The ToolBook Developer's Newsletter
|...||From Platte Canyon
Multimedia Software Corporation.
In This Issue
by Chris Bell
Things are on a high note here at Platte Canyon. We’ve received a bunch of email messages with generous compliments about the ToolBook User’s Conference that we hosted earlier this month; development of "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 7.1" and "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Assistant 7.1" is going very well; and the weather in Colorado has finally warmed up! But, for me, the most heart-warming part about the past few months has been realizing once again how wonderful this community of ToolBook developers is. I meet new ToolBook developers every day via email, the ToolBook Listserve, on the phone, and sometimes even in person at conferences like the ToolBook User’s Conference earlier this month, and with each person I meet, I am reminded of the great collection of skill and warmth that our community consists of! As ToolBook grows and changes over the next couple years, please remember that you have a rich community of fellow ToolBook developers to help work things out, and of course, you will always have your friends here at Platte Canyon.
We work to make the EnterPage an information source for our community of ToolBook Developers. This issue covers: The ToolBook User’s Conference, four other conferences, a new version of Instructor, the OpenScript controversy, tips for developers, and more. Whew! That’s a lot to cover! Let’s get started!
by Jeff Rhodes
About 170 ToolBook developers from around the world descended on Platte Canyon’s home city of Colorado Springs at the beginning of August for the first annual ToolBook User’s Conference. It was a real treat to be able to match up faces with the names that we’ve seen on the ToolBook Listserv and elsewhere.
The conference started for many of us on Sunday, where we spent the whole day digging deeper into Instructor. Chris led one group and I led the other. We covered OpenScript, web deployment, naming conventions, media, ActiveX, installations, and much more. Attendees also received the first ever Platte Canyon printed manual -- an alphabetical list of the 170+ Expert Information and OpenScript Tips topics from our Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 6.5 CBT.
The first day of the actual conference began with a bang as Darcy, Slade, and Tim (Barham) of Asymetrix gave us a sneak peak at "ToolBook and the 21st century [See the "Special Report: The Future of OpenScript" below]. Attendees then began winding their way through their own personal "session paths." I had numerous people tell me that they spent at least an hour figuring out which sessions to attend during each of the nineteen total blocks. We’ve listed the presenters in the last two issues of The EnterPage, so I won’t repeat the list here. But I do want to say that all of the presenters (or "Faculty" as their T-shirts read) did a great job, repeating each session three times and following them up with many individual discussions and problem solving tips. The first day ended with a lively reception in the Gates Common Room from 7-10 PM. The "Fat Tire" beer and Chardonnay wine were flowing freely while we tried to tackle heavy tables of salmon, veggies, and chocolate-covered strawberries. Guitarist Dave Frisk of Denver was a big hit as well.
During the second day, we finally saw a little sunshine outside as we delved even further into the world of ToolBook. The attendees were now swapping stories and tips with one another as well. All the camaraderie led to lively discussions during the sessions, breaks, and meal times. We continued the fun in the evening at the conference banquet, where we all had a more formal (at least as formal as you can be in shorts and T-Shirts) sit-down dinner. Asymetrix gave away five copies of Assistant 7 and then we all posed for a panoramic group photo. Slade had the distinction of being in the picture twice, running from one side to the other between shots! Presenter Graziano de Finis of Italy gave us a great impromptu performance on the piano.
Morale continued to be very high on the final day of the conference (Wednesday). Although several attendees confessed to me that their brains were too tired by lunchtime to make it to the last two sessions, most of the rooms continued to be full to the very end. We all then raced home to put what we learned to good use. Thanks to all of you who attended the conference and made it such a great success.
Please mark your calendars for June 26 – 28, 2000 for next year’s conference. Check www.tbcon.com for more details.
Instructor 7.1 is on the way! For those of you who haven’t been participating in the beta program, here is a brief description of some key new features.
IMPROVED WEB EXPORT. Probably the best thing about Instructor 7.1 is that a much larger proportion of catalog objects can now export to dynamic HTML (DHTML) for 4.0 or later browser versions. This means that you can create much more interactive and full-featured CBT while still deploying in a native (non plug-in) browser environment.
