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December 24, 2006

Products I Use: Camtasia Studio

Despite a desire I’ve not had a chance to get too many screen casts (web casts, if you prefer) posted yet.  Actually, most of the SharePoint MVPs have it on their to do lists to get some screen casts up so that everyone can see the power of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.

I’ve done this process a few different ways for the few webcasts I’ve managed to get up.  I use Sony Vegas to do video editing and its tools are more than flexible enough to do a screen cast.  However, I still have to capture the demos, and export my slides.  Ignoring for the moment that I have to find a way to capture demos (because not every screen cast requires a demo), I feel like I’m using an A10 Thunderbolt  to swat a fly.  In other words, I’ve got all kinds of power but its power but it’s not exactly the right tool for the job.

On the other hand, Camtasia Studio by TechSmith  is designed to do screen captures and web casts.  The tool seamlessly integrates to PowerPoint or operates as a standalone recorder.  It’s power as a recorder including its own screen codec (Coder/Decoder) to keep the file sizes small are invaluable.

The amount of time saved by using Camtasia Studio to create a screen cast over exporting a slide show to images and laying them out in Vegas is immense.  As much as I love Vegas, it is definitely not one-click operation.  With all of the control that Vegas offers it might easily seem to be taking a step back to use Camtasia Studio– but that’s not the case at all.  It’s a great demo capture tool.  The editing features are solid.

For me, I record with Camtasia Studio and then do any final touchups in Vegas.  I’ll remove a cough (with a volume envelope on the audio) remove a vocal stumble (split, split, cut, drag), etc.  However, clearly the bulk of the work is done in Camtasia Studio with only a few minor tweaks being made in Vegas.  If I didn’t use Vegas for putting together video works, I’d probably stay in Camtasia Studio for everything.  It appears to have everything that you need to edit – just not what I’m used to … yet.

Products I Use: Snag-It

Occasionally I find that I’ve missed the point.  (OK, more than occasionally but work with me.)  Snag It! Is one of those situations.  When I learned about SnagIt by TechSmith, I thought a screen capture program is interesting but not essential.  I’ve known for a long time that you can copy the screen to the clip board by pressing the Print Screen key on your keyboard – and copy just the active window by pressing Alt-Print Screen.  From there it’s a simple process to paste that image in your favorite graphics editor.  At least that’s what I thought.

Having written a few books and more than a handful of articles, I had gotten pretty adept at the process of capturing a screen and then saving the file out.  It took a particular bug with some beta software to make me take another look at Snag It.  All I can say is, “What an idiot I’ve been.”  It’s not really a matter of whether or not you can do a capture without Snag it.  The question is why would you want to?

Ok, maybe you don’t capture screen shots that often.  Maybe you just do it every once in a while.  However, that’s no excuse not to make the process easier – not to have a Sherpa  (in the form of software).

The guidance offered through the capture process is absolutely amazing.  Useful pop-ups guide you to the most likely next step – starting from when the application is launched.  Even an old pro like me likes the subtle reminder to save the file that I’ve captured.  (It’s not so subtle if you try to exit without saving.)

If you capture screens for training manuals, books, articles, school projects, etc., SnagIt is definitely the way to do it.

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