Saturday, May 22, 2010

Windows 7: Making documentation easier

A big part of our jobs as IT folk is often creation of documentation, especially how to or dummies guides. This often means lots and lots of screenshots, and could take a crapload of time. I overheard a friend and colleague recently tell another colleague to use the Windows 7 problem recorder to this end, and I was intrigued, so I did some research this morning, and came across this:

7. The Black Box Recorder. Every developer wishes there was a way that an end-users could quickly and simply record a repro for the problem that they’re running into that is unique to their machine. Windows 7 comes to the rescue! Part of the in-built diagnostic tools that we use internally to send feedback on the product, the Problem Steps Recorder provides a simple screen capture tool that enables you to record a series of actions. Once you hit “record”, it tracks your mouse and keyboard and captures screenshots with any comments you choose to associate alongside them. Once you stop recording, it saves the whole thing to a ZIP file, containing an HTML-based “slide show” of the steps. It’s a really neat little tool and I can’t wait for it to become ubiquitous on every desktop! The program is called psr.exe; you can also search for it from Control Panel under “Record steps to reproduce a problem”. (source)

And it really is that simple. Very little configuration is required. You simply fire up the recorder, click Start Record and then happily click through the process you want to capture.

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The result is a very workable output. I tried it out on creating a dashboard for OpsMgr 2007 (SCOM) in Visio (blog post on this topic coming shortly) and was rather pleased with the results. It captured every click with actions and screenshots, which means I now simply have to edit the document to make it idiot proof and big boss friendly :)

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