Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, June 29, 2001

Creating interactive learning tutorials for software

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June, 2001

In this article:

1. Viewlet builder
2. Camtasia + Dub It
3. Runaware

Viewlet builder
= must have

ViewletBuilder lets you create animated online demos of how software works. The new version is the most effective tool yet, for presenting software, IT-solutions and Web-based applications.

Viewlet Builder is a software application that allows you to easily record any computer screen actions, and to record them in a file. In the recording you have the equivalent of a good video, as you can resee and control in a step-by-step fashion each and every action you have performed.

In addition you can add voice comment and narration to this video recording, as well as graphic or textual captions that will help emphasize or explain the purpose of a certain menu or button.

Cursors move, menus open, and selections are made - all while audio voiceovers, text balloons and notes explain the action.

Interaction with the viewer can also be introduced through "click zones," "text zones" and "pause zones." Additionally, active URLs and e-mail addresses may even be embedded within the Viewlets themselves, creating an opportunity to build interactive decision trees.

It's like looking over the shoulder of a virtual expert while he demonstrates product features or shows you how to solve specific problems.

This software lends itself well also to technical support or customer service needs of many kinds. Companies that offer online support, live and die according to how hassle-free and user-friendly their services are.

Unsurprisingly, the top online help sites (as ranked by PC Magazine), have all made adopted Viewlets as an integral part of their customer service and technical support solutions.

Viewlets can be viewed on any operating system, users can start, quit, rewind, and fast forward Viewlets anytime they please.

Creating Viewlets is very easy. ViewletBuilder, the Viewlet authoring tool, is so user-friendly, that even a complete novice can create a usable tutorial within a few hours.

Viewlets lend themselves particularly well to the web environment as they are small in file size and can be downloaded rapidly.

Customers who purchase the Viewlet Builder application, can fully customize and brand each Viewlet interface with their organization branding and identity components.

Viewlets are simple, reliable, visually rich and enjoyable to the user. No plug-ins are necessary and file size is small, providing an effective experience even on slow modem connections.

It is possible to download Qarbon's Viewlet Freeware Edition of their authoring tool which allows you to start creating compelling e-learning content immediately.

The "Viewlets" created with the freeware edition are saved on Qarbon's servers and are dispayed with an advertising banner on top of them.

To see a real viewlet in action go to: viewletbuilder/
and click on the large blu button, on the right side, labelled "Watch a Viewlet". You will get an empty window for a few seconds, and then you will be able to see what viewlets are all about.


Viewlets require no plug-ins so end-users stay on your site.

Viewlets can be viewed on any operating system

End users can send e-mails or link to the Web from within a Viewlet.

Live tests for high-end tutorials introduce possibilities for interaction with the viewer.

Completed Viewlets can be uploaded for free to the ViewletFarm, Qarbon's dedicated servers.

ViewletBuilder is fully compatible with Unicode character (2 bytes), so Viewlets can be created in any language.

ViewletBuilder is available in English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified) and Korean - (simply download ViewletBuilder and select the language of your choice from within the program).

Very easy to use and learn. Immediate application.


You can create bannerless Viewlets only in the professional version.

Price maybe too high for many small to medium organizations and companies. Prohibitive for individuals.


Though the real competitors are the ones you will read about below, see a comparison chart showcasing Qarbon's Viewlets next to PowerPoint, Screencam, Flash, Director and Toolbook at: viewletbuilder/comparison.html

This is the IT demonstration tool that I would like to use myself. Too bad the professional version is so expensive (USD $ 999).

ViewletBuilder is available for Solaris, Linux, and Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000 versions.

Download Viewlet Builder at:

Click here to go to the top of this page !

Camtasia + Dub it
= must have

Compared to Qarbon's Viewlet Builder, Camtasia is a much less sophisticated tool to create computer tutorials, as it is based on a much more traditional approach. Camtasia records infact actual movies of your screen activites, which while greatly optimized and compressed, do generally create relatively very large files.

The Camtasia suite of tools makes it easy to record, edit and publish high fidelity, compressed videos for computer based training, technical support solutions and product demonstrations.

The program is designed to fully optimize such large files, by compressing them in unique ways, and providing facilities to add voice narrations or comments through a complementary application called "Dub it".

The interface is simple and easy to use. The company who has developed it, Techsmith, has a small array of image-related applications, which are worth many times their price.

TechSmith specializes in capture tools let you grab, edit, and transform image, text, video and voice.

What Camtasia exactly does is to capture the action and sound from any part of the Windows desktop while saving it to a standard AVI movie file or streaming video.

You can share your Camtasia screen recordings on a Web site, distribute them via e-mail, to an Intranet or on a CD-ROM.

With the Camtasia Recorder it is possible to capture cursor movements, menu selections, pop-up windows, typing and everything else you see on your screen.

By using Camtasia's powerful ScreenPad annotation feature, one can also add callouts, logos and graphics "while" recording a movie.

One other interesting feature is the ability of Camtasia to apply real-time effects like cursor and object highlighting, graphic and image annotations, watermarks, time stamps, captioning and audible mouse clicks.

You can for example "move in" for a closer look with zoom. Also possible is the ability to "pan" the capture frame across the screen to show more detail.

Among Camtasia tools is also the Camtasia Producer. This is a non-linear editing program which has simple and straightforward facilities to do video edits with AVI clips. With the Producer it is possible to easily add transitions and other effects to any video.

Finally, a unique feature that makes the program really stand out is the "Live Broadcast" option. With it you can actually broadcast your screen over the Internet in real-time. Camtasia simulates a hardware PC camera and works with streaming media encoders, video conferencing and webcam applications. All of Camtasia's special effects such as annotations, watermarks and cursor highlighting are available using this feature.

