Friday, March 27, 2009

JING - Inserting flash movies into PowerPoint

Have heard a lot about Jing as a great screen capture utility. Some key features of the free version:

  1. Image and video with/without audio capture

  2. Integrated upload to server

  3. Annotation tools - arrows, text, rectangles

  4. Cool interface

I tried it out and while it works as stated I found several issues

  1. The video saves only as swf files (for free version)

  2. The end of the video has a Jing splash page which means you would not use this for any professional use. (the Pro version does not have this)

  3. It does not allow one to select a particluar application window - just has cross hairs to select an area.

So if you want to capture static images from your screen, it works fine but there are several other similar tools to choose from. I found this review by Matthew Ellison which includes reviews of 2 free utilities ScreenHunter 5 Free and TNT ScreenCapture 2.1. Of course One Note does a great job of grabbing the screen shots and then letting you annotate them. The good old method of [Print Screen] and then pasting into your favorite image editing application works too.

For screencasting software or video screen capture (used for software training) I found a list on Wikipedia. In addition Microsoft has a simple tool called community clips recorder.

Having made these screencasts I wanted to put them into a PowerPoint presentation. This was easier said than done. You cannot just insert the swf file created by Jing into PowerPoint. You have to go through some steps which are not difficult. These are outlined here by Geetesh Bajaj. The key step there is to get the Shockwave Flash ActiveX control. Surprisingly neither Microsoft nor Adobe provide this control! But you can get it by just searching in Google.

Summary of steps (PowerPoint 2003):(added 3/28/09)

  1. Save/copy the flash movie to the same folder as your PowerPoint file
  2. Go to the slide where you want the movie to show
  3. View >> Toolbars >> Control toolbar
  4. On Control Toolbox >> click on More Controls >> Scroll down to
    Shockwave Flash Object
  5. If you don't have this option, Google for Shockwave Flash Object ActiveX
    control and install it.
  6. Drag the cross-hairs on your slide and size and position the object
  7. Right click on the window and choose Properties
  8. In the table that pops up do the following:
    a) Opposite Movie type in
    the name of your swf file (since it is in the same folder you don't need to type
    the entire path)
    b) Change Embed to True
  9. Now run the slide show and you should be able to see the movie!

The next big challenge is to navigate the slide show with the flash movie playing. The normal keyboard arrow key shortcuts do not work to go to next or previous slide while the Flash movie is playing. The best option is to create some action buttons for next and previous slides on the master slide. Make these quite small and size the flash control so that these buttons are not hidden. Then you can navigate the slide show and if you get your timing down you can jump to the next slide just before the Jing Splash page shows up at the end of the movie. If you are going to create the show as a tutorial for someone else to navigate, might be best to set up timings. You can do this by Slide show>> Slide transition >> Advance slide automatically after XX seconds (depending on length of movie).

Have fun!