Thursday Nov 01, 2012

Tip: Recording Non-Maximized Applications in UPK

Have you ever wanted to record an application that would not maximize, or an application that would look strange maximized? Or perhaps your Windows Desktop has become cluttered with icons and you don't want to capture the clutter in your recordings. Here's a tip that will help: create a background for your recording.

  1. Create a blank HTML file with a black background in your favorite HTML editor. Or download this sample file: UPK_Recording_Background.html (right click to save). If you would prefer a different color background in the sample file, open it in Notepad and change “#000” to a different HTML color.
  2. Open UPK_Recording_Background.html in its own web browser window.
  3. Press F11 to make the web browser window full screen. This should give you a completely black screen. (This works great in modern versions of the most popular browsers. I successfully used Firefox 15, Chrome 22, and IE 9.
  4. Open or switch to the desired application so that it sits on top of the full screen browser window. If the application you are recording is also in a browser, it is important that it be in a separate browser window from the UPK_Recording_Background.html.
  5. Record your topic normally.

The above steps create a recording background using an HTML file and a web browser. This is just one method, for instance you could do the same thing with an image editor and an image viewer with a full screen view. Now you can record a non-maximized application without a distracting background.

I hope you find this to be a helpful tip. Let us know what you think in the comments.

Friday Dec 30, 2011

Usage Tracking improvements for UPK Professional customers

User Productivity Kit versions 3.6 and earlier contain an optional module call Usage Tracking which allows an organization to deploy and track how users utilize UPK content. This module is useful for a number of purposes including tracking user scores in Know It? mode, understanding what topics are used most frequently, viewing which modes are used most frequently and more. UPK Player content is tracked with virtually no impact to the user. The only difference a user need see is a login dialog in cases where standard authentication is used. Other than that, the player looks and functions in the same way. You can even deploy Usage Tracking with any In-Application Support configurations you may already have.

The UPK 11 release makes a number of improvements to the "usage tracking" module for users of UPK Professional. The most significant change in UPK 11 is that UPK Developer, Player and Usage Tracking have been fully integrated with the Knowledge Pathways module of UPK Professional. In this new, integrated product, the Usage Tracking module and Knowledge Pathways have been integrated into a single module named Knowledge Center. Knowledge Center provides the same simple and direct player access that you've seen in previous versions as well as other powerful features from Knowledge Pathways such as Knowledge Paths, custom user fields, search and more.

In this post I want to describe a couple features in the professional version of Knowledge Center that we've improved upon and extended into the usage tracking functionality.

First is expert advice. Expert advice is a feature from Knowledge Pathways that permits an organization to set up a group of experts for a set of content. Users are then provided with an option to ask a question of the experts and have a conversation with them. Let's take a look at a scenario. A user is having difficulty with a transaction in an enterprise application. The user accesses UPK from the application's help menu or by using Smarthelp and the UPK Player appears. The user then plays one or more topics answering most of their questions but one remains. What now? The user can now click the Ask an Expert button in the player, enter their questions and receive further assistance from an Expert.

The second improvement is the ability to restrict access to different player packages. Usage Tracking has always been able to manage, track and report against multiple player packages, however, it does not have the ability to control access to these various player packages. If an authenticated user has access to one player package under Usage Tracking, they have access to all of them. UPK 11 Professional Knowledge Center provides an entirely new ability to control access to player packages by usergroup. First, you must configure the player's launch option which allows you to determine whether the player can be launched directly or whether it is restricted by group. You can then control which players are available to a usergroup from the usergroup properties.

Links to documentation topics described in this post can be found below.

 Expert Advice:

Restricting Player Access:

Thanks for visiting and Happy New Year to all.

John Zaums
Senior Director, Product Development
User Productivity Kit

Wednesday Dec 28, 2011

Viewing the Frame ID in the UPK Player

Frame IDs are unique identifiers for the frames within a single UPK topic. These are used internally by UPK and have been available in the topic editor for many releases. In the topic editor, you can view the frame ID on the "Topic Navigation and View" toolbar and when pointing to a frame in the "Frame Structure" pane.You can also use these IDs to navigate to a specific frame in a topic. Use the "Go To / Specific Frame" menu.

