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The EnterPage

The ToolBook Developer's Newsletter
August 16, 2000

Issue 3-03

... From Platte Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation.

In This Issue

ToolBook User's Conference 2000 Report
Three New Releases From Platte Canyon
 - TBK Tracker 2.1
 - Plug-In Pro 5.0
 - Resources Plus 2.0
Conference Previews: OLL Europe and OLL
Platte Canyon Products in the Pipeline
Action Editor Tip from Cindy Kessler: Shared Actions
CBT Creation Tip from Chris Bell: Flash and ToolBook
Expert Information from "Learning & Mastering..." Series
OpenScript Tip from Jeff Rhodes
Coming in the Next Issue
Information on Subscriptions and Article Submissions


by Chris Bell

It's a big Platte Canyon product time right now. We are enjoying spreading the word about our three new releases. And we are in the midst of working on some very exiting new products to come out over the next few months. While working on ToolBook-related products is practically our favorite thing to do around here, we also like meeting up with other ToolBook developers.

It was a treat to see so many developers at the ToolBook User's Conference. It's always fun to see what wonderful applications people are creating with ToolBook. If we didn't get a chance to hook up at the ToolBook User's Conference, please stop by our booth or one of our presentations at OLL Europe or OLL. We'd love to see you.

This issue of the EnterPage covers our newest product releases as well as giving an early preview about the newest products to come out from Platte Canyon. And, as always, you'll also find a collection of tips and information for ToolBook developers.


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ToolBook User's Conference 2000 Report

The ToolBook User's Conference finished its three-day run on June 28, but we have continued to receive unsolicited comments from attendees ever since. As a group, these comments provide a good picture of the event. Here are selections from the comments:

"I had a wonderful time at the conference!! Besides it being very informative, I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk with all of the users of ToolBook and hear about the exciting new ideas they have."

"I came back so motivated."

"TBCON was well organized and enriching."

"I turned in a survey but I would also like to add that the conference has been a real help in my job. I found tons of hints and tips there and will be back in the future."

"The conference was a great success. We have wasted no time incorporating ideas from the conference into some of our projects."

"Great Users Conference! I had a great time, accommodations were surprisingly comfortable (Loomis Hall), food was out of this world and of course the session themselves were A number 1!"

"I very much enjoyed the conference -- it was very well organized, and I liked the "small" feeling of it with easy access to the presenters and other attendees. The scope of material covered was very good too. I'm looking forward to the CD as well!"

"It was a great conference just loaded with real solutions not promises of what you should be able to do."

"This was one of the smoothest running, best organized, valuable, and fun conferences I have ever been around."

"We brought away a wealth of useful information."

"I had a great time at the conference and look forward to next year. I found something of value in every session I attended."

For those of you who couldn't attend the conference or would like extra copies, conference CD's will soon be available for $50 plus $5 shipping & handling ($10 outside of the U.S.). To place an order, go to https://outlaw.securewebs.com/plattecanyon/store/ or call us at 888-866-5251.

Plan ahead for next year's conference: ToolBook User's Conference 2001 Colorado Springs, Colorado July 30 to August 1, 2001

We'll be spreading the preconference over both Saturday and Sunday (July 28 and 29) next year with the idea that most people will attend one day or the other.

See pictures from the 2000 conference and watch for more information on the 2001 event at www.tbcon.com.

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Three New Releases From Platte Canyon

We have been busy updating products designed to meet our company goal of "Improving the Lives of Training Developers." Since the last EnterPage, we have released three major upgrades to our products. Here are some product descriptions:

TBK Tracker 2.1 

Version 2.1 of this powerful student tracking and course management system brings a wealth of industry-leading features to ToolBook 7.1 or later courses. Whether you are interested in the date a student completed a lesson or detailed question analysis, TBK Tracker has the information you need.

Simultaneously track thousands of users on a local area network or single users via CD or Neuron deployment. TBK Tracker is the easiest (no scripting required), most powerful, and most easily managed tracking system for natively deployed ToolBook courses.

Use the Administrator to configure courses and lessons, set global properties, or (optionally) assign courses to students.

