The ToolBook Developer's Newsletter
Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation.
In This Issue
by Chris Bell
Great things are going on around here. We're celebrating the release of our first book "The ToolBook Companion," as well as a major upgrade of Progress Tracker. We've finally bowed to years of customer requests for us to conduct classroom training on ToolBook, to be conducted in most cases by yours truly. The release of our brand new product family called TB Connection is just around the corner.
Speaking of just around the corner, it is only a few short weeks until the ToolBook User's Conference Europe. We're looking forward to seeing our old friends and meeting new ones at this exciting conference. Then just a couple weeks later, we'll be hosting the US version of the conference in Colorado.
This issue of the EnterPage covers these exciting developments as well as a number of other brand new announcements, plus you'll find the full range of tips and tricks on everything from the Actions Editor to OpenScript -- all designed to achieve our company motto of "Improving the lives of ToolBook Developers."
TBCON Europe - Ready for Action
The European ToolBook User's Conference is shaping up to be a terrific conference. With a full schedule of expert ToolBook developers from around the world, this event promises to have all the excitement of the US event in a more intimate setting. The event is located in Cheltenham, England, a beautiful part of England with wonderful facilities in its university.
Sign up now for the best price and opportunities. Attendees are welcome to pay in $ or £.
More information and registration information at: http://www.tbcon.com
To see a complete list of presenters and sessions, you may download the Scheduler application at: http://www.tbcon.com/scheduler
To view an electronic copy of the program, go to: http://www.tbcon.com
TBCON USA - See You Soon
The third annual ToolBook User's Conference in Colorado Springs is going to be better than ever. With presentations by ToolBook developers from around the world, the event is something every ToolBook developer needs to attend. Prices go up by $50 on June 30, 2001, so be sure to sign up before then.
More information and registration information at: http://www.tbcon.com/usa
To see a complete list of presenters and sessions, you may download the Scheduler application at: http://www.tbcon.com/scheduler
To view an electronic copy of the program, go to: http://www.tbcon.com
Platte Canyon to Offer ToolBook Training Classes
You asked for it. You've got it! Platte Canyon is now offering training classes. Offered in beautiful Phoenix, Arizona, the classes are appropriate for beginning to intermediate Instructor developers. Here are the details on the classes:
Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor: The Class 5 days $1,650 Next Class: September 10 - 14, 2001 Instructor: Chris Bell
ToolBook Instructor for Internet Deployment 4 days $1,400 Next Class: October 15 - 19, 2001 Instructor: Chris Bell
Participants receive a free copy of "The ToolBook Companion," a substantial discount on "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor" (the CD-ROM), and discounts on other Platte Canyon products.
Find much more information including other training dates and registration information at: http://www.learningandmastering.com
Progress Tracker 2.0 Released
Last month we released the first major upgrade to our Progress Tracker in over three years. If you've seen our new "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 8" product, then you've seen Progress Tracker in action. Progress Tracker provides the login, Table of Contents, Student Information, Index, Favorites, and Certification Exam. It now stores all data (including individual question responses) in an Access database. It includes the "Progress Tracker Administrator" for assigning students to modules, adding or removing students, etc. as well as the "Progress Tracker Reporter" for viewing student results and creating reports and graphs via Crystal Reports. You can use Progress Tracker for a single module (divided into chapters and sections) or you can have a single "front end book" for accessing multiple modules.
For pricing, a downloadable demo, and more information, go to: http://www.plattecanyon.com/progresstracker.aspx
The ToolBook Companion - a New Book about ToolBook
We have been blown away by the positive comments on the ToolBook listserv about our new book "The ToolBook Companion." Here are just a few things people have been said:
Here is the text from the back cover:
We've been using ToolBook since 1993 and still consider it to be the best product around for computer and web based training. This book contains a unique collection of articles about using ToolBook for training, technical explorations on programming and advanced ToolBook techniques, a large compilation of Expert Information topics, and an array of documented OpenScript Tips to help you harness the power of ToolBook's scripting language.
Training Solutions addresses needs that may arise when developing training with ToolBook. The collected articles in this section cover case studies, creating study guides, 3-D animation, student tracking, incorporating media into ToolBook, and more.
ToolBook Techniques gets "under the hood" to help you become a power developer. It includes articles on using OpenScript to save time and improve interactivity. We go behind the scenes of Platte Canyon's popular Learning & Mastering ToolBook... series to learn how to use the Agent ActiveX control, simulate software applications, and more. We extend the boundaries of catalog objects by introducing "Extended Page Templates." Finally, the section includes a very popular tutorial on using InstallShield® Professional for ToolBook installations.
