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From Apple’s QuickTime to the widely used ScreenFlow, Mac screen recorders — like dedicated  screenshot applications How To Take Screenshots On Your Mac: Tips & Tools How To Take Screenshots On Your Mac: Tips & Tools There are many ways to take screenshots with OS X, using both built-in and third-party tools — each with its advantages and disadvantages. Here's everything you need to know. Read More — are useful for teaching and training purposes, communicating computer problems, and making presentations.

Some screen recording solutions are as simple as click-and-record, while others provide a more complex tool set for advanced recording and editing.

Let’s check out what’s available.

QuickTime Player (free)

For a quick, cost-free solution, Apple’s default media application QuickTime is ready and waiting for screen recordings. After launching the application, select File > New Screen Recording. When the recording window appears, suse the drop-down menu to select the microphone you want to use, or select None if you don’t need audio recording.

Note: You can also record video beyond the desktop using the Mac’s iSight camera or an external video camera by choosing File > New Movie Recording.

QuickTime_recordingAfter you click the red recording button, you’ll get instructions for fullscreen recording or for a selected part of your screen.

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QuickTime_3

For the best recording, you’ll probably want to record a window or part of the screen instead of the entire screen to capture a higher fidelity recording. Click the Start Recording button when you’re ready.

QuickTime_4

You can stop the recording by clicking the QuickTime icon in the menu bar, or clicking on the icon in the dock and selecting Stop Screen Recording.

The latest version of QuickTime also includes some basic editing features in the timeline. You can trim a recording from both ends, split the clip into parts, and insert another recording at the end of a screen video, or just after where your cursor is placed in the timeline.

QuickTime_trim

Editing a QuickTime video recording is not easy as the other solutions I tried. The timeline is small, and you can’t add annotations. Recordings can however be quickly shared to Mail, Messages, YouTube and other other websites and applications.

If you want to get more out of QuickTime, check out Mark’s handy tips for the application 7 Handy Tasks QuickTime Player Performs for Free 7 Handy Tasks QuickTime Player Performs for Free You've probably changed the file association so QuickTime never gets used, so you've probably overlooked its bounty of useful features. Read More .

ScreenFlow ($99)

For more control over the recording and editing of desktop videos, the widely used ScreenFlow allows you to record everything on the desktop, and then parts of the screen recording can be cropped, zoomed, and panned for a professional looking production. We reviewed an earlier version of ScreenFlow ScreenFlow: The Best Application for Recording Screencasts On Your Mac ScreenFlow: The Best Application for Recording Screencasts On Your Mac Though QuickTime Player can also do screen recordings, it doesn't hold a candle to ScreenFlow. Read More over a year ago, and here’s a demo clip from that article.

With ScreenFlow, you can add annotations, callouts, and display one or more video clips on top of the main video. The latest version of ScreenFlow (5.0) includes in-app access to the iTunes and iPhoto libraries, the ability to delete unused raw footage, action templates for applying your favorite video actions to clippings in the timeline, and a long list of features you’d expect from a hundred dollar screen recording app.

ScreenFlow has a significant learning curve, but it’s so much more advanced than QuickTime — it’s up to you to decide if you need such a powerful tool.

Snagit ($25)

I use ScreenFlow for my longer, more complex video tutorials, but I have recently started using the screenshot and screen video recording application Snagit for short, quick videos that I can insert into blog posts.

Unlike QuickTime and Apple’s screenshot application, Snagit retains all your recordings in a tray where they can be quickly retrieved. Similar to QuickTime, you can start screen recording by using the keyboard shortcut, or by clicking the red button in the Capture window, conveniently parked on a designated side of your desktop. You can select to capture the entire desktop or draw a frame around the area or window you want to capture.

snagit_video_recorder

Like QuickTime, Snagit only allows for simple edits of the beginning, end, or middle of a recording. You can pause recordings and create screenshots from a frame in a recording, but you can’t add titles and other annotations.

I find Snagit useful for quickly uploading short videos to Screencast.com, and then embedding linked recordings in blog posts. Snagit videos can also be shared privately and managed in your Screencast account, with a free or a monthly paid version.

screencast

Monosnap (free)

Monosnap is another quick screenshot and video recording application similar to Snagit. Monosnap is a lightweight solution that allows users to draw a pointer or rectangle during the recording. Unlike Snagit, Monosnap does allow for adding a webcam in desktop recordings, either using your Mac’s built-in webcam or an external camera.

