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Screen shots and documentation on the cheap

Occasionally I am surprised to open up my toolbox and find a great tool that I've had for years and never noticed.  The other day I had just such an experience with Windows Server 2008.  A co-worker of mine was squinting to read to screenshots that he had taken using the "Print Screen, paste" method in WordPad and asked me if there was a better tool available at a reasonable cost.  My first instinct was to take a look at CamStudio for him, but I also knew that he had an immediate need to take some more screenshots, so I decided to check and see if the Snipping Tool found in Windows 7 is also available in Windows Server 2008.  I clicked the Start button and typed “snip” into the search bar and while the Snipping Tool did not come up, a Control Panel item labeled “Record steps to reproduce a problem” did.

The application behind the Control Panel entry was “Problem Steps Recorder” (PSR.exe) and I have confirmed that it is available in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 but have not checked other platforms.  It presents a pretty minimal and intuitive interface in providing a “Start Record”, “Stop Record”, and “Add Comment” button.  The “Start Record” button shockingly starts recording and, sure enough, the “Stop Record” button stops recording.  The “Add Comment” button prompts for a comment and for you to highlight the area of the screen to which your comment is related.  Once you’re done recording, the tool outputs an MHT file packaged in a ZIP archive.  This file contains a series of screen shots depicting the user’s interactions and giving timestamps and descriptive text (such as “User left click on “Test” in “My Page – Windows Internet Explorer”) as well as the comments they made along the way and some diagnostics about the applications captured.

The Problem Steps Recorder looks like a simple solution to the most common of my needs for documentation that can turn “I can’t understand how to make it do what you’re reporting” to “Oh, I see what you’re talking about and will fix it right away”.  I you’re like me and haven’t yet discovered this tool give it a whirl and see for yourself.

Print | posted on Thursday, November 17, 2011 1:39 PM |

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