The ToolBook Developer's Newsletter
Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation.
by Chris Bell
We've been pretty busy since our last issue. The release of Instructor 7.1 prompted a lot of excitement around here. Jeff loves the new ADO capabilities and Cindy has gotten deeply friendly with the new Action System. Jeffrey mastered the new Native Browser deployment capabilities in Assistant. And I've been having a blast making sense of all of these changes. In addition to happily exploring the new products from Asymetrix / click2learn.com, inc., we had a celebration at Jeff's house in honor of our release of two new training CDs on how to use Instructor 7.1 and Assistant 7.1.
This issue of the EnterPage provides introductions to our new training CDs and also features news of the Asymetrix to click2learn.com name change. We are excited to feature a message from Brad Crain, click2learn.com, inc.'s General Manager in charge of ToolBook. This issue also sports a couple new regular features: CBT Creation Tips and Action Editor Tips, and we still regularly feature our popular OpenScript Tips and Expert Information. Finally, in keeping with this newsletter's mission of bringing you the latest news on ToolBook, we offer a big announcement about Librarian. Enjoy!
This professional training course builds on the success of the "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 6.5" with updated content covering all aspects of ToolBook Instructor™ 7.1. You get over 25 hours of in-depth training including CBT essentials, the Action System, OpenScript, connecting to databases, adding interactivity, and much more. You'll learn how to deploy your application on the web as well as via traditional methods like CD-ROM. See the course outline at: http://www.plattecanyon.com/tbcbt/acbt71/outline.htm
Organized in easy-to-follow sections, the training is presented one concept at a time. You can "dig deeper" to learn more about the concept by accessing related Expert Information topics and OpenScript® Tips. Or watch a "Show Me" demonstration of how to accomplish a particular task. And if you like hands-on training, you'll want to choose the "Let Me Try" option on many training pages, where you can try a task in the Instructor 7.1 environment with gentle feedback when you go down the wrong path.
After you have completed the training, you will want to keep it nearby as a reference. It offers a glossary, index of training pages and expert information, and personalized bookmarks. You can even use the full text search feature to display a list of training pages covering a desired concept.
Finally, you can use the statistics that the training keeps to prove to your boss that you have been working hard on learning this stuff! When you're ready, you can take a Certification Exam and print out your certificate to prove that you have Learned and Mastered Instructor 7.1! More information and ordering information is available at: http://www.plattecanyon.com/lmInstructor7.aspx
"Learning & Mastering ToolBook Assistant 7.1™" offers state-of-the-art training on today's easy-to-use training program. In depth yet easy to understand, Learning & Mastering ToolBook Assistant™ gives you almost 20 hours of training on all aspects of using Assistant. It is ideally suited for every developer from beginner to advanced.
43 Show Me Demonstrations
35 Let Me Try Simulations
95 Expert Information Topics and Much More
Users of Assistant 7.0 should consider upgrading to Assistant 7.1. This upgrade takes care of incompatibilities between Instructor and Assistant. Any files created with Assistant 7.1 or Instructor 7.1 CANNOT be opened in Assistant 7.0. Please contact your click2learn.com, inc. sales representative to upgrade to Assistant 7.1. The upgrade is available only on CD-ROM from Asymetrix or authorized resellers. The price for the CD is $20.
Here's a segment of the press release: "Our goal for the company is to be the lifelong learning partner to the business professional, and this change in company name is intended to both reflect the importance of our learning portal at www.click2learn.com in pursuing this goal, and signify our leadership position in web-delivered learning," said Jim Billmaier, CEO of Asymetrix Learning Systems. "As the market leader in behind-the-firewall enterprise online learning solutions with our learning management products, authoring tools and professional services, we see click2learn.com as a natural evolution to outside-the-firewall solutions of our product and service offerings. click2learn.com provides large corporations with thousands of titles as well as a learning management and authoring product in a hosted environment, and it gives small businesses and individuals a cost-effective and convenient way to access a diverse library of computing and business titles." Our take: The name of the company MAKING ToolBook is much less important than the quality of the product. With the great features of 7.1, we have no worries on that score.