ACTION SYSTEM. While OpenScript still won’t translate to the web outside of the Neuron plug-in, Instructor 7.1’s new Action System gives you the ability to "script" on the web. It has numerous dialog boxes analogous to the "query builder" functionality in Microsoft Access. You use these dialogs to create variables, assign properties, perform operations, and much more. These actions will then operate both in the normal ToolBook runtime and when exported to DHTML.
MORE OBJECTS ON A PAGE. A more subtle change is that Asymetrix has changed the way that page objects are stored in memory. The result is that it is now possible to put significantly more objects, particular fields with lots of content, on a single page.
IMPROVED CATALOG INTERFACE. The Catalog now has a "tree" interface for quickly viewing the categories and sub-categories. The individual catalogs are also smaller, with media now being split into its own catalog.
ACTIVE DATA OBJECTS. Instructor 7.1 includes support for Microsoft’s Active Data Objects (ADO) as well as improved ActiveX support across the board. The ADO technology makes it much easier to connect to standard databases such as Access.
Instructor 7.1 is on schedule to ship mid- to late- September, but you can place your order for it right now! The main reason to do this is to take advantage of the special upgrade prices available only until September 30. Besides, don’t you want to the be first on your block with Instructor 7.1?
And remember, whenever you buy Asymetrix products from Platte Canyon, in addition to Asymetrix technical support and other offerings that we pass on, you also get free extended email based technical support from Platte Canyon (a $395 value), and $100 off Platte Canyon products ($50 off when you purchase an Asymetrix upgrade from Platte Canyon).
We have received several questions about the pricing structure for Instructor 7.1. The main confusion is that there is a special introductory period where the price is much better than after the period expires. Here is the full pricing breakdown pricing for Instructor 7.1.
You can place your order on line at:
Or call us toll free at:
Please Note: We can only sell Asymetrix products to customers taking delivery in the U.S. or Canada. (Of course, we can sell Platte Canyon products world wide!)
Those of you who are members of the ToolBook Listserv might have noticed the large amount of discussion related to the excellent "ToolBook and the 21st Century" sessions put on at the ToolBook User’s Conference by Darcy Gibbons Burner, Slade Mitchell, and Tim Barham of Asymetrix Learning Systems. Darcy offered a clarifying statement on the future of OpenScript. We wanted to repeat this clarification for those who didn’t follow the complete discussion. Stay tuned for more information in succeeding issues of The EnterPage. Here is Darcy’s posting:
It was NOT announced at the conference that OpenScript would be removed from ToolBook. No such decision has been made.
What was said (and I know, because I said it) was that:
(a) we are actively looking at alternatives to OpenScript for creating content for the Web, and
(b) we want to strongly encourage developers, as of Instructor 7, to use the Actions Editor wherever possible instead of OpenScript.
Most of the people I talked to at the conference told me that they were going to have to deliver to browsers in the next 18 months. I suspect most of the rest of you will need to worry about this, too, at some point soon.(And for those of you who don't, lucky you, but I doubt we can sustain our revenues off of you alone. :-) ) Asymetrix has an obligation to take your needs seriously, and to take the needs of *your* customers seriously. So we absolutely have to make it possible to create content that can be delivered over the Internet or intranets, using browsers as runtimes. We have to make creating that content a significantly easier process than it is now. We're working on doing exactly that, and trying to communicate as clearly and openly as we can what the implications to you, our developers, will be. One of those implications is that, in order to deliver content using native web technologies, you will have to use something other than OpenScript. Something like, say, catalog objects and the Actions Editor.
So that's why we're trying to encourage you to develop that way. And yes, it's likely that in some future generation of our authoring tools, we will provide you with an authoring tool that's a lot better than what we currently offer for creating Web-based training, and that tool likely won't include OpenScript. But no plans have been made to remove OpenScript from ToolBook in the short term.
(This darn soapbox is getting more use than I'd prefer. Ah well...)
