Captivate 8 drag/drop caution: Event and Multi-slide Synchronized Videos have different properties

I recently took HTML5 Basics, a one-day virtual course taught by Joe Ganci. In his class, Joe demonstrated how to add a video to a project using the ribbon in Captivate 8. His video appeared on the slide, and he had player control options and other properties he could change on his video.

Event Video

Event Video with player controls

I repeated Joe’s steps, but since I am accustomed to importing to the library first, I imported (the same video Joe used) and dragged it onto the slide. It seemed like such a harmless deviation from his steps. I was wrong. My video did not have any controls on it. Where did they go? Both appeared in the Library. I was confused. Quickly, I backtracked and performed the exact steps Joe performed, and by inserting a video from the Media button on the ribbon worked (It is the same as Video > Insert Video or Ctrl+Alt+V). After the class, I dug around a bit to figure out what happened.

The Adobe help site has a simple write-up for the differences between an event video versus a multi-slide synchronized video, and it helped me understand what was happening.

Here’s the long and short of what I learned:
DO NOT USE DRAG AND DROP TO INSERT VIDEOS FROM YOUR LIBRARY ONTO A CAPTIVATE 8 SLIDE. Sure, it will work for multi-slide synchronized videos, but it creates problems in the long run. I’ve even been able to crash Captivate using the drag & drop method.

Here are the two tried and true options to use. Do not bother importing your videos first! Even if you import your video into Captivate first, you must still choose the location of the video on your computer from these steps.

Option 1: Use the video menu or its keyboard shortcut

  1. Click Video > Insert Video. You can also press the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+V
  2. Select either the Event Video or Multi-Slide Synchronized Video radio button at the top.

Option 2: Use the Media button on the Ribbon     event versus multislide media button

  1. Click the Media button on the ribbon.
  2. Select Video from the drop-down options

Below are the options that you can set. The options provided in the Insert Video window will change depending on which radio button you select.
event versus multislide options




Are you not sure which option to use? Try using this chart to determine which type of video you need.event versus multislide








Now that you know which video type you need, here are links to Adobe help to get you started on the many options available.


Recording Audio for Web-based Training – Best Practices and Lessons Learned

I had the great pleasure of presenting at the annual ISO/RTO Training Working Group waveformconference on July 24, 2015. During this meeting, I provided details about how I have worked to improve the audio quality of my web-based training modules.

Below are two files which can be downloaded from the session. The handout includes the checklists and the references for the presentation. The links in the presentation to the supplemental materials shown in class are functional.

Thanks again for the wonderful opportunity! I hope those of you present will share some of your experiences in the comments below.

See you next year!

Text Caption or Smart Shape? Rollover Caption or Smart Shape? My struggles with these choices (written for Captivate 7)

Although my department has had Captivate all the way back to version 4, until I came along, Captivate was largely not used in our department. My first published project was created in Captivate 6 in May 2014. I was learning as I was developing, and it seemed I spent as much time reading Adobe forums, posting questions on LinkedIn, and using Google search to find out most steps. It was a rewarding challenge – Captivate brought my training alive and brought file stability in ways that I could not accomplish in Articulate.


My default text caption was Adobe Blue.

I did not have the development time to figure out some things. I don’t know whether I had the option to use smart shapes back then, but I relied heavily on text captions. They got the job done, and I worked around their limitations. I used the “Adobe Blue” caption type as my default, although the blue color did not quite match our company’s color scheme. I was careful how I sized my text objects and ultimately they were good enough. The settings worked the same for rollover text captions, making everything coordinate together well.

Now that I am working on our the maintenance round for this same online training module, I have to update images and text. This is providing me the opportunity to make some things even better than the original. However, now that I’m exploring the many wonderful features of Smart Shapes, I’m finding that I want to redo all of my captions!

Why do I feel Captivate Smart Shapes are a better choice than text captions or rollover captions? 

  1. I can add text to any Smart Shape.
  2. I can convert Smart Shapes to rollovers. This allows me to use a rollover instead of a slidelet, which is more practical in some situations.
  3. The Callout Smart Shapes – there are three – can be sized and shaped to point in any direction. These look the most like my default text caption options.
  4. Stroke and fill options can be changed for Smart Shapes – now my default is my company’s blue with a 3pt stroke – it coordinates more with our brand.
  5. I can replace an existing Smart Shape with a new shape choice. This is handy when indecisive me decides I want an arrow instead of a thought bubble (known in captivate as the rounded rectangular callout). I can also convert Smart Shapes into freeform objects and make it into any shape I can get to look right!

How Do I Do These Wonderful Things?

In the next section, I will briefly explain how I do each of the things above. I am still learning Captivate, so please chime in via the comments if you have a more efficient way to do any of these!

