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Using screen recorders as a lightweight form of documentation

Any time I find that I need to create training material or reference material, I ask myself if it makes sense to use some sort of screen capture utility to capture that information. I find that it can be a better medium for some types of content. And, given current technology (both commercial and open source) it can be easier to update than extensive documentation.

For example, on a past project I partnered with another tester and used a screen recorder to create small videos of how to perform common functions on the mainframe. We had a lot of people who needed to use the mainframe in support of their testing, but only rarely. So even if they learned something once, it might be weeks before they did it again. If you’re like me, if you’ve only done something one time, in a week you’ve likely forgotten how to do it. Together, we created a series of 10 to 15 small videos (screen recordings with someone talking through the steps) that ran through the most common functions.

I’ve also used this technology to capture a record of my exploratory test execution. Many testers already take screenshots when they test; this is just an extension of that practice. With most tools, you can easily edit what you capture to pull out clips of video and compress them to be small portable files. This is great for attaching bug examples to defect tickets, to ask for a peer reviews or to get a second opinion on something, or even to pull out an example of a complex test for a lunch and learn.

If you’re interested in giving something like this a try, the tools I use the most for this type of documentation include: BB TestAssistant, iShowU, Snagit, and CamStudio.

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