NOBODY READS THE MANUAL

Camtasia“Nobody reads the manual,” cry the tech support people. And it’s true. Manuals are boring, hard to understand and sometimes dead wrong (that’s because the manual is often written and printed before the product is finished).

So let’s give up on that part and just wait for the movie. The movie is the video demo part. It’s simply a how-to-do-it show that someone has recorded and placed online or on disk. It’s one of the best ways to show someone how to use a new program, learn to dance the tango or clean a jet engine. There are a couple programs to help us along.

Some companies use “GotoMeeting,” which allows them to do a video demonstration over the Internet in real time. But if everyone’s not there to see it, it makes more sense to have a video that can be played back on a web-site or sent in an email. For that purpose, Camtasia Studio moves to the fore. It is used by Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, the FBI, IRS, Federal Reserve and other biggies to show the folks out front how things work and what to do about it. Flickr.com, one of the largest photo-sharing site on the web, uses Camtasia videos on its site.

The new Camtasia Studio 6 from TechSmith lets you create high definition video in low-definition file sizes. For instance, a test video that was 398 megabytes with the old Camtasia 5 took up only 14 megabytes with the new version, and looked just as good. Another new feature lets you edit the audio portion of the video separately. That way, if you make a mistake while you’re talking through a training session, you can fix the audio portion and leave the video alone.

New Camtasia hot-keys make video creation much faster. You can add call-outs (printed comments that provide extra information about some point) just by pressing the letter “C” on your keyboard. You can do transitions between frames or subjects just by pressing “T.” Usability studies show that this kind of thing cuts creation time by two-thirds.

Where do you post your videos when you’re finished creating them? Techsmith used to charge an arm and a leg to let you post them at their ScreenCast.com site, but now that’s free. You get two gigabytes of storage space as well as usage statistics on who’s watching which video.

At $299, Camtasia is less than half the price of its nearest competitor, Adobe Captivate. You can get a free trial at Camtasia.com.

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