LS2011: Wonderful (Captivate) Widgets

My Day 3 of LS2011  kicked off with Jeff Blackman’s Wonderful Widgets! Creating Cool Interactions in Adobe Captivate. I was very excited to discover the potential of widgets, which I had not yet explored, despite 6 months experience developing many Captivate demos and simulations (and very fun ads), which included branching, variable text fields, and ties to an enterprise assessment system for in-depth reporting.

The presenter, Jeff Blackman did not disappoint.

Jeff, a former Disney character trainer (with his Ducktorate Degree-I asked!), really put on a show.
First, let’s talk presenter. Jeff, a former Disney character trainer (with his Ducktorate Degree-I asked!), really put on a show. This was needed for an early morning session on the last day of a conference in a session that was packed out the back doors.  He really demonstrated masterful facilitation of the session, keeping the mood fun and engaging without mocking the quality of the information he was sharing- despite the use of Mike “The Situation” on one of his slides (but even Tom used Charlie Sheen during the Ignite presentation, right?). It really showed how well-employed humor can really help keep an intimidating topic for many attendees more approachable, and just wake up the room during an early session

Widgets are simply pre-built functions (Flash files as shown in the screenshot above) you can drop into your Captivatev4 or above project (by selecting Insert>Widget from the main menu).

Some widgets are a little trickier than others, but overall, they have a drop-on-the-page-and-configure-using-a-wizard design. Jeff live demo’d a few widgets. Admitting that he was self-taught and not Flash literate helped Jeff drive the point that this is an approachable feature to add some neat functionality to a project, and active experimentation is the best way to really learn how to use widgets.

So, let’s talk about some of the widgets (and some things I’ve learned since the presentation):

  • Perpetual button– When you drop this into your project, it adds a standard forward/back button set to your screens, and does some nice aut0-configuration (first slide only shows the forward, last slide only shows back- no tweaks needed, it’s hard-baked into the widget). You can resize and place the items, but you aren’t able to change color and design without bringing it into Flash and editing (which isn’t too difficult with basic Flash knowledge).
  • Go to Slide– This creates a drop-down (or combo) box to enable the user to select a slide to navigate to. This replicates the baseline functionality of the TOC (it doesn’t include progress tracking and slide timing). If you are like me, and don’t love the TOC design in Captivate, this can provide a pretty streamlined alternative (but you do give up some functionality).
  • Checkbox – Creates a list of text items with checkboxes a user can select. The selected items can pass variables. You can use this for several functions, but an example could be passing text values to branch users to different topic areas (routing to pages based on selected items).
  • Help – This creates a popup window for more text to appear. That text can include links and media. I believe this required a right-click unless you brought it into Flash to adapt the code (it should be possible to recode it for a standard click or hover, and if needed to release a window to target _blank). Apologies I cannot confirm at this time, I have plans to use it, but haven’t found it for Captivate 4 yet. It was also noted that the standard graphic provided (a question mark) could not be substituted from the widget menu. It would need to be adapted in Flash as well (I see huge potential to extend this widget to “Ask a coach” for an avatar, or “Consult Policy” to access workplace policy guides- some big plans to use this).
  • Chart- Allows you to build charts in Captivate much like you would in a Powerpoint presentation or Excel by entering data into tables and choosing a chart type. This will be SO much better than creating a chart externally, creating a graphic, importing the graphic, publishing, then learning we need to update the data- frequently.  Now, I’d like to see if we can use those checkboxes above to see if we can make the charts respond based on specific selections (expect to see some future posts on experiments with widgets- and perhaps a few mayday calls via blog!).
  • Question– Currently, there is one question widget, multiple choice widget. You can create a quiz slide using multiple choice. Meh.  However, Jeff did note that if you have a good Flash developer (I do) you can create a custom Flash question widget to include as an option (such as match activities, crossword).  We have a few of these types of interactions built in Flash, so if we figure out how to widgetize (yes, I make up words), we’ll offer it.
  • Table– Import a table into Captivate directly from CSV file. Tear rolled down my eye. if I could have the hours I have lost on hand-formatting tables in Captivate…  …please learn how to use this (trust me, it’s MUCH better than the standard way of doing tables in Captivate).
  • YouTube– From Flashfactor. Allows you to embed a YouTube video right into your Captivate project.
  • Certification– Creates a printable completion certificate. Check the print orientation. And, if you want to chage it, or the design- you guessed it- you need to play in Flash.
  • Web page– This one is perhaps the most powerful. It allows you to embed another web page right within the Captivate screen. The actual function behind this is the standard html tag IFRAME. Do a bit of research on it. It’s easy to understand and you can use it in a great many products (I use it extensively).

    The widget from Captivate gives you some nice options to perform the embedding without needing to learn code. It allows you to define the size of the frame, whether or not it has a border or scrollbars, and what page to display in the frame (a bit like picture in picture for TV).  And, if you launch links within the embedded page, they work (including pop up windows).

    There is tremendous opportunity using this design. For example, the chart object I was talking about. It would be great to have the chart data in Captivate, but if you didn’t “own” the data and it changed on a frequent timeline, perhaps you could coordinate with the data owners to put the data into a spreadsheet they probably do already) and publish out the graph to a specified web page. If you use the Web page widget instead of the chart widget, the published Captivate file updates every time the data on the web page is refreshed. No handoff of data for you to reenter into Captivate, render the chart, republish the file…   … this is the type of trick I use with IFRAME frequently (so, even if you explore the Web page widget for Captivate, or it’s equivalent in Articulate, you may also look for opportunity to explore IFRAME- the learning curve is not steep, and the benefits are tremendous).

Jeff posted Follow up questions and updates from Wonderful Widgets to the Elearning Guild LS2011 resources page, and included many web resources in his presentation:

Adobe Captivate Exchange

As noted, I plan to experiment with widgets- in fact, I need to- I have a very large project kicking off that seems to require using some of the widgets to make more managable (but I plan on exploring more, or building, if needed). If you have any insights to share, or have any specific questions on your own exploration of widgets, please comment.

My sincere thanks to Jeff for a very informative and enjoyable presentation.

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