Expert Information includes over 200 explanations, helpful hints, and programming nuggets to expand your horizons as a ToolBook developer. In addition to topics from the authors, there are important contributions by Tim Barham and Denny Dedmore of Click2learn as well as other leading developers.
OpenScript Tips presents a full collection of tips and tricks on using OpenScript in ToolBook. With actual script on the left of the page and corresponding descriptions on the right, this section offers a rare glimpse into the mind of the ToolBook programmer.
More information and order form at: Back to Top
TB Connection Family of Products to be Released in July
It took a little longer than we originally planned, but we are now rolling out the TB Connection family. Look for Content Connection and Hotword Connection to be released on July 2nd with Media Connection following later in the month. With TB Connection, you can now store (and restore) your content, definitions, and media in a database! Use Content Connection to swap field text (including formatting), button captions, question feedback, user properties, all based on language or another criteria such as reading level. It will even restore hotword hyperlinks and action sequences.
Instantly link to different definitions with Hotword Connection. Load appropriate resources and media clips with Media Connection. Change database sources "on the fly" if deploying natively or just build for a particular source and then publish to the web. No longer do you need to store your definitions in a special glossary ToolBook file. Hotword Connection manages your definitions, displays your popup definitions, and implements your glossary.
Tired of messing with clips? Need to manage Flash movies or MP3 files? Media Connection can build your clips for you and allow you to change their source based on language or audience. You can do the same for bitmaps and other resources. Manage your references to other media types via simple OpenScript calls that tell you the current file location. Store narration or other content for each clip, resource, or media file in the database.
All TB Connection products have special author-level tools for creating the database based on your ToolBook file. Content Connection and Hotword Connection then have special "Translator" applications for creating and editing your other source databases field by field, caption by caption, and definition by definition. You can even send the Translator applications onto your translation team!
For pricing and more information, go to: Back to Top
Platte Canyon Products in the Pipeline
Compared to the flurry of products described above, the next few months will be relatively light on new products. However, we won't be slacking off. In addition to TBCON Europe and USA, we will be releasing "Learning & Mastering Assistant 8." After that, get ready for the Plug-In Pro 6.0. We'll be adding the ability to import and export all the paint objects in a book, still more "sticky note" functionality, the ability to delete a page or range of pages AND delete all of the bitmap resources used by those pages, special Actions Editor tools, and more!
Preview of Assistant 8.1
by Jeff Rhodes
We've been spending quite a bit of time with Assistant 8.1 (as you might expect) so that we can update our "Learning & Mastering Assistant" product. Assistant 8.1 implements the new catalog design from Instructor 8.0 but now has the ability to have multiple catalog directories, each with its own customized catalog. You can then store the desired catalog to use with a book if you want. Assistant 8.1 also has a nice automated backup setting. You can specify anywhere from 0 to 9 backup versions that it will make. So if you choose 2, you will always have a copy of your last save and the one before that. As this is implemented on each save (and I save constantly!), I found the time delay annoying on our large Learning & Mastering book and hence turned this feature off. Still a nice addition though. Another nice feature of Assistant 8.1 is the Popup Media Player. You can now choose to play your media in an existing "frame" or even in its own window. This leads to a nice design where you can have multiple "play" buttons all showing a media file in the same window. An unfortunate downside is that each Popup Media Player needs to add a special implementation page to your book. The catalog objects skip these pages in navigation and counting the pages in a book, but you'll have to watch for this when using your own custom solutions. Synergistic with the Popup Media Players is the fact that you can now select an entire media player for correct, incorrect, and delayed feedback for question objects. So you can have one media player that plays a particular Flash movie (for example) for incorrect answers and another media player with a different Flash move for correct answers. Using a Popup Media Player and a single frame, you can have both animations appear in the same location on the screen.
Look for all of the above enhancements to be included in Instructor 8.1 that is coming soon. One piece of very good news is that the file format between 8.0 and 8.1 is the same, meaning that you can open a book in either version. I have noticed a bit of instability on question objects running Instructor on a machine with Assistant 8.1, so be sure to update to Instructor 8.1 right away if you also have Assistant 8.1.
Assistant v. Instructor: Which is Right For You?
by Chris Bell
Here's a message I recently sent to a training listserv to help clarify the distinction between Assistant and Instructor:
Both Instructor AND Assistant have very powerful web-based-training power. Both can export to DHTML for training delivered to native browsers. The main distinction is that Assistant is a subset of Instructor. Here's a rundown.
