Fast tutorial generation! Quickly documenting process steps to make a “how to” article

How many times does someone ask you how to do something on a computer and you find yourself typing out a set of instructions…”step 1 is: go to start menu, step 2 is right mouse click, step 3 is…”, then start abbreviating words like “right mouse click” into RMC and open up PowerPoint to start making screenshots, yada yada yada until finally you have carpel tunel and the person you were trying to help has already found someone else to show them?  Well if this sounds like you, you’re in luck…and your savior is–believe it or not–Microsoft Windows and their Problem Steps Recorder tool, labeled in Windows 7 as, “Record steps to reproduce a problem” tool!!


Handy little tool to record your screen and describe how you arrived at a problem or to document a process.

Handy little tool to record your screen and describe how you arrived at a problem or to document a process.

I heard about this cool little tool from a colleague at work and it has saved me tons of time making instructional aides for some tools were building at work and to also show IT how to arrive at the same problem I’m experiencing on my computers.

With this little program, you can set a limit to how many screenshots it takes but what is really nice is that it highlights which section of the screen your mouse is on and what you clicked.  This way the person you’re helping can walk through the process.  Best part, you don’t have to be there and you can simply say, “Hey, read through this tutorial I made you and let me know if you have any questions.”  This way you minimize the amount of time you spend re-teaching people things and you focus on the tougher questions which are more fun anyways!  Easiest way to find it is to hit the start button and go to search, then type “steps” and it will be the first hit.

I suppose there are other modern tools now like YouTube and screen recording which can do the same thing, but if you’re stuck behind a corporate firewall and you don’t feel like adding captions to your videos, this is a quick alternative.  Plus most companies use Microsoft Office products.

Just to wrap up, once you stop recording, the program asks you to save a ZIP file, which is not the file type I’d recommend sending to the people you want to help.  Instead, extract the files and then open that weird file (*.mht) into Microsoft Word and you can edit any part you want.

Here’s a sample of what you can create with this great little app!

how-to-tweet tutorial

Just some reminders though:

  1. Recognize what apps you have open and realize that the program will be taking screenshots of whatever you’re doing.  Make sure it’s all public-worthy content
  2. Try to mentally plan out your steps to repeat the “problem” or “process”.  You’ll see in my example that I barely tweet and their interface first drew me towards searching, then private messaging and then I finally found the “tweet” section.
  3. Perform a “find and replace” for “Problem” if in fact you’re showing a “process”.
  4. Don’t forget to post your work so people can learn from your mistakes!  🙂

Enjoy and please share if you found this useful!  Otherwise, post your comments and questions below!!  Happy process / problem documenting!



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