Darcy Gibbons Burner
With Jeff and Chris giving presentations at a number of conferences recently, we have generated a number of articles that may be of interest to ToolBook developers. Here are some brief descriptions:
OnLine Learning ’99 takes place October 18 – 20 in the Los Angeles Convention Center and we’re gearing up for a great show!
If you’re going, make sure to stop by the Platte Canyon booth at OnLine Learning ’99. We’ll be featuring scheduled Platte Canyon product demonstrations and training as well as impromptu discussions about all things ToolBook. You’ll find our booth right in front of you as you enter the Expo Hall (number #700 & 702).
The Expo Hall is a good way to see all the players in OnLine Learning under one roof; in addition to Platte Canyon being there, our beloved Asymetrix will have a large presence as well as Macromedia and numerous custom development companies. If you are going to be in the area but do not want to attend the educational sessions, send us an email and we’d be happy to send you an Expo Hall pass compliments of Platte Canyon.
Educational sessions look to be excellent as well. The special "Asymetrix Conference-Within-A-Conference" has several sessions by Asymetrix folks that should be helpful to anyone thinking about upgrading to Instructor 7.1. ToolBook developers should also find many of the General sessions very good as well. In particular, you might want to attend these sessions by Platte Canyon folks:
We are completing initial development of "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Assistant 7" and have a few more slots available for beta testers.
We are looking both for experienced Assistant users as well as developers who are just getting started. Testers will receive the first look at this new CBT as well as a free copy of the final product. They will be expected to report any bugs and to fill out an online questionnaire. If you are interested in participating, please send us an email at <old email address>. Thanks!
[Note -- this is an archived copy of The EnterPage. "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Assistant" is a shipping product at this point. We do not not need any more beta testers].
ASTD Report by Chris Bell
ED-Media Report by Jeff Rhodes
OLL 99 Europe Report by Jeff Rhodes
Note: this is one of the 100+ Expert Information topics from the "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor" CBT available from Asymetrix (www.asymetrix.com) and Platte Canyon (www.plattecanyon.com).
Topic: Deleting Clips With OpenScript
Imagine that you have finished an application and are ready to start a new one. You want to use the old application as the basis for the new application, but deleting the hundreds of clips manually is tedious. A much faster alternative is the script below. It is also a useful example of how to retrieve clip information via OpenScript.
bookID = this book
One of the techniques that we use when developing larger applications is what we call "sticky notes." This is the idea of one developer writing comments to another. This might be a question on the operation of the page, instructions for further content, or a description of a "Let Me Try" simulation to be created for that page. We use our Plug-In Pro to create a common field that is yellow and named "sticky note." A common task when holding the "master" copy of the book is go through the book looking for notes that you can then take care of and delete. Here’s the script to do this.
--to go to a page with a sticky note: step num from (pageNumber of this page + 1) to pageCount of this book pageID = page num fieldList = getObjectList (pageID, "field", "") while fieldList <> null pop fieldList if fillColor of it = yellow and name of it contains "stick" go to pageID break step end if end while end stepA related task that we faced when getting ready to demo some of our applications at the recent OLL 99 Europe and ToolBook User’s conferences was to hide but not delete the sticky notes. The script to do this for the entire book is shown below. I wrote this script while on the plane to London for OLL 99 Europe. Talk about waiting until that last minute!
--to hide all sticky notes: fieldNum = 0 step num from 1 to pageCount of this book pageID = page num fieldList = getObjectList (pageID, "field", "") while fieldList <> null pop fieldList if fillColor of it = yellow and name of it contains "stick" hide it increment fieldNum end if end while end step request fieldNum && "sticky notes in this book."Notice that a simple variation will show them again.
--to show all sticky notes: fieldNum = 0 step num from 1 to pageCount of this book pageID = page num fieldList = getObjectList (pageID, "field", "") while fieldList <> null pop fieldList if fillColor of it = yellow and name of it contains "stick" show it increment fieldNum end if end while end step request fieldNum && "sticky notes in this book."
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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