In User Productivity Kit 11, we've added the ability to display Frame IDs during topic playback. The setting defaults to Off but it can be enabled with a simple setting change. For many releases, you've been able to make setting changes in different Javascript files in the Player. In UPK 11, we've consolidated all these settings into a single Javascript file called config.js.

Locate a published UPK Player package. From the root of the package open config.js in a text editor like Notepad. Locate the following line and change it from:
ShowFrameID: "Off"
ShowFrameID: "On"

Save the file and launch the player. When you launch a topic in any mode other than "Print It!" the player will show the Frame ID in the upper left corner. You can also configure the option such that the ID only appears when a specific key combination is pressed. For example, if you wanted the ID to appear when pressing Shift + F1, you could set the ShowFrameID value to "ShiftF1". More information can be found in the topic titled Display Frame ID in Topic Player in the UPK Master Documentation Library.

This option can be useful for performing content reviews. The reviewers can provide feedback by returning the name of the topic and the ID of the frame to which their comment applies. You might consider having the Frame ID only appear when a specific key combination is used for all of your UPK content. When users have feedback or difficulty with a step, you can use the Frame ID to locate the problematic material.

Since UPK 3.5, you've also been able to add the Frame ID to print styles by customizing them with the FrameID bookmark. See the topic titled Bookmark Reference in the UPK Master Documentation Library for more information. 

We'd appreciate your thoughts and feedback on how you're using this new feature.

John Zaums
Senior Director, Product Development
User Productivity Kit

Tuesday Dec 27, 2011

Better direct topic launches with UPK

As we approach the end of 2011, I find myself working this last week of the year for the first time in many, many years. With so many of my colleges taking holiday this week, meetings and interruptions are nowhere to be found on my schedule and so I'll take a little time to share some UPK tips and tricks with you.

For many years, there have been multiple ways to launch content in UPK. You can launch UPK content through the Player table of contents. You can launch UPK content through a Learning Management System (LMS). You have always been able to launch a single topic mode such as See It!, Try It! or Do It! through a URL. It's this last one I want to discuss in this post.

The ability to share a single topic with another person can be useful in all sorts of situations. A help desk can use them to answer user questions. I use them frequently when replying to a question in our internal Oracle employee forums. Whenever you need to share information about how to use a business applications, it's great to be able to share this through a single URL.

Until recently, if you wanted to share a single UPK topic with another person, you needed to decide which mode (See It!, Try It! ,etc.) to send. What mode is most effective for the recipient is a personal decision driven by an individual's preferred learning style. I may learn best by doing. You may learn best by watching and listening. If I sent you a link to Do It! mode, you might struggle with the information more than if I had sent you See It! or Try It! as well.

User Productivity Kit 11 adds a new method of launching topics that take the user to a page complete with the topic concept, buttons to launch every mode, support for Jump In points, access to preferences and more.

While the old style launch to mode links are still available, I'd recommend that most users switch to these more robust forms of launching topics. Give it a try for yourself using the links below!

Launching a Document (information from the UPK Documentation Library on this feature)

Example of a directly launched topic.

User Productivity Kit 11 ESP 1 also adds a new "Share" feature to the Player Table of Contents and these direct topic launches. This allows you to quickly get the URL for any item that you are viewing. Copy and paste that link into an email, onto a wiki, or whatever tool you use to share information with others.

Thank you for your time visiting this blog. If there are any other topics of interest you'd like to read about, don't hesitate to comment.

John Zaums
Senior Director, Product Development
User Productivity Kit

Tuesday Apr 12, 2011

Incrementally Update a Deployed UPK Player (using XCOPY)

Publishing incremental updates to UPK content will usually be faster than publishing to a new location due to UPK's ability to incrementally publish the content that has changed. However, it's not very common for UPK Authors to publish directly to the production environment. This means that most authors need to publish content to a staging location and then move the content from that staging location to the production location. In this post, we'll look at how we can deploy content from a staging location to a production location by incrementally updating a UPK Player package using the Windows command XCOPY. The basic principles discussed here can likely be applied to similar file copy utilities. If you do use a different utility to perform a similar task, please let us know in the comments.

