Easiest way to add video to your tech comm

A very cheap and easy way to add video – or more honestly: almost video – to your documentation is to use animated gifs. In less formal, less complex settings, that can be totally sufficient.

For example, a translator asked us for the list of Flare topics that correspond to the table of contents. And I want to show other writers how to get such a list out of Flare. It’s a couple of clicks in the TOC editor which can easily be illustrated in an animated gif:

How to export a list of topic names and files names from Flare's table of contents

The gif above was created using the freeware LICECap which records screen movements and mouse-clicks. The 30-second “video” took 5 minutes to throw together, it’s 407 KB large and displays in any web browser without any codecs.

It’s certainly not the most professional way ever devised and there are no use controls whatsoever – but if you just need to illustrate a few clicks, this will let you get the job done quickly and for free!

Oh, and if you’re using Flare, you might have picked up a trick for the TOC editor along the way… 🙂


8 Responses

  1. I love gifs…seriously, another technical writer colleague of mine and me have been discussing how useful gifs are and that we need to see a resurgence of them online (and in technical documentation)!

  2. Hallo Kai
    Nice! In a recent discussion, I heard people talking about animated PNGs. They have some advantages over the gifs (suppor for 24-bit images and 8-bit transparency) but not all browsers support them. This page has some interesting demos of both gifs and APNGs: http://people.mozilla.com/~dolske/apng/demo.html
    Cheers, Sarah

    • Hi, Sarah!

      Huh, I wasn’t aware of animated GIFs, so thanks for bringing them to my attention!

      But, ah: The site you link to informs my that, indeed, my browser doesn’t support them… 😦

      Actually, virtually universal out-of-the-box support without any codecs is to me one of the strongest selling points for using animated GIFs, seeing that they’re a bit retro and awkward in other regards…

      But it’s always good to know what’s out there and to have different tools in one’s box…! 🙂

  3. Hi Kai Thanks for the tip. This could be very handy.
    I was wondering though, how do you include the timer in the gif?

    • You’re welcome, Gary.

      You can include the timer in the “Choose file for recording” window: Select the “Display in animation > elapsed time” check box.

      The main reason I include the timer is to give readers any idea where they are in the “video”, since they have no control over it.

  4. And, as well as picking up a useful tip about the TOC editor, I have recently discovered that SnagIt 11 supports video capture as well as screen capture. This creates MPEG4 files, and you can also create an account which gives you some web space to share and post any videos you create, so you can send links to all your friends.

    If you don’t have SnagIt, then you can download Jing for free from here: http://www.techsmith.com/jing.html, which gives the same video capture functionality, and the web space. Although I struggle to understand why anyone should not have SnagIt. I love it, love it, love it!

    The Jing/SnagIt video capture does show a progress bar along the bottom when you play it back.

    • Thanks, titch990, for pointing out this alternative. Sounds like there’s no excuse for not having at least simple, fast screencasts in one online documentation… 🙂

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