November 7, 2006
If a picture is worth a thousand words, is a single screencast equal to a thousand word blog post?
There's a lot to be said for lightweight, embedded screencasts. I'm particularly fond of animated GIF screencasts for small demonstrations. You can see examples in these posts: one, two, three.
Here's a compendium of all the screencasting tools I could find, but it's far from comprehensive:
You're also probably wondering which of these tools I recommend. What do I look like, Scott Hanselman? I've only used three of these, not all of them. Check out Donation Coder's screencasting roundup for a blow by blow comparison.
Personally, I use GifgIfgiF for quick and dirty animated GIF screencasts, and Camtasia studio for more advanced screencasts where I may need to do editing or render to output formats such as Flash, Quicktime, or Windows Media. One of the biggest challenges in screencasting is choosing an appropriate codec. Video codecs are optimized for movie content, definitely not for GUIs. Screencast results can be quite poor if you choose a typical movie codec. Did you know Windows Media Player has an outstanding screen codec that's optimized for GUIs?
I recommend picking up one of the free screencasting tools to start with. Add it to your toolkit. Get comfortable with how it works so you can whip out a screen capture session any time the situation calls for it. However, if you find yourself doing a lot of screencasting, I'd definitely invest in one of the more expensive tools that offers more editing options and more choices in output rendering.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
A few more tools:
- Quarbon Viewlet builder
- the plain old Windows Media Encoder
I personaly have some experience with cam studio recording a intense flash player session at 20 frames per second. The recording was pretty good, however the file was quite big (300MB in 3 minutes) for a 600x400 pixels. I choose about 95 of 100 in quality so there must be some ways to reduce that..
I think that Wink is the best of the free tools as it approaches even closer to commercial quality.
Finding myself among a lot of cheap tools, or open source it just makes sense to use it. I do find however that capturing quickly and then decimating the framerate is fine, but 100% CPU while capturing the screen with a 3200 amd64.
Wink is quite a nice tool - it was the only free one I found that looked good when I was searching. I don't remember which others I found then, but I'm going to check out some of these as well. Thanks for the list.
Thanks so much for this list, and especially for the link to donation coder's roundup.
I was searching for a screencast tool this morning, and then I came across this list in my feed reader. What great timing!
vnc2swf is another free tool that will capture to Flash.
You can also use Windows Media Encoder by itself. It's fairly basic, but works pretty well overall.
Screencasts are great at some things, but poor at others.
- Can't print them (not that printing most how-to guides works nicely either).
- If you can't forward/rewind/pause through them easily and they're doing something complicated then they're pretty dang useless as a walkthrough.
- But what they are absolutely great at is product demos.
Check out this eclipse/glade screencast from Andrew Overholt at Redhat: http://people.redhat.com/overholt/nativeeclipse/index.html
(disclosure: he's an in-law)
That's an awesome demo of how simple something is to do. Could I follow it step-by-step to recreate the example? Not so much.
Wink always looked cool, but I admit it looks a bit scary. Camtasia suits me well, and you might look at using this codec instead of its default: http://www.compression.ru/video/ls-codec/screen_capture_codec_en.html
It's an extremely optimized screen/game codec that compresses more and faster that other lossless codecs I've tested, for its particular applications. It even beats out MSS2, the WMV one. Since it's not exactly well-known, you'd probably have to later convert, but it's the best I know of for capturing.
Camtasia's big downside is the uncompressed audio, I think, if you need that. A codec option would be appreciated.
Windows Media Encoder. Free and easy to use. I use it very often for screencasting, and it includes the codec optimized for GUIs
I'll give another vote for Camtasia. Although its price is a bit steep, it's a well-made application with lots of flexibility.
Regardless of the tool, I strongly encourage screencast authors to include audio in their presentation. Audio will really help carry the message effectively.
I really like Wink. I downloaded it and looked at the samples, made a demo project of my own, and I really liked the way it worked and its simple interface. I will definitely use this to build some tutorials for Mom, who is always asking me how to do stuff on her computer, and prefers to be shown how to do stuff, as she is a very visual learner. Best of all, its FREE!!!
I'm using Flashback Express - got it from a magazine cover. The results looks ok especially as it was free. Now I think about upgrading to the full version. I've got the trial of Flashback and really like it.
For windows: DemoCreator
For windows: DemoBuilder
For Mac: Screen Movie Recorder
I didn't know about Wink until I read this post. Immensely useful.
Great post; I will definitely be checking out Donation Coder
If you're an experienced screencaster; you should enter the MindBites Cast 4 Cash contest and trade fifteen minutes of your time for a shot at $1,000 and some software.
Check it out: http://www.mindbites.com/contests/view/3