This blog post is about making things clearer...

 

Have you ever had a hard time explaining to a person that something does not work correctly or breaks when you perform a series of steps?  I know I have.  I'm pretty sure I speak clearly and am to the point, however it can be hard to describe a problem without actually showing it visually.  

 

So, what can you do when you need to explain some things not working correctly with software?  Well, you can write-up the steps, provide screen shots, give them code if possible, and of course a dump might help.  However sometimes its hard to explain how to get the behavior without actually showing a person.

 

Microsoft will often do a Live Meeting session in order to see a reproduction of an issue.  However, there are times when it's hard to get the different groups coordinated in order to show the repro live or hard to repro the problem at a given time.

 

So, what to do?   Ahhh there is hope and its free.

 

    Windows Media Encoder

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/forpros/encoder/default.mspx

 

What’s this Windows Media Encoder?  Does it convert video formats?   Well, it does many things.  What I'd like to point out is that it can record the video of whats on your screen or in a specific window. 

 

To record video:

 

·   Run Windows Media Encoder

·   Select "Custom Session"

·   Click "Configure" next to the "Screen Capture" pull-down on the Sources tab and pick the full screen or window you want to record. 

·   Click the "Output" tab. 

·   Set the options here you want.  I usually uncheck all the boxes except "Archive to file" and "Index file".

·   If you "Archive to file", then be sure to set the filename.

·   Under the Compression Tab I usually pick "File Archive" and leave the other settings at their default.  Although, setting the Video quality to Medium quality does produce acceptable output.

·   If the image is recorded blurry, you may need to fiddle with the settings such as setting it to Deinterlace under the Processing tab or tweak the video quality settings under the Compression tab.

 

Hmmm, maybe I should record a video on doing a video?

 

Oh, yes there are few other points:

  • While the program is running, you may get a bit of a slow-down.  Seems like it would be an expected thing, eh?
  • The files created can grow quickly depending upon the settings you use, so understand the growth-rate of your settings and watch the size as needed.
  • Recording what happens in a window will also capture the child windows/pop-ups, etc - this cool and very helpful.
  • If you have a message which is being displayed so quickly in a window that you cannot read it, then capturing it (with capture settings set to a high value) may help you see what it actually says.  Once captured, you can play the stream back and pause when the message is displayed.
  • Remember size of the file and image quality are things you'll need to balance out. There is a trade-off for trying to improve either.

Such recordings are helpful for explaining the reproduction of an issue.   I hope this tip helps you.