May 1, 2017
Advanced Actions Outfit since CP2017
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May 1, 2017
Advanced Actions Outfit since CP2017
Lieve is a civil engineer (ir) and a professional musician. After years of teaching and research (project management/eLearning/instability) she is now a freelancer specializing in advanced Adobe Captivate as trainer and consultant. Her blog is popular with Captivate users worldwide. As an Adobe Community Professional and Adobe Education Leader, she has presented both online and offline. Since 2015 she is moderator on the Adobe forums and was named as Forum Legend (special category) in the Wall of Fame. In 2017 Adobe Captivate users voted for Lieve as a Top Content Experience Strategist.
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Intro

The dialog box in CP2019 is exactly the same as in CP2017.  Please take some time to explore all its features, maybe this article can help you with that. Especially the Preview button is so useful, and avoids having to post multiple screenshots.

In my previous blog post about my preferred new features in Captivate 2017 I mentioned that the dialog box for Advanced Actions got a nice new Outfit. Similar to new shoes, sometimes it takes time before they feel as comfortable as those old sneakers . The focus of this article is to clarify the new dialog box. Maybe you’ll discover some unknown (old) gems here as well? I recommend to download the example published file, from that article, or watch it (as SWF output)  if you are using a Flash enabled browser on a desktop or laptop.

Structure – sections

The dialog box still has a fixed size (I wished it could be resized) and in the screenshot below I mark three sections, which I will explain more in detail in the text:

  1. Section 1: with the Global control panel to the right, two dropdown lists and the Action name field. That field has to be filled in for an advanced action, but not when your goal is to create a shared action (see Dare To Share).
  2. Section 2: has the control panel and navigation possibilities for the Decisions. Decision is the name used in the official Help documentation for those parts of the action that have the generic names ‘Untitled_1’…(and function as buttons to navigate to a decision). When opening the dialog box a default number of 3 decisions will be present. You’ll see in the screenshots that I am used to rename those decisions, certainly for an action with multiple decisions.
  3. Section 3:  shows the type of decision, has the control panel for the Commands or actions. I prefer the word commands to avoid confusion.

Nothing has changed at the bottom of the dialog box, with the buttons Usage (for the active Advanced action; for Shared actions you’ll find the Usage button in the Library), Variables (which allows you to open the Variables dialog box if you want to create more user variables or check the available variables, you cannot delete variables when entering the dialog box from this button), Save as Shared Action… (will open the Shared Actions dialog box), Save or Update Action and the Close button.

Section 1: Global

On the first row you find:

  • Create from: followed by a dropdown list. I call this the actions template list. It will have the default template ‘Blank’ on top, but also the name of all shared actions in the project. One of the possibilities of shared actions is to use them as a template for a normal advanced action. The list is not alphabetically ordered. You can type the first character to navigate to a template starting with that character.
  • Control panel with 6 buttons
    • Preview button: this button is still unknown by many users, and in this version it has become even more useful. In previous versions you could only see a conditional action in Preview, but since the former standard actions are now embedded in the same interface as conditional actions, you can also preview standard actions. Here is a screenshot of such a simple standard action. Watch the indicator ‘Execute Actions’ which defines this decision as being the equivalent of the former standard advanced action.

      The biggest advantage of the Preview window is for advanced actions with a lot of decisions, because you’ll get an overview of all decisions in a small window. However: the operators for conditions (like ‘is equal to ‘) are translated in the JS and AS equivalents (== means ‘equal to’, && means ‘AND”). Parts of the decisions are collapsed in this example (watch the triangle buttons):

    • Create New Action  (the +) button. It is no longer necessary to choose first the type of action, which was the case in previous versions.
    • Import Shared Action: works only for shared actions (which is not told in the tooltip). That same button can be found in the Library. Personally I always use the Library for Shared Actions management.
    • Export Shared Action: works only for shared actions (doesn’t appear in the tooltip), same button as in the Library.
    • Delete Action will delete the active action
    • Duplicate action: can be very useful. In some instances duplicate advanced actions are to be preferred to shared actions (maybe a future blog post).

On the second row in section 1 you see;

  • Action name: compulsory for advanced actions. Be careful with names (sorry for the repetition), do not use names that are used for other items.
  • Existing Actions: has a dropdown list, ordered alphabetically. You can type the first character to navigate to an action starting with that character.