Monosnap-Monosnap

Monosnap also allows you to export screencasts to one of several cloud-based storage sites, including social networks, Dropbox, Amazon S3, the notebook application Evernote 5 Sites to Easily Start Your Blog Using Evernote, Trello or WordPress 5 Sites to Easily Start Your Blog Using Evernote, Trello or WordPress Blogger and WordPress are arguably the easiest two platforms for starting your own blog. But we wanted to know if there was anything easier out there. We weren't disappointed with the options we found. Read More , and to Monosnap’s web sharing space.

Monosnap’s editing is limited to cropping from the beginning and/or the end of a recording, and then saving a version of the edited recording. The original video stays in tact.

Monosnap_editing_2

Like Snagit, Monosnap is mainly for one-off recordings that will probably be short and quickly shared.

Camtasia Studio ($99)

Camtasia is very similar to Screenflow in that it also records your entire screen, and then allows for editing, zooming in and and out of different parts of the screen in the recording timeline. Just like ScreenFlow, you can record at the same time using the Mac’s built-in iSight camera or an external video camera.

Camtasia_2

Camtasia also includes advanced features and tools for adding titles and annotations, transitions between clips, and zooming and panning animations. Like ScreenFlow, external video and audio  clips can be imported into desktop recording projects, and final productions can be exported to Screencast.com, YouTube, Google Drive, iTunes, or exported as a web page.

Camtasia’s most useful and unique features are smart animations. For instance, you can drop a SmartFocus animation onto the timeline, and Camtasia will make some guesses about where to zoom and pan based on where you cursor was placed on the screen during the time of the recording. Of course, SmartFocus is not 100% accurate (and it can’t always predict what you want to focus on) but it makes adding customisable animations quick and easy.

Another smart focus animation, Zoom To Fit, when dropped on the zoomed in part of your timeline takes the recording back to a full screen view. This saves you the trouble of having to manually resize the clip after you’ve zoomed in on a part of the screen in your recording.

Camtasia_smart_focus

With ScreenFlow, you have to manually scale your zooms and pans, which is okay because that provides control over the look and feel of the production. But Camtasia’s smart focus tools could be huge time-savers in the editing process, especially if you produce screencasts on a regular basis.

The Best Recorder

Except for Camtasia and Monosnap, I have used all the above screen recorders for different purposes. I tend to use Snagit because it’s a lightweight and quick recorder, nearly as fast taking a regular screenshot. However, for longer and more complex screen recordings, either Camtasia or ScreenFlow is a must. Each comes with a free trial download, but they both have a pretty significant learning curve. The two programs in my view are not hugely different in what they do, but I’m considering switching to Camtasia for while thanks to its time-saving smart focus features.

I suggest QuickTime only if your video recording needs are not that great. If you just need to shoot a few simple instructional videos to share with other people, QuickTime should suffice.

All of these screen recording applications include corresponding hotkeys for triggering recording features. I have hotkeys for ScreenFlow and Snagit mapped to the finger gesture application, BetterTouchTool Become A Power Trackpad User With BetterTouchTool [Mac] Become A Power Trackpad User With BetterTouchTool [Mac] Read More , and the voice command application, Dragon Dictate Create Powerful Custom Mac Voice Commands With Yosemite & Automator Create Powerful Custom Mac Voice Commands With Yosemite & Automator Here's a Yosemite feature you might have missed: Apple has made it easier to create custom voice commands using Automator. Read More  so that I can quickly start, pause, and end recordings, and trigger other features I regularly use.

Which is your screen recorder of choice on Mac OS X?

  1. Louisa
    July 29, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Awesome info thanks. I didn't know I already had a screen capture on my Mac! Will give QuickTime a go today.

  2. Gerhard Uhlhorn
    July 20, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    Thank You.
    I’m using ScrenFlow, but with the NVIDIA Web Driver installed, ScreenFlow is totally unusable. It is cashing always and exported videos are in totally wrong colors (eg. grey is magenta).

