What came first, the chicken or the egg? Wait... before answering that, let's rework that classic question with this: what comes first, the eLearning or the PowerPoint presentation?
When developing eLearning, the content is often created in Microsoft PowerPoint first. I'm not going to get into what it takes to create visually compelling PowerPoint presentations (we have a mini course for that). Instead, I'm going to show you how to take existing PowerPoint content and quickly re-purpose it for eLearning.
You can import PowerPoint slides into an existing Captivate project or create a new project that uses the PowerPoint slides. During the import process, Captivate includes the ability to create a link between a Captivate project and PowerPoint presentation. Using this workflow, any changes made to the original PowerPoint presentation can be reflected in the Captivate project.
Note: Microsoft PowerPoint must be installed on your computer before you can import PowerPoint presentations into Captivate. Also, the ability to import PowerPoint presentations isn't new. In fact, Captivate has supported PowerPoint imports for years. If you're using a legacy version of Captivate (even version 4 and 5), the steps below will work for you just fine.
To create a new project from a PowerPoint presentation, choose File > New Project > Project From MS PowerPoint and open the PowerPoint presentation.
The Convert PowerPoint Presentations dialog box opens, offering a few controls over how the presentation is imported.
The On mouse click option adds a click box to each Captivate slide. The other available option, Automatically, results in Captivate slides that, when viewed by a learner, automatically move from slide to slide every three seconds. At the lower right of the dialog box, there are options for High Fidelity and Linked.
During a standard import process, PowerPoint pptx presentations are first converted to the ppt format and then converted to SWF. If you select High Fidelity, the import process takes native pptx files directly to Captivate SWF (the ppt conversion is skipped). This option, which is available only in Captivate for Windows, results in the best-looking content in Captivate, but it takes much longer to complete the import process.
The Linked option creates a link between the PowerPoint presentation and the new Captivate project. The link allows you to open the PowerPoint presentation from within Captivate. Additionally, any changes made externally to the PowerPoint presentation can be reflected in the Captivate project with a few mouse clicks.
After the PowerPoint slides are imported into Captivate, you can add Captivate objects such as captions, highlight boxes, or animations.
If you need to edit the PowerPoint slides, choose Edit > Edit with Microsoft PowerPoint > Edit Presentation. The Presentation will open in a window that can best be described as a union between Captivate and PowerPoint. If you've used PowerPoint before, you will recognize the familiar PowerPoint interface.
There are two buttons you wouldn't normally see if you opened the presentation directly in PowerPoint: the Save and Cancel buttons at the upper left of the window. Once you have edited the PowerPoint slides, click the Save button and the changes will appear in the Captivate project.
If the PowerPoint presentation has been edited outside of Captivate, (perhaps your subject matter expert is adding or removing content from the presentation) you can still get the changes. Choose Window > Library. On the Library, notice that there is a Status column.
A red button will indicate that the PowerPoint slides within the Captivate project are no longer synchronized with the PowerPoint presentation. A simple click on the red button will update the Captivate slides.
Next week: Articulate Storyline and PowerPoint.
Looking for instructor-led training on Adobe Captivate? Check out our live, online, instructor-led Captivate classes.
As a brief review, variables can contain information that occurs frequently in your project, such as a product name, company name, or copyright notice. After creating the variable, you can insert it into any RoboHelp topic or onto a template by simply dragging and dropping. Now here's the cool part. Assume your company name now appears throughout your project and now you want to change it. Without the variable, you would have to search your entire project and update the company name. Thanks to variables, all you will need to do is update the definition of the CompanyName variable, and you will change the displayed company name project-wide in just a few seconds.
One issue you'll come across when inserting variables within a topic is that, by default, the variable text looks like regular topic text. In the picture below, I challenge you to locate the variable.
Did you find the variable text? I'm betting that the answer is no. So what's the big deal? This can be particularly frustrating if you need to replace regular text with a variable. For example, you can highlight regular text in a topic and convert it to a variable by dragging the variable on top of the text. That's an awesome feature. Before I begin however, I need to be able to tell, at a glance, if the text I'm looking to replace is already a variable. As it stands, I have no idea since I cannot tell the difference between a variable and regular text.
Luckily, RoboHelp has a handy feature that allows you to distinguish between variables and regular text in topics. To enable this feature, simply choose View > Show > Fields.
Voila. All variables in topics are now shown as green text. Best of all, variables only show up green in your project... when you generate a layout, the green color will not be visible to your users.
