Monthly Archives: October 2010

Looking Forward to Window Clippings 3: Actions

One of the things that received a major overhaul in Window Clippings 3 is the actions infrastructure.

Previous versions were restricted to a single action sequence. Although a given action could appear multiple times it could not have distinct settings. The actions themselves were also limited in their ability to change the captured image. For example you could not resize the image to produce a thumbnail.

Window Clippings 3 addresses these issues and much more. For starters there is no longer just a single action sequence. In fact you can have as many as you wish and they are called “outputs”. Simply click the “Add output” button and a new output will be added that you can add actions to. You can also rename outputs which can be quite useful as the output name can be used by the new file naming feature (I’ll talk more about that in a future post). Each output is given the raw image produced by Window Clippings and proceeds to pass it from one action to another.

Let’s look at a concrete example. Sometimes when I’m talking about Window Clippings I’d like to highlight the fact that an alpha channel is present in an image. To do this I’d like to show a checkerboard pattern behind the image. So I configured Window Clippings with two outputs that I named “Alpha output” and “Original output”:

Actions

The “Alpha output” includes two actions. The first converts the image’s alpha channel to a checkerboard pattern and the second saves the image to disk, resulting in a completely opaque image. The “Original output” includes just one action. It saves the original screenshot directly to disk with the actual alpha channel. This results in two images that I can use in various ways.

Naturally actions can also be renamed, moved up and down, and removed from the sequence. Adding a new action is as simple as clicking the “Add action” button and picking from the popup menu.

AddAction

I’ve worked hard to keep the user interface for Window Clippings 3 as simple and clean as possible but there is actually a lot of subtle hidden power. Next time I’ll show you how you can edit actions.

Check out the previous highlights:

Looking Forward to Window Clippings 3: User Interface Unveiled!

I’ve avoided talking about the new user interface for Window Clippings as I was worried it would still change but I think it’s sufficiently stable at this point that I can show you what it will look like.

Previous versions of Window Clippings never really had a “main window”. It was all about the selection surface and then there was the rather busy options window:

wc2
 
Of course there was no way to actually create a screenshot directly from this window so it was clearly not the primary user interface for Window Clippings.

Although I cannot say that there is any single “main” user interface for Window Clippings 3, I can say that there is finally an actual application window. There’s still a selection surface, although you are no longer required to use it, and there’s a new command line interface. Still I think most people will enjoy the fact that the main application window for Window Clippings is a lot less cluttered and actually lets you create a screenshot directly!

wc3

I’ll explore the additional options provided by the various tabs on the left in upcoming posts, but for now you can see the default “Selection” options and the big “Create screenshot” button that’s always available. Any changes you make are automatically saved so there’s no need for the traditional OK/Cancel/Apply buttons.

Prompt for selection – brings up the selection surface that lets you select windows or shapes to capture

Active window – captures the active window (after the Window Clippings window has disappeared) without you having to select it

All active application windows – captures all the windows belonging to the same application as the active window

Window with specific title – captures the window with the given title (you can type it in or pick from a list of windows currently on the desktop)

I could have exposed more selection options but I didn’t want to overcomplicate the user interface. Between the selection surface and the command line interface you have access to the full breadth of selection options.

Check out the previous highlights:

Looking Forward to Window Clippings 3: Maximized Windows

Here’s another quick highlight for you.

Window Clippings was originally focused on capturing restored, or non-maximized, windows as that is where the built-in Print Screen functionality traditionally didn’t do a good job of capturing non-rectangular windows. As a result, I never really thought much about capturing maximized windows and was surprised how many people actually wanted to use Window Clippings for that. Well I’ve made sure that maximized windows can be captured perfectly with Window Clippings 3.

Maximized

For the curious, this image has been scaled to 80% of its original size to fit nicely on my blog. And for the very curious, the 17 frames per second is because this screenshot was taken inside a virtual machine.

Check out the other highlights:

Paperwork

paperworkSorry about the lack of updates over the last few days. I’ve been rather busy dealing with VeriSign and some other paperwork. Fortunately everything is progressing and I should be able to get back to Window Clippings soon.

Windows Error Reporting … Fail

I had been planning on using Windows Error Reporting (WER) as the error reporting technology for Window Clippings 3. It seems like a good idea: Microsoft collects minidump files when my application crashes and I can then go and diagnose and repair the problems.

wer

A few years ago I purchased a code signing certificate thinking that I could enroll in WER. I obtained a certificate from Comodo. As it turned out Microsoft only accepts certificates issued by VeriSign so for Window Clippings 3 I decided that I better pay up (VeriSign is expensive) and get one. I made the purchase online but a few days later was basically informed that they only issue certificates to corporations. I’m trading as a sole proprietorship in Canada. Incorporation is a very complicated and costly affair which seems completely unnecessary for a Micro ISV.