ToolBook Instructor v. 8.1:
ToolBook Assistant v 8.1:
Since there is no direct upgrade path from Assistant to Instructor, I advise almost all of our customers to get Instructor since it is just as easy to use, but has the power for more advanced stuff if that need ever comes up.
European Developers! Receive a 25% Discount on a Click2learn Product
Our friends at Click2learn Europe have asked us to pass along this exciting bit of news:
Click2learn will offer a 25% discount on 1 product, either Assistant or Instructor, whether this would be a full license or an upgrade. One discount per company or organization. Just mention this announcement to receive your discount.
For more information, please contact Armand Sieben at: email@example.com
Plug-In Pro Tool Spotlight: Sticky Notes
by Jeff Rhodes
This column features one of the many tools available in Plug-In Pro. Today, we will look at Sticky Notes.
"Sticky Notes" are yellow fields that we "paste" onto the page for "to do lists," testing comments, and other reminders. We use them extensively in our internal development. On my custom Plug-In Pro palette, I have the "create sticky note" and "go to next sticky note" tools. The first tool draws a small yellow field on the top left part of the page. You can customize the color, size, location, font, etc. of sticky notes with the Plug-In Pro's Field Styles tool, but I like the default. I then type in the reminder to myself or other developers. At particular times in the project, I do nothing but deal with sticky notes! At one point during the development of "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 8," there were about 50 sticky notes awaiting my attention. I used the "go to next sticky note" tool to jump to a page with a sticky note, address the issue if possible, and then move on. A good indication that we were ready to go to beta was when all the sticky notes were gone! We also have tools in the Plug-In Pro to "hide all sticky notes" (great when you need to show an interim release to a customer) and then show them again (when you are ready to begin real work again). Some pages end up with so many notes that I wrote new tools for tiling them, sizing them to show all content, etc. Look for these in the Plug-In Pro 6.
For more information on Plug-In Pro, please browse to:
CBT Creation Tip from Chris Bell: New Audio Recording Technology
Getting people to agree on the "right" way to record narrations is like trying to get consensus on the prettiest color. Even so, I thought it might be useful to discuss some of the latest audio recording tools available for anyone who wants to do their own voiceovers. The whole problem is this: how do you get the recording into digital format on the computer? (Once it is in your computer you can edit in Sound Forge or your audio editing software of choice and then save out as WAV or even MP3 if you're getting real fancy). Here is a survey of techniques and a brief discussion of each.
Straight to the computer Plug in a microphone into your sound-card "in" jack and away you go. Advantages: inexpensive, fast, no additional transfer time needed Disadvantages: possible "noise" introduced by computer or sound card may result in less than ideal recordings.
VIA SECONDARY DEVICES
The following approaches all involve recording to another medium and then transferring to the computer. Recording to these devices usually requires a mic-preamp (or a special microphone build for recording without a preamp).
Via analog tape Record to a cassette (or even a Reel to Reel for you old hard-core audiophiles). Advantages: equipment is readily available. Sound quality may be excellent depending on the level of equipment. Disadvantages: you still need to get it into the machine. Normally this is done by playing the tape through the "in" jack of your sound card. This means that you get no better level of recording than you would have if you had recorded straight to the computer.
The following devices all record digitally. This means that once captured, you should be able to transfer the files directly to your computer without needing to go through your sound card.
Via Digital Camcorder
Via Personal Audio Jukebox
There's the round up for you. At Platte Canyon, we use the DAT since we've been using it for years with great success, however, I'm sure we'd be equally happy to work with a Digital Camcorder or a Personal Audio Jukebox.
Expert Information from "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor"
from Jeff Rhodes
skipNavigation and ToolBook's Navigation Functions
When you rely on ToolBook's navigation methodology of either hyperlinks or "send next" scripting, you can take advantage of the skipNavigation page user property. Setting this property to true will cause a hyperlink or navigation button to skip right by it (unless your link to the page specifically). This is nice if you are using a page only in a popup viewer and don't want the user to be able to navigate to it directly. An example would be the "Certificate" page that you can view or print but not navigate to directly. As a practical matter, however, I've always preferred to put such pages in the back of the book or even in a "resource" book to avoid having to remember to set this property and to avoid having to rely on the built-in navigation methodology.
