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The Lost Art of Start Copy Screen (STRCPYSCN)

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The Start Copy Screen (STRCPYSCN) CL command was prevalent in early AS/400 shops. Today, with iSeries and now System i5 focused on Web enablement, the ability to record the screen seems to have vanished. Let's review STRCPYSCN and its capabilities.

The STRCPYSCN command was introduced to provide a way to record a user's path through an application. It was initially used as a debugging or service/support tool. It provided a way for an IT professional to view the user's session without making a trip to his or her workstation.

The parameters for STRCPYSCN are fairly straightforward:

  • SRCDEV (Source Device)—This is the name of the workstation whose screen should be copied. If the user's workstation ID is DSP03, then SRCDEV(DSP03) is specified; if it's like mine, PHOBOSx (where x is a letter), then SRCDEV(PHOBOSA) would be specified. The job attached to this display is sent an inquiry message, asking permission to start the screen copy. If the response is positive, each output operation to the display is recorded.
  • OUTDEV (Output Device)—This is the name of the workstation whose screen mirrors the one being copied. OUTDEV(*REQUESTER) is a shortcut to specifying "your" workstation ID. If OUTDEV(*NONE) is specified, the command assumes you want to copy the screen images to a database file. Although I've never tried it, if you specify OUTDEV(xxxxx) where "xxxxx" is a workstation ID other than your own, it is supposed to send the screen images to that display. I'm not sure whether the user of that display gets a message similar to that of the SRCDEV parameter, but it would be fun to route Bill's display over to Hillary's so she can watch what he's doing.
  • JOBQ (Job Queue)—This is the name of the job queue that will run the STRCPYSCN command when you are routing the output to a workstation ID other than *REQUESTER.
  • OUTFILE/OUTMBR (Outfile)—This is the name of a database file that is created and receives each screen image. When OUTDEV(*NONE) is specified, an output file name must be specified. This creates an interesting screen capture sequence with a date/timestamp, workstation ID, and system name. Ironically, it does not capture the job name or user ID of the job whose screen is being copied.

In preparation for RPG World (May 21–23, 2007, in Las Vegas), I created PowerPoint presentations that include screen captures. For years, I used the output from STRCPYSCN in a program for the PC that I wrote called PlayBack 5250, which displayed the screen image on a Windows PC. I could cut, paste, etc. and create a simple sequence that didn't require even 100th the overhead of the graphical cut/paste that you get when using Windows' cut/paste of a graphical Client Access.

Today, other solutions are available. The one I've been using for about five years now is SnagIT from TechSmith. It allows you to grab a window or the entire screen just as you would with a Windows built-in clipboard, but it also allows you to grab a region (portion) of the screen or window as well as copy scrolling Web pages right out of the browser window.

This is good enough for PowerPoint and a viable replacement for Playback; however, with STRCPYSCN and Playback, you actually see the path the user takes. This is not possible with straight SnagIt screen captures.

The solution is another TechSmith product called Camtasia Studio. Camtasia records the screen, including mouse movements, until you tell it to stop. It can record a single window or the entire screen. So you can bring up a MochaSoft or Client Access window and walk through your 5250 application, and Camtasia can record that sequence to a file.

Then you open the Camtasia editor, which is very much like a movie editor similar to Apple's iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. But the Camtasia editor is much better in most situations because it allows you to delete sections of the recording you don't need and even allows you to add narrative.

I've been using Camtasia Studio for a few years now and have created six online training "videos" for iSeries. You can watch them for free at www.i5PodCast.net (the new "i5 Podcast Network").

If nothing else, you'll be able to view what's possible with screen capturing. From STRCPYSCN to SnagIt to Camtasia, it's pretty easy to do this stuff today.

If you have another method for recording the screen, I'd love to hear about it. Post your comments in the forum associated with this article.

Bob Cozzi is host of iSeriesTV.com, an audio and video podcast/netcast Web site dedicated to the iSeries/System i world. Bob is also the author of several books, including The Modern RPG IV Language and RPG TNT: 101 Tips 'n Techniques for RPG IV. He is also the producer of RPG World, an annual conference for RPG IV programmers.


Bob Cozzi is a programmer/consultant, writer/author, and software developer. His popular RPG xTools add-on subprocedure library for RPG IV is fast becoming a standard with RPG developers. His book The Modern RPG Language has been the most widely used RPG programming book for more than a decade. He, along with others, speaks at and produces the highly popular RPG World conference for RPG programmers.

MC Press books written by Robert Cozzi available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

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