Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lectora Development Best Practices Part 1 – Optimizing Preferences

By Joseph Suarez

After using Lectora for almost five years, I’ve learned so much both from the helpful community of Lectora users and on my own. There are great resources available in printed books and blogs like this. However, I’ve never come across a collection of development “best practices” commonly found for other programs such as Photoshop. So, I decided to write one.

This series of posts is intended to show how to use Lectora in ways that avoid problems, reduce development time, and make using Lectora easier overall. To start, there are a few settings, which I consider vital, but most are not enabled by default. You can access all of the following settings by going to File > Preferences within Lectora.

Show Visibility Check Boxes
Lectora pages can quickly become crowded with objects (text boxes, images, shapes, etc.). By checking “Show visibility check boxes in Title Explorer” under the “General” preferences tab, every object in the title explorer will have a visibility icon (eye). When clicked, that object is toggled to either hide or reappear while in edit mode. This becomes extremely useful when editing objects laid on top of each other such as those controlled with show/hide actions.

Display HTML Object Names
Advanced editing sometimes requires knowing the HTML id name assigned to a Lectora object. This can be seen without having to search through the published HTML code, but only if a preference is enabled. Under the “General” tab check “Show HTML-published object names in object properties.” When enabled, every object’s properties window conveniently displays the HTML id in the corner.

Set Custom Editors
While Lectora has its own multimedia editors that have useful capabilities, such as syncing audio, they are rather limited. If you’re using a tool such as Audacity or those in the Adobe creative suite, you can have Lectora automatically edit objects in those programs by going to File > Preferences > Editors Tab.

Enable Rulers, Guides, and Snapping
Aligning objects by hand with pixel perfect precision is time consuming, but becomes much easier after adjusting some settings in the “Grid/Guides” tab. First, you can enable rulers to display on the left and top of the editing window. These allow you to see exactly where you’re placing or moving page objects. Plus, rulers give you the ability to add guide lines.

By clicking a ruler and dragging onto the page, you can add guide lines. Visible only in edit mode, guides are great for establishing page margins. To move an existing guideline, hold the ctrl key and drag the line. Dragging them all the way back to the ruler removes them.

Finally, there is the helpful ability to “Snap to” guides and gridlines. Snapping acts like an invisible magnet. When you drag an object near a guide with “Snap to guides” enabled it automatically snaps into place. This is perfect for ensuring every text begins at exactly the same spot on every page.

Use Hotkeys
Learning and using Lectora hotkeys (keyboard combination shortcuts) can help to reduce development time. There are many hotkeys unique to Lectora as well as those common to most Windows programs such as undo (ctrl+z). Through the “Hotkeys” preference tab you can view all the preset Lectora hotkeys and even customize your own.

It may not seem like much of a time saver, especially at first, but once you get in the habit of using hotkeys, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start using them sooner. One hotkey that often comes in handy in Lectora is ctrl+shift+v to paste unformatted text. This pastes copied text without any additional formatting carried over from a program like Microsoft Word, which can cause problems in Lectora.

With these simple preferences enabled, development becomes easier. Please share any additional ways you have optimized preferences, and stay tuned for more Lectora development best practices. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments.