How to use the Captivate timeline?

Posted by Greten on 20 Jul 2019 under Tools

You can drag objects on a Captivate slide, and their position changes as indicated by the X and Y attributes under the Options tab. "Objects" here refers to anything that you can put on a slide, not just those under the Objects button. Aside from the X and Y positions, you can also control the two other dimensions of an object, its z-axis position and the time it appears in the slide. You can modify these dimensions using the timeline.

The screen capture below shows the timelines for the slide and for each of the objects on it. The bars of the timeline indicate the start and the end of the object's appearance on the slide relative to the duration of the slide.

A screen capture of a part of a Captivate 2019 window showing both the slide and the timeline for three objects: a text, a smart shape, and a line.

The slide and all objects on it have associated blue bars in the timeline that indicates the time they will appear when the learning module is played. In this example, the slide will play for seven seconds, as its bar, the bar at the bottom has "length" of seven seconds starting for 00:00 to 00:07, and the label at the left part of the bar shows "Slide (7.0s). After even second, the learning module will jump to the next slide, or end the presentation if it is the last slide, or wait the learner to do something such as clicking a button or link. The slide always starts at 00.00 and its end depends on the duration of that you want for it; you can drag the right end of the bar to increase or decrease its duration.

Metaphorical representation of timeline, a 3D bar graph showing two bars, one on top of another, ends with a Captivate logo. The vertical axis has arrow and labelled as z-axis, while the arrow on the ground is labelled as t-axis,The objects on the slide have their own blue bars between these 00:00 and 00:07 time marks, but they do not necessarily coincide with the start and the end of the slide. Take notice of the following:

  • The "Title" text caption (Text_Caption_41) has a bar that range from 00:00 to 00:07. Meaning, it is visible as long as the slide is seen.
  • The black pentagon (SmartShape_76) has a bar that range from 0.50 second before 00:01 mark up to 0.50 second after the 00:02 mark, with a total of 2.0 seconds.
  • The light blue line has a bar that range from 0.50 second before 00:04 mark up to 0.50 second after the 00:06 mark, with a total of 2.0 seconds.

In the timeline, the pentagon's bar ends before the line's bar starts. Meaning, when the module plays, there will be no time when you can see them together although you can see them now at the same time in Captivate. See the animation below showing a test play of the learning module.

An animated PNG of Captivate slide and timeline showing how some objects appear and disappear as indicated by the time bars.

The playbar is the red vertical line that moves through the timeline when you are preview the slide using the F3 button. Notice that the line and the pentagon appears only when the playbar is passing through their blue bars.

The screen captures and animations shown in this posts are from Adobe Captivate 2019. Likewise, the basis for description of how the controls work is also Captivate 2019, also called Captivate 11, but they work in the same way in Captivate 10/2017 and Captivate 9.

Adjusting the time of objects

The timeline is divided into several segments, the smallest segment corresponds to one-tenth (1/10) of a second. The first segment after 00:00 is 0.1 sec, followed by 0.2 sec, and so on. You cannot animate any changes in a learning module that is smaller than 0.1 sec. For example, an object in a timeline can start only at either 0.5 second or 0.6 second from 00:00 but not at 0.55 sec.

The mark on the segments 00:00, 00:01, 00:02, and so on corresponds to the number of seconds since the start of the slide's timeline at 00:00. The number on the right of semicolon corresponds to seconds. The numbers extends up to 00:60, which is then followed by 01:01; the number on the left of semicolon corresponds to minutes.

You can drag the blue bars of the objects in the following ways:

  • Drag the left end of the bar to adjust the starting time the the object will appear. If the Timing Properties is open, the left end of the bar corresponds to the Appear After field. If you drag the left end, the number in the Appear After field will change. If you enter another number in the Appear After field, the left end of the bar will adjust automatically. Also, when you drag the left end of the bar, the Time field, which corresponds to the length of the bar and thus, the duration of the object, also changes.

The left end of the bar in a timeline aligns at 0.7 sec. In the same screen capture, the timing properties shows 0.7 second in Appear After field.

  • Drag the bar itself by clicking somewhere on its middle to change the time the learner can see it; it will change the start time and end time but the duration will remain the same. The Appear After changes, but the Time field stays the same.
  • Drag the right end of the bar to set the moment when the object will disappear. Notice that the Time field changes but the Appear After stays the same. The right end of the bar is aligned to the mark on the segment, which is the sum of the Appear After value and the Time field value. You can also click and edit the Time field to change the duration and the right end of the bar, while the Appear After and the left end stay the same.

The right end of the bar in the timeline aligns at 2.7 sec. In the same screen capture, the timing properties shows 0.7 second in Appear After field and the Time field is 2 sec. Appear After + Time = 0.7 sec + 2 sec = 2.7 sec, which is the mark where the right end of the bar aligns.

The animation below shows how you can drag the bars and their end points.