If you do use this methodology, however, here are a few more useful functions:
ASYM_FirstNavigablePage() -- tells you the first page of the book that doesn't have skipNavigation set to false
ASYM_LastNavigablePage() -- tells you the LAST page of the book that doesn't have skipNavigation set to false
ASYM_NextNavigablePage() -- goes to the next page that doesn't have skipNavigation set to false
ASYM_PreviousNavigablePage() -- goes to the previous page that doesn't have skipNavigation set to false
firstPage(<bookReference>), lastPage(<bookReference>), nextPage(<startPage>), and previousPage(<startPage>) are very similar to their "ASYM_" counterparts except they have somewhat more flexibility in that you can specify another book or page.
OpenScript Tip from Jeff Rhodes
When working on "Learning & Mastering Assistant 8," I found myself wanting to set the bounds of all the "chapter" buttons on the Table of Contents page in the book to match those in the previous version. Due to new shared scripts and graphics, though, I didn't want to just copy the objects themselves. Sounds like a good task for OpenScript:
1. I first used the Plug-In Pro's "View a Page" tool to show the "correct" page in a viewer.
2. Next, I entered this in the command window, made sure the most recent focus was the viewer (so it referenced the source page and not the main window), and then pressed Enter:
commandList = null step num from 1 to 6 buttonID = button ("chapter" && num) textline num of commandList = "bounds of button" && quote & "chapter" && num & quote && "=" && bounds of buttonID end step put commandList
This is a quick way to generate a list of all the bounds that I wanted. Notice how I built them in correct OpenScript syntax so that I could just run the lines immediately on the main window. Here's what came back:
bounds of button "chapter 1" = 498,960,5823,1905 bounds of button "chapter 2" = 498,1950,5748,2910 bounds of button "chapter 3" = 498,2955,5643,3900 bounds of button "chapter 4" = 498,3945,5493,4890 bounds of button "chapter 5" = 498,4935,5568,5880 bounds of button "chapter 6" = 498,5925,5628,68853. I then just clicked on the main window so that the command window would operate on its page and pressed Enter. Presto, all the buttons matched the source page.
Actions Editor Tip by Cindy Kessler
Shared Actions as Functions
One good use of shared actions is to create functions. In our "Learning And Mastering Instructor 8," we have an Actions Editor Lotto game. It lets the user set up lotto parameters (a range of numbers and how many are picked), then it computes their odds of winning and lets them play.
To compute the odds we need to find various factorials (n!). Since the factorial function is not built into the Actions Editor, this was a good place for a shared action "function." The action sequence is shown below. Note that the first condition checks that inputNum, passed in as a parameter based on user input, is valid for our game.
----------------------------------------------------------- -- Shared Actions "factorial" ----------------------------- ----------------------------------------------------------- If not isNumber(inputNum) or round(inputNum) <> inputNum or inputNum > 100 Set returnValue to 0 Break out of action sequence End if Set returnValue to 1 Step num from 1 to inputNum by 1 Set returnValue to returnValue*num End step loop -----------------------------------------------------------We call the shared action "factorial" to get the values required. We've put in comments above each call below to show the parameter and return values.
----------------------------------------------------------- Actions for Button "computeYourOdds" of Page "Using Conditions and Loops" ----------------------------------------------------------- -- On click... -------------------------------------------- Define local variable "nFactorial" (Initial value: 1) Define local variable "odds" (Initial value: 0) Define local variable "xFactorial" (Initial value: 1) Define local variable "xMinusNFactorial" (Initial value: 1) Comment: Check for null field values. If text of Field "n" = "" or text of Field "x" = "" Display alert: "Invalid number(s) entered. Please try again!" Set visible of group "playLotto" to false Break out of action sequence End if Comment: Compute ((x-n)!(n!)) / x!. Set gLottoN to text of Field "n" Set gLottoX to text of Field "x" Comment: xFactorial = gLottoX! Execute Shared Actions "factorial"; store return value in xFactorial Comment: nFactorial = gLottoN! Execute Shared Actions "factorial"; store return value in nFactorial If xFactorial = 0 or nFactorial = 0 or gLottoN > gLottoX Display alert: "Invalid number(s) entered. Please try again!" Set visible of group "playLotto" to false Break out of action sequence End if Comment: xMinusNFactorial = (gLottoX - gLottoN)! Execute Shared Actions "factorial"; store return value in xMinusNFactorial Set odds to (xMinusNFactorial*nFactorial)/xFactorial Set text of field "Instructions" to "Enter" && gLottoN && "numbers between 1 and" && gLottoX & ", separated by commas:" Set visible of group "playLotto" to true Display popup text: "You have a" && odds && "(" && odds*100 & "%) chance of winning. Good luck!"
Coming in the Next Issue of the EnterPage
Information on Subscriptions and Article Submissions
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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