Screencasts - movies of software
February 7, 2005 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Movies of software (screencasts) is the subject of this interesting November 2004 column by Jon Udell. The column has plenty of examples (and background). Now he has made an 8.5-minute screencast where the changes of one Wiki page is the subject of a short movie - a bit boosterish, perhaps, but a great introduction to wikis and Wikipedia. Screencasts aren't that difficult to create: a member of the Norwegian Liberal Youth party made one that shows the features of a collaborative software product he uses called socialtext. (As the author admits on his blog, it's not that good - but it's interesting what an amateur can do.) Or check this out - five clips that walk how to migrate an NT4 server into Microsoft Virtual Server 2005. Or this - how to use MixCast Live to create a podcast (courtesy of the TinyScience Blog). Is screencasting the future of learning (about software, at least) - short movies that are easy to create without professional help?
posted by WestCoaster (5 comments total)
This stuff isn't the future of anything - it's the present (and past). If you're using a tool like Captivate, it's quite easy as well. However, Jon's article talks about end-users doing this with free software for diagnostic purposes, and I don't see that happening any time soon.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:45 AM on February 7, 2005

On the free software tip... Nat Friedman recently did a couple cool ones on Beagle (the upcoming OSS clone of Spotlight for GNOME) and GTK# using vnc2swf. No sound, but you get to see his typing in real time, which is amusing enough.

Both demos really helped me understand more what Novell/Ximian are working on better than a bare directory full of screenshots would have.

I agree that the future is now, and I look forward to more devlopers using free tools like vnc2swf to give quick snapshots of both their products and their works in progress. Thanks for the post.
posted by togdon at 11:51 AM on February 7, 2005

I've been experimenting with Snapz Pro X to make these on OS X - the results are pretty good but it's a little hard to justify the $69 purchase price. Anyone know of a free / less costly alternative?
posted by simonw at 12:40 PM on February 7, 2005

I first learned about this sort of stuff when I was giving a presentation at a conference. While *my* code suffered from demoitis, there were others who managed (almost) flawless demos because they knew to prerecord their software in action.

The benefits are twofold: assuming the playback works, you are assured that the application demo will work. And, since you are simply playing a movie, your hands and eyes are free to do all the other Giving A Talk stuff.

But what I find most interesting is the number of people making movies of their software as a way to explain and promote their work. A 2-minute movie can be way more impressive than a series of screen shots and marketing text.

I've also found it a great documentation tool. Need to explain how to configure a Web server? Make a movie! Microsoft's media Encoder really is quite sweet.

I'm unhappy with he neologism "screencast", though, as it suggests some sort of real-time activity, and doesn't convey the notion of a tangible artifact.
posted by Ayn Marx at 2:23 PM on February 7, 2005

Thanks, westcoaster, this is good.

ne & my monkey: I think this is quite a bit beter than RoboDemo, even if they now call it Captivate. This is a subject I'm very interested in, since I spend all my time showing people how to use SAP and Manugistics using Captivate presentations.

Captivate has many limitations, thebiggest being that it really doesn't simulate the live enviornment. For example, after every entry you've got to hit the enter key. That's not a real world simulation. In Captivate you can't tab from field to field. You can't drop and drag. I could go on and on.

Ayn Marx is right - we never have connectivity problems or fat-finger-can't-eneter-the-password problems since they are just accessing a web site and running a canned demo. But my presentations need to be a lot better than they are now (I didn't build them, I just deliver them). I'll be checking out Microsoft Media Encoder and recording a few of my own.
posted by fixedgear at 2:21 AM on February 8, 2005

« Older Exposure can be cumulative.   |   IDN browser hacks Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments