Developer Tools for Moodle

Getting started in Moodle Development? Here is a list of useful tools for Windows that may be of interest to Moodle Developers.

Moodle Coding Style Guidelines

In general, you can configure code editors to understand 90% of the Moodle Coding Style by configuring it to use PSR-12 and PSR-1, in that order. On top of that, Moodle has its own customizations to those standards which you can learn more about here:

To support you in your development, you will want to ensure that the following plugins are installed on your development instance of Moodle:

  • Code checker -- This tool enables you to check your code against Moodle's Coding Style Guideline. You should install the version from GitHub, not from as this last one can sometimes fall behind. The GitHub page includes instructions on how to integrate with eclipse, phpstorm and sublimetext.
  • Marina Glancy's Moodle PHPdoc checker -- Checks PHPDoc blocks in your Moodle source code.

Toolbox for Moodle Developers

Here is a list of useful software for Moodle development in Windows. When given a choice, always choose the 64-bit version. Don't let the "free" price tag fool you -- these are all excellent tools. If you really find one or more of them useful, consider contributing to the project. Some of the ways you can contribute can include:

  • Purchase the full/pro version if one is available -- especially if you are earning a living using the tool.
  • Make a donation to the author if they don't have a premium version.
  • Contribute bug reports, bug fixes, suggestions for enhancements.
  • Spread the word and tell your friends about the cool/useful tool you found.
  • At the very least, drop the authors of the tools a note to thank them for their development efforts and contributing their time and effort to making it available to the world. Developers like to know that people like you are enjoying the results of their work.

Remember, just because it is free doesn't mean it isn't worth anything.

Greenshot -- A light-weight free screenshot capture and annotation tool which is very useful for creating documentation and reporting issues.

ScreenToGIF -- A super simple tool to capture and edit videos. Very useful for demonstrating and reporting issues.

Colour Contrast Analyzer -- This is an accessibility testing tool to help determine the legibility of text and the contrast of visual elements, such as graphical controls and visual indicators. Also doubles as a great colour picker.

File Locator Pro -- Most of the best documentation and often source of examples for Moodle API is within its source code. This can be an invaluable tool for quickly searching though Moodle's approximate 37,000 plain text source code files including PHP, JavaScript, HTML, CSS/SCSS, XML, JSON, Mustache, etc.

WinMerge -- This is a great tool for comparing files and whole folders for differences. Does 3-way comparisons.

Visual Studio Code -- VSCode is now one of the most popular code editors in the world. Once configured with extensions like PHPCS and others, this cross-platform text editor is often considered to be like an IDE by many developers for developing in Moodle. It is also considerably less expensive (free actually) and faster than Java based IDE's like PhpStorm and Eclipse. Note: Many developers use more than one code editing tool as each tool has its own strength. You don't need to pick just use one!

During the installation, ne sure to have the installer add VSCode to your search path. It will simplify a lot of the settings.

To make VSCode even better, the following are useful extensions you should consider installing for Moodle development:

  • Git Graph -- View a Git Graph of your repository and perform Git actions from the graph.
  • GitLens -Visualize code authorship at a glance via Git blame annotations and code lens, seamlessly navigate and explore Git repositories, gain valuable insights via powerful comparison commands, and much more.
  • Moodle Snippets -- Make your life easier as a Moodle developer, using the main Moodle functionalities snipperts for VSCode.
  • Moodle -- Snippets & Autocomplete -- Adds Moodle snippets and autocomplete of functions, classes, etc.
  • Bracket Pair Colorizer 2 -- A customizable extension for colorizing matching brackets.
  • Code Spell Checker -- Spell checking for source code.
  • Duplicate section or line -- Adds the ability to duplicate text.
  • Mustache -- Syntax highlighting for mustache.
  • PHP CS Fixer Extension for VS Code -- PHP formatter, PHP code beautify tool, format HTML.
  • PHP Debug -- A debug adapter between VS Code and XDebug.
  • PHP DocBlocker -- A tool to help with the creation of PHPDoc blocks.
  • PHP Intelliphence -- Enhances PHP code intelligence for Visual Studio Code.
  • PHP Intellisense -- Advanced Autocompletion and Refactoring support for PHP
  • PHP Snippets from PHPStorm -- This extension aims to provide the PHP Live Templates that come by default in new PHPStorm installations for Visual Studio Code.
  • Rewrap -- Re-wraps comments and other text to give line length.
  • TODO Highlight -- Hilights TODOs, FIXMEs in your source code.

Composer -- Composer is a dependency manager for PHP which is used to install components used for Moodle development.

PHP CodeSniffer -- Great tool for linting PHP code. The easiest way to install PHP CS is to first install Composer and then use the following CLI command: composer global require squizlabs/php_codesniffer

Git for Windows -- Git is used to manage source code version control in Moodle. During the installation, be sure to enable Git Bash and have the installer add git to your search path. It will simplify a lot of the settings.

Here are some settings for Git:

Set your full name and email address

This will be used when you create commits:

git config –global "Your first and last name"
git config –global

Colourize GIT (Optional)

git config --global color.ui auto
git config --global color.interactive auto

Configure GIT for use with VSCode

git config --global core.editor "code --wait"

If you want to use VSCode as your Merge Tool, use the following and skip the instructions Configuring GIT for use with WinMerge below:

git config --global merge.tool vscode
git config --replace --global mergetool.vscode.cmd code --wait $MERGED
git config --global diff.tool vscode
git config --replace --global difftool.vscode.cmd code --wait --diff $LOCAL $REMOTE 

Configure GIT for use with WinMerge

If you are using VSCode as your git merge tool, skip this section.

Note: You may need to modify some of the paths depending on where you installed WinMerge.

git config --global merge.tool winmerge
git config --replace --global mergetool.winmerge.cmd "\"C:\Program Files\WinMerge\WinMergeU.exe\" -e -u -dl \"Base\" -dr \"Mine\" \"$LOCAL\" \"$REMOTE\" \"$MERGED\""

git config --global diff.tool winmerge
git config --replace --global difftool.winmerge.cmd "\"C:\Program Files\WinMerge\WinMergeU.exe\" -e -u -dl \"Base\" -dr \"Mine\" \"$LOCAL\" \"$REMOTE\"

Additional merge tool settings

git config --global mergetool.prompt false
git config --global mergetool.keepBackup false
git config --global mergetool.keepTemporaries false
git config --global mergetool.trustexitcode=false

On Windows, you may also find the following settings useful since the Git repo is made for Linux:


This will change the default date format in the output of git log commands to ISO (YYYY-MM-DD) so that you can see the year of the commit:

git config --global iso

MoodleMoots – Humanized Conferences

The most social conference that I have attended since COVID started in 2020 has been the MoodleMoots, specifically MoodleMoot Global 2020 and MoodleMoot U.S. 2020. What makes virtual MoodleMoots humanized conferences?

Like many virtual conferences, they include multiple concurrent sessions in various tracks of interest. They include vendor booths where you can interact and see product demos. But what makes MoodleMoot conferences special is the effort they invest to include many interactive and social activities such as a 24 hour/day virtual café where you can actually sit around tables interacting with other participants using individual text messaging, group audio and video. there are about a couple of dozen tables in a room and several floors offering spaces to meet. I often find myself informally face-to-face with up to 10 people from around the world not only discussing and showcasing each others Moodle projects and discussing Moodle development challenges and implementation strategies, but discussing politics, learning about each others cultures, countries and challenges. I love these and much prefer them, especially for Q&A sessions after my presentations. They are like open space meetings within a Moot. Several times during any Moot, you may even drop by a table to find me helping people out, troubleshooting their #moodle issues using the built-in screen sharing feature available at each table.

Who do I meet? Anyone and everyone willing to say hello. While I always look forward to chatting with Moodle CEO Martin Dougiamas and staff from Moodle HQ, I also love to meet CEOs, event organizers, managers, teachers, administrators, Moodle developers, other presenters, students, fans of my FilterCodes, Contact Form and EmailTest plugins, Moodle partners, people just getting started and people who have been using Moodle for many years. I have never really counted but I am sure that I meet at least 40-60 people at each MoodleMoot. If you attend even just a couple of these global events per year, people start to remember you and even seek you out -- like old friends, especially if you've been outgoing and interactive. And yes, I have even ended up with some new clients, tried to recruit some Moodle developers and even made some new friends.

In addition to the Virtual Café, virtual MoodleMoots have included a host of social activities including a fun night of interactive games, entertainment and even dancing (I came in the top 3 using antenna as a virtual guitar). These virtual moots include educational sessions, group meditation and more. There was even a fun team scavenger hunt where you had to search the world for answers given clues.

Is it better or worse than an in-person conferences? Neither. It is simply different. Lead by Moodle event manager Diego Fabra, the team at Moodle HQ have really done a fabulous job of humanizing virtual MoodleMoot conferences and each one is better than the last. I highly recommend them and gratefully acknowledge their efforts in playing full out during these challenging times of isolation around the world.

Sure I miss seeing people in person, sitting down and talking over a meal with them, giving friends hugs, the t-shirts and swag bags. But, I think that in many ways, it is has a lot of advantages too. For one thing, they are less expensive which means I can afford to attend multiple conferences instead of just one per year. Because they are not all during core business hours, I have the flexibility of working my regular hours and attending the conference in real-time with minimal schedule conflicts. Because all the sessions are recorded, I also don't feel as much pressure to end social interactions. I can give people my full focus and attention while rest assured that I can just watch session recordings later.

The real down side? I wish that they could find a way to deliver meals to my door. 😉

Hope to see you at the next Global or America #moodlemoot!

Moodle Developer and Implementation Specialist
Ottawa, Canada

How to feel connected during COVID-19

Feeling disconnected because of COVID-19? Are you sure you are being 100% completely and totally honest with yourself? Maybe you just need a few friendly suggestions

The first step is to make a list of 31 people you have not spoken to in over a week. Feel free to go back all the way back to high school if you want. Then pick up your phone and start making calls to talk. Be warned -you may not make it through all 31 so you might want to do a little triage sorting before you get started.

Do not just to Facebook or text these people unless it is to get their personal contact information. Make it a point to call one person per evening for a month. You might be surprised at how many people would love to re-connect with you in these days of physical isolation. Schedule what you will do next with them before finishing your call.

There are so many ways to see your family and friends these days using Skype, Zoom, Teams, Facetime, WhatsApp, etc. Put yourself out there and let them know that you miss them.

Go on a date with someone special (spouse / boyfriend / girlfriend), watch a movie (each push play at the same time). Cook together -- each in your respective kitchens of course. Suggest having a meal or just a glass of wine, eggnog or hot chocolate together. Some people may prefer to draw or paint -- do it while on speaker phone or webcam. You do not need to be physically together to enjoy each others company and do things together. Don't be afraid of extended periods of silence. If you were painting together in the same studio, you wouldn't be speaking continuously, would you? It is ok to just be sharing time together.

Play an online game together or Charades, Pictionary, Chess, Checkers or even Cards. Many board games can be played with a web camera pointing at the board. There are now so many great game ideas.

Start a project together -- like a YouTube channel or a new online main or side business. Learn individually (lots of free courses, even on YouTube) and then teach each other what you learned. Get involved in virtual meetups, mastermind group or become a mentor. Learn a new language, sing or pray together. Write a short e-book together on all the things people can do with people, ideas for topics of conversation for discussion, recommended movies, places to visit virtually, games you can play, etc. Then learn how to publish it together.

Still can't think of anything you can do with people? Ask a friend for help. Start an online discussion and invite people to share their ideas of how they connect with others. Then steal 3 of their ideas and just do them… with others.

Move away from emails and texting -- make it live, personal and interactive in real-time. The key of course is to start making plans and taking action to make them happen -- NOW would be an excellent time.

COVID is not a reason to be apart. It is a reason to celebrate that we are all still alive, an opportunity to learn, grow and contribute together… even if we cannot be in the same room together.

Hope you found something useful in all of this -- even if it is just a seed for your own extraordinary idea. And remember, this is not a permanent situation. There is nothing keeping you from making plans for 2, 3 or even 5 years from now. If nothing else, it will give you something to look forward to and something to talk about.

PHP XDEBUG’ing in Brackets

XDEBUG enables you to walk through the execution of PHP source code and debug the code as it is executed in real-time. It is one of the most important tools that a PHP developer's toolbox and is well worth the time it takes to learn how to use it.

The following instructions will guide you to setting up Xdebug in the Backets editor. It is actually pretty straight forward once you know how.

