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Automatic process for generating screen captures and the corresponding documentation for all GUI elements contained within an application Disclosure Number: IPCOM000226370D
Publication Date: 2013-Mar-30
Document File: 6 page(s) / 118K

Publishing Venue

The Prior Art Database


Disclosed are methods to automatically generate screen captures from form definition metadata and to automatically annotate the automatically generated screen captures to produce complete and up to date documentation for all Graphical User Interface (GUI) elements contained within an application.

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Automatic process for generating screen captures and the corresponding documentation for all GUI elements contained within an application

Generating documentation for a Graphical User Interface (GUI)-based application typically involves manually creating many screen captures of application forms, which

are displayed on the end user's computer screen in the course of using the application. The task becomes significantly more cumbersome and time consuming as the form's look and feel and its purpose change multiple times as the application design evolves or as new versions of the application become available.

The proposed solution simplifies the task of generating accurate end user documentation. The invention is a fully automatic process for generating screen captures and the corresponding documentation.

At application design time, modern form design components/utilities provide ways to generate form definitions for an application using metadata information stored in Extensible Markup Language (XML), Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), or some other form of definition language. Form definition information describes in detail the properties of all GUI panels that are rendered to the end user in a process of using the application. At run-time, the application passes this metadata to its rendering component, which processes the form definition data to paint the panel on the screen

using the underlying system's graphical engine Application Protocol Interface (API). With the proposed specialized type of renderer, rather than displaying the form on the screen, a program writes the form's full graphical representation directly to a file using a desired graphic format (e.g., JPEG, BMP, DXF, VML, etc.) effectively resulting in a screen capture without a human interaction. When the form definition also contains documentation comments linked to respective form elements, the generated screen captures may be automatically annotated (documented) by a program, resulting in a document such as .DOC, .PDF containing a set of all form descriptions.

To demonstrate the usefulness of the above technique, consider its potential use within a sample application, such as process designer software. The process designer software allows the end user to enter a documentation comment to describe a purpose and behavior of any form or form widget. The system directly associates the documentation comments with the described GUI element and stores the comments along with other design-time information in a process definition snapshot (including form definitions) using XML. If the user(s) correctly enters the comments and keeps the comments up to date, then complete documentation for any form and all its elements is automatically generated, along with the corresponding screen captures (using a special "screenless" renderer) into a single document (e.g., PDF). This produces either a complete documentation or a great starting point with which a documentation writer can