Windows 2000's ClipBook Viewer makes a handy remote troubleshooting tool

They say a picture is worth a thousand words; prove them right by using the ClipBook Viewer for your remote troubleshooting tasks. Greg Shultz walks you through the setup and process for viewing remote ClipBoard images.

Windows 2000 has a little-used feature, the ClipBook Viewer, which can be extremely useful in remotely troubleshooting all kinds of problems. While the ClipBook Viewer won’t allow you to remotely control a user’s computer, it will allow you to remotely view error messages and configuration files via screen shots pasted into the ClipBook Viewer and then shared across the network.

This technique allows you to bypass communication problems that can crop up when you ask a novice to explain error messages and will allow you to accurately troubleshoot and solve certain types of problems over the phone without having to leave your office. I’ll show you how to configure and use Windows 2000 Professional’s ClipBook Viewer as a basic remote troubleshooting tool. I’ll also pass along some tips that will make the technique easier to explain to the user you’re assisting.

ClipBook Viewer overview
Basically, the ClipBook Viewer is a tool that allows you to view and save the contents of the ClipBoard, which as you know holds any item, text or graphics, that you copy to it by pressing [Ctrl]C or [Ctrl]X. The ClipBook Viewer, in some form or fashion, has been a part of the Windows operating system since the Windows 3.x days and has evolved along with the various versions of Windows. Along the way, it gained the ability to hold multiple items and share them over a network—the feature that I’ll show you how to take advantage of as a troubleshooting tool.

Launching ClipBook Viewer
The ClipBook Viewer doesn’t have an icon on the Start menu, which is unfortunate, because it's essentially hidden and most folks never make use of it. To launch it, you must access the Run dialog box and type Clipbrd in the Open text box.

To make ClipBook Viewer more accessible, you can create a shortcut to its executable file (C:\Winnt\System32\Clipbrd.exe) and place it on the Start menu.

When you first launch the ClipBook Viewer, you’ll see the NetDDE Agent dialog box appear in the middle of your screen, as shown in Figure A, which indicates that the network version of the Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) service is loading.

Figure A
The first time you run the ClipBook Viewer, you’ll see the NetDDE Agent dialog box.

DDE is a form of Microsoft’s interprocess communication (IPC) protocol that allows applications to exchange information and commands. Therefore, NetDDE is an extension of this IPC protocol that allows DDE to function across a network.

Once the service loads, you’ll see the ClipBook Viewer, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B
As soon as the NetDDE Agent finishes loading the service, you’ll see the ClipBook Viewer.

Taking a look around
First, you’ll notice that the ClipBook Viewer contains two windows. Logically, the Clipboard window will contain any item that you’ve copied to the Clipboard. The Local ClipBook window is the window that you’ll copy items from the Clipboard window into and then share over the network.

The ClipBook Viewer’s toolbar contains buttons for all the basic operations that you’ll need when using the ClipBook Viewer as a remote troubleshooting tool. Let’s take a closer look at each of these buttons, illustrated in Figure C.

Figure C
The toolbar provides access to all of the features that you’ll need to use the ClipBook Viewer as a remote troubleshooting tool.

The first set of buttons allows you to connect to and disconnect from a shared ClipBook. The second set of buttons lets you share and stop sharing your ClipBook. The third set of buttons is the standard Copy, Paste, and Delete buttons that you’ll use to manipulate items in the ClipBook Viewer’s windows. Finally, the fourth set of buttons allows you to change the way that you view the items that appear in the Local ClipBook window.

Keep in mind that the ClipBook Viewer is a NetBIOS-based application. Your Windows 2000 systems must be running the NetBEUI protocol for the ClipBook Viewer to function correctly.

A troubleshooting example
Now that you have a good idea of what ClipBook Viewer is all about, let’s take a look at an example. Doing so will illustrate how you can use this tool as a remote troubleshooting aid.

Let’s suppose that you get a call from a user who has encountered an error dialog box while attempting some routine operation. Rather than running over to the user’s cubicle to see the error message or asking the user to describe the error message, you would like to view it remotely with ClipBook Viewer. To do so, you ask the user to take a screen shot of the error message, copy it to ClipBook Viewer, and then share the image. You can then connect to the user’s ClipBook and view the error message firsthand. This will make it easier for you to determine the severity of the problem and plan your course of action.

Sharing an error message image
Taking a screen shot of an error message is a simple process. When the error dialog box is on the screen, the user presses [Alt][PrintScrn] to create a graphic image of the dialog box in the Clipboard.

Then, have the user launch ClipBook Viewer. The user will see the screen shot of the error message in the Clipboard window, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D
Pressing [Alt][PrintScrn] creates an image of the error message dialog box in the Clipboard window.

At this point, the user should select the Local ClipBook window and then click the Paste button on the toolbar to bring up the Paste dialog box, shown in Figure E, which prompts the user to enter a name for the page he or she wants to add to the ClipBook. Have the user type in an appropriate name, select the Share Item Now check box, if it isn’t already selected, and click OK.

Figure E
Use a descriptive name for the page to make it easy for remote users to identify.

As soon as the user clicks OK, he or she will see the Share ClipBook Page dialog box shown in Figure F. Since the default sharing options and permissions are adequate for sharing a screen shot, the user can just click OK.

Figure F
When the user sees the Share ClipBook Page dialog box, just have him or her click OK.

The Local ClipBook window can hold multiple pages—127, in fact—so if a user wants to share additional items, simply have him or her repeat these steps. For example, they might want to share screen shots of other dialog boxes they encountered before the error message appeared.

Viewing a shared error message image
Once the user has shared an error message screen shot with the ClipBook Viewer, remotely viewing it is a piece of cake. To begin, launch ClipBook Viewer. Next, click the Connect button on the toolbar and you'll see a Select Computer dialog box similar to the one shown in Figure G. Simply select the name of the computer to which you want to connect and click OK.

Figure G
When you click the Connect button, you’ll be prompted to select the name of the computer.

Once the connection is established, you’ll see a third window appear in ClipBook Viewer. This window will be titled ClipBook on Remote System, where Remote System is the name of the system containing the shared images that you want to view. In my example, that window is titled ClipBook on \\Neptune2K, as shown in Figure H. As you can see, each of the images copied and pasted into the Local ClipBook appear in this window.

Figure H
A third window will appear showing you the contents of the remote system’s ClipBook.

You can then view any of the images by selecting one and clicking the Full Page button on the toolbar to see the shared image. Once you do so, the image will fill the window. To select other images, just click the Table Of Contents button on the toolbar.


Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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