Then use the TBK Tracker catalog and new "TBTrack" menu to quickly set up your Instructor or Assistant books. Deploy your application with no runtime fees. We even give you the complete InstallShield Professional source code for creating a CD installation.

Use the Reporter to analyze the data with over 90 built-in reports (using Crystal Reports 8) on students, courses, lessons, and classes.

For more information, see www.plattecanyon.com/tbktracker.aspx

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Plug-In Pro 5.0 

What Is It?

The Plug-in Pro 5.0 extends what you can do in ToolBook, making authoring fast and easy.

-Automates repetitive manual tasks 
-Displays information about multiple objects in a single editor 
-Performs operations on specified objects or types of objects

What Can It Do?

Makes working on your course easier 
-Show or hide objects at the touch of a button

Make reviewing your course easier 
-Apply "sticky notes" during reviews; move from sticky note to sticky note to make the changes 
-Create external "comment" files

Makes managing resources easier 
-Import and export graphic resources or clips

Makes editing questions easier 
-Brand new question editors 
-Edit key properties from a single page

One-click access to… 

-A list of resources in the book
-Opening the Catalog directly to Questions 
-A detailed "book" report 
-Pages in the current or another book 
-Much, much more

For more information, see www.plattecanyon.com/pluginpro.aspx

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Resources Plus 2.0

Have you ever wished you could sort your bitmap, shared script, or other resources alphabetically? Have you ever had to painstakingly delete resources one-by-one? Have you ever inadvertently had multiple copies of the same shared script? If so, Resources Plus is for you:

-Easily sort and delete multiple resources -Build either a "delete" or "keep" list from bitmap files in a directory -View thumbnails of your graphic resources, the actual text of shared scripts, and representations of menubar resources -Fix duplicate shared scripts by "combining" them so that a single shared script is used by all affected objects - Much more

For more information, see www.plattecanyon.com/resourcesplus.aspx

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Conference Previews: OLL Europe and OLL

Stop by and see us at these upcoming conferences:

OnLine Learning Euro 2000 
September 5 - 7 
Cheltenham, UK 

This event, which has also traditionally served as the European ToolBook Developers Conference, attracts developers from around Europe and the world. Platte Canyon is pleased to once again sponsor this fine conference. Both Jeff Rhodes and Chris Bell will be attending and presenting this year:

Tuesday, September 5, 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
Jeff and Chris present a preconference seminar on "A Detailed Look at ToolBook Instructor."

Wednesday, September 6, 11:30 am to 12:15 pm
Chris will present "User Interface Design for ToolBook Using PhotoShop."

Wednesday, September 6, 3:45 pm to 4:30 pm
Jeff will present "ADO, Databases, and ToolBook."

Thursday, September 7, 10:15 am to 11:00 am
Jeff will present "Secrets Behind the 'Learning & Mastering ToolBook' Series"

Thursday, September 7, 12:15 pm to 1:00 pm
Chris will present "CBT Essentials: The Art, Sound, and Motion of Training"

Be sure to bring your checkbooks to the charity dinner on Wednesday night. Kevin and his staff will be auctioning copies of "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 7.1", "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Assistant 7.1", "Plug-In Pro 5.0", and a "Product Sampler" disk containing TB Start, Resources Plus, Answer Key, and FTS Pro. There will also be various Click2learn products available. All proceeds go to a local charity.

OnLine Learning 2000
September 25 - 28
Denver, Colorado

Hosted in Denver for the first time, this is a large general focus conference for those interested in on-line training. Here are some known Platte Canyon Highlights:

Throughout the conference:
Stop by the Platte Canyon booth (#1400) located right by the front door. See live demonstrations of the full Platte Canyon product line. Pick up a pen, a notepad folder, or just say Hi.

Monday, September 25, 11:00 am to 12:00 pm
Jeff will present "Case Study on Creating CBT on a Software Package" (Session 324)

Wednesday, September 27, 9:30 am to 11:00 am
Chris will present "Using 3D Animation to Improve CBT - A Case Study" (Session 719)

Wednesday, September 27, 3:15 pm to 04:45 pm (Community Room)
Jeff and Chris will host a "ToolBook Q & A" session in the Click2learn Community Room.

