Using the “secret” Windows 7 Problem Steps Recorder to Create Step by Step Screenshot Documents


When I show this tool to developers or QA guys, their eyes light up with excitement. When you work in Application Compatibility, you spend a lot of time documenting problems ;-).  In this post, I’ll talk about some of the tricks and tools I use for documenting issues.

 

There’s a slick new tool called the Problem Steps Recorder that is included in Windows 7.  It’s intended for users to capture step by step actions and screenshots to illustrate a problem. It’s a great tool for its intended use. However, if you create a lot of documents with screenshots or need to document a procedure, this tool can save you a lot of time.

 

Finding PSR

 

The biggest issue with PSR is finding it.  Since it’s intended as a troubleshooting tool, the tool is not directly exposed in the Start menu or Control Panel. When I demo PSR, my corny joke is “You need to use PSR to show people how to find PSR.”

 

Here are two ways to launch the tool:

 

 

    1. Launch the executable by typing psr.exe from a command prompt or the search bar.

 

  1. Type the keyword “record” in the search bar:
    image

 

“Leveraging” the Output

 

After you record your steps, PSR saves the report in a zipped MHTML file. This is so you can easily send the report to someone via e-mail. Within the MHTML file, the screenshots are jpg files. Just right click and “Copy” the images from the report to paste into your own documentation. I’ve had mixed luck with trying to copy and paste a section of screenshots.  I prefer pasting a single screenshot into a Word document.  Try both to see what works for you.

 

Missing Screenshots

 

Before you create a nice long capture showing your Mom how to configure her mail client, there are a few common problems that may result in lost screenshots.

 

“No screenshots were saved for this problem step” issue

 

By default, PSR only saves the last 25 screenshots to help reduce the size of the capture file. If you will be capturing more than 25 screenshots, increase the “Number of recent screen captures to store” setting.

 

image

 

“There are windows on your desktop that are running as administrator” issue

 

PSR launches as a standard user and will warn that there are applications that are running elevated on the desktop.  If PSR is running as a standard user, it won’t be able to capture any screenshots or interactions with applications running elevated.  To fix this issue, follow the advice PSR gives you and run PSR elevated.

 

Don’t Forget about the Snipping Tool

 

For quick screenshots, I like the Snipping Tool (snippingtool.exe). It originally started as a PowerToy and has been included in all editions of OS beginning with Vista. It can capture window, rectangular, free form, and full screen snips. It’s quite handy.  I used it for the snips in this post.

 

Snip Tip:

 

You may have noticed I captured the Start menu in one of my screenshots.  This trick is outlined in the Snipping tool help. To capture a menu: Start the tool; Press Esc; Display the menu; Press Ctrl+Prnt Scrn and then use the snipping tool to capture the menu.

 

Capturing Dialog Box Text

 

Okay, this has nothing to do with PSR but I use this all the time when describing a problem, creating documentation, or searching for known errors. If you press Ctrl-C when a dialog box is active, the text is sent to the clipboard.  For example, if I press Ctrl-C when this dialog is active:

 

image

 

The clipboard contains the following:

 

—————————
Problem Steps Recorder Warning
—————————

 

There are windows on your desktop that are running as administrator.

 

If you want to record your interactions with them, you may have to run the Problem Steps Recorder as administrator as well.

 

You can do this by clicking on the shield button next to the time counter on the Problem Step Recorder UI. Please note that your current recording session will be discarded if you do so.
—————————
OK
—————————

 

I hope this helps. Happy documenting…

Comments (24)

  1. Stev100 says:

    Very helpful

    Thanks a lot

  2. Gishu says:

    Secret indeed ! There's also a video walkthrough to see it in action. – http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=22292

    Kudos to the devs!

  3. LisaM says:

    Is this available in all version of Windows 7?

  4. patricka says:

    LisaM,

    As far as I know it should be. It is part of Windows Error Reporting which should be in all versions of Win 7.

    Pat

  5. Dag says:

    Very useful for documentation. Also, if you extract the file from the zip file, you can right click and edit on World and do any changes you need!

  6. Khaleel says:

    Very useful tool….. :)

  7. Ana DeShields says:

    Hello, I have been searching the internet to find the solutions to locate my unsaved snips from the Snipping Tool on a Windows 7 and came across this post during my search.

    I'm able to find an answer, if you Google search this, you will see what I am saying, as a result,do any of you know how I can locate my unsaved snips from the Snipping tool? These would be snips taken two weeks from the original snip. I did not save them. I just took them and pasted them into Microsoft office calendar event, but the image is no longer there.

  8. Harvinder says:

    It's really worth-full….thanks a lot

  9. Doug SI says:

    Available in all versions since Windows 7

  10. Yco says:

    I miss an option to see, what is a current number of saved screens, because there is only limited number of screens possible.

    The best would be to set it to unlimited.

  11. John Jairo Pachon says:

    Thanks a lot, very useful information!

  12. me says:

    the psr is also available on windows10

  13. Warren says:

    The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread!

  14. Alex says:

    There is an alternative now available – that is called StepsToReproduce. It's a free tool – can be found at http://www.stepstoreproduce.net

    I should say – in some ways it is much better.

  15. Dipesh Raj says:

    It doesn't capture even a single screenshot at windows 7 machine. :(

  16. Cathy says:

    I have multiple monitors.  How do I capture just the one monitor and not all four?  Please help.  :-)  Thank you.

  17. Heather says:

    I have the same issue as Cathy.  It's recording all 3 monitors and I only want to capture 1.

  18. patricka says:

    Cathy & Heather, PSR is intended to collect what's happening on the machine. It's a troubleshooting tool.  If you only wanted to collect from one display, you would need to disable the others.

    Pat

  19. Ramana says:

    Very cool tool.

  20. Steph says:

    PSR is great but is limited to 100 frames.  the settings are maxed out at 100. what can I use to increase my sample size to 1 hour worth of data. I have a problem which is only intermittent and need to track the customer inputs.I'm desperate.

    Thanks.

  21. Nice..I am using windows 10 but I still use this tools. Old school but very useful. Good tool for beginners like me..Thanks.

  22. Ashish says:

    Hi, I am not able to get the desired output using PSR. It is neither showing screen shot nor populating any errors.
    It shows following result:

    Recording Session: 1/1/1601 5:30:00 AM – 5:30:00 AM

    Problem Steps: 0, Missed Steps: 0, Other Errors: 0

    Operating System: 7601.18933.x86fre.win7sp1_gdr.150715-0600 6.1.1.0.2.4

    CAn you help me out in this?
    Thanks in advance.

  23. Maria says:

    It helped a lot as I’m not a windows expert (I’m a mainframe long time worker), but I need to collect the response time from several applications running under windows.

  24. Vijay Patel says:

    Its good but somewhere it leaks privacy.