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Make a HowTo Screencast

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Making HowTo screencasts is one of HelpXplain's most outstanding abilities. Instead of having to get everything right in a video you just make a series of screenshots of the program you are documenting. HelpXplain then animates between the screenshots and moves a large mouse cursor, showing the user where to click.

The effect is almost exactly the same as a video HowTo, but it is much easier and faster to make and edit, without any of the stress of video. You can take as long as you like because screenshots are only made when you want and you can always remove them if necessary. If you make a mistake or forget something you don't need to repeat everything. You can delete or add screenshots anywhere in the screencast at any time.


prod_tip       Productivity Tip

See the Capture Tool topic for some important tips on using the capture tool effectively for screencasts.

Unique screencast features

You can preview the entire screencast while you are making it!

Captures left-clicks, right-clicks, selection and drag actions!

You can pause automatic screenshots and add manual ones at any time!

If you make a mistake you can delete the last step or all steps!

You can add steps later without having to redo the whole screencast!

Try any of those things with screen video capture!

How to make an Xplain screencast

Understanding how screencast screenshots are made

Automatic screenshots:

When you are making a screencast automatic screenshots are made when you click the mouse. Anything else you do, including typing, does not trigger a screenshot.

The automatic capture will reliably handle left-clicks, right-clicks, drag operations and selection with the mouse (effectively a drag).

Timing automatic screenshots:

Automatic screenshots are made before the mouse click reaches your program. To capture a menu and then a submenu, click on the submenu name quickly before the submenu pops open, then click in the submenu.

If a click opens a menu or dialog, it will make a screenshot without the menu or dialog. You need to click again or use the hotkey to make a second screenshot with the menu or dialog open.

Pausing automatic screenshots

You can pause automatic screenshots with the Record button in the top right corner. Then you can make changes in your program and then turn recording on again to proceed.

Manual screenshots

You can make an additional manual screenshot at any time by pressing the hotkey.

The default hotkey is PrtScr (Print Screen) but you can change this in the Screen Capture dialog displayed when you start.

This works both when automatic screenshots are on and when they are off.

The last screenshot

The last screenshot is made automatically when you select the Done icon to finish the screencast and load it into HelpXplain.

Applying settings to multiple or all slides

You can apply settings to all slides by selecting the Slides Overview in the Slides list on the left.


1.Select Slides Overview at the top of the Slides list on the left.

2.Click in the canvas editing area where the slides are shown.

3.Press CTRL+A to select all slides or use SHIFT+Click to select multiple slides one after another.

4.Choose the settings you want to change in the Properties pane on the right.

Tip: Don't activate slide transitions in screencasts!

In a screencast slide transition animation is disabled by default and you don't want to switch it on. Screencasts work by quickly switching between slides without animation. Combined with the animated mouse pointer and the way the dialogs appear and disappear when the slides are switched, this creates the illusion of a movie. If you animate slide transitions that doesn't work.

Just select Show (no animation) as the transition for the slide. To select it for all slides:

1.Select Slides Overview and click on any slide in the editor window on the right. Then press CTRL+A to select all slides.

2.In the Presentation Properties pane on the right select Show (no animation) under the Transition heading.

Tip: Typewriter Text animation

Every element that you add to a slide can be animated. You can make elements appear in order to guide your user through what you wan to explain to them. See Animating Slide Content for details on how to animate elements in slides.

When you are adding a series of instructions the Typewriter Text animation is a great way to guide your users through the tutorial. This animation "types" the text on the screen one character at a time. If you adjust the duration to reading speed the user will automatically follow the instructions from one step to the next.


You can see this in action in the Xplain under the "What went wrong" heading further below on this page.

You can use the Typewriter Text animation on any element containing text. Just select the element, then select the Typewriter Text animation for it in the Animations tab and set the duration and delay.

Changing your screencast: Deleting and adding slides

In contrast to video screencasts, you can insert and remove steps in a HelpXplain screencast very easily. You don't need to repeat the entire screencast just to correct a small mistake or add something you forgot.

If you want to add multiple new steps you will want to use the Insert Screencast mode – see Inserting / Adding To Screencasts for details on how to do this. However, you can also use the add slide/screenshot tool to quickly add individual steps. Here's an example of how to do this with a quick screencast with a couple of typical errors:

Replace Text in Notepad++

What went wrong:

When making the screencast I clicked on the Edit menu first, instead of on Search. Also, I forgot to make a slide of the open Search dialog that I wanted to illustrate. In HelpXplain, this is very easy to fix:

Correcting mistakes in screencasts

And here is the corrected version

Replace Text in Notepad++

Tip: Leave the window of the program you are documenting open while you are working on the screencast. If you don't change its dimensions you can easily and seamlessly add additional slides to the screencast.

How to delete slides

Delete a slide:

1.Select the slide in the Slides list on the left.

2.Press the DELETE key on your keyboard or right-click on the slide entry and select Delete Slide.

Mouse cursor movement will not be disturbed by this. The mouse cursor will simply reference the cursor position in the slide that is now the next slide in the list.

How to add to an existing screencast

You can also seamlessly add additional steps to a screencast with the Insert Screencast tool in the Picture tool in the Home tab. See Inserting / Adding To Screencasts for full instructions,

How to delete add new static slides

An addition to inserting new screencast components, you can also add new static slides. This is the same as adding a slide to any Xplain.

Add a new slide:

New slides are added after the currently selected slide.

1.In the Slides list on the left, select the slide after which you want to add the new slide.

2.Open the New Slide tool and choose the kind of content you want to insert (blank slide, a screenshot, a picture and so on).

You may need to adjust the position and animation of the mouse cursor after inserting the new screenshot. To adjust the animation, select the cursor, then check its settings in the Animations tab. See Animating Slide Content for details on how to animate elements in slides.