For each of these items, the first step is to create a Smart Shape by selecting the Smart Shape tool and drawing it on the slide.

1. Add Text to a Smart Shape

  1. Right-click on the Smart Shape
  2. Choose Add Text
    Note: Alternatively you can select the Smart Shape and then press F2

2. Convert a Smart Shape into a Rollover

  1. Right-click on the Smart Shape
  2. Choose Convert to rollover Smart Shape

3. Replace the Current Smart Shape with a New Smart Shape

  1. Right-click on the Smart Shape
  2. Choose Replace Smart Shape. A new window will display with the Smart Shapes
  3. Select the new Smart Shape

4. Change the Fill & Stroke Options of a Smart Shape

  1. Select the Smart Shape
  2. In the Properties of the Smart Shape, change the fill and stroke options.

5. Change the Shape of a Smart Shape Text Callout (Thought Bubble)

  1. Select the Smart Shape text callout.
    Note: You will see a yellow square at the pointy end of the callout. 
  2. Left-click the yellow square and drag it to where you want your callout to point.


It has taken a while to figure out what I need and want in Captivate, and it seems as soon as I have a grasp on one version, a new version of Captivate is available to learn. I hope these text tricks will help someone out that is having trouble getting the most out of text captions.

Do you know of a better way to accomplish these things? Feel free to post any tips or tricks – I am always looking for ways to be more efficient!

Pixel Perfect: How to replace text in pictures with gradients or solid backgrounds using PowerPoint

blog pictureLet’s say you have a picture with text that you need to update. Typically this will happen by accident – you have a great picture, and you accidentally save over your original with text added (happens to me all the time when building web-based training programs). Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is the Clone Tool (or the eye dropper and paint brush tools for solid backgrounds) in Photoshop. But what if you do not have a photo editor with these tools?

You do not need Photoshop or a dedicated image editor to fix this – you can do it right in PowerPoint!

High-level steps:

  1. Duplicate the picture
  2. Align the picture (optional)
  3. Crop the picture
  4. Add new text (optional)

blog picture 2

  1. Duplicate the picture: Hold down Ctrl and Shift keys, and drag original image with mouse
    In my example, I moved the picture to the left. Moving it down or up would have impacted the gradient and could yield unpolished results.
  2. Align the images as needed: From the PowerPoint Format Ribbon
    • Format > Align > Align Left | Top | Etc
    • Line up the gradient backgrounds before editing (see illustration)
  3. Fix the background:
    • Select the top, cropped duplicate image
    • Picture Tools > Crop (Size Panel)
      Tip: You may want to group your two pictures!
  4. Insert a new text box object, and add your updated text.


blog picture 3

Important Tips:

  • You may want to save a blank copy after step 3!
  • Watch the file size. The original picture size is doubled with this technique! You may need to re-save and replace the picture.
  • For gradients, alignment and direction are key (not so critical with solid colors). If you make a mistake, it’s best to undo and try again.

blog picture 4

Finding Free Stock Photography Online

Where do you get your stock photography?

This question comes up nearly every time I discuss training with a fellow trainer or instructional designer. I usually pick and choose from one or two canned answers, but really, there’s a science behind it. I love science, and I love pictures, so I’m pretty good at coming up with out-of-the-box ways to get really nice photos for free.

Here’s some techniques I use when looking for artwork online.

Remember to always ask and receive permission before using pictures, and provide credit to the photographer or publication.

  1. Search Wikimedia Commons. Many of these are covered under generous creative commons licenses. This looks like its growing.
  2. Use Google Image Search Advanced Settings
  3. Search Google Image Search using a picture’s URL
    I plan to write a separate article about this, but it’s a love at first site thing 🙂 A site I follow on Facebook posted a beautiful picture from NASA. Here’s what I did to find it on Google Image search:

    1. Right-click on the image and select copy image URL
    2. Open Google Image Search
    3. Click the camera on the right-side of the search text field*
      *For those using the Chrome browser, right-click on the image and choose “Search Google for this image” for a faster search.
    4. Paste the URL you copied in step A and click Search.
    5. Reap the rewards 🙂
  4. Use photos from Facebook friends and contacts who take good pictures
  5. Find local photography clubs that will let you use their photos. Colleges and high schools are options.
  6. Find .gov sites related to the type of photos you are looking for. Most if not all (not sure about laws) government sites are in the public domain, so photos they own are available for public use. For example, NASA’s Media Usage Guidelines page provides guidelines for using NASA photos.Here is the beautiful photo that inspired me to write this blog post:

    satellite from space with lights from nasa 1980419_805568286130851_8333884728513564778_o

    Image Credit: NASA

    Here are some .gov sites (including .us, which is state) which offer free media images (go to and search for “media images”):

      Medical Images from VDH
      Interesting selection of images…
      Lots of military images – clearinghouse I found from the NASA site
  7. Be frugal, but be open to spending a little money. Of course, our department pays for an iStock Photo account. While I do not endorse them, I use their site and have been happy with the quality of the photos we’ve purchased from them. Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and pay $20 for “the right image”. However, also remember, one slide, visible for about 45 seconds, now costs an additional $20.

