How to “Explain Everything”

If the latest version of the NMC Horizon Report Higher Education Edition is any indication, tablet computing continues to be at the forefront of higher education trends. As a new tablet owner myself, I have been looking for more ways to incorporate it into my daily work life aside from reading email, taking notes and enjoying the occasional YouTube video. Also, as more librarians are using tablets for roving reference or during instructional sessions, it’s interesting to consider how shifting more of our day-to-day work to tablets might look.

Given the increasing number of librarians interested and involved in creating online instructional materials, one area to explore in tablet computing is screencasting and screencapture applications which allow librarians to do this type of work on-the-go.

Explain Everything

One of my favorite applications I’ve found so far for screencasting from my iPad is Explain Everything. Explain Everything is an iOS app which allows you to interact with images and presentations on your iPad, including adding annotations and recording live animation or voice narration.

Creating and Editing Projects

To begin a new project in Explain Everything, you can upload images (JPG or PNG), upload other compatible files (including PDF or RTF and PowerPoint, Excel, Word, Pages or Numbers files), or start from scratch with a blank project. Projects are presented as a series of slides, with new pages or images from imported documents each appearing as separate slides. You can rearrange, duplicate, insert, and delete slides within the Explain Everything project.

Explain Everything Home screen

Explain Everything home screen displaying saved projects.

Once a project is created, you can manipulate objects using the interactive white board. Tools in the whiteboard allow for adding new slides, annotating or free-hand drawing, inserting shapes or typed text, adding additional images, and opening a live browser window. You can also rotate, resize, and delete objects.

Explain Everything Whiteboard

Editing and recording interactive whiteboard in Explain Everything. Image created using Skitch


In addition to manipulating the slides on screen, you can record a presentation or screencast. Using the “Record” button on the bottom of the whiteboard will capture your live annotation, object manipulations, laser pointer, and voice narration. You can continuously record while navigating from slide to slide, and easily pause the recording during interruptions.

Since Explain Everything also allows you to open a live browser window, you can easily create projects which demonstrate online resources. This is particularly nice for libraries as we create guides for users to reference when interacting with our online catalogs, databases, etc. Unfortunately Explain Everything’s recording capabilities may not capture some online animations (including pop up windows and javascript), which can make it difficult to demonstrate certain interactive online activities (like typing into a search box).

For demonstration purposes, you can see a couple of quick videos I created using the recording function.

Saving and Exporting

One of the best features of Explain Everything is its ability to export projects in different formats to different locations. Projects can be exported as Explain Everything’s XPL format, or as PDFs, images (PNG), and videso (MOV/MP4), and can be saved to various places like the iPad camera roll or Youtube, as well as your favorite cloud storage service (including Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Drive). You can also adjust the quality and size of exported images and videos, though the quality of its compressed videos may leave something to be desired for some users.

Export and Save in Explain Everything

Export and Save in Explain Everything

Wrapping Up

Although not a free app, Explain Everything’s current price at $2.99 (or $1.49 per copy if you’re purchasing more than 20 copies through Apple’s education volume purchasing) is significantly lower cost than many other screencasting alternatives which offer the same type of features and capabilities. Additionally, you can learn more about using basic and advanced features of Explain Everything with video guides and a free iBook manual. [Note: At this time, Explain Everything is available for iOS only. However, Android users may want to check out these posts when looking for Android-friendly alternatives.]

In addition to creating quick, low-cost screencasts and tutorials, Explain Everything might be useful for librarians who are using iPad carts in library instruction or libraries with iPad check out programs, providing students an easy way to create and export their own screencast projects or narrated presentations.

Have you tried to create screencasts or tutorials using a tablet application? Leave us a comment!

Guest Post: Addicted to Jing

I just Jinged again. It’s becoming a bit of a habit… How to check to see if we have a journal  – Jing. A search strategy in a quirky database – Jing. The steps to request an article through interlibrary loan – Jing again!!

Jing is an alluringly addictive little piece of freeware that allows you to make movies (as well as screenshots) of whatever’s transpiring on your computer screen.  (There is a Pro version with additional features, including upload to YouTube.)

Jing comes to us from Techsmith, maker of SnagIt (for screenshots) and Camtasia, used by many libraries to create instructional tutorials. You may be familiar with Adobe Captivate, also for tutorials.

Even if you are a Camtasia or Captivate guru, think of Jing as a quick fix for the tutorial urge.