Statement of Introduction from the VP In Charge of ToolBook
Last year was another outstanding year for the ToolBook product line. With the version 7 releases, Instructor and Assistant continue to be the market-leading authoring products. The recent additions of DHTML export and the Actions Editor makes these products even better. We're proud of the May '99 InfoWorld review of Assistant which recognized the ease-of-use and convenient positioning for users who want a template approach to course building.
To enhance our online learning solutions, we launched click2learn.com to provide a wider variety of course distribution options. ToolBook is critical to our online learning solutions, and we will continue to improve ToolBook based on feedback we receive from our customers. We look forward to continuing to provide you with the leading e-Learning authoring products and tools.
click2learn.com, inc. has stopped offering Librarian as a stand alone learning management product. Instead, it is offering Ingenium for "behind-the-firewall" implementations and www.click2learn.com for outsourced solutions.
Time to Plan for the ToolBook User's Conference 2000
It's time to start planning for the ToolBook User's Conference 2000, June 26 - 28, 1999!
We have updated the conference web site with the following pages:
Hope to see you in Colorado Springs!
"Field Report: OnLine Learning 1999
By Jeff Rhodes
We had our usual good, but busy, time at Online Learning 99, located this year in downtown Los Angeles last October. Chris and I flew out of Denver on Saturday morning in order to set up the booth. We expanded our space this year to 10x20 feet and created all new graphics. We also rented a PA system and 37" monitor to demo Instructor 7 as well as all of the Platte Canyon products. We ran into a couple of snags (included my breaking the microphone on the last day!), but overall things were pretty smooth. We went to Santa Monica on Sunday and then caught the Broncos-Packers game in a Sports bar. We then met quite a few friends at the click2learn.com sales reception on Sunday night.
On Monday, the conference started in earnest. Chris and I worked the booth from 12 - 8 PM. Besides doing product demonstrations every 15 minutes, we had fun talking to many members of the ToolBook community, including John Hall, Greg Johnson, Ross Hopkins (all the way from New Zealand), Sameer Verma, Slade Mitchell, Scott Lawson, and many others. We all then headed to the nice click2learn.com reception at the Hyatt Regency. We visited with some Platte Canyon VAR's like Ron Wincek (Interactive Advantage), Hans-Erik Eriksson (Open Training AB), and Carlo Tognoni (CT2).
We had to shut down the booth until noon on Tuesday, since we both gave sessions in the first block on Sunday morning. Chris then had to run solo at the end of the day as I gave an InstallShield session.
I had most of the booth responsibility the last day, as Chris had two separate 3D video presentations. We then hustled to pack up the booth and catch an early evening flight from LAX.
All in all, it was a great conference. See you all in Denver for OLL 2000 in September.
CBT Creation Tip from Chris Bell: Palettes Revisited
Palettes first came to the attention of CBT developers early in the life of color personal computers when displays could only show 256 colors at a time. The limit of 256 colors presented a challenge to ToolBook developers because it was sometimes difficult to determine which 256 colors to use in a training application. Graphics with gradations presented the biggest problem. In addition, all graphics needed to use the same 256 color palette to avoid a "palette shift" which would result in screen flashes often disconcerting to end users.
While the 256-color display issue may still persist today on some computers, most current systems are set to display at least 65,536 colors (often referred to as "high-color" or "thousands of colors". The next step is often called "True Color" or "Millions" of colors). This means we often don't NEED to worry about palettes and the number of colors any more. However, there are still good arguments why we SHOULD.
While the new flexibility in color choice provides great improvements in graphic possibilities, one cost of this flexibility is file size. Images that use large palettes are larger in size. The key term here is "Bit Depth." The higher the bit depth of an image, the more colors it has in its palette, and the larger the file size. 8-bit depth provides 256 colors and produces a smaller file size. 16-bit depth provides 65,536 colors and results in a larger file size.
One approach we used in a custom CBT job for Baker-Hughes INTEQ was to reduce the bit depth of all images to 256 colors. This kept the file sizes smaller. We were able to keep the visual quality high by choosing the 256 colors best suited for that particular image. So, if the image was a blue ocean with lots of gradations of blue, all 256 colors in the images's palette were different shades of blue. The colors in a sunset graphic's palette were all oranges and reds. The final product, which had numerous images each with its own palette, needed to be displayed on a high color system to avoid palette shift, but the comparable file size was less than it would have been if all images stayed in their original high-color or true-color state.
When converting an image to fewer colors, it is crucial to retain a copy of the original file so you don't lose the color information should you ever change your mind or want to use the graphic in another application or project.
In the next issue of the EnterPage, we'll discuss exactly how to adjust the bit depth of graphics.
How to simulate a "Conditions/When" statement in the Action System
If you program in OpenScript you've probably used the Conditions-When-Else structure. You can simulate this type of structure using If-ElseIf-Else actions in the Action System.
Consider the following OpenScript structure:
conditions when foo = "a" -- statements for this condition here when foo = "b" -- statements for this condition here when foo = "c" -- statements for this condition here else -- statements for all other conditions here end conditionsTo do this in the Action System, you'd use the following:
if foo = "a" -- statements for this condition here else if foo = "b" -- statements for this condition here else if foo = "c" -- statements for this condition here else -- statements for all other conditions here end if
COM, ActiveX, OLE, and Automation
Let me take a stab at clarifying the differences between these terms, using information from "Understanding ActiveX and OLE" by David Chappell (complete reference below). Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) was first on the scene. Microsoft created it to allow "compound documents" combining elements from applications like Excel and Word. This led to a more general question, "How should various software components provide services to one another?" Answering this question led to the Component Object Model (COM), which provides "services" via methods (functions or procedures) that are grouped into a defined set of interfaces (a "contract" between an object and its client). Using COM provides a number of benefits, but of most importance to ToolBook developers is the fact that most Microsoft software, and much of that of other vendors, uses COM. And one of COM's key features and reasons for existence is its ability to allow other software applications to use its services. This "programmability" is called Automation.
So where do ActiveX controls fit in? ActiveX controls are really no different than "ordinary" COM objects. ActiveX controls followed from the earlier Visual Basic Extensions (VBX's), but are more general through the use of COM. Originally called OLE Controls, they were renamed ActiveX controls to reflect the connection to the web. In practice, ActiveX controls tend to be smaller "chunks" of functionality (e.g., a graphing control) rather than full-features like their "automation server" cousins (e.g., Excel).
Source for much of the above: Chappell, David. Understanding ActiveX and OLE. Microsoft Press., 1996.
In the new "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Assistant 7.1" product, we actually ran into the upper limit on the number of bitmap resources! To fix the problem, we had to go through the book and look for bitmap resources that were only used once. We would then convert them to paintObjects. Here's the script for ferreting out those bitmap resources only used a single time:
step num from (pageNumber of this page) to pageCount of this book pageID = page num buttonList = getObjectList(pageID, "button", false) while buttonList <> null pop buttonList if normalGraphic of it <> null resourceID = normalGraphic of it if item 1 of resourceInfo of resourceID = 1 go to page num put it break step end if end if end while end stepOnce we were on the right page, we needed to "convert" the bitmap resource to a paintObject. Since the pages were already completed, we needed to be careful to preserve the name, layer, etc. We also had to check the script to be sure we weren't referring to the object individually. Here's the script:
startID = selection fileLoc = "e:\learningandmastering\acbt70\content\" resourceID = normalGraphic of startID if item 1 of resourceInfo of resourceID > 1 break to system end if export resource resourceID as (fileLoc & name of resourceID & ".bmp") boundsList = bounds of startID importGraphic (fileLoc & name of resourceID & ".bmp") bounds of selection = boundsList layer of selection = layer of startID name of selection = name of startID useChromakey of selection = useChromakey of resourceID if keyColor of resourceID <> null rgbFill of selection = keyColor of resourceID end if get deleteObject(startID) remove resource resourceID
Notice how much time this script saves. We don't have to manually export the graphic, then re-import it, set the bounds, layer, etc.!
The EnterPage is distributed 4 times a year, with occasional special issues. Individuals who have expressed interest in Platte Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation or its products receive The EnterPage. If you do not wish to receive future issues, send an email message to EP@plattecanyon.com with the word "unsubscribe" in the subject line. New subscriptions are available by sending an email message to EP@plattecanyon.com with the word "subscribe" in the subject line and the person's name and company in the text of the message. Suggestions for articles or proposals for article submissions are welcome. Send information to EP@plattecanyon.com. Back issues of the EnterPage are available at http://www.plattecanyon.com/enterpage.aspx.
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