Changing Default Timings In Engage

Summary: Changing the autoplayduration value in the data.xml file of the Engage published files allows you to change default timings in Engage.
Difficulty: Medium

Introduction

Engage is a great product to make your PowerPoint slides look super interactive plus it adds that ‘Flash’ factor with the proverbial stroke of a brush or mouse. There are one or two tweaks you can apply to make them do just what you want them to do. I wrote a post about how to resize a FLV or SWF in the Media Tour interaction.

 

Engage timings

 

This post today looks at how to change default timings when viewing an Engage interaction which may allow us to make things work better and can also be used to workaround an issue with the Labeled Graphic interaction. It is a post about making certain tweaks to make things happen as we want.

“Click next to continue”

First let’s have a look at one of the issues on hand: Here is a simple Timeline Engage Interaction. Notice how the user needs to wait for five seconds or more before the message “Click next to continue” appears.

 

Example

See example

Five seconds is fine sometimes, but you may have an interaction where 5 seconds on the first slide is simply too long. Well, you can’t change this from Engage itself, but you can change it by editing the data.xml file in the published files. If you make those changes, then you can get your interaction to behave like this:

 

Edited interaction


See example

How do you do it?

  • Create your Engage interaction and publish it either either as Standalone or to Articulate Presenter.
  •  

  • Locate the published files. If this is a standalone interaction, you will find these by default in My Documents\My Articulate Projects. If you are publishing to Articulate Presenter, then you will find these in the Presenter published files, a folder in the same location and with the same name as your PowerPoint file. By default, this will be My Documents\Articulate Presenter\myprojectnamefolder\engage_257 (the number of the Engage folder will change).
  •  

  • Locate and open the engage_content folder within the Engage published files:
  •  

    5files.png

     

  • Open the data.xml file in an editor like Notepad. You will see a file like this:
  •  

    Original data xml file

     

  • Find the autoplayduration tag and change the value from 5 to something smaller. In the example above, I changed it to 0.1 (it will not take 0 as a valid figure):
  •  

    5seconddatafinal2.png

     

    5dataxml233.png

     

  • Save and close the data.xml file.
  •  

  • Play your standalone Engage interaction (without republishing) or publish your Articulate Presenter presentation (without republishing Engage to Presenter) and you should find that the message appears quicker than before.

Note

Another instance where this technique is useful is specifically when you have inserted an Engage interaction into Presenter.

Imagine that you have set your Engage interaction to be played in Linear viewing (Engage interaction properties) and you want the next slide button to appear immediately on the last step rather than have the user wait for five seconds for this to appear.

Again, changing the autoplayduration figure will vary the delay the user must wait. Making the value 0.1 will effectively make the “Next Slide” button appear immediately.

 

  • Here is an example of the issue:
  •  

    Next Slide Demo

    View example

     

  • and here it is resolved having changed the autoplayduration value to 0.1.
  •  


    Next Slide Resolved


    View resolved demo

    Labeled Graphic Issue

    This brings us to a final and more serious issue with certain Engage interactions including the Labeled Graphic Interaction when embedded in Presenter. If your Articulate Presenter presentation is running in Restricted mode and the audio of the last step is LONGER than the autoplayduration value in the data.xml file, then the interaction gets stuck and the user cannot move on.

    This is known issue by the Articulate developers but one which continues to cause headaches for some designers.

     

  • Here is an example:
  •  


    Labeled Graphic Issue

    View issue

     

    By changing the autoplayduration value to a greater number than the length of the audio file on the last step, we can workaround this problem. The audio length of the file is 7.3 seconds. So I am going to make the autoplayduration value 7.5 seconds.

     

  • Here is the same file with the issue resolved:
  •  


    Labeled Issue Resolved

    View issue resolved

     

    The drawback with this workaround is that it automatically makes all steps default to the autodurationplay value you choose. So if you have shorter audio in the earlier steps, your users will have to wait before being able to move on. Similarly, steps without audio, will take this new viewing time value.

    The secret is therefore to make your final audio piece shorter than the others in the preceeding steps (if they have audio). If you don’t want to change the autodurationplay value manually, just make sure that your final step contains less than 5 seconds of audio or none at all!