Modify videos created by Camtasia with other AVI editors and play your Camtasia productions with Windows Media Player and RealNetworks RealPlayer.

Add Audio Narrate your Camtasia video while you record your movie. Or, use DubIt (included free of charge with Camtasia) to add narration and sound effects to any AVI movie while you view it.

Include AVI's you have created with Camtasia Recorder or incorporate an AVI file from another source.

Compress your videos into an e-mail friendly executable using Pack and Show.

There are no charges, royalties or licensing requirements for distributing movies encoded with TSCC or with distributing the codec to others for viewing.

It is cost effective. Only USD $149.95

Camtasia files are not comparable with Viewlets in size. This makes them more apt for in class applications with the tutorials installed on the hard disk or played from a CD-ROM.

TSCC is the default method of compressing/decompressing video in Camtasia Recorder. While the default codec can easily be changed to any of the standard Windows codecs, the company recommends to use TSCC when recording your videos with Camtasia.

When a video is compressed with TSCC, anyone wishing to view the movie must have TSCC installed on his or her computer.

In order to make this feasible there are a few options one can choose to implement:

Capture Codec: Use Pack and Show to package your video with TSCC to create a single executable.

Distribute a copy of the codec installer, TSCC.exe, which is available on the Camtasia CD-ROM and on our Web site. Copy TSCC.EXE onto the same media where your movie distribution resides and either have your installer run it at installation time or instruct the user to do so.

For TSCC compressed content delivered on the Internet, an ActiveX control is available that can be embedded in a Web page to automatically install the TSCC codec when a user lands on the page using Microsoft Internet Explorer web browser. This very small control checks if TSCC needs to be installed or updated and if so, downloads and installs it.

Several videos created with Camtasia are available for viewing at: studio/examplevideos.asp

System Requirements:
Microsoft Windows 95 OSR2, 98, Me, NT 4.0, 2000 or later version 90 MHz processor (400 MHz recommended) 16 MB RAM (64 MB recommended) Windows-compatible sound card and microphone (recommended) 12 MB of hard-disk space for program installation.


Manufacturers suggested retail price is $149.95, including free on-line upgrades to the next two major releases.

Download Camtasia's Getting Started Guide
(Microsoft Word DOC - 148K bytes) for instructions on how to use Camtasia. camtasia/getstart.doc

DubIt and Camtasia are available for a free trial evaluation.
The evaluation periods for Camtasia and DubIt are 30 days.

Download Camtasia free for 30 days at: camtasia/download.asp

Click here to go to the top of this page !

= breakthrough tool

Runaware is the first independent online software evaluation community where leading software companies put their latest products to the test - featuring authentic, full versions - to try out, and with no service fee to pay for this unique service.

Runaware AB, a privately held company based in Stockholm, Sweden, has developed a radically new way of evaluating and purchasing software applications online.

Runaware is a new type of service which allows you to test online any new software application, without downloading it.

It is a great solution for software publishers and distributors as well as a way for users to easily try out new software before buying it.

Today, Runaware offers the evaluation of complete software applications without a single download or installation (after the inital 1MB Java applet required).

Software evaluations are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and free of charge.

It must be said, that you do need some powerful computing resources and a good connection to the internet to try this service out. Being a Java-based type of application it requires a Java-enabled browser (any recent one will do) and at least a Pentium III class PC with a 56K or better connection.

Through the use of Java technology, the service empowers any user to actually "run" the tested application online, and to fully try out any of its features.

If you have the right computing resources I strongly suggest you give a look to this promising technology and service.

You can also easily search for software and tools which have specific characteristics and try those immediately at Runaware.

Many major and popular applications are hosted at Runaware. It is possible to evaluate everything from the most advanced CAD-software, the latest versions of Dreamweaver and Flash and even smaller software enabling you to print your own ID-cards.

System requirements:
Java-enabled browser (Netscape Navigator 4+ and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 and 5+) and computer with internet connection (56Kbps or better)

On a Mac Runaware succesfully runs with Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 and Microsoft's Java Engine installed.

Problems maybe also experienced due to your company or ISP using a firewall or proxy. You may need to contact your Firewall administrator to possibly open Port 443 or if you use a proxy server the web proxy (8080) and SOCKS proxy (1080) ports should also be available.

To run and evaluate on Runaware a standard Java applet need to be downloaded.

This applet is approximately 1 MB and will require a up to 5 minutes download (on a slow modem connection).

This applet only needs to be installed once.

Your browser may return messages asking for your permission to download the Java client - Tarantella Framework Java Archive from Santa Cruz Operations, Inc (SCO). Just press "Yes" or "Grant" - depending on your browser version and OS.


It works with software from any operating system. Mac, Linux, Windows, etc.

It allows software publishers to easily provide a trial version of their software to any prospective customer with an internet connection.

Opens up an endless number of possibilities for the marketing and training of software applications and IT tools of any kind.

Runaware is an online service which allows you to evaluate software applications. Print and Save functions are disabled, and you cannot upload files to their systems.

Java is still a hog for most of us, "standard" end users. The application feels "slow" unless you really have a powerful computer and a great connection.


Try it out now at:

Readers' Comments    
2007-11-08 02:44:52


Great post! I thought you might interested in another screencasting tool helps you to create software video tutorials and training courses.


Records screen activities and enables you to enhance the tutorial by adding narrations and animations.


posted by Robin Good on Friday, June 29 2001, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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