With a little creative searching in the right places, you’d be surprised how many photos are out there for you to use.

Do you have any other search ideas? Post them in comments!

Micro-learning, Nano-learning, Mini-modules, QR Codes, and How Mobile Learning is Influencing Training

A year or two ago in 2011, I threw the term “mini-mods” at my boss. “What are mini-mods?”, he asked. I went on to proudly tell him that I thought up the term. I envisioned our oppressive (but awesome :D) training videos could be broken down into smaller, easy-to-digest, easy-to-reuse modules, or mini-modules. We could break down our materials, and that would enable us to use them on different platforms (mobile was all the buzz, and still is), different formats, etc.

Since them, I’ve had to come to terms that this was not my brilliant, original idea.  I found an article from 2006 which refers to nano-learning (exotic!):  This article by Elliott Masie  provides five areas which would benefit from nano-technology, and it provides great examples for each.

Today I came across another short article by Mark Berthelemy about micro-learning from 8/2012:  The most important quote from this article is, “Basically, micro-learning describes a method of learning, whereby concepts and ideas are presented (or retrieved) in very small chunks, over very short time-scales, often at the point of need, or at the point of maximum receptiveness.”

Of course, Mark mentions that micro-learning has been around since 2004. So much for my ingenuity!

Both of these articles have affirmed what I’ve been thinking all this time:

  • It is easier to learn in smaller chunks.
  • It is easier to plan smaller modules.
  • Mini-mods are easier to build.
  • It is easier for a SME to commit to development when it’s short and direct.
  • It is easier to place these items, to reuse them on a variety web platforms (think YouTube supplemental videos)

I love it. And… it gets better.  Recently, after I read a couple articles about how the tourism industry was using QR Codes in tourist spots, and I began to picture my training progams, even shared laptops working in the same fashion.  It’s the perfect, quick, small, PRINTABLE way to provide a link to your super-cool, to-the-point multimedia from anywhere. Plus, I think they are expanding what QR codes link to (I am still learning – please don’t quote me!). Here’s an article about how Philippine City provides QR Codes to tourists:

Now, imagine putting both together. Make a small, 3 minute video clip about an energy concept (that’s my job!). Publish it online. Attach a QR code to it. Use it in classroom materials. Use QR codes for the bathroom stall micro-learning. Print them on labels and attach them to things to gain that “at the time you need it” learning edge. Put them in your user guides (scan the QR code to get detailed steps). I can think of a million uses for this! Make a QR Code here:

It may have been a tougher sell in earlier years, but technology is catching up and providing ways to push us in directions few of us have even imagined. Put it all together, and you can come up with something extraordinary – even if it isn’t all that new!

Have you used micro-modules or QR codes to innovate your learning?  Please tell me how!  I love to impress my boss with reused ideas 🙂

What makes a good training program? ZOMBIES!

The FEMA emergency preparedness post on their blog site was priceless.  If you have not already done so, you really should check it out:

A link from the blog brought me into more zombie goodness, including a cute little comic book created by the CDC (Center for Disease Control), which contains an emergency checklist at the end:

After reading lots of comments, it was surprising to see many unfavorable comments left on the page.  Some people saw the post as a waste of time.  I thought it was pretty genius.

I found the FEMA blog through an old friend on Facebook.  He and I have share an interest in the band Tool and zombie or horror references.  He a zombie running app, which is a  gamification tool that motivates his runs.  He posted the FEMA blog with some funny comment.  I had to check it out and read the entire article about emergency preparedness.  It was great information, but I assure you, I would have never read it if not for the zombie connection. When I showed my husband, he’d already seen it (a lot) – it’s been going crazy online.

In my opinion, this was a great example of training.  I read an article that I would not have ever sought out on my own, and it provided good emergency information to me that I may not have gotten otherwise.  Of course, I’m blogging about the style, not the content, but what’s important is that I’ve read and shared it.  FEMA didn’t even make a viral video – using pop culture, FEMA made a viral blog post… FEMA!  Think about it:

  • How many emergency preparedness articles have you read?
  • How many emergency articles have you shared with family?
  • How many emergency articles have you shared on Facebook?
    • Of those articles, how many friends decided to share your post?
    • Of those articles, how many people commented or “liked” them?
    • Of those articles, how many people wrote a blog post about the article?

It makes me wonder if I can add zombies to my training programs… maybe not 😀