I’m not really sure what to do next. Unlike managed code where a stack trace is easily obtained and can help determine the cause of a crash nine times out of ten, Window Clippings is completely native and there’s just nothing quite like a minidump to figure out what went wrong. Microsoft already collects my minidumps but won’t share them with me unless I obtain a VeriSign certificate.

Anybody have any experience with VeriSign as a small business? I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to write my own crash handler and reporting service.

Update: thanks for all the comments. I’ve just been notified that my attempts to convince VeriSign that I am indeed worthy of certification have succeeded. Barring any further complications I should be all set to use WER for error reporting.

Update: I spoke too soon. Now they want a publicly listed phone number and won’t accept my VOIP phone. Sigh.

Looking Forward to Window Clippings 3: Icon and Installer

Ever since the first version of Window Clippings I’ve used the same icon that I originally picked from the library included with Visual Studio. That icon however is pretty meaningless and I decided that it’s time for Window Clippings to get its own unique icon. Although I’m no graphic designer I think my new creation better captures the essence of Window Clippings 3.

wc2 wc3

Version 2

Version 3

What do you think, a cactus or a bunch of windows with some subtle alpha blending?

Here’s what it looks like in action. As you can see from the screenshot below, Window Clippings 3 will be available from the Start menu. This also means that Window Clippings will be distributed using a Windows Installer package (.msi) file that will take care of installing the necessary files and shortcuts.

installed

That’s it for today. Stay tuned for more highlights from the upcoming Window Clippings 3!

Check out the other highlights:

Looking Forward to Window Clippings 3: Taskbar and Start Menu

Continuing my look at some of the highlights in the upcoming Window Clippings 3 release, today I want to share what I’ve done to support capturing the taskbar and Start menu. Here are a few examples.

Here’s an example of a jump list:

jumplist

Here’s an example of some taskbar thumbnails:

thumbnail

And of course there’s the Start menu:

startmenu

As usual the alpha channel is there if you need it.

thumb_alpha

That’s it for today. Stay tuned for more highlights from the upcoming Window Clippings 3!

Check out the other highlights:

Looking Forward to Window Clippings 3: Nonstandard Windows

Continuing my look at some of the highlights in the upcoming Window Clippings 3 release, today I want to share what I’ve done to support capturing different types of windows. How about an example?

nonstandard

Here you can see two desktop gadgets as well as the Zune mini player. The Weather gadget looks a lot like a regular Aero window but it’s nothing of the sort. The CPU/RAM gadget doesn’t even pretend, providing a very stylized appearance. And of course the beautiful Zune window is as unique as you can get.

Of course you can also get the alpha channel if that’s what you’re after.

alpha

That’s it for today. Stay tuned for more highlights from the upcoming Window Clippings 3!

Check out the other highlights:

Looking Forward to Window Clippings 3: Command Line Interface

Continuing my look at some of the highlights in the upcoming Window Clippings 3 release, today I want to share some of what I’ve done to support different user experiences. In previous versions of Window Clippings you always needed to go through the capture surface, or overlay, to create any screenshot.

For Window Clippings 3 I was determined to make a clean separation between the core capture engine and the rest of the product. This has turned out well, allowing me to enable a variety of different user experiences. Of course as with any software release I have a finite amount of time so only a few of these user experiences will surface in the upcoming release. Fortunately the groundwork has been done so that future updates should bring even more surprises.

One of the features that I am exposing is the ability to create screenshots using the command line. This command line interface (CLI) is a wrapper around the capture engine and provides the most direct and complete access to the screen capture functionality provided by Window Clippings 3.

This is not an exhaustive description of the command line features but should give you some idea of what’s possible. Consider the following command that instructs Window Clippings to run the “capture” command. The rest of the command line arguments are specific to this command.

wc.exe capture /wt Calculator /out C:\Images\calc.png

The /wt argument provides the title of a window to capture.
The /out argument provides the file name of the image that will contain the resulting screenshot.

calc

If the window’s title changes frequently or is just not convenient to use then you can use the window’s class name instead.

wc.exe capture /wc IEFrame /shadow /out C:\Images\ie.png
   
The /wc argument provides the class name of a window to capture.
The /shadow argument instructs the capture engine to include the window’s shadow.

ie

Naturally, you can include more than one window in a single screenshot.

wc.exe capture /wt Calculator /wc IEFrame /shadow /out C:\Images\both.png

both

That’s it for today. Stay tuned for more highlights from the upcoming Window Clippings 3!

Check out the other highlights:

Looking Forward to Window Clippings 3: Popups

Continuing my look at some of the highlights in the upcoming Window Clippings 3 release, today I want to share some of what I’ve done to improve support for capturing popups.

Basically you should expect far better support for capturing different types of popups. Previous version of Window Clippings did a good job of capturing standard popups such as tooltips and standard menus, but it failed with applications that used non-standard menus and popups such as those from WPF applications.

The good news is that this is no longer a problem and Window Clippings 3 can easily handle many more types of popups.

popups

That’s it for today. Stay tuned for more highlights from the upcoming Window Clippings 3!

Check out the other highlights: