Proposal: Tuxtorial - an ehanced documentation creation and hosting system

Anirudh Sanjeev anirudh at
Tue Mar 23 10:39:11 UTC 2010


Over the past few weeks, I've been designing and implementing a new tool to
improve the quality and quantity of documentation for the Linux desktop, by
greatly enhancing the workflow of documentation creation. I am writing to
you with a call for feedback, suggestions, and to also propose conversion
of this work into a Summer of Code project.

It's called "Tuxtorial", soon to be in alpha at . It
aims to crowdsource the creation of screenshot supplemented tutorials by
means of a specialized clientside tool and a system to host them online.

The current workflow to create an image supplemented tutorial is
cumbersome. Screenshots are captured at key points, saved, opened in
external tools, edited one by one, and uploaded painstakingly to FTP or any
online image hosting service.

And writing documentation comprises of writing markup in
HTML/Markdown/Mallard, and inserting the exact URLs of each image, which
can prove to be an inefficient and gratifying experience.

A user can download tuxtorial's client software and install it. It runs
natively in the GTK environment, and hides itself on start. The user simply
hits a keystroke on each point, when the screenshot is unobtrusively
captured. The user continues to perform the actions which he/she wishes to
demonstrate/teach until completion, marking each key point with the
aforementioned keystroke.

When finished, the user opens up the "Storyboard" where he/she can edit
images by means of a few inbuilt specialized tools. The user can add a
snippet of text for each screenshot, as an instruction.

Since the data is available in a semantically clean format, it can be
converted into HTML, PDF, ODP, etc. Most interestingly, I will support the
ability to directly upload the tutorial to and is visible by
anyone who wishes to learn from this tutorial.

Clearly, this is a far superior method of creating documentation, and since
all non-human elements of the workflow are eliminated, I'm speculating that
less technically skilled people will be able to share their knowledge and
upload to the site, which can pass community review, and eventually make
it's way into standard documentation systems.

Over time, I have the vision of expanding this and making Tuxtorial the
preferred medium of producing documentation content for Desktop
applications everywhere, replacing the current wiki/forum/blog model. I am
also experimenting with another client application which would be solely
designed to view documentation, and can hopefully be distributed as part of
the "help center" so desktop users have quick and easy access to tutorials.

I am doing this and other Linux documentation related work as part of my
post-college Startup company. While almost all the code will be free
software, I do intend to make the venture slightly profitable. Converting
this work into a Summer of Code project for Gnome would really help with my
living expenses initially, so I wished to pitch this idea forward for
community review and feedback. Of course, I will continue regardless of the
outcome of my application.

Apart from technical support, the backing of the ubuntu community will be a
boon to help my project take off. Having a lot of people from the vibrant
community here testing, filing bugs and contributing patches would be
immensely helpful. While I can write some code, I still lack the skills to
engage community.

Looking forward to your feedback,

(antileet on #ubuntu-doc)
P.S. I have a draft PDF document describing my idea in greater detail if I
have missed out anything:
Senior Undergraduate Student, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur

Start something!
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