Help users help themselves with built-in Microsoft tools

Credit to Scott Hanselman for reminding me of this very helpful tool with his blog post entitled Helpyour users record and report bugs with the Problem Steps Recorder. Below are the same highlights from Mr. Hanselman’s blog with a few of my own notes as to additional features of this tool.

When you are technically inclined you tend to get a lot of “support requests” from friends and family. Even at work various colleges may come up with scenarios where they have a problem and would like your assistance with resolving the problem. However, often is the case where the problem is “no-repo” or in normal speak not reproducible, as is often listed next to various items in numerous bug reports. With Windows 7 Microsoft has provided a nice utility that can, hopefully, make it easier for you, the professional geek, to have a user help themselves by being able to provide you with the needed info to reproduce the issue in question.

The name of this fabulous tool is the Problem Steps Recorder (available starting with Windows 7);  this little gem is quite straight forward for any user at any expertise level to navigate. The UI only has three buttons, Start Record, Stop Record and Add Comment. I will mention that there are settings having to do with frame captures and location to drop files, but the default of 25 frames would seem to be plenty and once a user clicks Stop Record they are prompted for where they would like to save the results so I would assume that most users will not need to access these settings.

The shortest way to get to the tool is via the start menu any typing Steps or PSR. The EXTRA LONG way is, Start Menu --> Control Panel --> Troubleshooting --> Get help from a friend (left side of screen) --> Problem Steps Recorder (bottom of screen)

Problem Steps Recorder
available starting with Windows 7

I believe the first two buttons speak for themselves, the third button, when pressed, after pressing Start Record, allows the user to create a rectangular area highlighted on the current screen as well as add a comment that will be added to the final results.

The results are a single MHT file. MHT is short for MIME HTML, which essentially allows a single file to contain both the words and images of a webpage, along with the layout of course. This is then packaged into a ZIP file for easier transport, since the MHT would include the screen shots represented as text the file site can be quite large.

After the user presses Stop Record then can use the drop down arrow next to the question mark and send the an e-mail with the resulting ZIP file attached, dependent of course on the user having an e-mail client setup on the OS.

The results contain quite a bit of useful information, the most direct are the screen shots with notations of the actions the user took as well as the order taken, and this can even be viewed as a slide show. Another useful feature is the “Additional Details” section of the report which shows specific program information and more details about the UI elements being interacted with.

In summary, the PSR tool can be seen as a simple screen capture based on user clicks along with the ability to add notations and detailed results to review later.

Additional resources:


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