The Problem Steps Recorder, a Windows 7 application, is a typical example of the tiny enhancements that every new Windows version has to offer. Once you get used to them, you wonder how you ever could have worked without them. The Problem Steps Recorder is a very simple tool that end users can use, to demonstrate problems they have with a certain application to service desk personal.
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To start using the tool, you type "Problem Steps," or just "PSR," in the Start Search. PSR has only three functions: "Start Recording," "Add Comment," and "Stop Recording". PSR will take a screenshot of the whole screen whenever you click with the mouse or launch a new function within an application. Mouse clicks trigger a small red spot above the mouse pointer to signify that another step has been recorded.
You can add a short comment for every step, which is displayed above the corresponding screenshot. This is useful if the screenshot alone doesn't make it clear what actions have been performed. I have to wonder, though, why PSR makes the corresponding screenshots gray. This doesn't really improve their readability. Screenshots without a comment automatically use the action you have performed as a title.
All screenshots are saved in an MHT file, which can be opened with Internet Explorer. After the list of screenshots comes a log file that contains all actions, including additional information, like the application's version number. The MHT document is compressed as ZIP file, which the user then has to send to the help desk.
The only problem I have with the Problem Steps Recorder is that the screenshots are a little too small. Their resolution varies according to screen resolution and is approximately a fifth of the screen size. Short-sighted admins have to come close to the screen to be able to read everything, especially if the font size on the user's PC is very small. However, you can enlarge the screenshots with Internet Explorer's zoom function (CTRL + mouse wheel). This will blur the images, but at least you can read everything without pressing your nose against the screen.
It would be nice if PSR could also take screenshots of only the problematic application, rather than the whole screen. Of course, this might be asking too much from users, who might feel frustrated with configuring a troubleshooting tool before using it. After all, the best thing about PSR is that it is very easy to use.
I guess there are third party tools with a similar functionality as the Windows 7 Problems Steps Recorder (Do you know one?). However, PSR's big plus is that it is already installed on every machine.
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