Smartphones have sparked a huge, new software segment – the mobile app. They have also changed how traditional desktop software is being designed and developed. This creates an important pair of questions for user assistance professionals: What is our role going forward in mobile and how can we prepare to take that on? User Assistance does have a role in supporting mobile apps. As the mobile market continues to expand, this is becoming the next frontier for user assistance professionals.
This half-day, online workshop is designed to provide an introduction to key topics and also to foster discussion on the best ways to design UA for this new paradigm.
Did you ever see the 1986 movie "Top Gun?" If so, perhaps you recall seeing gun-sights, cross-hairs, warning messages, and air speeds displayed as green text on the cockpit windshield of the jets. What you saw in the movie was an early Head Up Display (HUD). If Top Gun is too old for you, how about Iron Man? HUD was featured prominently in that movie as well.
While HUDs may seem like something you'll find only in fighter jets or the movies, they are actually creeping into everyday life. For instance, HUDs are now installed as standard equipment in many cars displaying speed, distance, and messages onto the windshield. Drivers don't need to move their head up or down to read the text; they can keep looking straight ahead.
If your car isn't equipped with a HUD, you can use your smart phone, download a HUD app, place the phone on the dashboard, and reflect an inverted readout onto the windshield. And you can purchase HUD navigation systems (such as the unit shown below from Garmin).
There's a new type of HUD that's attracting lots of attention: Google Glass. Glass isn't the only product of its type on the market (there are dozens), but it attracts the most publicity. These wearable technology products display text in a tiny HUD in a pair of lens-less spectacles. The text displayed depends on the application; it could be the current time, an appointment, alerts... but it could also be procedural information, checklists, or product descriptions.
What does HUD technology have to do with technical communication? HUDs will provide innovative new ways to deliver technical information. For instance, Virgin Atlantic is currently testing Google Glass at Heathrow Airport. According to CNN, "The airline is conducting a six-week experiment with the wearable technology for passengers in its Upper Class Lounge at London. With data flashing before their eyes, staff can update customers on their latest flight information, as well as weather and events at their destination."
If the Virgin Atlantic tests prove successful, the opportunities for technical communicators are endless. Beyond simply documenting HUD devices and applications, technical documentation and eLearning content could actually be displayed on a HUD. There will be challenges of course. Writers looking to create content for HUDs will need to embrace writing techniques such as minimalism and separation of content and form. Nevertheless, it will be possible for technical communicators to one day deliver to this new media... a layer above reality.
There's no trick to creating a PDF these days. Simply open a document and, if you've got Adobe Acrobat on your computer, choose Adobe PDF when you print.
Creating a PDF that will engage your reader is another story. One way to engage the reader, besides stellar content, is to add images. Of course, there's no trick to adding images either... and everyone's doing it.
If you really want to make a splash when it comes to PDFs, you've got to engage the reader like never before... and interactive eLearning is the way to go.
In the image below, I've created a FrameMaker document. You can see there's nothing particularly special about the text (beyond the promise of an Adobe Captivate simulation).
After clicking where I wanted the simulation to appear, I chose File > Import > File and opened a SWF I had published earlier using Adobe Captivate. Just like when importing a graphic, I was met with the Imported Graphic Scaling dialog box. I selected 150 dpi to make the imported Captivate simulation a bit smaller in my FrameMaker document.
After clicking the Set button, the Captivate simulation appeared in my FrameMaker document as a large box.
I wanted the simulation positioned below the text, and I didn't want it to be cropped. I right-clicked the frame and selected Anchored Frame.
I changed the Anchoring Position to Below Current Line, changed the Alignment to Right, and removed the check mark from Cropped. Then I clicked Edit Frame.
And that was all there was to it. I created a PDF by choosing File > Save as PDF. Upon opening the PDF, the simulation appeared immediately after being clicked. And I was delighted to see that the simulation remained as interactive from within the PDF as it was when accessed via a web server.
Even better, when I found an error in the Captivate simulation, I was able to return to the FrameMaker document, right-click the imported SWF, and chose Edit With Adobe Captivate.
The source Captivate project opened pretty quickly in Adobe Captivate. I fixed the error and exited Captivate, at which point the project was republished and the SWF contained in FrameMaker automatically updated.
After re-saving as a PDF and opening the PDF with Adobe Reader, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Captivate simulation had been updated.
Adobe released Adobe RoboHelp 11 last week. Over the next few weeks, I'll be covering some of hottest new features. This week: sharing resources via the Cloud (specifically, with Dropbox).