It is assumed that you have already installed Brackets text editor and XAMPP (64-bit is faster) web server in C:\XAMPP. For this article, we will be doing this on Windows. If you have not already done so, set these up first. Initially, you will need to set-up your development environment :

  • Install PHP Debugger in Brackets
  • Enable XDEBUG in php.ini
  • Install the XDEBUG Helper browser extension

Once you have your environment installed, you will be ready to start debugging PHP code anytime you need it.

Installing PHP Debugger in Brackets

The Brackets PHP Debugger extension is available for free and is easily installed from the Brackets extension library.

1. Install the PHP Debugger extension in Brackets.

2. Click DEBUG > Open Preference Files

3. In brackets.json, add the following highlighted lines (there may already be other lines):

     :    :    :
    "wordWrap": false,
    "php-debugger.idekey": "xdebug",
    "php": {
        "enablePhpTooling": true,
        "executablePath": "C:\\XAMPP\\php\\php.exe",
        "memoryLimit": "4095M",
        "validateOnType": "false"

Don't forget the commas after the "false" on the wordWrap line.

4. Save.

5. Restart Brackets.

Enabling XDEBUG in php.ini

XDEBUG actually comes bundled with XAMPP. You need just activate it though the php.ini configuration file.

1. Start XAMPP

2. Click on the "Config" button for Apache and select php.ini.

3. Add the following lines at the bottom of the file. If you already had an [XDebug] section, update the values for each of the settings:

zend_extension = "c:\xampp\php\ext\php_xdebug.dll"
xdebug.default_enable = 1
xdebug.idekey="xdebug" ; (note: use the same key in your web browser extension)
xdebug.remote_autostart = 0
xdebug.profiler_append = 0
xdebug.profiler_enable = 0
xdebug.profiler_enable_trigger = 1
xdebug.profiler_output_dir = "c:\xampp\tmp"
xdebug.profiler_output_name = "cachegrind.out.%t-%s"
xdebug.remote_connect_back = 0
xdebug.remote_enable = 0
xdebug.remote_handler = "dbgp"
xdebug.remote_host = ""
xdebug.remote_log = "c:\xampp\tmp\xdebug.txt"
xdebug.remote_port = 9000
xdebug.trace_output_dir = "c:\xampp\tmp"
xdebug.remote_cookie_expire_time = -9999
xdebug.show_local_vars = 0
xdebug.max_nesting_level = 1000

4. Save.

5. Stop Apache in XAMPP.

6. Start Apache in XAMPP.

Installing the Xdebug Helper browser extension

Install the Xdebug Helper extension in Chrome or Firefox. Note that you should go into the extension's settings to ensure that the IDEKEY is set to Other and xdebug

Note: If you change editor, you may also need to change the IDE Key in Xdebug Helper.

Debugging PHP code in Brackets

Although not a requirement, two screens is highly recommended when debugging code, one for the editor and the other for the web browser.

1. In Brackets, open the PHP file that you want to start debugging.

2. Click on the PHP Debugger icon on the right side of the editor. This will open the debugger at the bottom of the screen.

3. Set a breakpoint in your code by clicking on the empty space to the left of the line number. Note that you can only set breakpoints for lines that actually contain executable code.

4. Back in your web browser, click the Xdebug Helper icon and select Debug.

5. (re)Load the page which makes use of the code you want to start debugging.

Note that your page may only appear partially or not at all in your browser. Do not panic. This is perfectly normal since the execution of PHP has been paused.

6. Now switch back to Brackets. You will find that it has interrupted your code at the breakpoint and is waiting for you to take action.

Here you can inspect the value of PHP variables in the right-hand column of PHP Debugger or click on Step Into, Step Over, Step Out, Run or Stop execution of your code. You can also type PHP commands at the command prompt or just type the name of a variable there to see its value.

If you don't see the variables, use the scroll bar on the right edge of the PHP Debugger window to scroll down.

Forcing Links to Open in a New Tab or Window

Have you ever found yourself browsing the web on a smartphone and clicked on something that opened in a new tab? It is almost impossible to tell when this happens. In fact, many people don't even realize that browsers on SmartPhones can have the equivalent of multiple tabs or windows.

