Friday, February 02, 2007


I'm a real fan of TechSmith products Camtasia and SnagIt. To me there's nothing as effective to demonstrate some software as displaying screen activity with a voice narration.

A screencast is an ideal format for showing a sample application using a new technology or set of technologies (the term screencast was coined by Jon Udell to describe these animated demos). Jon did a screencast long ago of Dragon speech recognition, which I use for casual email and these blog posts.

His screencast shows how to correct what Dragon thinks it heard (although newer versions are better, and using Dragon's built-in scratchpad is slightly more accurate than speaking directly into a Windows application like Word, and I don't think it works yet with Vista).

DinnerNow Sample Application

If the technology being demonstrated is visual, the viewer gets a sense of the real experience. If there's something going on non-visually, the person creating the screencast can talk about what's happening behind-the-scenes. One example is www.dinnernow.net, a ficticious restaurant delivery service.

This screencast begins with a few introductory PowerPoint slides (which Camtasia captures along with a voice narration), then shows a fictitious Web customer finding a local restaurant and placing an order.

Some Microsoft evangelists created an application that updates a shopping cart with Ajax, uses Windows CardSpace for identification, and uses Windows Workflow to take the finished order from approved credit card payment to delivery to your door. After a customer places an order (from the famous Northwind Bar & Grill), they can view the status of the order from a Windows Vista sidebar gadget.

jamescon said:

While the scenario sounds simple, what is interesting is that we've used several Microsoft technologies to show the entire lifecycle of orders. For example, the sample uses all of the .NET Framework 3.0 technologies (WPF, WCF, WF, & Windows CardSpace), PowerShell, MMC, SideBar gadgets, Linq, Virtual Earth, and more.

They posted the downloadable code at Codeplex.com and a nicely designed script (with all the steps to do the demo).

One fellow said "the only thing we couldn't get into v1 of this thing is the ability for it to flush toilets remotely. Never fear though, we are working hard to get this into a future release :-)"

"Here's a list of the technologies that we have in this thing:"

Although I’m not working with .NET 3.0 until the tools are released, I try to stay knowledgeable on things that are as inevitable as next Tuesday.

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