(Last Updated: March 18, 2017)

Would it be possible to figure out the best screen recorder, screencast software?

This article will show you how to choose the best screen recorder or screencasting software for your screencasting need.

A screencast is a digital recording of computer screen output, also known as a video screen capture, often contains audio narration, text or callout annotations.

Screencasts have a very wide range of applications, and are often used to:

  • Show others exactly how to do a given task or how to solve a problem on specific software
  • Make step by step software tutorials, product presentations
  • Record complete seminars and make them available to all attendees for future reference or share it with people who didn’t have time to attend live seminars.
  • Show others your game playing experience

Screencasting is the process of making screencasts:
Screencasting = screen recording+ adding audio narration + mixing visual annotations

So you want to make screencasts?

To make a simple screencast is quite easy: you just need to record all the activity and your voice narration while performing on your computer screen. With growing demands and the rise of internet video sharing services like Youtube, Vimeo, Metacafe, Dailymotion… there are more and more tools that can help you make screencasts quickly.
However, most screencasting software can only record the computer screen to a video, some with limited editing functionalities and basic annotations, a few advanced tools with lots of features that might make you confusing at first glance. Some are free; some are commercial, some with reasonable price, and some with high price tag…
This makes it confusing and quite difficult to choose the right tool because most people don’t have enough patient and time to try every tool.
There are many articles or blog posts about things like “10 best screencasting tools”, “list of best screencasting tools”, “comparison of screencasting tools”, “screencasting tools comparison”, … However, most of them just try to list all screencasting software they know or heard, adding a screenshot and a short description of the software. You will still have to try all listed tools to find your favorite one.

Best screencasting software for specific purpose

Everyone has his own taste and it’s virtually impossible to choose a screencasting tool that suites everyone’s taste or needs.
From our experience in developing screencast authoring tool and making screencasts from short demonstration videos to complex screencasts with interactivity for elearning,
We think the best way is narrow down your specific requirements and pick the most appropriate tool for each specific purpose.
When people are looking for screen recorder, screencasting software or rapid elearning authoring tool they are actually searching for a solution for their specific problem.
Some people just want to record their computer screen for a demonstration or providing visual guide to their family or friends on how to use a software feature, how to do a trick.
Some want to record their game playing to share or show off on Youtube, some want to create a demonstration or make video guide/manual for their wonderful software, some want to make engaging screencasts for their training session…

So don’t just choose a tool for every purpose! And keep in mind that there will never be something like “the best screencasting tool” or so.

How to choose the right tool for your screencasting?

Below are our recommendations:

You want to record a video of computer screen for sharing with others as fast as possible, editing is not necessary:

1. Screencast-o-Matic (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Pros:

  • Multiple platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
  • No installation required
  • Simple and easy to use
  • Fast uploading and easy sharing
  • Record directly to MP4, AVI or FLV

Cons:

  • Low performance, adequate video quality: Low frame rate (fps), so the result is usually not so smooth for fast motion video/movie). This is obvious because of two main reasons:
    1. It is written in Java and must be run through JVM
    2. For fast sharing, they must record video directly to lossy video formats (AVI, MP4, FLV…) for better compression.
  • Not suitable for editing: Record directly to lossy video formats so the quality will be lost with each saving, so the more editing the lower the quality.

Free edition limitations:

  • Watermark
  • 15 minutes max
  • Webcam recording
  • No editing tool for free version

Price: Free or $12 per year subscription for Pro edition.

2. Camstudio (Windows)

Pros:

  • Free open source software
  • Can choose various codecs to encode recorded video based on your needs: You can encode in lossy (small file size) or lossless codecs (crystal clear video quality)
  • Can record with quite high frame rate (fps), depends on chosen video codec

Cons:

  • Not updated for quite a long time, and may be not possible in the near future as they have no dedicated or active developers.
  • Use AVI container so it suffers 2GB file size limitation (though you may tweak to overcome it)

Price: Free

3. Jing (Windows/Mac)

Pros:

  • Simple and easy to use.
  • Fast uploading and easy sharing.