Now imagine someone using a screen magnifier. They click on a link somewhere in the middle of the screen. If the link opened in a new tab in the background, they would never notice it and just think something is broken. However, if it opened in the foreground, one might think everything is good. Except that they will not realize that they are now looking at content in a new tab. So when they click BACK to return to the previous page, it simply won't work since there is no previous page in that tab.

As you can tell, these are good reasons to avoid opening content in a new browser tab. However, if you really want to open content in a new tab, you can make it accessible and friendly by simply indicating that the link will open in a new tab. Example: Google (will open in a new tab). Do make the words part of the link so that screen readers will pick it up too as users tab through the links on a page.

Reminder: Most links can be manually opened in a new tab by the user in several ways. If they are aware of how to use tabs, why not leave it in their control? If they don't know how to use tabs, why impose it on them, lead them into confusion and leave them disorientated?

Best regards,

Michael Milette

Creating a Multilingual Moodle Site

I have built many multilingual Moodle sites over the years. Unfortunately you cannot make a course appear or not appear based on the user's current language. But you can create a multilingual Moodle site and multi-language Moodle course.

First you will need to install the Moodle language packs for each of the languages you want to support. Depending on the theme used, this should display a language selection menu in the Moodle navigation. If it doesn't display a language selection menu, contact the theme's author to have him or her fix it. When a user switches language, Moodle will display it's menus in that language. Don't forget to apply these tags to your site name (front page settings), category name and course names. Note that it does not do the translation for you.

Note that if you use a particular localization of a language such as French Canadian, you will need to install both the French language pack AND the French Canadian language pack. To avoid having them both appear in the menus, you will need to specify the list of languages you want to have appear in the menu.

Next, install and enable the Multi-Language Content (v2) filter Moodle plugin. Be sure to enable it for both Content and Headings. What this will do is give you the ability to tag text using a a plain text {mlang xx} tag so that only the current language text appears. You do not need to know any HTML for this to work.

For example: {mlang XX}content in language XX{mlang}{mlang YY}content in language YY{mlang}{mlang ZZ}content in language ZZ{mlang}

Your {mlang} tags will also need to specify the localized language code if you are using such a language pack. For example: So where French would normally be {mlang fr}Your text in French{mlang}, it would be {mlang fr-ca}Your text in French Canadian{mlang} for French Canadian. {mlang fr_ca}, with an underscore instead of a dash, works too.

As I mentioned, you can't really hide courses in Moodle. However you can create multi-language courses by also wrapping each piece of content (don't forget the course names) in an {mlang} set of tags. Not only will the user see the course in their current language, they will be able to switch language at any time as they make their way through the course.

Another option with Moodle native courses is to make use of the activity restriction option. You can display or hide activities within a course by telling Moodle to only display if the user interface is in a specific language. So you would need to create 4 activities, one in each language, and then restrict which of the 4 displays when the users is viewing the site in English for example. To make this work, you will need to install and activate the Moodle Restriction by Language availability plugin. Note the challenge you may have with this approach is in assessing course completion status since all learners will not end up completing the same activities.

If you are dealing with SCORM packages, it gets much more complex and will be a little different. You can still do it however you will need to build the language selection menu into the SCORM package as well as all of the languages. You may be able to have the default language controlled by Moodle but this may require some additional customization.

Applying these strategies, you end up with a single course that works in any of the languages it supports.

Side note: Using WordPress? You can find information on getting started with WordPress multi-language sites by taking a look at the 9 best translation plugins for WordPress websites and qTranslate-XT

Hope you find this information useful.

Best regards,

Michael Milette

Surviving Canadian Winters

The key to surviving Canadian winters is to dress appropriately warm and get involved in winter activities like skiing, winter camping, skating, snowshoeing, hiking and our many Winter festivals.

If you start off with the mindset that it is a miserable 4-6 months each year, you will never find a way to enjoy it.

We are very fortunately to have the opportunity to experience a diverse climate. Every season here has something special and beautiful to offer if you are open to it.

How do I know that she loves me?

Every relationship is different because we all have different values. What is meaningful sign of love to you can be completely different for another -- even between you and the person you love. Assuming that you are in a relationship with a woman, talk with her about your feelings, really listen to how she feels and take that into consideration. Have you told her that you love her? Did she tell you that she loves you?

If you are not even dating yet, you will never know if she loves you if you never ask her out on a date. Both of you need the opportunity to get to know each other.

