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The EnterPage

The ToolBook Developer's Newsletter
December 1, 2000

Issue 3-04

... From Platte Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation.

In This Issue

Instructor 8.0 Upgrade Special
Preview: Instructor 8.0
Platte Canyon Products in the Pipeline
TBCON 2001 Preview: Now in 2 Locations
Inventory Reduction Sale: Assistant 7.2
Conference Report: OLL Europe and OLL
Plug-In Pro Tool Spotlight: Alignment Editor
CBT Creation Tip from Chris Bell: Photoshop's Adjustment Layers
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

Whoiee! It has been a fun time for us here at Platte Canyon. We have traveled overseas, tested Instructor 8.0, plotted plans for a number of exciting new products, and upped our conference offerings for next year. This issue of the EnterPage offers details on all of these events and more. That's what the EnterPage is about: information. We love ToolBook and want to share our passion with you. And, we want the EnterPage to provide helpful information for all types of ToolBook users. That's why you'll find that each issue contains ToolBook-related news and reviews as well as columns with tips and expert information all about working with ToolBook. So, let's get on with this quarter's issue! I hope you find it useful.

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Instructor 8.0 Upgrade Special

Upgrade to Instructor 8.0 with Platte Canyon for only $595 through December 31, 2000. Normal price is $695 - $895 depending on your current version. Due to our reseller agreement with Click2learn, however, we can only accept orders from the U.S. and Canada.

To order your upgrade today, go to: https://outlaw.securewebs.com/plattecanyon/store/

Planned shipping date is mid December. While we cannot guarantee the shipping date, by ordering now you are guaranteed the low introductory price as well as rapid shipping from the Click2learn warehouse the minute the product is released.

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Preview: Instructor 8.0

by Jeff Rhodes

Instructor 8.0 is a very nice release. The new catalog is much faster to display and takes up less screen real estate. It also allows you to display only the categories you need WITHOUT needing to open different catalogs. I particularly like the ability to tile it as well as leave it as a popup window. The Actions System adopts a similar new interface, allowing you to drag your actions by category in addition to inserting them from the menu as in the past. Even more powerful is the in-line editing of most Actions System statements. Avoiding the need to bring up dialog boxes should be a major boost in productivity. The new Actions System also has the ability to Get and Post HTTP data. This looks promising, but I haven't had the chance to try it out yet. You can see screen captures of the new catalog and Actions Editor at http://www.plattecanyon.com/instructor8special.htm

All books in Instructor 8.0 must specify either DHTML or Native deployment. This deployment setting affects which menu items are available during development. For example, AutoPackager and Publish to Web (Neuron) are only available with Native deployment. You can change the setting later in Book Properties. I'm not wild about this feature since you may want to use Viewers while authoring even when deploying to DHTML. Luckily, the Viewers toolbar button is always enabled in the beta even when the menu item is disabled. We'll have to see what the final release looks like. On the more esoteric side, the new "common" location for ToolBook 8 is C:\Program Files\Common Files\click2learn\TBSystem.

Instructor 8.0 adds some nice new tools and features. "Find Object" under the Edit menu allows you to search pages and/or backgrounds for objects that match a particular name, type, property name, and/or property value. The File menu includes an "eLN" item that allows you to publish your course to a free 100-user version of the Click2learn network. We haven't tried this out yet. The Tools menu now has a Question Summary item that used to only be added or removed (as Question Checklist) when holding the Ctrl and Shift keys when opening the Tools menu. The old "Transmogrify" utility (previously accessed only with Ctrl+Shift+T or via the Plug-In Pro) has now been added to the Tools menu, with a more pleasing name of Convert Objects. Finally, there is a new "Resize Background" tool that makes it easy to make incremental changes to the background size. Guess I won't need to use the Command Window for this anymore.

Instructor 8.0 looks to be a release worthy of the ToolBook name.

