Sunday 9 November 2014

Microsoft Expression Encoder

This post is not in response to a specific problem or question, but could be a response to a potential question from some one.

I was looking for a cost effective and easy to use tool for capturing screens and produce videos. There are many tools, in the freeware, shareware and commercial category for the purpose. But the one that I find interesting is the one from Microsoft, the Expression Encoder. While Microsoft has stopped supporting the commercial version of the product, the same is available as a free download. I am sure, many of you might know about this, but for those who are not, this post will give a glimpse, so that one can start using it and see its advantages.

Expression Encoder Pro is a component of the Expression Studio, which is currently not sold as a product. In addition to Expression Encoder Pro, the studio also bundles with it Expression Web, Expression Blend and Expression Design. Expression Web is intended for creation of responsive websites leveraging CSS3 and HTML5. Expression Blend is intended to build interactive UI for windows store applications. Expression Design, combined with Expression Blend and Visual Studio helps building innovative, user-centric, fast and fluid applications. Check out more about the changes and availability of Expression products on the microsoft site.

Let us look at what Expression Encoder can offer us. Expression Encoder 4 Screen Capture is also installed along with the Expression Encoder 4. The Screen Capture component offers you to record videos using the camera attached to the device / PC, record audio using the microphone, and to record the selected area of the screen.

On clicking the Record button, you will be prompted to select a rectangle area to capture and once done, you can continue with your actions on the screen as the recording continues.Once, done, you stop the recording and the output is produced as a .xesc file, which can be further edited using the Encoder.

To get your captured video encoded into a video output, you will perform the following using the Expression Encoder

  • Choose your project. 
  • Import your source video. 
  • Modify your video. 
  • Set preview and encoding options. 
  • Choose an output format. 
  • Render your video.
Getting used to was not very difficult and the product comes with a useful help document. The tool allows you to overlay visual still and moving image file, edit the sub titles, captions and descriptions, add audio streams, apart from allowing you to insert and cut parts of the source video.

Few of the limitations include, inabitlity to add more than one overlay, the supported output format limited to Windows Media Video (.wmv) and IIS smooth streaming. While the tool has much more capabilities, for the specific purpose of creating product demo or tutorial videos, this suits very well. As you know there are many tools out there to convert .wmv to other video formats, like .mp4.

Try it out and share your feedback here.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Windows Steps Recorder - For Problem Reporting


I work in QA department, where reporting issues and defects with all supporting details to well describe the problem is key. We usually use a screen capture tool to capture the images, but then to assemble them as a problem report, we need to depend upon MS Word or such other tool. I am writing to you to check if there is a better tool that helps to perform this task even better.

By: Krishnan Sadasivam


If you are asking about a tool for screen capture, Snipping tool, which is part of Windows OS from version 7 onwards is a nice tool to capture parts of the screen. There is another tool which again is part of the Windows OS from version 7 upwards, which is called 'Steps Recorder'. This tool captures your actions and associated screen and produce a descriptive output, which will make it a lot easier for the problem reporter and the problem sover. Here is how it works in Windows 8 or 8.1:

  • Press Windows Key+Q to bring up the search panel on the right.
  • Type steps and you will see the "Steps Recorder" tool show up in the search results
  • Click on it and it will launch the Steps Recorder Tool

  • Click on the Record button and then start reproducing the problem you want to report. 
  • As the recording is in progress, you have the option of adding comments to certain specific area of screen by highlighting it.
  • Once done click on stop recording and your actions is compiled as multiple steps and optionally as a slide show.

  • You have option to save the steps as a compiled html and email it as well.

This free tool will certainly be handly for reporting computer software problems.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Excel Pivot & Shortcut Keys


I understand Microsoft Excel is a good start for analytics on data. Please direct me as to how to create a basic Pivot Table. You may also share me any tutorial references to learn more on Pivot feature in Excel. Also share Short Cut keys in Excel

By: Vinay Kumar


Learning to create a Pivot is fairly easy but the tough part is to know how you want the data to be presented in the Pivot. For this you need to know a good understanding of the data on hand and what you want out of the data. For this question, I assume that you are already clear about your needs.

Here is how you can quickly get a Pivot of your Excel Data:

  • Select the data range that you want to apply Pivot on and then click on the Pivot button, which is in the Toll bar ribbon under the Insert Menu. You may also use the short cut key Alt + NV
  • This will open up the Pivot dialog window where you will have option to adjust or change your your data range (as you may observe, you can also use an external data source by choosing the appropriate option) and other options.
  • Clicking ok on this dialog window will open up the Pivot table in a new work sheet (default option) and will show the Pivot Table Fields task pane on the right side. You can drag and drop the fields into Filters, Columns, Rows and Values. 
    • FILTERS: This area contains the fields that enable you to page through the data summaries shown in the pivot table by filtering out sets of data — they act as the filters. For example, if you designate the Year field from a data list as a report filter, you can display data summaries in the pivot table for individual years or for all years represented in the data list.
    • COLUMNS: This area contains the fields that determine the arrangement of data shown in the columns of the pivot table.
    • ROWS: This area contains the fields that determine the arrangement of data shown in the rows of the pivot table.
    • VALUES: This area contains the fields that determine which data are presented in the cells of the pivot table — they are the values that are summarized in its last column (totaled by default).
  • Set these in the way you want and your Pivot table is ready.

To know more about other complex and advanced features of the Pivot Table, check here.

Here is a nice Cheat Sheet containing all the Short Cut keys for Excel. If you are a key board expert, then you will want to check out this as well.