With screencasting software, one can easily generate a visual knowledge base, such as a video that teaches mail merge from a word processor. ScreenToaster is a browser-based tool that enables the creation of a screencast video.

This edition of NetSpeak explores the latest offerings in the screencasting realm.

The process of capturing the screenshots of one’s activities on a computer continuously and assembling them into a video is called screencasting.

In the past (http://www.hindu.com/2007/08/27/stories/2007082750021500.htm ), we discussed several tools meant for this purpose. Most tools discussed then were desktop-based. This means you need to download/install the screencasting software to generate a screencast video. Here, we introduce a few web based screencasting solutions.

Take for instance, while on the Net you need to demonstrate the mail merge facility of a word processing package. Instead of explaining the whole process in words, if you demonstrate the same graphically he/she may understand it better.

With the help of a screencasting software one can easily generate a mail merge screencast and mail it to the client. However, if you are on a public machine this may not be feasible without an on-line solution. The free on-line service, ScreenToaster ( http://www.screentoaster.com /), is one such web-based screencasting service worth a look in this regard.

ScreenToaster that runs on your browser allows you to generate a screencast video with a couple of mouse clicks. Once registered with the service, log-in to it and simply click on the ‘Start Recording’ button. When the system is ready, select the screen area and begin the recording process. Besides adding audio content, screentoaster lets you enrich the screencast with video content too (via webcam). Once the screencast is created, you can upload the video to ScreenToaster’s server or save it locally.

We all know that the popular social messaging/microblogging application Twitter has become a prominent communication tool for netizens across the globe. An advantage of Twitter is that it lets you send a message to a group of people in one shot. Many applications are being built around Twitter to exploit its groupcast facility. Screenr (http://screenr.com /), the web based screencasting application, is yet another instance of this ever-growing Twitter application eco system. Besides helping you generate a screencast without having to install a program, screenr allows you to instantly tweet it too.

Now, in case your demonstrations are mainly browser based ones (creating a Google search tutorial is an apt instance), the screen capture extension, ‘Capture Fox’ (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/8090 ) could come in handy. Once integrated with Firefox, this extension plants an icon at the bottom of the browser. To capture the screenshots, just click on this icon and select the appropriate options (like capture area and video quality) and click the icon again to terminate the capturing process. The video generated thus can be saved as an AVI file.

Greenshot

For various tasks many of us take screen images — it could be for enriching a PowerPoint presentation or could be for writing a tutorial or for something similar to those tasks. Generally, we use ‘Alt-PrintScreen’ or ‘PrintScreen’ to capture the screen. But Windows screen shot capture has limitations. For instance, it fails if one wishes to capture a portion of an application window. The free open source software GreenShot (http://greenshot.sourceforge.net /) assumes significance here. Once GreenShot becomes active, it takes over the PrintScreen key and offers an option to select an area of the screen to be captured. GreenShot captures the selected part and loads the captured image on its editor. Now you can edit or add annotations to it and save it as an image file.

Google Translate client

Google Translate (http://translate.google.com /#) enables you to translate text and web pages from one language (like English) to another (say Hindi). A shortcoming of this service is that to get the text translated you need to either upload the document or paste it on the service’s input box. This means, while composing an article on one’s wordprocessor (say MS-Word), if one wishes to see its Hindi version, she has to interrupt her work, move over to the Google translate’s web page and then copy/paste the sentence. This is certainly not a pleasant solution. Ideally, one needs a solution that enables to obtain the translated content directly from the application (in this case MS-Word). The free software, ‘Client for Google Translate’ (http://translateclient.com / ) helps you do exactly this. To translate the text from an application simply select it, click on the icon that pops up and in a few seconds you will find the translated version of the selected text.

A new search service

Information search is a huge business on the Net and to exploit this growing market new search services/technologies surface regularly. The latest entrant in this arena is Yebol (http://yebol.com / ). Like other search engines Yebol also offers a list of web links. Aside this, it presents a categorised output as well. Depending on the search string the categories also change.

For instance, if you search for the term economics, Yebol weaves a result page with clusters such as ‘related topics’ ‘top or authoritative sites’, news related to economics, twitter tweets with the word economics etc.

He can be contacted at: jmurali@gmail.com