    Happy hacking !

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    Viewing Presentations Locally

     

    Summary: Use Server2Go micro package to workaround Flash and browser security issues when viewing Articulate presentations.

    Difficulty: Easy

     

    Many users are still coming across issues when trying to view their published content locally due to increased security features in both Internet browsers and Flash.

    This article takes another look at a solution to this problem that was written up by Gabe Anderson on his Word of Mouth blog last year following a post by a user on the Articulate forums. This second look at this solution is partly justified by the fact that a new smaller version of Server2Go has been released which now makes it feasible to use when sending presentations by email and not just when publishing to CD.

     

    Splash

     

    Typically the issues that are being met are the following:

    • Adobe flash security message
    • Adobe Flash Player has stopped a potentiall unsafe operation.
      The following local application on your computer or network:

      C:\….\…\…..\stealthray.swf

      Is trying to communicate with this Internet-enable location:

      C:\… \player.html

      To let this application comminucate with the Internet, click Settings.
      You must restart the application after changing your settings.

      *******************************************************************

    • Attachments will not open. Clicking on a link in the Attachments tab does nothing at all or brings up an error message.

    Attachment error

    • Links will not work. Clicking on a link does nothing.

     

    All of these issues may occur if:

    • You are viewing your presentation off a CD Rom. ie. you have copied the published files to CD and you are trying to view your presentation on another computer.
    • You have sent your presentation by mail in the form of a zip file. The user unzips the file and tries to view the presentation on their computer.
    • You are trying to view a presentation off a zip drive or a USB drive on another computer.

     

    Using Server2Go

    One solution is to use an application called Server2Go which emulates an online server and so prevents the security issues from happening. Originally, Gabe’s article was more focussed on creating a workaround for CD productions as the application was well over 40 Mb in size but Server2Go have since released a “Micro” version of their software which is significantly smaller than the full version at about 5 Mb and which therefore allows it to be used for sending presentations by mail.

    I have taken that smaller version, changed the splash screen and removed some unnecessary files to make it as small as possible to make it that much easier to publish using Server2Go.

     

    How do we do it?

    Using Server2Go might sound horrendously complicated but in fact it is extremely easy, almost childsplay. The application is basically ready for immediate use. You simply need to copy the files that have already been prepared for you on to a CD or into your file to be mailed and you are away. You should think of it as a container for your presentation. The container is ready for use, you just need to put something in it.

    • 1) First, you need to make sure your presentation is ready. You don’t need to publish to CD, just publish to the WEB in Articulate. Let us take an Articulate Presenter presentation as an example. Here are our files.
    • Standard files

    • 2) Now comes the only change you need to make to your files. Change the name of the player.html file to index.html. This will make it readable by Server2Go. Your files will look like this:
    • Changed file name

    • 3) Now download the Server2Go files. I have prepared a special version of the files which you can download here:
    • Download adapted Server2Go files

       

    • 4) Unzip the package. This unzipped package contains all the elements for your new format presentation. It is the container that will need to be copied “as is” to your CD or into your mail. You package should look like this:
    • Server2Go package

    • 5) Now comes the second manual operation by you to get this to work. You need to put your presentation files (with the changed player.html to index.html file) INTO the htdocs folder as shown by the arrow below.
    • htdocs folder

    • 6) You’ll just find a readme.txt file initially. You can delete that once you have read it and replace it with your presentation files. So your htdocs folder should contain the following files:
    • Changed file name

    And that is all you have to do.

    If you are going to publish to CD, you need to copy all of the Server2Go package including the newly filled htdocs folder to your CD Rom. Make sure you just copy those files and not a folder containing the files. When you open your CD and view the files on the CD you should see the following files that we saw earlier:

    Server2Go package

    The presentation should launch automatically but if it doesn’t, clicking on Server2Go.exe will lauch it.

     

    Sending by mail

    Because the package is so small, you can easily send your entire presentation by mail, provided of course that your presentation itself is not too large. If you want to send your presentation by mail, you can zip up the package again (this time it will contain your presentation in the htdocs folder), and send it to your correspondent. They will unzip and double-click on the Server2Go.exe file to launch it.

