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Autodesk Screencast: From Idea to UI Research to Project Chronicle to You

ScreencastLogoHopefully you've heard that Autodesk Screencast is a new tool that lets you capture your workflows, to easily create powerful and engaging learning materials. What you may not know is the history of how this tool came to be. 

Way back in 2010, Tovi Grossman, Justin Matejka and George Fitzmaurice from the Autodesk Research User Interface Group published a paper entitled Chronicle: Capture, Exploration, and Playback of Document Workflow Histories

Chronicle started with the idea that the majority of tools today support undo functionality. The undo queue has a list of the commands that have been executed by the users and is therefore something that could be utilized to playback what the user did for others to learn from.

From that idea, there was exploration around how to improve the video playback experience. As video is a visual experience, it was important to give the user more insight into various parts of the video, as you can see below in the Chronicle prototype built into Paint.NET, with images showing what happens at various stages and a rich timeline referencing different events. Having a such a prototype allowed the group to test the concepts with users, measure the success of the tools and refine the workflows.

Autodesk Research Publication Project Chronicle User Interface

In reviewing the Chronicle functionality with the test users, the feedback was very positive and suggested for:

  • Team Support: review how a colleague carried out tasks to understand the current state of a document (e.g. for trouble-shooting)
  • Implicit Learning Aid: when working with publically shared documents, the user could review the associated tools and workflows (e.g. comparing software versions) 
  • New Tutorial Format: this is a much easier way to create tutorials
  • Self-Retrospect: help a user to remember how they did something or what their tool settings were 

With this in mind, the Autodesk Research Transfer group was engaged to help bring Chronicle to a wider audience. Project Chronicle was released to Autodesk Labs, our place to share innovative new technolgies in a way that we can collaborate with our users, for more people to try in the context of AutoCAD, Inventor and Revit.

Autodesk Research Project Chronicle Banner from Autodesk Labs

During this time, the toolset and interface went through some refinements (you can see a little of that in the above image). The user feedback continued to be positive and the Autodesk Knowledge Network stepped forward to make Project Chonicle into an official tool and rebranded it as Autodesk Screencast. Here is a nice overview:

The journey from the initial spark of an idea to finished tool can take patience and many hands. With Autodesk Screencast, we hope you'll agree that it's worth it. Download Screencast now for Windows or Mac and give it a try!

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