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Screencasting software: Comparison and features

Jan
11th

Posted by alan in Advertising, Review, Video on January 11, 2010
Screencasting Software - Jing

Jing Screencasting Software

Screencasting is an excellent way to communicate to clients, potential customers, or people in general. With many screencast software options available, it is not hard to find one that fits your specific needs. This article will examine various popular screencasting programs currently available for PCs and Macs, as well as their features. While many of the programs listed below have other features, such as the ability to take screenshots and record only audio, I will concentrate only on the screencasting abilities of each of these tools.

Free screencast software

Jing / Jing Pro

Jing, by TechSmith, is a compact tool that docks itself to the side of your screen, making it easy to start a screencast. You can quickly and easily upload files to screencast.com for sharing or save them on your computer. The quality of videos made is high and the player looks sleek. The free version has a branded player as well. For $14.95 a year, the Pro version offers better encoding for smaller files and no branding, as well as the ability to upload to YouTube and save as a MPEG-4 file. The biggest drawback is the 5-minute limit on all screencasts.

Jing screencasting softwareFeatures:

  • 5-minute record time limit
  • 2 Gigabytes free storage on Screencast.com
  • Quickly and easily create screencasts
  • Few features
  • Good recording quality
  • Saves as a Flash SWF file
  • Quickly upload and share videos with a link from Screencast.com
  • Jing Pro records smaller files and saves as MPEG-4 as well



Screenr

This is a very simple and fast web-based program. Screenr logs into your Twitter account and in this way keeps track of your screencasts. You receive a very short URL to paste wherever you wish or code to add to your website or blog. Although there are few features, the videos it produces are good-quality. The major drawback in this product is the 5-minute time limit.

Screenr screencasting softwareFeatures:

  • No installation on your computer
  • Quickly and easily create a screencast
  • 5-minute recording limit
  • Good recording quality
  • Must sign in to a Twitter account to use
  • After upload to server and posting to Twitter, you can download the MP4 file or upload to YouTube

Screencast-o-Matic

Although visually not appealing, Screencast-o-Matic does a good job at creating screencasts. There is a time limit of 15 minutes for the free version, which is branded with the Screencast-o-Matic logo in the lower-left corner. For $5, you can upgrade to Pro and get up to an hour of recording time without branding. Video and audio quality are good. The screencast may be saved on your computer or uploaded to their servers or YouTube. This is a good option for those who need more than 5 minutes.

Screencast-O-Matic screencasting softwareFeatures:

  • No installation on your computer
  • 15-minute limit with free version / 1-hour limit with paid version
  • Can be uploaded to Screencast-O-Matic’s servers, to YouTube HD, or downloaded to the computer
  • Saves as Quicktime MP4, Windows Media Player AVI, or Flash SWF file
  • Emphasizes mouse clicks with a colored dot
  • Can be resized when saved, although quality may be reduced

Wink

This program allows users to record at variable rates and add text boxes with buttons to require interaction. Upon recording, you can see each frame and can add more complex controls such as advancement to a certain frame. Wink then renders the frames to a compact file for viewing. This program requires a little more work but is good for certain tutorials, such as those that need on-screen text or require the video to stop.

Wink screencasting softwareFeatures:

  • Notes can be added to frames that require clicking
  • Frames captured based on mouse and keyboard actions
  • Mouse location can be manipulated
  • Frames can be removed
  • Variable capture rate
  • Produces compact files
  • Can be saved as a Flash file or Executable (EXE) file

CamStudio

This popular open-source software is not as visually appealing, but offers many audio and video options. The recording may be saved as an AVI or SWF file, and the AVI file may be converted to a Flash SWF file later. The downside is the file size, which may be larger than other programs.

CamStudio screencasting softwareFeatures:

  • File can be saved as Windows Media Player AVI and converted to Flash SWF file
  • Looks simple, but CamStudio has many options for recording video and audio
  • You can add notes to the video and highlight the cursor
  • A popular free choice
  • Tends to produce large files

ScreenToaster

This is another web-based program, like Jing and Screenr. It allows limited editing, such as subtitles and changing of the preview image. You must register and log in to use the files produced, which are fairly economically sized. Overall, this is a fairly good option.

ScreenToaster screencasting softwareFeatures:

  • No installation on your computer
  • Subtitles can be added
  • Audio can be recorded later or done over
  • Can be uploaded to ScreenToaster’s servers or YouTube, and can be downloaded
  • Produces relatively smaller files
  • You must be logged in to use files
  • Saves as a Quicktime MOV file or Flash SWF file (requires signup)

Commercial screencast software

ScreenFlow (Mac)

ScreenFlow is a feature-rich screencast program available only for the Mac. It differs from other programs in that you record the entire screen and edit the screencast with the many editing options on a timeline. Options for video editing include screen rotation, reflection, shadow, and color balance. Audio effects can be added, as well as text and cursor effects. ScreenFlow uses a special algorithm to record only what changes on screen, creating more compact files. This is an excellent program for those who plan on creating professional screencasts and have the time to learn how it works. The software adds a large watermark to the resulting video until the $99 is paid.

