Jing Project LogoBefore I explain what it is about Jing that makes me grumpy I’ll start by explaining what Jing is. The product was entirely designed around the idea of making it easy to show someone how to do something on a computer. Rather than trying to laboriously describe what to do step-by-step you simply fire up Jing and record yourself doing the task. It’s the standard a-picture-says-a-thousand-words idea. A very sound idea indeed. Jing also goes one step further and provides one-click web-publishing for your little screen-casts. So, it’s certainly safe to say that Jing is built around a very sound concept. My problems are with the implementation.

Firstly, Jing annoyed me by making me sign up to ScreenCast.com before using the app. I have zero interest in sending stuff to ScreenCast.com. I had one very simple mission, make a quick screen-cast for Allison Sheridan’s NosillaCast showing how I process HDR photographs with Bracketeer and iPhoto. My expectations were simple. I just wanted something that I could click record on, then do my demo, click stop, and then do some minor editing before sending the content to Allison. I don’t ever see myself using the ScreenCast.com account Jing made me create.

Secondly, the UI is terrible. It has all the hallmarks of a Windows program literally ported to the Mac. Not just any Windows program though, one of those terrible ones where the developers think it’s GOOD to re-invet the wheel, and that bright yellow circles are a much better metaphor than windows. Basically, the Jing interface embodies the very worst of Windows interface design. That kind of rubbish I was happy to escape from when I left Windows.

I’ll give you two examples. Firstly, OS X has a built-in location for apps that run all the time to live, the MenuBar. Jing doesn’t use the MenuBar unless you expressly tell it to (and even then it uses it badly), instead it places a yellow blob in the top-right corner of the screen which you have to click on to activate Jing. I’m at a loss for words to describe that kind of UI barbarism. It’s neither user-friendly nor pretty to look at. The only way I can describe it is as a total failure. Secondly, we come to the bright yellow cow-pat that is the main Jing interface. To be honest words fail me at this point so I’ll leave you with a screen shot instead (not taken with Jing).

Jing Screen Shot

Basically, the Jing people have no idea what the HIG is and wouldn’t recognise it if it had a giant neon arrow pointing at it along with 100 foot tall lettering reading “Human Interface Guidelines here”. I would say it’s an example of form over function except the form is pretty awful too!

Thirdly, Jing is a CPU HOG. I couldn’t use Jing to do a demo of Bracketeer because it would make it look like Bracketeer was a gigantic cow-pat of a program. Bracketeer if of course CPU intensive, it’s doing a lot of hard-core processing, Jing shouldn’t be. It should just grab the video and the compress it later. But it doesn’t. It does the compression in real-time as it records. My poor CPUs, trying to process large images AND encode video at the same time. No wonder it just simply wouldn’t work.

Finally, Jing is wasting your CPU encoding to a format that’s not even remotely easy to edit, flash video. I was not even remotely impressed when it barfed out a 25MB .flv file of Bracketeer crawling.

I’m sure the sharing features are cool but they are not for me. I’m also sure it will work fine if you have zero interest in editing the output and if you’re only interested in demoing small little programs, like, say, Calculator. I guess the guys from Jing knew this because the calculator is the app they use in their demo video!

There are lots of better alternatives out there but none that I could find that was free. So, this app will have a place in many people’s hearts. For showing a relative how to attach a file to an email it’s fine. The interface still sucks but it is none-the-less usable for those kinds of tasks. For what I need, it’s worthless.