Over the years, I’ve picked out a collection of tools and practices that make it quick and easy to explain how to do things in detail, without resorting to lengthy technical descriptions or spending too much time thinking about how to explain what I’m looking at. Sometimes it’s best to just show instead of tell.
Here’s my list:
Even though I’m a Mac user, I have Windows XP and Windows 7 installed through VMWare Fusion, which runs them inside Mac OS X. This means they’re available when I need to use them to solve a problem that’s specific to those operating systems.
Link: VMWare Fusion
Adium is an instant message client that connects to my Google Talk, Facebook, and AIM accounts so I’m readily available to friends and family. Usually it’s for conversation, but when my help is needed to fix a problem, I’m there.
Dropbox + GrabBox
I never use words when a screenshot will get the point across more clearly. GrabBox is a little menu bar item that uploads screenshots to Dropbox for me and copies the link to my clipboard, so I can paste it into an instant message and add a few words for context.
Links: Dropbox, GrabBox
Skype (Screen Sharing)
When I just want to demonstrate how to do something live and I don’t need to record it, I use Skype’s screen sharing tool to show the person on the other end what’s on my screen while I explain it. This also lets me answer questions about what I’m doing. It’s great for situations where I’m not exactly sure what the other person needs to know, but I’m confident I can figure it out with them.
Quicktime Player (Screen Recording)
When I want to record a short video of how to do something, I usually use Quicktime Player’s built-in screen recording feature. Most people don’t know this feature exists, but you can find it by opening Quicktime Player and clicking on the File menu. When I’m done, I save the video to Dropobx, right-click it and copy the link, and paste it into an email or instant message.
Link: Quicktime Player (Mac OS X version only)
Screenflow is a full-featured screen recording tool for capturing and editing more complex screencasts. It can trim video clips, add call-outs, zoom, and record video from your desktop and webcam at the same time. When I’m done, I’ll either save it to Dropbox and share it from there, or upload it as a private video on YouTube and link to that.
That’s my list. What’s on yours? If you’re using something that I should know about, shoot me an email – I’m always on the lookout for new and better tools.