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Platte Canyon Products in the Pipeline

2001 will be another busy year for the Platte Canyon product line. First out of the gate will be Progress Tracker™ 2.0 in February. This exciting release brings much of the popular functionality of TBK Tracker™ to larger books. Store all content in an Access database. Create "Front End Books" that give a menu of available modules. Automatically create certification exams based on a selected number of questions per chapter. Store all selected question responses and other information in the database. Freely redistribute the Progress Tracker Administrator™ for assigning modules to students and Progress Tracker Reporter™ for displaying over 90 reports and graphs detailing student results. Progress Tracker 2.0 will sell for $2,995 per developer license.

Also available in the first quarter will be Learning and Mastering ToolBook Instructor 8.0™. It will build on the huge success of previous versions by guiding you through the new Actions System capabilities, catalog design, new OpenScript commands, and much more. It will also have expanded Actions System and ActiveX Data Objects (ADO) examples. Learning and Mastering ToolBook Instructor 8.0 will be $695 for a full version and $235 for an upgrade.

Finally, we will release at least some members of the new TB Connection™ family of products in the first quarter. TB Connection allows you to store all of your ToolBook data in an Access database. It is made up of three related products that can work in combination or separately. Content Connection™ stores field & recordfield text/rich text, button captions, question content, user properties, and more. For hotwords, Content Connection even restores hyperlinks and actions. You can load content "on the fly" (traditional deployment) or just build with a particular set of content and then publish to the web. Hotword Connection™ reads your hotword/glossary terms and definitions out of an Access database when you are using traditional deployment. Media Connection™ allows you to store the locations of media clips and graphic resources in an Access database. This allows you to customize your media for particular languages or audiences. It also allows you to optionally store text for use in recording or displaying captions. Media Connection will either update clips automatically or leave the information in an array for the developer to use (to update a Flash ActiveX control for example). The Content and Hotword Connection products will come with a translator utility that you can send with your database to whoever is doing the translating (for multilingual applications). This will allow translators to translate the content directly into a new database without ever needing to touch your application.

Once these products are released, look for Learning & Mastering ToolBook Assistant 8.0™ and TB Start™ 2.0 to come next. We'll then begin work on new versions of TBK Tracker™ and Plug-In Pro™. Should be an exciting year!

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TBCON 2001 Preview: Now in 2 Locations

The ToolBook User's Conference 2001 will be in the US AND Europe! We hope that the new European event will allow more European developers to attend the conference. It will also present opportunities for US attendees to travel to a new location for the conference. Some dedicated developers will even go to both events!

Cheltenham, England July 9 - 11, 2001 (Preconference Training: July 7 - 8)

Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA July 30 - August 1, 2001 (Preconference Training: July 28 - 29)

Whether you attend the USA or European event, you are sure to be pleased with the high quality technical sessions and numerous opportunities to converse with the world's best ToolBook developers.

This year's technical sessions will address a wide range of ToolBook-related topics. Planned areas of focus include:

- Web Deployment
- Traditional Deployment
- OpenScript
- Instructor
- Assistant
- Management
- CBT Skills
- Other Software

If you've never been to a TBCON, here are some comments from last year's attendees to give you a sense of the event: 

- Best Dev Con I've attended.
- Our latest project has improved an order of magnitude over what it would have been without the conference.
- I liked the Help Desk! Great idea!
- Great tech sessions and not so much commercialization.
- All presenters were very open to answering questions.
- Really appreciate the all-inclusive price, ToolBook focus, and meeting other developers.
- Good range--beginners to expert--liked inclusion of third party products--Flash, PhotoShop, Agent.
- Ton of helpful information and a renewed sense of community.
- Even better than last year with more session choices.
- Friendly, helpful participants, presenters, and staff.
- Amazing food selection, good quality. Even the coffee was good.
- Loved it! This was a major boost in getting me started with ToolBook.
- Incredible value, environment, and content!
- Very useful; saved me bazillions of dollars and time.

For more information on the conference or to register early, please browse to: www.tbcon.com

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Inventory Reduction Sale: Assistant 7.2

Platte Canyon has two copies of Assistant 7.2 available for the incredibly low price of $1,150.