  1. Library interfaces (and librarians) tend to be fussy and showing can often be better than telling.
  2. Jing is simple: it records in real time, with few choices to make…and if you bollix it up, just start over!
  3. Jing offers the option of posting your video to a free Screencast account – that means that you do not have to host these (massive) files on your own server, but can just send a handy link.

You probably wouldn’t create a full-blown tutorial to address an individual patron’s question, but Jing is perfect for this. I’ve also used it to recap demo searches for instruction sessions and promote new databases to faculty.

Your first Jing video


The Jing sun

Launch the program, whose icon (the Jing “sun”) will then lurk at the edge of your screen until you are ready for Jing action.

Hover over the sun and select the crosshairs, so you can set your screen capture dimensions.

Select the video icon in the toolbar that appears under your capture zone.

After the 3-second countdown, now you’re recording! Move your cursor, type, click, etc. Your video can be up to 5 minutes long (I never got that far).

To stop the recording, click the rectangular stop button on the toolbar.

Once you are done, you can view your video. You can save a copy (it’s in Flash) or better yet, “share it” to so you can send a link for viewing. Your video can also be embedded within a web page for extra coolness. To add an embed button to your toolbar (you know you want to), go to your “More” button (the cogs), click again on the cogs to delve into preferences, and proceed to Customize Jing buttons. (Again, to upload directly to YouTube, you must cough up for Jing Pro. )

Link to tutorial

Here’s an example of my handiwork, made in response to an emailed reference question on media in the Ukraine (!). My accompanying email sketched out the steps and the reasons why I tackled the search the way I did, but at least I didn’t have to write, “on the left side of the screen….”

Some notes

  • You have the option to record audio along with your video. I do all my Jings “mute” as I don’t have a good-quality microphone. Also, I’m not certain of my ability to chew gum, perform a snappy database search, and narrate the experience simultaneously.
  • To compensate, I’ve developed some recording mannerisms.  When choosing a link I may “highlight” it with the mouse (maybe go back & forth). To emphasize an area of the screen, I may lasso my mouse around it a couple times.
  • The free Screencast account includes 2 GB storage and 2 GB monthly bandwidth.  After 9 months of Jinginess, I have only used up 10% of this. Now you can organize your Jings into folders, if you sign into directly. (Filing the Jings into folders does not adversely affect your sharable links.)
  • If you happen to have Camtasia, you can edit your Jings.
  • If you want to use a Jing for more formal purposes, you could rename the link to something less weird with a URL shortening service, such as TinyURL, that allows custom aliases.

Screenshots with Jing

Just choose the image icon instead of video and set your screen capture parameters as for video. Once you’ve snapped the screen, you can label, highlight, and add arrows.

A screenshot created with Jing

A screenshot made with Jing. Pretty darn professional!

Where to get it

Jing is available for both Windows & Mac. More information at:

Another option: Screentoaster

Link to Screentoaster video

Here's a Screentoaster video I created. I got to change my preview screen!

If you are excited by the idea of making quick tutorials, you may want to check out another free service called Screentoaster (thanks Carissa!) that does not involve a software download at all but merely logging into your free Screentoaster account. Working by means of a Java applet, Screentoaster can record all or a portion of your screen at the prompt of the Alt-S command. After you create your movie, you can add audio and/or captions, even change your preview screen. Then you can upload to YouTube or Screentoaster (for better quality not to mention speed), or save the movie to QuickTime (.mov) or Flash (.swf) Formats.

Link to YouTube tutorial

The same video on YouTube (which wipes out the cute captions).

While I like the option of adding captions and audio, this may mess with the quick-fix ethos, and Screentoaster seems to slow things down a bit while it’s running (and the resulting shaky screen, while not visible in the final product, gave me a bit of stage fright). However, Screentoaster is still well worth pursuing, especially if in your workplace administrative rights (needed for Jing installation and occasional software updates) are hard to come by.

Shana Gass is a Reference Librarian and liaison to the College of Business & Economics at Towson University. In addition to Jing, she’s intrigued by the new FASB Accounting Standards codification, post-industrial landscapes, and ugly yet catchy music.

You don’t have to be just a Libtechtalk groupie. Did you know that this blog is looking for guest authors? Contact ctomlinson at to find out how you too can write about your favorite technologies and how they might be used in academic libraries.