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Jun 12, 2010

Screen Steps for tutorials

Recently a colleague recommended a new documentation tool to me, which he insisted would save time in creating small tutorials of software or documenting procedures. I was rather sceptical, because over the years I have seen a lot of screen capture programs, and I still prefer to use the PrintScreen button on the keyboard, MS Paint and Wordpad or MS Word for writing these documents. But when he told me that the tool included a straightforward authoring environment and multi-channel output to MS Word, PDF, HTML, blogs, etc. I was intrigued.

So I downloaded a copy of Screen Steps and tried it out. I'm still figuring out all the tricks (like how to size the graphics correctly), but my initial impression is very good. I've written a few small tutorials, including one in my klutzy German explaining how to use memoQ RTF table output to make source files such as InDesign INX available for translation or review by persons who do not use translation environment tools. I tested the blog output feature, which offers a number of options. My first attempt went utterly haywire and had to be deleted (choosing BBCode output was a mistake), but the second attempt with "neutral" HTML worked and can be seen more or less unmodified here. I'm going to leave it in all its ugliness for comparison as I learn better ways to structure the output to a blog. Still I don't think it's all that bad for an initial attempt. I liked the HTML output of the same content better.

I often want to create content for a variety of media, so I think this "poor man's single sourcing option" is a fine thing. The trial version is good for 30 days, and the "high-end" version of the tool costs only about USD 80. That's a lot of useful function at a bargain price.

5 comments:

  1. Kevin-
    Glad you are enjoying ScreenSteps. Using the HTML neutral template basically "inherits" the css of your blog design. But you can customize the templates to really do whatever you want.

    Here some tutorials on customizing templates:

    http://help.screensteps.com/spaces/screensteps/manuals/customizing_templates

    Let us know if you need help with anything.

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  2. Hi Kevin

    Have you tried the Blog Styled HTML template for blog post uploads? That's the one I use most frequently and looks great (in my Typepad blogs - no experience with uploading to blogger though).

    If you also frequently need others to edit/translate your content try out ScreenSteps Live where appointed others can download (and upload) the content that needs editing/translating. Worked a treat for us when our book needed editing.

    Karin H (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

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  3. @Karin: The "blog styled" is next on my list to try; I had a look at your blog, and it looks like the subheaders at least worked out better. I'm not thrilled about them the way they look in my German test post.

    My biggest concern at this point is to get a grip on authoring with the tool, because I have plans for a lot of documentation work. If I can get the graphics to work they way they do in other posts (where I inserted them manually), I'll be very pleased. In those other posts, one can often get an enlarged view of a graphic by clicking on it. For someone like me who can't read a screen well anymore without glasses, that's useful.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Kevin

    The way I work is to upload the blog post as draft - using the styled blog template - and then editing the images manually. When I'm happy with how they look (and the location of the images) only then do I press publish
    (I'm never in a hurry to publish a post, rather be a bit slower and get it public right in one ;-))

    You can set the maximum image width for your blog in the settings, see here:
    http://bmls.screenstepslive.com/spaces/screensteps/manuals/screensteps/lessons/2415-Configuring-HTML-and-Blog-Templates

    Might help you?

    Karin H

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  5. @Karin: Uploading as a draft is good. I tried the "styled" option (for short instructions on how to re-route e-mail in Outlook) and it really wasn't significantly different from the last method I tried. In the end I had to make manual changes to the subtitle formatting. Nonetheless this is an extremely helpful tool, and I appreciate the ease with which I can export packages of help instructions for colleagues to translate!

    ReplyDelete

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