Sharing resources isn't a new concept in RoboHelp. In fact, the Resource Manager pod has been around for the past few versions of RoboHelp. What's new in RoboHelp 11 is the ability to specify a Dropbox as a folder on the Resource Manager.
To begin, visited Dropbox.com and created an account. I also created a folder in Dropbox and set it up as a share object (both tasks, creating and sharing the folder, were simple and took mere seconds).
Once my Dropbox account had been set up, I started RoboHelp 11 and chose View > Pods > Resource Manager. From the top of the Resource Manager pod, I clicked the Add Shared Location tool.
In the Add Shared Location dialog box, I clicked theLocation type drop-down menu and selected Dropbox. (Each time I've performed this step over the past few weeks, RoboHelp has consistently loaded my Dropbox folder and Path for me. Alternatively, you can click the Browse button and manually locate your Dropbox folder.)
The next step was to add content to my shared Dropbox folder on the RoboHelp Resource Manager. My shared Dropbox folder is called SharedRoboHelpTopics. When I dragged a topic (Alcohol_Policy) to the shared folder, I was delighted to see that in addition to the topic, the Cascading Style Sheet being used by the topic (policies.css) was also added to the shared folder.
One of my team members (Biff Bifferson), who is located in another state, was working on a RoboHelp project and needed to use some of my content. While we don't share a network connection, we both have Dropbox accounts. I accessed my Dropbox account and sent Biff an invite to my SharedRoboHelpTopics folder.
Biff checked his email and added the SharedRoboHelpTopics folder to his Dropbox. Biff then used RoboHelp's Resource Manager pod to add his Dropbox as a Shared Location.
Since his Dropbox included my shared folder, Biff's Resource Manager immediately displayed my shared resources.
To add my shared content to his RoboHelp project, Biff right-clicked the Alcohol_Policy topic on the Resource Manager pod and chose Add to Project.
Like magic, my content was now being used in two projects in two different locations. What do you think? Cool?
But then... then... I edited the topic on my computer. (I know, crazy right?)
My Resource Manager alerted me that my shared assets weren't synchronized (via the red icon shown in the image below). When content isn't synchronized, it's likely that team members aren't using the same content.
Because I wanted to ensure that both Biff and I were working with the same assets, I right-clicked the topic on my Resources Manager and selected Sync.
Green check marks indicated that all was well between the content in my RoboHelp project and the assets in my Dropbox. But I was curious to learn if Biff actually got the updated content in his project. And if so, what was his experience? Was it painful?
It turns out that Biff's experience was almost, well, routine. He told me that when he opened his project with RoboHelp 11 later that day, he was greeted with the Linked Resource Notification dialog box shown below. All he had to do was click the Update button and his content was automatically synchronized with mine. In a word... that's awesome!
Looking for training on Adobe RoboHelp? IconLogic offers live, online Adobe RoboHelp classes each month for both RoboHelp 10 and the new RoboHelp 11. We can also bring the same great training onsite to your facility. Interested? Contact us for details.
Whether you are in a traditional or agile development environment, getting valuable, informative edits on documentation you send out for review can be like pulling teeth. Some reviewers give the documentation a cursory glance and declare it "okay" with no helpful comments. Others fail to follow the steps as listed in the documentation when testing procedures and have no way to ensure the writer captured everything accurately.
When the Information Development team in my organization used the waterfall process, we used a review cycle that included three drafts of each book: a first draft, an approval draft, and a quality edit draft. The first draft and quality edit draft were internal to our Information Development (ID) department. All of these drafts happened toward the end of a software release cycle and were not reviewed by anyone outside the ID team until the project was feature complete and all features were documented in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, the time when we sent out our approval draft for review by other functional areas often coincided with their busiest times of the release cycle--testing the product and fixing bugs. Because of this poor timing for the documentation review, we often got only superficial edits, or no comments at all, which didn't help us improve the documentation quality.
On more mature products, we no longer send out the entire book as a first draft for ID review. Each time a feature is documented, that documentation must be reviewed by the ID lead/manager and by QE for technical accuracy before the team can close the user story. This idea is similar to a daily in filmmaking--use it to do a quick gut check to see if everything looks okay or if something needs to be redone. We still send out approval drafts for some projects; but for most reviewers, at that point it is simply a director's cut or a chance for them to see the book in its entirety.
Next time, we'll wrap up with how agile helps spread writers' workloads throughout the release cycle.
Note: This article was originally published earlier this year on the TechWhirl website.