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Platte Canyon Products in the Pipeline

What products can you expect to see from Platte Canyon in the next six months or so?

  1. ToolBook External Data System (TEDS) 1.0. This is a brand new product that gives you the option of storing any or all content in an Access database. It will allow you to switch content "on the fly" when using traditional deployment or simply load your book in author mode (e.g., to load your book with Spanish before publishing to the web). Look for release around the end of October.
  2. Progress Tracker 2.0. This major update will allow you to track your "single book" modules natively in an Access database. It will support an optional "menu" book of all "open enrollment" or assigned modules for a particular student. Administration and reporting will also be vastly improved. Look for release around the end of November.
  3. TB Start 2.0. This update will add the ability to run totally from CD. For those of you who receive a TBCON 2000 CD, you'll see the prototype for this functionality in its "autorun" application. It detects if author-level 7.2 is available and, if so, enables a "Start in Author Mode" button. Either way, its "Start in Runtime" button launches the 7.2 runtime files and starts the correct book - all from CD. Look for release whenever we can squeeze this in.
  4. Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 8 / Learning & Mastering ToolBook Assistant 8. We'll be working hard on updating our popular training products once we can get our hands on any kind of beta copy of Instructor and Assistant 8. Look for release about 45 days after Instructor and Assistant 8 ship.

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Action Editor Tip from Cindy Kessler: Shared Actions

Shared Actions cannot use variable object references

One technique frequently used in OpenScript that is NOT available in the Action System is the use of variables to reference objects.

Consider the following OpenScript code that sets the caption of six buttons:

	step num from 1 to 6
		caption of button ("button" && num) = "Step" && num
	end step

To do this same thing in a shared action, you need to provide the object reference for each button to the page level:

	set caption of button "button 1" of page "Steps" to "Step 1"
	set caption of button "button 2" of page "Steps" to "Step 2"
	set caption of button "button 3" of page "Steps" to "Step 3"

This clearly has an impact on the re-usability of shared actions since you cannot use these same actions to modify buttons on a different page.

One alternative: Create a shared action that receives the name of each button as a parameter and returns a caption based on that name. Then call the shared action from each button, passing "name of self" as the parameter. Assign another action that sets the caption of self to the returnValue. This allows you to duplicate and rename the buttons without changing the action.

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CBT Creation Tip from Chris Bell: Flash and ToolBook

Macromedia's Flash product has made a splash. The program is an excellent animation package that even allows some interactivity ... and it works perfectly inside of ToolBook. Once you create a Flash Movie, there are several ways of getting it to work inside of ToolBook, the simplest is to use the Universal Media Player.

To do so, simply drag the Universal Media Player from the catalog to your page and set its extended property to point to the Flash file you created. It is best to have the Flash file and ToolBook file in the same directory. That's it! Set up is complete.

The biggest advantage to using the Universal Media Player is that the Flash animation will export to DHTML without requiring any additional developer setup. Also, the Action System works with the Universal Media Player, so you can add interactivity and communicate back and forth between ToolBook and the Flash movie.

It is important to realize, however, that when deploying a native ToolBook file (rather than exporting to DHTML), all users will need to have the Macromedia Flash ActiveX control installed on their system. While it is likely that many users will already have the Flash ActiveX control on their system, it is not guaranteed. Therefore, at the very least, the developer should alert the users that they need to download the Flash player from the Macromedia Web site.

For professional CD-ROM based applications we advise creating an installation routine that installs the ToolBook Runtime files and then automatically checks the system to determine if the Flash ActiveX control is installed. If it is not installed, the setup routine would install it automatically. This requires a license to distribute the Flash Player ActiveX control, which is available free form Macromedia. This type of installation routine requires a professional installation package such as InstallShield Pro.

