Writing walkthrough guides is easy. It’s the formatting of the content that will take you forever to do, especially of you are wanting to repurpose the content into other formats like scripts, blog posts, summaries and even books. And if you want to make a change to a guide, or correct mistakes then that can take just as much time because you might break some of the formatting, or pagination, or you may miss one of the formats. And if you wanted to have specific page breaks, formatting requirements or different page sizes for different versions then it just doubles or triples the work.
Some people may have lackeys or interns that they can give this job to, but I wasn’t one of them, and have literally spent weekends formatting books and transferring images one by one into Word so that I can publish document or create detailed blog post series.
One day it became too much and I decided that I had to stop the insanity and find a better way. Because I capture all of my walkthroughs in PowerPoint – just because it makes everything look consistent and tidy – I looked into how I could automate the process and have it do all of the work for me. I blew the dust off my copy of Visual Studio and created Author Tools for PowerPoint.
These tools automate a lot of the leg work that I used to do manually by using PowerPoint as a repository for all of the walkthrough details and then uses pre-defined word templates as a basis which it then transfers all of the images and text automatically and also formats all of the walkthroughs in a number of different ways based on how you are wanting the information to be consumed. For example, if you are building a book then you may want headings on pages, but if you are publishing it as a blog then you probably don’t.
This reduces the time to format a 400+ page book from 8+ hours and tens of thousands of repetitive keystrokes to probably about half an hour and a single click.
In this post (which is created with Author Tools for PowerPoint) I will show how some of it works.
Adding Tips and Cues To Illustrations
Sometimes with walkthroughs you want to highlight certain areas within the illustration, maybe you want to point to specific items, highlight areas, or something else to help explain the process better. The problem is that you don’t want to edit the main image and corrupt it. There is a better way with the Author Tools and that is by adding any extra embellishments on top of the image and then converting them into a Tip group. You can then tell the system to merge the picture and the tips when it is copying the picture.
How to do it…
To do this, start off by adding in your extra embellishments over the main image.
Then select all of the shapes that you want to include within the Tip layer group.
Then right-mouse-click on them and select the Group option from the Group submenu.
Now you have a single group that you can convert into a tip.
To do this you need to rename the shape group to be Tip. To do this, switch to the Write ribbon bar and click on the Tip button within the Apply group to mark the shape group as a tip.
To see what this has done, click on the Arrange button within the Home ribbon bar and select the Selection Pane option at the bottom.
This will open up a panel that shows all of the shapes that are on the page and their name. Notice that all of the Text and Picture shapes are named as well. This is how the Author Tools is able to pick out the different elements on the page.
How it works…
Now just click on the Create Document button to build the see what this does.
When the document is created, you will see that the image that it pastes into Word is now a composite of the main picture and also the tips that you added in.
Just as a side note, if you don’t want to merge the tips and the pictures then just click on the Thumbnails button group and uncheck the Merge Tips and Pictures.
How easy is that?
Just download the kit, install it and then follow along with the examples that are in the book, and also use the samples that are included with the software to see the same examples on your system. You should be able to get it up and running pretty easily and maybe you will find that writing and publishing is not that hard at all.
If you want to grab it, then just follow this link: http://bit.ly/1ZEF5Uo
About the Author
Throughout his 25+ years of experience in the software industry he has worked in many different roles during his career, including as a developer, an implementation consultant, a trainer and a demo guy within the partner channel which gives him a great understanding of the requirements for both customers and partner’s perspective.
For more information on Murray, here is his contact information: