Work with the timeline

Use the Timeline to organize the sequence of events on each slide.

The Timeline is a visual representation of the timing of all objects on a slide. The Timeline provides an easy way to view, at a high level, all objects on a slide and their relationship to each other.

With the Timeline, you can organize objects and precisely control the timing of objects. For example, on a slide that contains a caption, an image, and a highlight box, you can display the caption, then the image 4 seconds later, and then the highlight box 2 seconds after that. The Timeline also shows any audio associated with the slide or with objects on the slide. You can easily coordinate the timing of audio with the slide using the Timeline.


You cannot turn off time limit for a slide. You can extend it for a large number of seconds, or insert an interactive object to pause it.

The Captivate timeline
The Captivate timeline

The major components of the Timeline are objects, the header, and the playhead. The objects on a slide are displayed as stacked bars in the right pane of the Timeline. The header at the top of the Timeline indicates time in seconds (and parts of seconds). The playhead shows the point in time in which the slide is being viewed.

The Timeline header shows time, in minutes:seconds format. For example, 01:05 indicates 1 minute and 5 seconds. The markings helps you see exactly when objects appear.

You can use the Timeline to hide or lock objects easily. This is useful when a slide contains many objects and you need to edit the objects separately.

The major components of the Timeline panel are explained in the table below:




The Timeline ruler. The units are in seconds and are in increment of 0.1 seconds.


The red rectangle represents a playhead. You can drag the playhead to any position in the timeline.


Eye button. Click this button to hide all objects. Click the button again to show the objects. Click on the yellow dot (in blue rectangle) to hide an individual object. You can see a red X instead of the yellow dot. 


Lock button. Click this button to lock all objects in every track. There are two states when clicking the Lock button:

  • When you single-click on the yellow dot (in red rectangle), you will see a lock icon in square bracket. This state locks only the size and position of the object.
  • When you double-click on the yellow dot, you will see a lock icon without brackets. In this state, you cannot select or edit the object properties.


Standard video buttons, which include Play, Pause, Stop, Mute audio, Move playhead to the beginning, and Move playhead to the end. 


  • Elapsed Time: Denotes the location of the playhead from the beginning of the track.
  • Selected Start Time (|->): Denotes the start time of the selected object.
  • Selected Duration: (|->|): Denotes the total duration of the selected object.
  • Slide Duration: Total extent of the slide.


Zoom Slider: Zoom in or zoom out the timeline.

Timeline in a video demo project

In Captivate, when you create a video demo, the demo is saved as a cpvc file. Similar to any cptx project, a cpvc also has it's own timeline with which you can edit the video.

CPVC Timeline 1
CPVC Timeline 1




Denotes the playhead. You can drag the marker to any position in the timeline.


The orange markers denote the start and end of a video clip.


The pan and zoom markers. Zooms the clip at the first marker and restores the original size at the second marker.


The Pan and Zoom button to add the pan and zoom markers.

Trim video in a Timeline

CPVC Timeline 2
CPVC Timeline 2




The trim area of the clip.


Snap the trim marker to the star and end of the playhead .


Button to trim the shaded area in #1.

Adding transitions to the video demo

Click the diamond-shaped marker at the start of the timeline and choose the effect from the list of effects in the Transitions tab.

Apply transitions
Apply transitions

To add more transition points on the timeline, place the playhead to the required position, and click Split to add a new transition marker.

The color of the marker turns orange when you apply a transition effect.

Transition markers
Transition markers

Show or hide the Timeline

Select Window > Timeline to show the timeline. Press Ctrl+Alt+T to hide the timeline.

Deleting objects from the Timeline

Right-click any object on the time and click Delete.

Dragging and positioning objects

On the Timeline, select an object, and drag it sideways, downward, or upward.

Drag objects
Drag objects

Pausing the Timeline

One of the ways you can pause the Timeline for a content slide is by inserting a transparent button in the first slide. When you preview the project, the slide pauses at the point where the pause action shows on the Timeline.

Click the buttons on the playbar to move forward.

Pause Timeline
Pause Timeline

For more information on pausing timelines, read Lieve Weymeis' blog in Adobe's e-learning community portal.

Docking/undocking the Timeline panel

By default, the Timeline panel is docked at the bottom of any slide in an Adobe Captivate project. You can move, resize, group, or dock the Timeline panel to suit your requirement.

