This is one of those deceptively simple pieces of software that will find a home with people who have had to spend hours online or on the phone to technical support every time a system or program fails to perform correctly. It also has potential for creating training videos and sales presentations.
BB FlashBack is a screen recorder that can make a movie of what you’re doing on your desktop. This isn’t a new concept – think back to Lotus Screencam, you veterans – but recently there’s been a mini-explosion of packages from the States with titles like SnagIt, Screen Miner, FlashCast and Mr Captor that all promise to do more or less the same.
This uniquely British version has been designed to link up with two other products based around the same technology, of which more later. Designed to run on Windows ME, 98, NT 4.0, 2000 and XP, there’s a 15-day free trial offer for you to get to grips with the features before committing your wallet, and the helpful Web site includes demonstration movie introductions.
Once installed, it’s an easy matter to call up the Recorder screen and hit the record button. The program then returns to the system tray until you’re done, remaining effectively invisible. Parameters can be set for the maximum length you want a recording to last for (the default is limitless), and at what screen resolution you want to record.
There are two recording modes – ‘Capture driver’ which gives the highest performance but is only available on Windows 2000 and XP, and ‘Compatibility mode’ for users of Windows ME, 98 or NT4.0, which allows you to adjust the frames-per-second to suit your PC’s performance.
Another way of improving performance when recording is to reduce the number of graphical effects on Windows. For example, BB FlashBack enables you to switch off the drop shadow under the cursor, menu and tool-tip ‘transition’ effects and the ‘slide-open’ effect in combo boxes. The desktop background can also be set to a single colour.
If you want to add sound to a presentation or tutorial you’re preparing, then a spoken commentary via microphone can be recorded. Furthermore, you can compress the sound using MP3 encoding to produce a smaller movie file. Bits and sampling rates can be varied, and you can record in either mono or stereo. Imported sound files can also be attached to frames when you come to the editing stage.
Editing is, of course, vital to polishing up a presentation and this software will allow you to delete, insert, merge, split or manipulate frames at will, as well as add text boxes of varying width and colour. Also, because BB FlashBack records the entire desktop screen, you can use clipping functions to view and export a smaller area, while pauses and markers can be built in while any of these effects take place.
Once completed, your movie can be exported to Macromedia Flash, AVI and standalone EXE formats. Also, any PC with Windows 98 or beyond can play back native FlashBack movies using the free movie player.
While this software is ideal for demos, tutorials and training purposes, it’s also designed – as mentioned earlier – for use with two linked programs. BB TestAssistant uses screen recording for software testing and BB SupportAssistant offers Web-based visual problem reporting for IT support. These are not free but are well worth considering in organisations that have high software support costs.
Company: Blueberry Consultants
Contact: 01926 430 168