ScreenFlow screencasting software for MacFeatures:

  • Records entire screen and then allows editing
  • Higher learning curve
  • A timeline is used to edit and manipulate video and audio
  • Features-rich interface
  • 3D and transparency effects
  • $99 to buy and remove large watermark from demo
  • Can be saved as a Quicktime MOV or M4V file.
  • Records only changes on screen, which produces smaller files, saving bandwidth and money

Camtasia Studio (PC)

Recording your screencast is quite simple, after which you can save or edit the file. The editing tool allows great control over exactly what the viewer will see, allowing functions such as a large number of transitions, as well as zoom to selected areas. Camtasia Studio automatically adds zoom effects to selected areas in your video. It has a few audio features, such as noise reduction, which produce higher-quality sound recordings. Files can be uploaded to Screencast.com or YouTube, or can be saved as one of many formats, from Flash to Windows Media Player to Quicktime files. Files are not overly bloated due to the ability to adjust audio and video quality. This program has a higher learning curve as is good for more than a casual screencaster. The price tag is fairly steep, at $299.

Camtasia Studio screencasting software for PCsFeatures:

  • Many options to save screencast
  • Files produced are more streamlined than average
  • Ability to add graphics and text, zoom, and other effects available
  • A few audio effects available
  • Files can be saved in almost any format: AVI, MOV, SWF, and others
  • $299 to purchase
  • Higher learning curve, more complicated for a beginner
  • Camtasia Studio is not as user-friendly as Camtasia for Mac


Camtasia (Mac)

This screencasting software is similar to ScreenFlow. It offers preset video actions, such as zoom in and fade out, as well as the ability to rotate the screencast along any axis. Camtasia for Mac may be somewhat easier to learn than ScreenFlow but may lack a few features. It automatically creates a Flash file to play the MP4 file where the video resides. The resulting file can be a little bloated in size as well. This is an overall good program for recording screencasts.

Camtasia Mac screencasting softwareFeatures:

  • Records entire screen and then allows editing
  • Higher learning curve
  • A timeline is used to edit and manipulate video and audio
  • Feature-rich interface
  • 3D and transparency effects
  • $99-149 to purchase
  • More choices to save the screencast, such as Quicktime MOV, Windows Media Player AVI, and MPEG-4
  • Can create a Flash file to play the MP4 file
  • Resulting file sizes are larger than average
  • Easier to learn than Camtasia Studio
  • Similar to ScreenFlow (with more user-friendly options)

Apple Quicktime

Newer versions of Quicktime now allow screencasting. Much like many of Apple’s software, the Quicktime screencast interface is simple and streamlined. On the downside, there are few options to optimize your screencasts. The software allows you to quickly save your file or upload your screencast to YouTube. It can be purchased separately as Quicktime 7 Pro or as Quicktime X with Snow Leopard OS. It is saved as a Quicktime MOV file.

Apple's QuicktimeFeatures:

  • Simple, streamlined
  • Less options but very simple
  • Quickly upload files to YouTube
  • $29.99 to purchase Quicktime 7 or $29 to purchase Snow Leopard OS with Quicktime X
  • Records screencast as a Quicktime MOV file

Adobe Captivate

Captivate is not screencast software per se, although it has the capabilities. It is akin to Flash, only easier, complete with a timeline and many other functions. If you are just going to screencast, it may not be necessary to invest in such a robust program that is meant for complex presentations. The high learning curve makes it a poor option for the occasional screencaster. The main drawback is the price: $799 to purchase.

Adobe's CaptivateFeatures:

  • Not a screencasting program per se, although it is fully capable of producing screencasts
  • High learning curve, for those who wish to take advantage of the programs other features
  • Can record tutorials efficiently with a series of screenshots
  • Many options for producing high-quality tutorials and presentations
  • Saves as an Adobe Flash (SWF) file
  • $799 to purchase

SnapzProX (Mac)

SnapProX for Mac offers many features for reducing the file size of your screencast. You can reduce the screen capture size to 10% and enlarge it up to 400%. There are many options to adjust video and audio quality as well, including adjustable frame rate and number of colors. You can preview how the video may look before you begin to record. All this results in an ability to create more streamlined files, saving bandwidth and money. This biggest drawback to Snapz is that it only saves as a Quicktime MOV file.

