Iorad Wants To Make Tutorial Building Suck Less

By Greg Kumparak , written on April 24, 2012

From The News Desk

Teaching the world how to do something on a computer generally kind of sucks.

You've got two options: You can record (or "screencast") a video of whatever it is that you're trying to show, or you can take a bunch of screenshots and slap them together into one long document. The first option is easy but usually results in a video that's twice as long as it needs to be. The second is almost always far more work than you'd expected but lets users follow along at their own pace. There's got to be a happy medium, right?

Iorad wants to be that happy medium. You use iorad to record a video of what you're doing, and it'll automatically convert it into an interactive step-by-step slideshow.

Iorad is, in many senses, the antithesis of the Silicon Valley startup. It wasn't built in 3 months by an army of engineers, fueled by a healthy injection of VC money. Nor was it built by a handful of college kids in their dorm room.

The idea behind iorad came just over four years ago. Founder Sundeep Patel found himself making e-learning videos to pay the bills, and was constantly looking for ways to do it better and in less time. When it eventually became clear that the tool he wanted simply didn't exist, he set out to build it. He'd fund it himself, spending every free minute doing e-learning and consulting work to keep the lights on. He pieced together a team (1 backend engineer, 1 frontend engineer, and 1 guy on design), and they got to work.

About a year and a half later, iorad launched. It was rough, it was ugly, and it didn't quite work, but people still rushed to it. It found a few thousand users...each with a complaint or three to share. What was clear was that the world wanted something like iorad, even if this first execution wasn't the answer.

So Sundeep and his team went back to the drawing board, scrapping nearly everything from the first run. They spent the next two years rebuilding iorad from the ground up, focusing on the feedback they got from their users the first time around. They dramatically simplified the UI, and added tricks like automatic caption generation based on what you're doing in each screenshot and support for OS X. They've got an HTML5 slideshow player in the works (it currently uses Flash, making it incompatible with the iPad) for launch sometime in the next week or two.

Is iorad v2 perfect? Nah — not even close. It can be a bit tricky to get working at first, especially if you're on a Mac, and the system isn't very good at helping you figure out what's gone wrong. Once you've got it working, iorad seems to have a hard time working with applications that don't like to be resized (like, say, Photoshop). I really wish the video recording window would follow my mouse, rather than being stuck to a pre-set area.

If you're willing to learn to work around the quirks, though, it can be an incredibly useful tool. I look forward to seeing where they go from here. Maybe, just maybe, they'll get some funding to really bring the idea to life.

Sundeep says iorad will be free indefinitely for public tutorials. For businesses looking to run tutorials on their own site without the iorad logo on display, it'll be $20 a month.

You can check out a demo of iorad's tutorial player right on their homepage.