Adobe Captivate: Mind Your Layers

When you visually edit a Captivate file, it’s easy to lose track of where things fall on your timeline. However, keeping your timeline tidy provides a few benefits.


  • If you use auto-label for accessibility (which we do not on the my contracts), the screen reader will read the text captions from bottom to top on your timeline. Out of order text captions can make your slide sound nonsensical to someone listening through a screen reader.
  • Layer order affects tab order. When you tab through the slide, the default order is determined by the layer order. Like captions, tabbing will go from bottom to top. You will save yourself a lot of time by avoiding the Tab Order dialog box if you start with your buttons in a logical timeline order.


If you have a pattern you follow when putting your timelines together, it helps you find things more easily later. It also helps someone coming in after you. As an example, this is an order I try to follow.

From bottom to top:

  • Pasteboard elements, like color palettes or developer notes.
  • Decorative graphics and pictures.
  • Captions and groups with text in read order, bottom to top.
  • Buttons and other interactive elements in tab order, bottom to top.


Layer order in the timeline may seem trivial. In fact, the timeline is pretty hidden in the Captivate Classic view. I therefore keep the timeline on its own monitor when I’m working, so I don’t forget about it. If you have the screen real estate and want to do the same, just check the box next to “Enable custom workspaces” in the General Settings category of the Preferences window. Restart Captivate, and now you can move your panels around. This will help you keep the timeline part of your workflow and provide one more way you can deliver a well-maintained and more accessible product.