Please contact us at 1-888-866-5251 (1-888-ToolBK-1) for more information. Note, this offer is only valid for residents of the US and Canada due to our reseller agreement with Click2learn.

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Conference Report: OLL Europe and OLL

by Chris Bell

OnLine Learning Euro 2000
September 5 - 7
Cheltenham, UK
Photos available at

Talk about a fun time! Jeff and I arrived in London's Gatwick airport early Monday morning. We rented an SUV and headed off toward Cheltenham - luckily Jeff was used to driving on the left side of the road from his previous years in the UK. The sightseeing along the way was terrific. We even stopped by Stonehenge and took in its majesty. We maneuvered ourselves in to Cheltenham where we met up with our old friends including Kevin Walter, Simon Price, Lee Karns, and Andrew Gould. Then we had an evening that would be the norm for the conference: nights in a pub with friends new and old, talking about our favorite software.

Jeff and I led preconference workshops all day on Tuesday where we taught beginner and advanced ToolBook topics. Then on Wednesday, the conference officially started with several excellent presentations including memorable ones from Lee Karns and Andrew Gould.

The charity auction brought out some very interesting bidding. Products donated from Click2learn and Platte Canyon raised several hundred pounds for charity, but the biggest shocker was the amount brought in by T-shirts from the ToolBook User's Conference. Bids went over 200 pounds for one shirt. While we would like to think that the T-shirts were worth every pound, it is more the case that everyone was in the spirit of giving and had great fun trying to out-bid the others for a T-shirt.

Cheltenham will be the location of the first TBCON Europe next July. The college has great facilities and we will fill it with ToolBook enthusiasts!

OnLine Learning 2000
September 25 - 28
Denver, Colorado

Big, big, big: this large conference drew over 8000 attendees! Platte Canyon's booth was the first one you saw when entering the Expo Hall, and we were happy to meet so many friends, new and old. Hosted in Denver, it was just up the road from our Colorado Springs headquarters.

Jeff presented a session called "Case Study on Creating CBT on a Software Package" while I gave a session called "Using 3D Animation to Improve CBT - A Case Study." Jeff also filled in for our friend Tim Barham for a Click2learn session on custom objects. Both of us then hosted a session in the Click2learn community room called "ToolBook Q & A." Here we had the opportunity to talk to ToolBook users about their questions about ToolBook and wishes for future releases.

While this conference has a very broad focus compared to the ToolBook User's conference, it is a good opportunity to see a wide range of training managers and specialists with interests in e-learning. We'll be back next year in L.A.

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Plug-In Pro Tool Spotlight: Alignment Editor

This column features one of the many tools available in Plug-In Pro. In this issue, we'll discuss the new Alignment Editor. The Alignment editor is a multi-tabbed visual tool that lets you quickly arrange objects on the page.

For instance, if you want to align all objects by their left edge, click one button on the editor and they're aligned. You also have the ability to choose whether the objects are aligned to the left of the page or to the left-most object. Aligning top and left at the same time is just a matter of checking another box.

The Distribute tab provides even more options and power. You can choose to distribute objects vertically by their tops, centers, or bottoms. Similarly, you can distribute objects horizontally by their left edges, right edges, or centers. In either case, you can also choose to distribute objects by the space between them. This is very helpful when you have graphics of different heights, for instance, and you want equal space between them. All of these distribute options can be relative to height/width of the selected objects or to the entire page.

The Size tab allows you to change the height and/or width of the selected objects to match the largest, smallest, nearest, or farthest object (sounds a bit like Dr. Seuss doesn't it).

Like all of the tools in Plug-In Pro, the Alignment Editor was designed by developers for developers. We identified a need in our own development for this powerful set of alignment options. We liked them so much that we decided to make them available to developers.

