You can also drag the Playhead to a certain position on the timeline. The size of the rectangle is bit different between a cptx and a cpvc project as you can see in the screenshot.

  3. In the first column of the panel, on top you find the Eye button, and each track (horizontal line in the panel) in the Timeline has a (blue, filled with orange) dot under this button. See the screenshots:
    When clicking the Eye button on top of the column, all objects in all tracks will be hidden on the stage. This is only meant for editing reasons, it will not affect the published course.To hide items after publishing you need to click that 'other' Eye button in the Properties panel of the objects (hidden in Output). When clicking on a dot under the Eye button, next to a track, all objects on that track will be hidden. In the exampled on the screenshot, the second tracks from the top have been hidden.

  4. Next to the Eye button is a Lock button, also with dots next to each track. When you click the button itself all objects on all tracks will be locked: not available for selection nor for editing properties. However, if you click a dot next to a track, there are two states. On the first click only size and position will be locked. In that state you can still select /style the objects. The blue Lock icon is surrounded by 4 arrows, as you can see in the screenshot: for the cpvc it is the track immediately above the Video/Audio track, for the cptx project the uppermost timeline. Clicking twice on a dot results in full lock: no selecting/editing is possible. This is the case for the uppermost Objects track in the cpvc-screenshot and for the image I_topics in the cptx project. Watch the different look of the lock icons.

  5. The Control panel at the bottom of the first column (see screenshot above) has the classical (video) buttons:  'Move Playhead to start', 'Stop', 'Play', 'Move Playhead to the end'. Play and Stop can also be activated with the space bar if the timeline panel is active.
    Warning: Play Slide under the button Preview has the same function as Play in this control panel. Although it is under the Preview button it is NOT a preview at all! It is just meant to be used for editing, will not show how the slide will look after publishing. This is a common misunderstanding.
    The last button on the control panel: 'Audio' is a toggle, will mute/unmute Audio when watching using the Play button. Like the Eye button, this will not affect audio when publishing. The state of this button will apply to all open projects.

  6. In the second column at the same vertical position as the control panel described under 6 and the horizontal scrollbar, you'll find 4 tiny icons in all normal slides (they have no sense for the Master slide which has no real duration)
    1. Hourglass icon: indicates the location of the playhead from the start of the track; its tooltip is 'Elapsed Time'; this indicator is always available, even when no track nor object is selected.
    2. Vertical line + right arrow (Selected Start Time) will only have a value when a video clip or a static object is selected; it will indicate the start time of the selected video/object. In the screenshot the Smartshape on top is selected.
    3. Vertical line + right arrow + vertical line (Selected duration) will show the duration of the selected clip/object, is only available when a video/object is selected on a track.
    4. Chrono icon: Total duration of the slide

      The Zoom slider to the right of this total duration,  allows the timeline to zoom in/out.

Intro

When trying to help Captivate users, I often bump into 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. My blog fans 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.

https://phaven-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/files/image_part/asset/1706500/kKOc91rJn6C8S3YyI3PaYlkHb4s/medium_ThemesPath.png

You can store 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.

A 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.

https://phaven-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/files/image_part/asset/1706797/OB04joayKDjjy1XXhZ7JpqkdG44/medium_DialogTheme.png

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. The saved document is a XML-file.

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.

https://phaven-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/files/image_part/asset/1707782/E_mCP8vM9ReQRj0XnPkzm0-GFek/medium_OSMButton.png

  • 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.

https://phaven-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/files/image_part/asset/1707783/5QdXJ7DdPI7B8knEEey9VgEhCGE/medium_OSMShapes.png

  • 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 and Guides to assist you when designing master slides: check this post Guides Rule!
  • If you plan to use the theme for software simulations: keep a real Blank master slide, because it is used both for software simulations and for Powerpoint 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 defaultsThis 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 very often and 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?