Need to record your desktop? Perhaps you’re demonstrating how to use an app so you can upload the clip to YouTube, or you just need to show a friend or colleague how to do something relatively simple, but can only do that by recording and sharing the clip.
Whatever the reason, you’ll find that screencasting apps are more common than you might think. In fact, half the problem is choosing one that actually works as you want it to. Use our roundup of screencasting apps to find the best tool for the job you’re doing.
Screencasting: What’s it All About?
Whether you call it “screencasting”, “screen recording”, “desktop recording” or whatever, if you’re looking for a way of recording a video of your desktop actions without pointing a camera at your monitor, then you’re looking for one of these apps.
Although the purpose of your video might differ, the basics of screencasting are simple. The app you choose should be able to:
- Capture your desktop
- Have good but adjustable picture quality settings (for sharing via narrow bandwidth channels)
- Save in a common format
- Have either the option to zoom in on your mouse, or capture your face on your PC’s webcam
While some operating systems have native options, on the whole the third party tools tend to offer a more satisfactory screen recording experience. However, one problem with such apps is that they tend to be transient in nature, so it is important to stick to well-known names rather than fly-by-nights. This is easy when the apps are premium; less so when they are free…
Below, we’ve grouped together a list of the apps that you should be looking for if you use Windows 10, Mac OS X, and Linux.
Windows Screencasting Apps
Various screen recording tools are available for Windows. Some have screencasting as their only feature, while others have it almost as an afterthought…
The Game Bar
If you’re using Windows 10, you should hit WINDOWS + G to open the Game Bar, a tool that facilitates the recording of videos on your desktop. While intended for recording and sharing game footage via the Xbox service (you don’t need an Xbox One – just press WINDOWS + Q and type xbox to find that surprising app on your Windows 10 device), this tools works fine for pretty much any app you have installed on your computer.
Note, however, that you cannot record the actual desktop, just the apps running on it.
Another option that you might have but be unaware of comes with PowerPoint 2016, which features a screen recording tool that enables you to record your desktop and drop it straight into a presentation.
If you’re using Office 365 or the Microsoft Office 2016 suite, then you probably have this.
VSDC Free Video Editor
The free video editing tool (which I used to demonstrate how to create a reaction video) is another great way to record your desktop. Once you’ve installed the app, open its subordinate, VSDC Free Screen Recorder, and configure as required.
All you need to do is click Start recording to begin, arrange the size of the capture area, F5 to begin recording, and the SHIFT + F5 hotkey combination to end (this is configurable). The finished video is saved as an AVI file that can be edited, if needed, in VSDC Video Editor.
Available for free, but supported by a “We are on Facebook” ad, this screen recording tool from Sketchman Studio is simple to use, displays mouse button clicks (optional), and produces a video that you can later edit (if necessary). However, it may show as a threat because the executable – nrs.exe – has the same name as a Trojan. Research indicates these are separate pieces of software.
Note that upon installation, Rylstim Screen Recorder will attempt to install an additional app (Money Calendar 5). You should uncheck this option before proceeding.
FlashBack Express is the “lite” free version of FlashBack (previously known as BB FlashBack). After downloading, you’ll need to sign up to get a free license for the tool, but there are few restrictions on use.
The full version is around $200, so you may want to avoid upgrading while a free trial is available, and the only significant difference between FlashBack Express and FlashBack is the lack of video editing functionality, which you should be able to find elsewhere.
Potentially the best free screen recording tool on any platform, Ezvid is flexible, with the ability to capture full screen or sections, annotate, speed up and slow down, and even comes with its own video editor and import tool. Voice recording is also featured, as is speech synthesis, webcam recording, Ken Burns effect slideshows, and automated YouTube upload.
And yes, it’s free. Here’s how it works.
We can’t think of any reason not to use Ezvid for screen recording on Windows, especially if you’re looking to produce something that will be allowed on YouTube.
Screen Recording Tools for Mac OS X and Linux
While there is a wide choice for Windows users, screen recording tools are also available for Mac OS X and Linux users as well.
Mac OS X
OS X has a great bunch of screen recording apps available. You can start with QuickTime, which ships with your Mac, or you can expand to third-party tools. Among the options for Mac OS X are premium options like Camtasia Studio (also available for Windows; both versions will set you back a massive $299) or SnagIt (also available for Windows and Chrome) from Techsmith, ScreenFlow (which we’ve looked at), and the free Monosnap.
For a more in-depth look at these options for screencasting on a Mac, take a look at our previous roundup of suitable tools.
Kazam comes with all of the features you would expect, such as the option to record from your microphone, ability to capture the mouse pointer, to record the full screen or a particular window, adjustable frame rate and video format, and more. Take a look at how it works:
A Cross Platform Java Tool: Krut
If you switch platforms regularly, and you’re happy to use a Java-based tool (and if you have Java enabled on your computer, please ensure that you update it regularly to avoid security issues), then Krut might be the screen recorder tool for you.
Krut is a lightweight, feature-packed alternative, which records in .mov format (audio is saved in a separate .wav file) and also has screenshot capabilities. You’ll need to configure it before use, however (you can do this in Menu > Settings) — at the very least you’ll probably want to change the small 360×240 capture area. Note that you’ll need to specify a filename for the screen recording each time, otherwise the default movie.mov file will be overwritten, and using this more than once will mean older files will be lost.
Beyond this shortcoming, Krut is a useful alternative to the larger, resource-heavy apps on all three platforms. If it doesn’t work for you, Google Hangouts can be used as a screencasting tool.
With great screencasting apps for all desktop operating systems, you should be able to find the tool to do exactly what you want, at the price you can afford. Meanwhile don’t overlook Android screencasting and iOS screen recording tools if you wish to capture activity on those devices.
Planning to screencast? Did we overlook a screen recorder that you swear is the best? Tell us in the comments.