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Help with Online Help: Embedding Recorded Movements
1996, Nov-Dec (June 19, 2007)
by Ann-Marie Grissino

Have you ever thought it might be easier to show someone how to do something rather than explain it in words? A resounding "YES!" from us all. Now, have you ever wanted to do this in a help file? Ahh, this is verrry interesting.

For example, you may need to create the help file for an application your company is developing. One of the dialog boxes is particularly tricky to get to and use. You can record screen movements showing how to do it.

You can take the file that includes your recorded screen movements and include it in your email messages or include it in the help file associated with your company's software.

Here are the general steps to record your screen movements and include the resulting file in online help:
  1. Record screen movements.
  2. Save the file as an *.EXE file.
  3. Place the EXE file in the directory in the same directory as your help file.
  4. Use RoboHelp to insert the WinHelp macro.

Recording Screen Movements

Lotus ScreenCam is a great utility for recording screen movements:
  1. Open ScreenCam
  2. Open up the application you want to record. Practice performing the actions you want to record. You want to complete the steps as smoothly as possible, so that when you record the steps, you don't see jerky cursor movements.
  3. When you performed the steps smoothly, display the starting point for your recording. For example, if you're starting from the application's main menu, then display the main menu.
  4. Click on the ScreenCam recording window to bring it to focus.
    The window shows that you can record:
    • Sound only (Mic), if you have a sound card installed
    • Both screen movements and sound (Both)
    • Just screen movements (Cam).
  5. Click on Rec. From this point, until you click on the Stop icon at the bottom of your screen, ScreenCam records your cursor movements. Perform the actions you want to record.
  6. When finished recording, click Stop.
  7. To play it back, click Play.
  8. From ScreenCam's File menu, choose Save. Save the "movie" as an *.SCM file.
  9. From the ScreenCam's File menu, choose Export.
  10. Choose to export the movie as a Standalone Movie *.EXE file.

Inserting the WinHelp Macro

Next, you want to add a macro in your help file that launches executable files (*.EXE files). You do this with the "ExecProgram" macro. You need to put your ScreenCam file in your online help directory.

This article uses Blue Sky's RoboHelp 3.0 as the help authoring tool.
  1. Open your help file.
  2. Go to the topic where you want to insert
the recorded screen movements.
  1. From RoboHelp's Insert menu, choose Insert Help Macro Hotspot. The Insert Link to Help Macro dialog box appears.
  2. Use this dialog box to enter the text that you want to appear as your hypertext. You can optionally use a graphic in addition to, or instead of, text.
  3. Click on Macro.
  4. Click on the arrow adjacent to the Choose a Macro to Insert box. A list of macros appears.
  5. Choose the "ExecProgram" macro. The syntax is:
  6. Between the quotes, enter the *.EXE filename that includes your recorded screen movements. Point to the location where you stored the file. The WinHelp engine looks for the file in this order: the current directory, the Windows directory, the user's path, and the directory of the currently viewed Help file.
    HINT 1: To debug your macro, insert the ScreenCam file in the same directory as WINHELP.EXE. When you've successfully created the Help file and can launch the executable, then move the ScreenCam file to your online help directory and make sure to point to its location.
    HINT 2: Make sure you've entered straight quotes, not curly quotes. The curly quote format confuses the macro. Disable Winword's Autoformat option which inserts "Smart" quotes over "Straight" quotes.
  7. Enter "42" (for the 0) to represent how you want to display the EXE application. The value of "42" tells the WinHelp engine to display the file fully maximized. Other values let you display it in other ways, for example, minimized.
  8. Click Insert to insert the macro in the Insert Link to Help Macro window.
  9. Click OK.
  10. As usual, save your file, save it as an .RTF file and generate the .HLP file.

Finishing Up

That's it!
  1. Run the help file. Go to the topic where you inserted the recorded screen movements.
  2. Double-click on the hypertext associated with the help macro you just inserted. The ScreenCam display window appears and then your recorded movements appear. ScreenCam also displays a small window that lets your online help users play the movie again or exit.

To close the ScreenCam window, click Exit.

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