    Here is a simple example of a packaged presentation that I prepared to show you the file structure. Download it, unzip and play it on your computer by double-clicking on the Server2Go.exe file. Notice the Articulate published files in the htdocs folder.

    Example

    Download example presentation

    Notice too how the attachments button works and you are able to view the readme text.

    Now download the presentation outside of Server2Go and you’ll get the attachments error message. Unzip and double-click the player.html file to run.

    Download standalone Articulate presentation.

     

    Notes:

  • Server2Go is donation software. If you are using the software commercially, then the author asks that you make a small donation (anything from $15). although of course that might not be easy in a corporate environment.
  • You can change the splash screen which the user gets on launching the course as I did in the specially prepared package. Simply locate the splash.png file and change it as required.
  • There are other alternatives to Server2Go which may work as well including HTML Executable.
  • Adding A Sound Logo To Your Presentation

     

    Summary: You can add a sound logo by adding some javascript to the launching html file.
    Difficulty: Medium

     

    Branding is important for many companies, so important indeed, that in some companies there are special departments whose sole function is to verify that all products including training (internal or otherwise) complies with strict rules governing the appearance of a logo, its position, coloring, and anything else which helps to create an identify for the product or the company. One aspect of branding which is becoming more and more important is sound branding, which could be seen as the acoustic equivalent of a visual logo.

    Sound Logo Title

    For example, most of us know the sound logo (sometimes called the sonic logo) of Intel: Click here to listen.

    So the question of course is how we can add our sound logo to the Articulate player be it Presenter, Quizmaker or Engage.  
     
    Adding the sound logo to the loading page

    Well one way to add a sound logo is to have it right at the beginning of your presentation, before it has even started. While it is busy loading the first few pages, and while we see the loading bar completing, why not have a little sound logo to get your users on the right track and tell them that what they are about to see if from this identifiable company? Of course, there is nothing to stop you from adding any sound jingle or message you want although you don’t want to make the audio file too large or you will have a significant impact on the loading delay before your main presentation.

    Here’s a small example with Presenter.

    Sound Logo Example

    View Demo
     

    So how do you do it?

    Well, one way to do this is to add your sound logo to the html file which launches your presentation, which for Presenter is player.html, for Engage, engage.html and for Quizmaker, quizmaker.html. When your user launches the presentation via one of these files, they will also play your sound logo and launch the loader.

    It is easy enough to add sound to an html file using the tag bgsound such as:

    <bgsound src="soundfile.mp3">

    However this does not work in Firefox.

     

    Code for Internet Explorer and Firefox

    So along comes some code in Javascript which generally does the trick:

    Sound Audio Logo Code

    Download code in text file

    If you place the script above at line 319 of the player.html (after the bgcolor script) and then place your audio file (myfile.mp3 is the name of the audio file in this example) at the root level, that's to say at the same level as player.html. you should find that your loader now plays an audio file.

    Presenter code position

     

    Things to remember:

     

    • Use an mp3 file rather than a WAV file. Mp3 files are compressed, smaller in size and so quicker to download meaning that your sound logo will play almost immediately.
    •  

    • Notice that the audio file is references twice in the above code so be sure to change the code twice when you change the name of the audio file.
    •  

    • This change to the script must be done AFTER you have published. Republishing will delete this code so you'll just have to start again.
    •  

    • Remember to also manually add your audio file. You can add it to the root of your presentation (ie. at the same level as player.html) or you can place it in a folder. If you place it in a folder, be sure to link accordingly in the code.

    This will also work in both Quizmaker and Engage.

    Quizmaker

    In Quizmaker, place the code above in quizmaker.html after the body bgcolor tag:

    Place code in Quizmaker

    Place your audio file (myfile.mp3 is the name of the audio file in this example) at the root level, that's to say at the same level as quizmaker.html.

    Quizmaker Sound Logo Demo

    View Demo

    Engage

    In Engage, place the code after the body tag:

    Engage Sound Logo

    Place your audio file (myfile.mp3 is the name of the audio file in this example) at the root level, that's to say at the same level as engage.html.

    Engage Sound Logo Demo

    View Demo

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