Filed Under (e-Learning, Reviews & Opinions) by David Wiles on 27-03-2009

To explain, “screencasting” is a technical term for capturing what appears on your computer screen and presenting this in some way to another person on another computer. Screen casting can be used to show presentations – like Powerpoint – showing how software works, reporting bugs, explaining interactions on the the screen. Just as a screenshot is a picture of a user’s screen now you can record a movie of what a user sees on his monitor. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, a movie is worth a thousand pictures.

Creating a video or still of your screen can assist software developers to show off their work. It is a useful skill for ordinary software users as well, to help report bugs (you know how difficult it is to explain a problem to an Information Technology support person) or just to show others how do a certain task with a specific bit of software.

These days it is easy to record your desktop computer activity with narration and share it as a video or photo. In almost all cases all you will need is the screencasting software, a microphone to record your voice and perhaps a little bit of creativity to make the screencast sparkle. What follows is a brief list of the screencasting software that I have used over the years:

Web Based Screen Capture:

Jing – Snap a picture of anything on your desktop. Record a video of what you do, or what you see, Instantly uploaded. Share in email, Instant Messenger, or blogs. You select a window or region and Jing will record a video of everything that appears in that area. Point to things with your mouse, scroll, flip through photos, click around in a website or application…Jing captures it all. If your computer has a microphone, Jing can record your commentary at the same time. Since everyone prefers short and pithy, However recording time is capped at 5 minutes.

The basic software is free, but lacking some nice features that are only available in the Pro version. (I suppose the adage “you get what you pay for” applies here.) Jing Pro – costs $14.95/year. (that’s about R145 per year!)

Capture Fox – Firefox Add-on is a Firefox add-on and a handy tool to create tutorials about a software, a web site or anything that can be displayed on your computer. It records your screen frame by frame. You can also record your voice, adjust video quality and is easy to use. With two clicks, you can start capturing your screen and record your sound and it is FREE. Of course it only works with the Mozilla Firefox web browser, but then again Firefox is far better than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer!

Screen Capture Tools & Software for the PC

Fraps – (derived from Frames per Second) is a benchmarking, screen capture, and real-time video capture utility for DirectX and OpenGL applications. It is commonly used to record gaming footage or screens/programs that use DirectX or OpenGL graphic technology. If you purchase the software it allows you to then record as long as you like and perform full-size recording with no watermarks on your movie.  You can also capture screenshots directly to JPG, PNG and TGA formats. The registered version with no restrictions costs $37 (R356.00)

Qarbon Viewlet Builder – Qarbon patented the Screen Capture technology and call their flash movies as Viewlets which are basically .swf files. Qarbon seems to have the best Flash file compression algorithm around. There is another bit of software called ViewletCam – from the same company is required to enable moving screen captures.

ViewletBuilder’s automatically reproduces the movement of your cursor, allowing you to create Flash tutorials or simulations that exactly mirror the way your product or web site works.

You can use callouts, notes, interactivity and audio narration. You can also add Flash files and have various actions associated to events making your output more engaging.

You then publish your finished tutorials as small, secure Flash files that can be delivered over the Internet or packaged as executable files to be sent vial email or burned on CDs. The product is the most expensive one reviewed in this article at R3850.00 for a licence but is is the most powerful and multi-featured product.

Wink – Wink (not open source, but free for business or personal use) creates a compressed Flash file, which can be easily embedded in Web pages and is usually smaller than other equivalent products. Flash files are good for representing simple, schematic user interfaces, while it is not entirely suitable if most of the screen is filled with changing or moving complex pictures.

DemoStudio – GPL-licensed screen capture application for Microsoft Windows (open source). DemoStudio records by default to AVI format, but provides an excellent tool called DemoStudio Producer for converting these into Flash (SWF) files.

CamStudio– GPL-licensed screen capture application for Microsoft Windows (open source). CamStudio is a simple, straightforward program to record screen activity to AVI or SWF format. You can also record audio from your speakers or microphone.

Everybody has their favorites, I am sure but you might want to give some of these products a try and see what suits your style of presentation.

The GERGA Website Help page has a few good examples of screencasting that you might find interesting.

I found this site with a lot of good advice for potential screencasters: What is a Screencast?

David Wiles