First, we will identify the the staging location where content is published and the production location where content is deployed. The locations I'll use for my examples are:

Staging location: "C:\staging_location\Publishing Content\PlayerPackage"
Production location: "Z:\production_location\VirtualDirectory"

Now, we will choose the XCOPY options. Below is a list of the XCOPY options we've selected for the purposes of this example:

/D -- used without a date specified to copy only the newer files. REQUIRED
/E -- copies directories subdirectories, including empty ones. REQUIRED
/C -- copies even if errors occur. OPTIONAL
/F -- displays full file names. OPTIONAL; Useful if you log the results.
/H -- copies hidden and system files. OPTIONAL; Probably not necessary, but just in case.
/R -- overwrites read only files OPTIONAL; Probably not necessary in most situations.
/Y -- overwrite files without prompting. REQUIRED

Next, we will construct the XCOPY command using the options. In the example below I've used all of the options, but feel free to drop any of the options marked as optional above. Note the options can be consolidated with a single forward slash as I've done in my example:

xcopy "C:\staging_location\Publishing Content\PlayerPackage" "Z:\production_location\VirtualDirectory" /DECFHRY

That command will work, but instead of typing this out each time we want to update the production location with new content, we'll use a batch file. The first few lines of the batch file will establish variables to hold the locations of the source (staging_location) and destination (production_location). This allows you to easily change either location without rewriting the entire batch file.

The first variable, 'source', will need to be the PlayerPackage folder in the staging location where the UPK Authors publish the content. To establish this variable use the SET command:

set source="C:\staging_location\Publishing Content\PlayerPackage"

The next variable, 'dest' (short for destination), will need to be the folder on the web server where you want the content to be updated.

set dest="Z:\production_location\VirtualDirectory"

Now we will update the XCOPY command, replacing the two locations with the two variables:

xcopy %source% %dest% /DECFHRY

Your entire batch file should look something like this:

set source="C:\publisheded_location\Publishing Content\PlayerPackage"
set dest="Z:\mapped-drive-to-web-server\virtual-directory"
xcopy %source% %dest% /DECFHRY

Save the file and you're finished! When you execute this batch file, it will update the files that have changed since the last time the content was published, significantly reducing the time it takes to deploy your UPK content.

Additional considerations

  • When this batch file is manually executed a DOS window will appear and display the files that are being updated. Once the XCOPY completes, the DOS window will disappear.

  • You can also have this batch file launched periodically using a scheduled task. You may even want to coordinate this with a scheduled command line publishing process. For example, you could have a scheduled publishing occur on a Friday evening. Have the content reviewed on the staging server on Monday and have the xcopy batch file scheduled for a Wednesday.

  • There is a way to perform this content deployment process with very little downtime. Consider maintaining two identical folders of content on the production environment. This will allow the content to be incrementally copied to the folder on the server which is not currently live. Once the copy has finished, switch the virtual directory to the updated folder.

  • Consider writing the results of the batch file to a log file along with the start and end times to track your updates.

  • Using this method to update content can make it easier for a System Administrator to empower a UPK Author to deploy content. The UPK Author would be given a way to start this batch file without requiring the System Administrator to be involved each and every time content needed to be updated.

  • XCOPY does not offer a way to remove unused files. Consider updating your batch file to remove files from the destination which are not present in the source. Alternatively, use more advance file syncing software to keep the destination folder free of unnecessary files.(Thanks, Graham.)

Wednesday Dec 01, 2010

Quick Tip: Bubble Hyperlinks and See It! Mode

[Read More]

Monday Aug 16, 2010

Quick Tip: UPK Player Search URL

[Read More]

Sunday Jun 20, 2010

Audio Recording Tips

[Read More]

Tuesday Mar 16, 2010

Getting More Out of UPK

[Read More]

The authors of this blog are members of the UPK product development, management, and marketing teams. On this blog, you'll find UPK news, tips/tricks, upcoming events, and general information on UPK - the easy-to-use, comprehensive content development, deployment, and maintenance platform for increasing project, program, and user productivity.


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