For more information on Plug-In Pro, please browse to: 

To see detailed on-line help with graphics on the Alignment editor, please browse to: www.plattecanyon.com/help/pluginpro/Aligning_Objects.htm

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CBT Creation Tip from Chris Bell: Photoshop's Adjustment Layers

As a ToolBook Developer, you will use a graphics program to do much of your artwork. While there are many good programs available, my favorite is Adobe Photoshop. I've recently discovered the incredible power of adjustment layers in Photoshop and would like to share what I've learned.

Adjustment layers allow you to make significant changes to the look of your artwork without permanently altering the source file. For instance, if you are creating training on an airplane cockpit, you might have a photo of the instrument panel. If you wanted to make that photo brighter, with more contrast, and a blue-tint to it, you have two choices. You could make all of those adjustments to the original image. Or you could use adjustment layers to make the changes. Here's how you do it:

Adjustment layers are easy to locate in Photoshop 6. Select the layer you want to modify and click the adjustment layer button at the bottom of the layers palette. You will be prompted about the kind of adjustment layer to add and then you will see the familiar dialogs for adjusting the tint, brightness and contrast, or whatever setting you have chosen. You'll also see the adjustment layer in your layers palette. The adjustment layer will influence everything below itself (in layer order).

So far, the work in making the modifications to your image would be about the same whether you modified the image directly or used an adjustment layer. The real power comes in when someone tells you they'd rather see it with a green tint. With adjustment layers, you change one setting and you're done. Without them, you're back at square one, needing to make all of the changes that you did the first time, just to make the tint a little greener.

In the predictable and relentless modification cycle of graphics in e-Learning, adjustment layers may end up being your best friend.

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Expert Information from "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor"

from Jeff Rhodes

While perhaps not obvious by their names, here are some of the most important button properties along with examples of when I use them.

excludeTab: You set this property to true if you want to exclude the button from the "tab order." In other words, if you don't want the button to have the faint "dotted line" around it that indicates that it has the focus, set this property to true. You'll want to do this anytime the button doesn't have a standard "Windows" appearance -- graphical buttons, buttons showing graphics, etc.

highlight: This is the property that allows a "push button" to depress when you click on it or a graphical button to show its invert graphic in the same circumstance. Most of the time you'll want to set this property to true unless you are showing a graphic resource in a button.

transparent: Setting this property to true allows you to see through the button. Doing this to push buttons give them a somewhat more "modern" look. You will almost always do this when using graphical buttons. If you try to set the fillColor of a transparent to a color other than white, however, you may get a mottled look due to the effect of the colors and textures on the page or background.

"commandButton" borderStyle: This border style, available starting with ToolBook 6, gives a "default button" look (e.g., with a black border around it) to a normal push button. The way you do this is to set the "checked" property of the command button to TRUE when you want it to have the black border.

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OpenScript Tip from Jeff Rhodes

When referring to a recordfield using OpenScript, you need to recognize that while the recordfield object itself is on the background, you refer to it as if it were on the page to set its text. The script shown below, adapted from the Plug-In Pro 5.0, puts the text of all recordfields being used into the objectInfo variable. Notice that the getObjectList() function finds all the recordfields on the BACKGROUND. The script then refers to that recordfield of the PAGE in order to read the recordfield's text

recordfieldList = getObjectList(parent of pageID,"recordfield", false)
if recordfieldList <> null
	step num2 from 1 to itemCount (recordfieldList)
		recordfieldID = item num2 of recordfieldList
		recordfieldName = name of recordfieldID
		recordfieldShortName = (words 1 to 3 of	recordFieldID)
		recordFieldLongName = recordfieldShortName && "of" && pageID
		if text of recordFieldLongName <> null
			objectInfo = objectInfo & CRLF & recordfieldShortName && "Text:  " & text of recordFieldLongName
		end if
	end step
end if

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Coming in the Next Issue of the EnterPage

  • Preview of the Progress Tracker 2.0
  • Platte Canyon Products in the Pipeline
  • Another Plug-In Pro Tool Spotlight
  • More CBT Creation Tips from Chris Bell
  • 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