Using VMWare Fusion to create Windows Worksheets

I’m still a teacher, at least for the next few weeks.

And one of the tasks I need to do is create a series of worksheets to enable the other guys in my learning area to teach the stuff I am an expert in - most notably AutoDesk Inventor. I generally just teach from my head. I provide the kids with some sheets with drawings on them, sometimes go through a couple of the steps on the projector, and then just wander around helping out those that are stuck.

This is a fine way to teach, for me, anyway. It gives the kids a heap of independence, and it means by part way through the semester, the kids are pretty close to being able to work without my assistance. Setting relief lessons is a piece of cake (Continue with your <whatever> project). It also makes my classroom mostly fun - I can actually often get other work done while teaching.

So, not being able to rely on there being a specialist CAD teacher next year, I’ve had to start writing explanatory worksheets for the kids, most notably for the new Year 8 course that is running next year. I’ve done this in the past, on a Windows PC (which Inventor requires), and using OGrabIt, a screen capture application that is okay.

But not as good as the built-in screen capture with OS X. I’m finding my workflow is much better with VMWare open, running Inventor, and Pages open on the same screen. I just do the CAD steps, press ⇧⌘3 at each step, and I have a series of files I can then crop to size.

Even better, if I have a static screenshot, I can use ⇧⌘4 to grab just the area, or press the space-bar afterwards to grab a window. This was possible with OGrabIt, but required switching of applications, and, IIRC, only allowed for grabbing of the screen to the clipboard. Meaning a paste was required after each step of a process.

Of course, if you hold down Ctrl, you can grab to the clipboard in OS X, too.

The next thing that makes my life easier is being able to work in Pages, rather than Word. Word has these nasty habits like making objects jump around when trying to fine-tune their position. Pages’ guidelines are a bit annoying at times, when it tries to align the centre of two similarly sized objects instead of the left-hand side, but at least when you use the keyboard arrows to move stuff, it doesn’t reach a certain point, and then on the next press jump right up to the very top of the page. I’m fairly sure I blogged about this in the past, it is possibly the most fucked-up-and-annoying thing about Word.

Pages is a lot faster, too. No more waiting for spinning beachballs. The only bad stuff is related to positional incompatibilities when converting back to Word, which I haven’t really checked out that much yet. That won’t really be my problem, though. I’ll give my colleagues a PDF, which they can use to print out, and if they need to make any major edits, they’ll also have a Word document version, but then it is up to them.

Having said all of that, it still takes quite a long time to generate a worksheet for students. I spent at least 3 hours today on one task, that will probably take the kids about 45 minutes to complete. Still, it’s not as long as if I’d used Windows+Word - the rule of thumb there is 10x the student time.