To dock the Timeline panel, click Edit > Preferences > General Settings, and select the Enable custom workspaces/panel undocking check-box. Click OK and restart Captivate.

Enable workspaces option
Enable workspaces option

You can also move the Timeline to a second monitor.

Change the zoom level of the Timeline panel

Use the slider in the Timeline panel. The center of the slider indicates 100% zoom. To increase the zoom level, drag the slider to the right. To reduce the zoom level, drag the slider to the left.

Change the order of object layers

  1. Move the mouse over the object in the Timeline panel until the hand icon appears and drag the object up or down to reposition it.

  2. If you have two objects that overlap on the slide, you need to select the object you want in front by setting the stacking order.

    Changing the stacking order consists of moving objects to the back and front of the slide Stage. The key point to remember is that objects at the back of the Stage appear behind other objects. 

Hide objects during editing

  1. In the Timeline, click the dot below the eye icon in the layer that you want to hide.

    The object disappears from the slide and an X icon appears in the column. To display the object on the slide, click the X icon.

    When you hide an object layer, it is hidden only on the Stage. You can still view the layer when it is previewed or published.

Timeline for slidelets

A slidelet is a slide within a slide. A slidelet has its own Timeline. All the objects in the slidelet are displayed in its Timeline. When you select a slidelet, the Timeline changes automatically to that of the slidelet. To display the Timeline for the slide containing the slidelet, click anywhere outside the slidelet. For more information on slidelets, see Rollover slidelets.

Lock objects

  1. In the Timeline, click the dot below the lock icon in the layer that you want to lock.

    The layer and its corresponding object cannot be edited or moved until you unlock the layer. To unlock the layer, click the lock icon.

Set time for objects and slides using the Timeline

You can change the amount of time an object or slide appears in the movie using its Property Inspector or by using the Timeline. You may find this feature useful in several situations. For example, you may want to set exact object timing when coordinating a voice-over with a highlight box; you may want the highlight box to appear only when the voice-over says, “Enter the date here.”

  • Move the mouse over the left or right edge of the slide or object on the Timeline until the resize pointer appears. Click and drag the edge to the required position in the Timeline.

  • To set two objects to appear at the same time, align their left and right edges. For example, you can set a highlight box to appear at the same time as an image so that the highlight box can appear over the image.

  • To adjust the display time of interactive objects (such as text entry boxes, click boxes, and buttons) rest the pointer over the line between Active and Inactive in the bar until the slider handle appears. Drag the slider to adjust the display time.

    You can select multiple objects and move them at the same time. Hold down the Shift key and click objects to select consecutive stacked objects in the Timeline, or to select nonconsecutive objects, hold down the Control key and click the objects to move.

You can determine whether keystrokes are played slowly or quickly in a project. If the project has many keystrokes, increasing the speed will make the pace of the project faster. However, if keystrokes are critical in the project, you may want them to play slowly so users can view them clearly. Use the Timeline to change keystroke speed. Keystrokes are contained in a Timeline object named Typing.

You determine the speed at which the mouse moves on any individual slide in a project. A high mouse speed increases the pace at which the project plays. However, if mouse movements are complicated, you may want to decrease the mouse speed so users can view all movements. Mouse movement is contained in a Timeline object named Mouse. To shorten the amount of time it takes for the mouse movement to play, move the mouse pointer over the left edge of the Mouse object until the resize pointer appears. Click and drag the edge to the left.

Preview a slide using the playhead

The red line that moves across the Timeline is the playhead. The playhead moves through the Timeline to indicate how the currently displayed slide appears in the project. It is a quick and efficient way to preview a single slide and check object timing.

To see how the playhead functions, press F3. You can stop a playhead when it is playing by clicking it. To drag the playhead to a required position, move the mouse over its “head” in the area displaying the time. When the pointer appears, drag the playhead to the required position.

  1. Do one of the following to preview a slide:

    • “Scrub” the slide by dragging the playhead to the left or right. As you move the playhead, objects appear and fade as they will when users view the slide. Scrubbing gives you the ability to control the pace and view the slide at any speed from very slowly to very quickly.

    • With the playhead in any location on the Timeline, press the Spacebar or F3 to begin playing the slide.

    • With the playhead in any location on the Timeline, press in the lower-left corner of the Timeline. (To end playback, press , or to wait, press .)

Download sample projects

To learn more about Captivate and how you can create engaging learning content, download the following projects:

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