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  • Tom Brooksher

Handy Captivate Functions You Should Be Using

Many instructional designers aren’t trained to be instructional technologists—but they often must work in both areas. If this is you, when it comes to e-learning tools you tend to be self-taught. Maybe you learn through trial and error (as well as through user manuals and books). You may have learned just enough, and not much more, to get each project done—especially if there isn’t much variety from one project to the next. However, with limited knowledge comes limited skills. By learning more about a certain tool, you’re able to improve your initial instructional design. That’s because you’ll know how to do exciting new things and increase interactivity.

Take Adobe Captivate, for example. There are dozens of functions you may not be using now either because you haven’t had to before, you’ve never thought about them or you think they’re too difficult to grasp. Let’s take a look at four of them. If you learn to begin using any of these, you can save time and create a better instructional design.

  1. Object Style Manager—Which option is easier: 1) setting an object’s style (font, point size, color, etc.) once, to be used across an entire project, or 2) changing the style manually for every object in the project? You’d probably choose the first option, but you may not know how to use the Object Style Manager (in the Edit menu of Captivate 5 and higher). Instead, you copy and paste objects from one slide to the next and resynchronize them based on their place in the new slide’s timeline. But by using the Object Style Manager, you can set the styles for every text caption or button in the project and, with just one click, specify it for an object you’ve created.

  2. Check Spelling—Nothing says “bad design” like misspelled words in your project. Captivate’s Check Spelling function (in the Project menu) lets you find mistakes that you might not have caught before. But it still requires you to re-read each slide, just in case you’ve mistakenly used a similar-sounding word, such as “lead” instead of “led.” And if you have layers of text captions one atop the other, play the project in Preview mode and…check that spelling.

  3. Advanced Actions—If you’ve ever wanted to make two or more actions (show, hide, open file, jump to slid, etc.) happen at the same time when you learners activate a click box or button, get to know Advanced Actions! Also in the Project menu, Advanced Actions are relatively simple, like filling out a form where you specify which actions take place in which order. You’ll be able to design more interesting interactions that your learners will love.

  4. Slide Notes—If you have a recording script, copy and paste it into Slide Notes (open this function in the Window menu) as it applies to each slide. This is great for two reasons: First, you’ll have another copy of the script to refer to as you build the slide. Second, you can convert the Slide Notes to a simulated voice using the automated text-to-speech function. The audio can be used to estimate the actual playing time of the slide and to help you arrange the timing of slide objects before professional recording begins. Once that’s done, you’ll have a first draft of the project to share with your team.

These are just a few features that Captivate offers, and you should definitely learn how to use them if you aren’t yet doing so. Other functions, such as Variables, Widgets, branching, SWF aggregation and rollover slidelets, may require more training and practice—but they’re worth the trouble to learn so you can advance your instructional design.

What other Captivate functions have you found useful? Tell us about them.

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