    So, I’m looking for a replacement for ScreenFlow. There are hundreds of screen recording apps, but all are ugly (brushed metal interface) and less useful than Quicktime X.

    A good screen recording software has to show mouse clicks and keystrokes as a minimum. It has to be able to export in high quality, full screen resolution and 60 frames per second. And it should show spinning beachballs.

    Which recording software has these features?

  3. morty
    July 11, 2016 at 2:51 am

    you dont provide useful information on audio recording which is critical

  4. jonas
    May 20, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Thanks a lot, i think quick time is best when you combine it with sound flower :)

  5. Pat
    April 18, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    I understand the recording video part, but I need audio with it as well. However, its said to use the built in mic, but if I do that it records sounds in room but no audio in video. Is there software that could record video and audio out there? I need it for training purposes.

    • Joe
      May 5, 2016 at 1:18 pm

      I am looking for the same thing, hope we get an answer.

      • Lachie Jones
        May 6, 2016 at 3:33 am

        sound flower works a charm

    • njh00rn
      May 18, 2016 at 5:50 pm

      Screenflow allows recording the system sounds (toggle on or off) as well as your choice of inputs (I use a USB headset). I usually edit my audio in Audacity (free) and import into Screenflow. But Screenflow has a lot of audio editing options built in, as well.
      I haven't used Camtasia, but for my purposes after watching comparisons, I think Screenflow is more powerful.
      As for the learning curves, both have a ton of good tutorials available on their sites and on YouTube in general.
      I am still learning new more advanced features of Screenflow, but it is still much better than iMovie for editing and definitely for recording.

    • njhoorn
      May 18, 2016 at 5:59 pm

      Screenflow and Camtasia both record any sound source you select. On a macbook pro, the built-in mic works, any good USB headset (with a pop filter) or even better mic's work (set up differs with type and purpose.)
      Be sure that you choose the one you want, and double check your sound preferences to select input device.
      You can also record the audio separately with Audacity (free), edit it for quality and import it or clips from it into either Screenflow or Camtasia.
      I have not used Camtasia, but have checked out several comparisons.
      Just be sure the sound source is corrected selected in preferences and in your screen recorder.

  6. Patrick Balleux
    April 2, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    There is also ScreenStudio 2, an open source project based on FFMpeg which does a great job.

    Link: http://ScreenStudio.crombz.com

    There's a neat community on G+ named ScreenStudio where I do a follow up on user's comments.

  7. swb
    April 1, 2016 at 3:10 am

    Don't forget Jing, by Techsmith, the makers of Snagit. Jing is Snagit's free little brother.

  8. Flying Cloud
    January 31, 2016 at 3:49 am

    Am using a MacMini with OS X 10.9.5. Am looking for a suitable Screen Capturing Software, able to "Shrink to a smaller screen size", that would save certain RSS Feeds so that I can watch my son running track. Tried using MacXDvd in screen capture mode, but it just cuts off recording though the recording button is still on. Would greatly appreciate any suggestions. thx

    • Cherilyn
      March 6, 2016 at 1:09 am

      Check out iShowU Instant! Can't believe it wasn't on this list :-) You get an obligation-free trial of 14 days to see if it's what you want/need. Plus there are tutorial videos to help you get the most out of your recordings. Check it out at shinywhitebox.com

  9. Seulki Lee
    December 28, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for your article. I recommend Bandicam too. It is really cool.

  10. John Towsen
    December 5, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    I need to capture short clips from DVDs for my blog. I used top do this with SnapZ Pro X, but that's been phased out and QuickTime and Movavi don't allow this Do any of the others?

  11. Erida Prifti
    October 18, 2015 at 7:58 am

    Thank you for a very informative article.

  12. Alex Vu
    October 6, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    I really liked the power of Camtasia, and im interested in Screenflow. But for on the fly recording and lightning fast sharing, I prefer ilos videos! Great post!

  13. Bakari Chavanu
    July 22, 2015 at 1:15 am

    Sorry, Federico, I never heard of LiceCap. Thanks for letting us know about it. Does the developer have a website? When I did a quick search, I didn't see one.

  14. Federico Zivolo
    July 20, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    No LiceCap? :(

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