Cons:

  • Free version only allow maximum of 5-min recording and no webcam recording.
  • No editing, no annotations/callouts

Price: Free or $15 per year for Pro edition.

Screencast tool for in-game or high frame rate (fps) recording:

1. Camstudio (Windows) with lossless codec

2. Fraps (Windows, $37)

3. Bandicam (Windows, $39)

For very long session recording:

1. Camstudio (Windows) with H.264, Xvid or vpx (WebM) codec

Making high quality video screencasts with annotations/callouts and editing capabilities:

1. ActivePresenter Free (Windows, macOS)

Unlike other alternatives, ActivePresenter does not record directly to video file.
After recording the screen capture session, ActivePresenter stores it as a series of slides and presents a feature-rich editor interface similar to PowerPoint, allows full editing. Each slide can contain multiple images, video or audio. All slides may be re-arranged and audio overdub and editing is also built-in. External images including PowerPoint slides may be imported as well. The completed demonstration/screencast can be easily exported to a number of video formats.

Pros:

  • Encode video using lossless codec: Crystal clear high video quality + high capture frame rate
  • Built-in audio/video editor
  • Support multiple layers of audio, video
  • Automatically generate callouts of onscreen actions such as mouse clicks, key presses and other user input.
  • Rich editing functionalities: trim/cut audio/video range, rich text format and style annotations/callouts, closed captioning, timeline editing, zooming and panning…
  • Record audio/video to separate tracks
  • Can split into multiple slides for easy arranging/editing/updating
  • Output to multiple video formats: MKV, AVI, WMV, MP4, WebM
  • Easy to update later: This is crucial when you’re creating video guide or tutorials for your software
  • Can record full motion video or separate slides for each mouse clicks or key presses

Cons:

  • Does not record directly to final video result so you have to export to desired video format after recording and editing
  • No webcam recording

Price: Free

2. Camtasia Studio (Windows, Mac)

Pros:

  • Encode video using lossless codec: Crystal clear high video quality
  • Rich editing functionalities
  • Output to .mov, .wmv,.flv,.swf, .avi

Cons:

  • Low to middle capture rate so the quality is not very good for recording fast motion video
  • Mac edition is not as feature rich and stable as the Windows edition

Price: $299

3. Screencast-o-Matic (Windows, Mac)

See above review.

4. ScreenFlow (Mac only)

Simple yet powerful features: 2D and 3D transitions, video and audio controls, callouts, effects and so on
Visit its website for more information. This is for Mac only.

If you want to:

  • Make professional screencasts which can engage users with interactivity
  • Make SCORM-compliant screencasts for online elearning with branching scenarios or assessment of user responses

1. ActivePresenter Professional (Windows, macOS)

The ultimate tool for making interactive screencasts, rapidly authoring and maintaining interactive eLearning content.
See some demos to see what you can create with ActivePresenter.

Key Advantages:

  • Automatically generate callouts of onscreen actions such as mouse clicks, key presses and other user input.
  • Enrich your screencasts or elearning courses with multiple layers of voiceover, callouts, annotations, videos and graphics
  • Make it interactive by adding application simulations, branching scenarios, and quizzes
  • Easily publish to the web, desktops, mobile devices, and leading SCORM-compliant Learning Management Systems
  • Track and report key metrics to evaluate learner performance
  • Output to HTML5 interactive elearning courses which can run on desktop, tablets and mobile devices (Win, macOS, Android, iOS, Windows Phone,…)
  • Output to various document formats: Microsoft Word/Excel/PowerPoint, Adobe PDF
  • Output to video: MKV, AVI, WMV, MP4, WebM, Flash Video (FLV)

2. Adobe Captivate (Windows, Mac)

To be updated

So now you can choose the best tool for your screencasting based on your specific purpose, happy screencasting!

Start creating video tutorials with ActivePresenter now!

FREE EDITION

Personal & non-commercial only

STANDARD

$149

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