An animated PNG showing how to drag the left end, right end, the entire blue bar of objects in Captivate timeline. It also shows how to extend the duration of the timeline.

The Time field is under the TIMING tab. By default, the TIMING tab is not visible. If you cannot see it, click the Properties burger menu near the upper-right corner.

Adobe Captivate's Library (folder with book) and Properties (three short thick horizontal lines) icons above the PROPERTIES and TIMING tabs.

If you cannot see the burger menu as well, it means that the custom workspace is enabled. You can open the TIMING tab by checking Windows » Timing Properties.

Adjusting the Z-order

As mentioned earlier, the timeline controls not only the time dimension of the slide objects, but also its position in the z-axis. Since the learning module is shown on a flat screen, the equivalent of this is the z-order; that is which object is in front of the other.

In the timeline in our example, the line seen in front of the pentagon because it is of higher z-order. The vertical position of the object's blue bars in the timeline also corresponds to their z-order. The bar on top is for the object that is at the front. The bar at the bottom is for the object that is at the back.

An animated PNG showing the slide and the timeline. The slide has a triangle, a square, and a circle. A mouse pointer drags the timeline bars vertically and which shapes are at the front and at the back also changes.

See the animated GIF above. At the start, the square is in front of the slide objects and top of the timeline, the circle is at the back of the slide objects and bottom of the timeline, while the triangle is in the middle for both the z-order and the timeline. As you vertically drag the timeline bars, the z-order of the shapes also change.

Other timeline controls and indicators

There are many controls and indicators at the bottom and sides of the timeline that can help you in editing the timeline.

Screen capture of Captivate's timeline. The controls at the bottom (and right) of the timeline are labeled: Vertical and horizontal scrollbars, change zoom, elapsed time, selected start time, selected duration, slide duration, play, stop, move the playhead to the end, move the playhead to the beginning, and mute.

Timeline view controls

Use these controls to make it easier to see the different parts of the timeline.

  • Vertical scrollbar: if the duration of the slide is too long, scroll this to view the other part of the timeline that is currently not within the view.
  • Horizontal scrollbar: scroll this if there are too many slide objects, and thus many timeline bars, and not all the bars are visible within the view.
  • Change zoom: drag to the left to zoom out the timeline and see more of it, or drag to the right to zoom in and see more divisions of the time scale.

Time indicators

  • Elapsed Time: indicates the current position of the playbar in seconds. It increases incrementally by 0.1 second during slide preview.
  • Selected Start Time: when a slide object is selected, it displays the time that the object will appear. It displays the same number as the Appear After field, but you cannot edit it. If no object is selected, it will not display any time value.
  • Selected Duration: when a slide object is selected, it displays the length of time that the object will be visible when the slide is playing. It is the numerical value of the length of the blue bar. It is also the same number as the Time field, but you cannot edit it. If no object is selected, it will not display any time value.
  • Slide Duration: displays the duration of the entire slide. It also marks the end of the timeline, after which no timeline bar can be placed.

Slide preview controls

Use these buttons to control the playbar and preview how the current slide will play when viewed by the learners.

  • Play: similar to pressing F3, it will play the slide so you can check how the slide objects, animations, and interactions will be seen. While playing, the playbar moves across, and the play button changes into a pause button. Unlike other previews, slide preview will not display slide objects that are made hidden using the dots under the eye icon.
  • Pause: the play button changes into this when the slide preview is playing. It allows you to stop the playbar at a specific time. Use if you need to edit and then preview the latter events on the slide. Note that when you click pause, all slide objects that are not visible at that particular moment will be visible again unless they are made hidden.
  • Stop: stops playing the preview and moves the playbar back to 00:00.
  • Move the playhead to the end: moves the playbar to the end of the timeline.
  • Move the playhead to the beginning: moves the playbar at the start of the timeline at 00:00 marker. It is not functionally different from the stop button.
  • Mute/Sound: turns the sound for the slide preview on and off, respectively.

Final Notes on Captivate Timeline

This entry covers only how to move and resize the blue timeline bars of slide objects because our focus is to demonstrate how timeline bars works. There are other timeline bars. Some of them are:

  • Gray bar - for group of objects; you will see the timeline bars of the objects under the group if you click the black triangle on the left of the group icon
  • Pink bar - for animation of objects or group of objects; you will see this pink bar if you click the black tirngle on the left of the object icon
  • Green bar - for interactive elements such as click boxes and buttons
  • Dark gray bar with wave-like thing - audio file attached to the slide; it is always at the bottom and you can move it but not change its length

A screenn capture showing the different colors of timeline bars for different elements: blue for slide objects, gray for a group of slide objects, pink for effects, green for interactive elements, and dark gray with waves for the audio.

These other timeline bars will be covered in future entries that focus on grouping objects, effects, audio, and interactive elements.

Last updated on 27 Oct 2020.

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