Answer these questions

Honestly answer the following questions to help you start to figure out the stage of your relationship.

  • How long have you been dating?
  • How well does she know you?
  • Have you given her good reasons to trust you?
  • Are you best friends?
  • Have you met her family yet?
  • Have you met her friends yet?
  • How does she act towards you when you are around her friends and family?
  • How do you know you love the woman?
  • Do you feel that you can be totally and openly honest about your feelings with her?

Some of questions will be different for someone who has been in an established relationship for a while.

Get to know yourself

This is probably even more important than knowing whether she loves you or not.

What would it look like if you knew without a doubt that she loves you?

What would it look like for you to believe that a person really loves you? What would she need to do or say in order for you to feel loved? Different people have different values. If you don’t know the answer to this question, how can the woman you love ever fulfill the role of being the person who loves you? That would be like having a book of “love” rules with no rule on how to feel loved.

You will never know if a woman really loves you if you don't love yourself first. You will always doubt whether any other person does or even can love you – even if they really do.

What you are looking for in a person who would love you? Make a list of musts and nice-to-haves. Would you feel comfortable sharing that list with her?

When people are important to us, we do things like speak kindly of them and resent people who speak poorly of them. We want to spend time with them, protect them and take care of them. We trust them because we know they are always honest with us. They are worth the effort and we respect them ALL THE TIME. Are these things that you feel or do you just want to have sex with her? Do you feel that she feels this way towards you?

Communicate with her

If you want to know if she loves you, talk WITH HER about how you feel. Start by having a conversation with her about what you really want. You may be hoping that she will do or say something that is important and meaningful to you yet she has no clue. Is it really fair to keep hoping that she will guess it right? Or would it make more sense to share that with her, let her know how important it is to you and see if she is willing to do some of it for you – only if she is comfortable with it of course.

Stop trying to guess what she wants and feels. In many ways, would that not be like playing the lottery with your love life? Wouldn't your chances of success improve if you gave her the opportunity to tell you the winning moves? Support each other in the relationship.

Treat her with the same respect and share with her.
Don't live a double standard.

Listen to how she is feeling and what she wants. It is important to stop what you are doing and thinking of and be in the moment with her. If you are nervous about talking with her about such things, know that this is perfectly normal at first. Part of loving someone is trusting them enough to put yourself in a vulnerable position and knowing in your heart that she won't use it to hurt you. The first time can be a big leap of faith but can be well worth it.

If she doesn’t respond in kind, and you are a great guy, perhaps you need to let her get to know you better. Don’t jump to any conclusions. You can’t make someone love you. You can only be the best version of yourself and hope that you are what she is looking for.

Hope this helps. Take only what makes sense to you and forget the rest.

Best regards,

Michael Milette

WCAG 2.0 – Closed Caption, Describe Video and Transcripts

Adding (or burning) captions into raw videos will not satisfy WCAG 2.0 criteria because the text then becomes part of the image which will not be narrated by screen readers or displayed on braille device. Real Closed Caption (CC) / Describe video is actually text overlaying the video for those who are visually impaired.

Moodle does not currently offer a way to include subtitles for a video. The standard compliant and best practice approach to inserting video captions requires using the HTML5 <track> element. The various attributes of the is element allow you to specify the type of content, the language it is in and a reference to text file that contain the actual information. A good file format to use for this is Web Video Text Tracks (WebVTT). SubRip Text (SRT) format files would need to be converted to WebVTT using a tool like srt2vtt. You could even specify the .VTT file for several languages all in one shot. I believe that there is even an inline technique so that you don't need to upload a separate file but I would need to double check that.

How do you create the WebVTT file in the first place? You could code it all by hand but this would be quite tedious. An easier approach would be to use an online tool like Subtitle Horse or Subtitle Edit for Windows.

While not a problem in most LMS' and CMS' like WordPress, there is currently no way to include CC with videos in Moodle yet. The alternative is to include a transcript of the video.

Normally you should put this first on your page but that would push the video way down. People may not even realize that there is a video until they are almost finished reading the text. In most LMS' that don't use YUI, this would be a simple matter of placing a link above the video pointing to the transcript, followed by the video and finally the transcript which could even be collapsed (activated by the link of course). This would require adding an id attribute to an HTML tag. Unfortunately all tags in Moodle get an id, automatically generated by YUI. This leaves you with no way to create in-page links. You could create the link but the id in <h3 id="your_id">Transcript</h3> would be overwritten by Moodle's YUI.

How do you get around this? I created a small piece of JavaScript code that you can add to Moodle. This JavaScript returns to you the power of creating in-page links that work in a similar way to the way native HTML works except that you can link to tags with classes instead of tags with ID's. You'll find my scroll-to-class-id-using-jquery-for-yui snippet (gist) on GitHub. It includes instructions on how to use it. For a smooth effect, you can combine this with my Smooth scrolling for in-page links snippet.

This technique could also address accessibility issues with audio files.

More Information -- WCAG 2.0 Techiques

I know it sounds complicated and maybe even overwhelming but, once you decide on an approach that meets the intent of the WCAG 2.0 principle and guideline, it will become a lot easier.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you want an explanation of the difference between Closed Caption and Describe Video.

Michael Milette

Camtasia alternatives and other media tools for screencasting

Camtasia is one of the best and most complete set of tools out there for capturing a recording of your screen (called screencasting) but comes at a cost of $313.99 per person (as of this writing). While you might be able to afford it for a few licenses, if you want to give access to this tool to your whole staff, the cost can really add up.

Here are some recommendations for (mostly) free media related tools -- for those on a limited budget:

  • Greenshot -- Simple to use, comes with an editor to annotate still screenshot (no video). Kind of like a free version of Snaggit. Why is a screenshot only tool included here? Because sometimes you may want to include screenshots in your presentation.
  • ShareX -- Does almost everything that Greenshot does and also includes full web page screenshots from browsers and screencast videos in both MPEG and animated GIF format. MPEG4 is great when you want to include sound while animated GIFs are great for short demonstration clips but does not support sound but result in much smaller files.
  • ScreenToGif -- Enables you to capture screencasts, webcam, whiteboard in animated GIF format. Includes an editor which is great for fixing your mistakes or removing long pauses in the video.
  • Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) -- This open source software is professional quality and offers the most flexibility through it doesn't do animated GIFs. You can do overlays, transitions, include video from multiple sources, includes a video editor and much more. The down side is that it has a higher learning curve than the others due to its extended feature set. I've done screencasts of up to 2 hours in a single take using this software.

The rest of the tools mentioned below enhance your screencast presentations or make it possible to edit your videos.

  • PenAttention PointerFocus ($) -- Wish you could help students follow your screencast by highlighting you mouse in a yellow circle like the pros do on YouTube? You can find all kinds of complicated tutorials on YouTube but PenAttention and PointerFocus makes it a snap. PenAttention is free but I found that it is not compatible with some computers. If you decide to go with PenAttention but want to also display keystrokes like PointerFocus, you can add this feature using PxKeystrokesForScreencasts. PointerFocus is a commercial product that you can try for an unlimited amount of time however, only when active, it will periodically nag you until you to pay for it ($12.50 USD). It does come with a number of extras to make your course or presentation easier to follow.
  • ZoomIt -- This free screen zoom and annotation tool makes screencasts even better by allowing you to zoom in to parts of the screen you are working on. It even includes a break timer should you use it for presentations.
  • Audacity -- One of the most powerful audio editors is available for free.
  • Pixlr / GIMP -- The cost of the Adobe Photoshop graphics/photo editor can really add up, especially when you have a team who only needs to use it occasionally. While GIMP is probably the most feature rich alternative to Photoshop, I personally find that it does not always produce the best results. Give Pixlr a try. It is an online tool so there is nothing to install.
  • Kdenlive -- There are several great free standalone video editing applications out there these days like Shotcut and VSDC however, if you find your computer is too slow or doesn't meet the minimum system requirements, take a look at Kdenlive. I've used this on 10 year old computers with just 2 GB of memory and it worked great.

TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: If you are trying to capture a screenshot or video of Chrome and are just seeing a black screen, you can fix this by disabling Hardware Acceleration. In Chrome, go to Settings Show Advanced Settings. Scroll all the way down to System and uncheck Use hardware acceleration when available.

Have any media tools you use that you recommend? Feel free to share your experience!

Best regards,

Michael Milette