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IBM's CoScripter Captures, Shares Browsing

IBM has released for beta testing CoScripter Reusable History, a tool that captures the steps of Web browser activity. IBM Research previewed CoScripter last year, but today marks its public debut as a beta release as an extension for the Firefox browser.

The Web-based tool provides what IBM (NYSE: IBM) calls an "actionshot" of their browser activity, essentially a capture of any session that can be stored, reviewed or shared with others.

"We're releasing this as a beta to see what the interest is and how it's used, then we'll go from there," Jeff Nichols, a research staff member at IBM's Almaden Labs where he worked on CoScripter, told InternetNews.com.

For now, anyone with the Firefox browser and CoScripter extension can use the tool to capture their Web activities. Potential applications include training and as a ready reference to Web-based tasks and procedures.

For example, a session on how to fill out a company expense report, create a budget, make travel reservations or purchase supplies can be saved locally and reviewed anytime later.

CoScripter provides three different views. The first is the actual page-by-page recap showing each Web page visited and what actions were performed. The second option is "List" view, which translates your actions into text. For example, "enter 'Tiger Woods'" in search field. The third option is "Detail" view, which highlights the actions you took on the Web page. For example, "Add to Wish List" would have a colored highlight around it during a shopping session on Amazon.com if you clicked on that section.

Nichols has posted a YouTube video of CoScripter to demonstrate its capabilities.

IBM said privacy controls are built into CoScripter so that sensitive data, such as passwords, are not recorded. Users can also turn off the recording function at any point and delete browsing sessions.

"CoScripter is a nice way to capture knowledge, which in an enterprise setting is always changing. So this gives you a dynamic tool you can use anytime as new procedures come along," Blair Pleasant, principal analyst with COMMfusion, told InternetNews.com. "I think of some of the call centers I've seen with their volumes of thick manuals and Post-It notes everywhere; CoScripter could really help with something like that."

In this first version, CoScripter includes buttons for sharing to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The sharing doesn't include the visual Web session, but the list view in text of the steps you took in a session.

CoScripter lets you highlight and share snippets of any session, so if you want to just share a part of the session, you can do that. Given Twitter's 140-character limit, a CoScripter tweet won't be very long, but Nichols said an upcoming version might include a URL-shortening feature that lets you tweet a longer session viewable via a link posted to Twitter.

Nichols said upcoming versions of CoScripter will also likely include the ability to share graphic images of the Web sessions as well. He said CoScripter is initially on Firefox because it has excellent provisions for add-on programs. "We're definitely interested in extending CoScripter to Internet Explorer," he said.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.