SnapzProX screencasting softwareFeatures:

  • $69 to purchase
  • Screencast may be scaled from 10% to 400%
  • Frames per second can be set from 1-30
  • Many options for adjusting video and audio settings
  • Allows preview of recording quality
  • Saves as a QuickTime MOV file

iShowU (Mac)

iShowU has a good number of presets for recording, with the ability to add your own. You can adjust audio and video settings to fine-tune your screencast. Frame rate can be set from 1-40. Mouse clicks may also be highlighted and the recording may be set to follow the mouse. At $20, the price is not expensive. The drawbacks to iShowU is that is creates somewhat bloated files and saves only as Quicktime MOV files.

iShowU screencasting for MacFeatures:

  • Many recording presets
  • Many options for adjusting audio and video
  • May follow the mouse and highlight clicks
  • Screencast may be scaled from 1% to 100%
  • Files produced are larger than those produced by other screencast programs
  • Saves as a QuickTime MOV file
  • Economically priced at $20

ALLCapture

Similar to Captivate, ALLCapture records screen changes and records these as frames, which appear on the timeline. There are many options for adding graphics, effects, and text. This software has a higher learning curve, but may be rewarding to those who want more control over their screencasts. ALLCapture does an excellent job at producing streamlined files. The software, however, is rather pricey at a minimum of $199.

ALLCapture screencasting softwareFeatures:

  • Higher learning curve
  • Offers many options, such as graphics, text, and transition effects
  • Compact file sizes due to recording method
  • Frame rate can be set from 1-30 frames a second
  • Saves as Flash SWF, Executable EXE, MPEG, andWindows Media Player files
  • Purchase price steep at $199-398 and higher for the enterprise version

Conclusion

For the amateur or occasional screencaster, I would recommend such web-based programs as Jing, Screenr, and ScreenToaster. For a person planning to use screencasting extensively, a more robust solution would be required, such as ScreenFlow or SnapzProX for Mac, and Camtasia for the PC. Good free programs would be CamStudio and Screencast-o-Matic.

In conclusion, it all depends on your specific needs. Think of the following:

  • Am I going to be screencasting often, or occasionally?
  • Am I ready to pay $100 or more for a robust screencasting solution?
  • Am I willing to invest time to learn how to use the software? Or do I need a simple solution?
  • Do I need to add graphics and text? Or simple record my activity onscreen?
  • Is file size important?
  • Do I want to host the videos on my site or an external site, such as YouTube?
  • Do I need a specific file type, such as Quicktime or Flash files?

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5 Responses to “Screencasting software: Comparison and features”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Great article and well done on comparison of each one. I rarely use freeware of screencasting since they offer me very limited features of video editing which is important for my video, though they’re great as well.

    Another point / group of end user you didn’t mention is gameplayer which / who contains a huge marketing percentage of screencasting. There’re many screen recording apps specially designed for them and a bity none of them appears in your article.

    More, some of the apps like Captivate and Camtasia are quite professioal that not all of users can afford the prices and master them within short time. I recommend some common programs which is cheaper, simpler and easier to use.

    Here is an article talking about the difference of screencasting users and what kind of app should they choose. It’s mainly about PC but still useful for people to judge their own positions.

    Choose the Most Suitable Desktop Screen Recorders for Different Uses
    http://bit.ly/85gNxf

    • alan says:

      That’s good to know. This certainly is not an exhaustive list of all screencasting programs. Since this blog is mainly used to help businesses, I reviewed software that may be helpful for business owners and webmasters who have a website and want to improve their web presence. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Vishu says:

    Just forget about Jing and all the softwares with time restrictions ,budies .download Camtasia 7 Version from torrent link,no time restrictions i have still seen,

    Good video quality & no time restrictions

    You rock Camtasia

  3. I was using Jing but Screencast-o-Matic seems to be the better deal…the free version lets you upload to Youtube and you get 15 min instead of 5. Pro version is 9 bucks instead of 15…so just doing a little math…and with Screencast-o-Matic the pro version gives you up an HOUR.

    I’ve been fooling around with screen casts for just a short time now and this article was quite useful. I have to try out a few of the other software you mention as time permits. So much stuff out there and it’s crazy what you get for free now…and the “try before you buy” model s a great benefit to consumers…

  4. Papathanos says:

    Well, actually I’m using a different tool which is not listed above. Demo Builder 8(www.demo-builder.com) is definitively a screencasting software :)

    Since I’m not a native English speaker, the text-to-speech feature helped me a lot. Also, I was able to publish my demos to YouTube.

    Before evaluating Camtasia, just have a look over Demo Builder. You will be surprised :)

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