Section 2: Decisions

Section 2 has following items, starting at the top left:

  • Control panel with 3 buttons (which now are less  tiny than in former versions):
    • Add decision (+ button): the decision will be added after the active decision (its name is bold and blue, non-active decisions have their name in regular black font).
    • Delete decision: active decision will be removed
    • Duplicate decision: very useful. Look above at the second Preview example where decisions 4 and 5 are very similar to decision 3 and have been created with this button, only small edits were then needed for those decisions.
  • Previous/Next buttons: will navigate and make that previous or next decision active. These button have also ‘grown up’  compared with previous versions.
  • The last group at the right is a navigation panel, but will often be dimmed. Buttons will become active when having more decisions than can be fit in the fixed width of the dialog box as you can see in this global screenshot:

    Those buttons allow to navigate to a decision, but will not select the decision you are navigating to, the present decision will remain active. First button scrolls to the first decision, second/third to the previous/next decision without making them active, last button scrolls to the last decision. Personally I suspect that I will not use those buttons often because you have another way:

  • Dropdown list with names of all the decisions is to be found under the triangle button at the end of the line with the decision buttons (which you can of course also use to navigate to a button). Of course, I am a labeling freak as you can see in the screenshot. When you select a decision from this list you’ll navigate to that decision and it becomes active. Beware: the width of the dropdown list is limited, use short names or at least have significant characters at the beginning of the name. The list is ordered in the sequence of the decisions, you can use a first character to switch to a decision name starting with that character. Another good reason for labeling: if you leave all names at Untitled, you’ll not get any help when pressing the character ‘U

Section 3: Commands

Select a decision by clicking on its button (Untitled_x as generic name or with a custom name). It is possible for each decision to choose its type: Standard, Conditional IF, Conditional While (loop). Look below for the type differences. In this section you’ll see several instances of the same control panel containing a sequence of 8 buttons, some having a shortcut key (I use a Win system):

  1. Add (CTRL-N) will add an extra line after the last line of that part
  2. Remove (Delete): deletes the selected line(s)
  3. Copy (CTRL-C) will copy the selected line(s).
  4. Cut (CTRL-X) the selected line(s)
  5. Paste (CTRL-V) copied or cut lines: will work in between actions as well, as long as it is in the same part (depends on the type of decision)
  6. Insert (CTRL-I) will insert an extra line before the selected line
  7. Move Up: the selected line(s), can be useful because of the importance of sequence of commands.
  8. Move Down: the selected line(s), can be useful because of the importance of sequence of commands.

Type 1: Standard

If you leave the check box before ‘Conditional action’ unchecked, you are ready to create a sequence of commands, formerly named a ‘standard advanced action’. This screenshot shows such an action and before (under Control panel of the Global section 1 I showed a Preview of such an action):

This type has only one control panel, since there is only one part in this type: the list of commands that have to be done in the chosen sequence. As told before, you can select a number of commands and paste them to the clipboard. They can be pasted within the same advanced action, or in other decisions of any type, but only in the so-called ‘Actions’ part. However you can paste the copied lines also to another advanced action, with the same restriction (Actions part).

Type 2: Conditional IF

To create a decision of this type, you have to check the check box  before ‘Conditional action’, and choose the option ‘IF’ in the dropdown list as is visible on this screenshot:

This screenshot shows two parts of the complete decision, to see the last part ‘ELSE’ you have to click on the ELSE button at the bottom of the Actions part in the first view; both the condition and the first action part will collapse and the Else part is presented:

The three parts of this action: Condition, THEN (is not mentioned like that, second part under the Condition), ELSE have a control panel as described before. You can always copy/paste between the Actions part (THEN and ELSE), but no copy/paste is possible with the lines in the Condition part.

The first screenshot also shows the dropdown list, because you can define different conditions with AND (all conditions have to be fulfilled), OR or Custom which means a combination of both (be careful with the last option).

Type 3: Conditional While (loop)

To create a decision of this type, you have to check the check box  before ‘Conditional action’, and choose the option ‘While’ in the dropdown list as is visible on this screenshot:

For the Conditions the situation is identical to Type 3 (AND, OR, Custom). This type has only two parts however: the Condition and the list of commands that have to be repeated as long as the condition part results in True. Two parts means two control panels, not interchangeable. But you can copy/paste from another decision or action, as long as you remain in the same part (condition or Actions).

Conclusion

I hope this bit boring overview was useful for you. Blog posts with examples related to Pausing the Timeline (focus on audio) have been posted in this portal as well as examples of the new While loopNot to forget: the very useful integration of Go to Next/Previous State in advanced actions: you’ll get a tutorial for a user controlled or non-controlled presentation as well (see the example in “Two weeks with…“.

TIP: for complicated actions with many decisions of all types, I add an extra character to the name: ‘…_S’ for a standard decision, ‘…._C’ for a conditional IF decision, and ‘…._W’ for a conditional while loop. Easier to identify.

If you have questions, issues with  Advanced actions of any kind, please fire away!

2 Comments
2019-08-12 06:59:51
2019-08-12 06:59:51

Thanks for your nice comment. My personal blog which I set up about 10 years ago, has focus on the use of Advanced and – since Captivate 7 – also on Shared Actions which are rather neglected by most developers but have so much power once you understand their use. Since the protal started about 3 years ago, you’ll find most blogs also here, just use the search funcitionality.

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2019-08-11 14:03:30
2019-08-11 14:03:30

This post is incredibly helpful! As someone with a basic understanding of most of what’s available in Advanced Actions, I found there are still things here I never knew about because I never strayed from what I already was familiar with – like the “while” conditional. Probably would have been useful for one of my last projects had I not been stuck in thinking with “if/else”. Now I’ll know for next time 

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