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Expert Information from "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor"

Array Properties, System Variables, and Maximum Size

Although arrays can be stored as user properties, you can't read or write the individual elements of them directly. You must first assign the array to a local or system variable. If you need to change it, then you must save it back to a property again. To avoid this, I store all frequently used arrays as system variables. However, system variables initially have no value when you start up your application. If the array has a reasonable amount of data that doesn't change from session to session, a good way to initialize the array is to set the system variable to the contents of a user property on enterApplication, and then update it through the session solely as a system variable. Here's an example from our Progress Tracker.

to handle setUpChapters book bookID
	system chaptersAndSections [maxChapters of bookID][17][2]
	-- this is called as part of enterApplication
	-- other code deleted here
	chaptersAndSections = chaptersAndSections of bookID
	-- rest of handler
end setUpChapters

At this point, specific student tracking information is read from external files into this chaptersAndSections array.

The answers, feedback, and other information in ToolBook's CBT question objects is stored in user properties of each individual object. In order to change the content of these (e.g., to change the language to French or Spanish), you have to assign the array property to a local property as shown below.

to handle populateQuestionContent object objectID, word num
	system string s_currentPageQuestionContent[][]
	local tempAnswerArray[][], tempDelayedFeedbackArray[][]

	-- code skipped for clarity
	tempAnswerArray = asym_wid_ansArray of objectID
	tempDelayedFeedbackArray = asym_wid_summaryFeedback of
	-- make changes to the tempAnswerArray and
	-- tempDelayedFeedbackArray here
	asym_wid_ansArray of objectID = tempAnswerArray
	if hasFeedback = true
		asym_wid_summaryFeedback of objectID =
	end if
end populateQuestionContent

One final piece of information on arrays: Each element can contain up to 64K of data. This is the same as a single local or system variable. Thus, arrays are a good way to avoid some of the built-in limits of ToolBook.

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OpenScript Tip from Jeff Rhodes

One of the challenges in creating the TBCON 2000 Conference CD was creating a ToolBook page for each session and a corresponding directory on the CD to hold that session's files. As with many other ToolBook challenges, using OpenScript helped tremendously. The code below is part of a "Generate Pages and Subdirectories" handler accessible from the author-level "TBCON" menu. I had previously read both the session names and desired directory names from an Access database into the sessionArray[][] variable. We then use a "source" page that is the first page of the background (this is variable sourcePageID). For each session that doesn't already have a corresponding page, we copy the source page and set some relevant properties. We then do the same thing for the directory: check to see if it's there and, if not, create it.

	backgroundID = background "presentations"
	linkDLL "tbfile32.dll"
		INT createDirectory32(STRING)
		INT setCurrentDirectory32(STRING)
	end linkDLL
	numDirs = 0
	numSessions = item 1 of dimensions(sessionArray)
	sourcePageID = page 1 of backgroundID
	numPages = pageCount of backgroundID
	pagesCreated = 0
	step num from 1 to numSessions
		sessionName = sessionArray[num][4]
		pageName = removeSpaces(sessionName)
		pageName = trimPageName(pageName)
		if isObject(page pageName) = FALSE
			-- create page
			pageID = copyObject(sourcePageID, (page numPages of backgroundID))
			increment numPages
			increment pagesCreated
			arrayNum of pageID = num
			name of pageID = pageName
		end if
		newDir = s_bookDir & sessionArray[num][16]
		sysSuspend = false
		clear sysError
		get setCurrentDirectory32(newDir)
		if sysError <> null or it <> 1
			clear sysError
			get createDirectory32(newDir)
			if sysError <> null or it <> 1
				request "Error in creating directory:" && (name of pageID) && "Error = " && sysError
				increment numDirs
			end if
		end if
	end step
	sysSuspend = true

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Coming in the Next Issue of the EnterPage

  • Preview of TEDS 1.0
  • Preview of the Progress Tracker 2.0
  • Platte Canyon Products in the Pipeline
  • Report on OLL Europe and OLL
  • More CBT Creation Tips from Chris Bell
  • More Action System Tips from Cindy Kessler
  • More OpenScript Tips from Jeff Rhodes
  • ToolBook Tip (from Learning and Mastering CD-ROM)
  • More

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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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n .. Copyright © 2000 Platte Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation