When it comes to showing others what you’re up to on your Windows or Mac computer, taking and sending screenshots is one route you can go. However, there are a multitude of feature-filled programs out there that do a much better job in this area.
Using screencasting tools can be a great way to create comprehensive video tutorials, demonstrate how to use software and/or specific features, as well as live stream and share content. Most run relatively quickly, flawlessly recording whatever audio and video plays through your speakers and shows up on your monitor’s screen, respectively. Plus, they also offer additional functions that allow you to edit, transcribe, and export the video you broadcast as FLV, AVI, MOV, and other file types.
Here’s our selection of the best screencasting and recording tools available for Windows, Mac OS X. This also includes web-based tools that users of either OS can take advantage of.
Alternatively, feel free to check out our guides on how to take a screenshot on PC and how to take a screenshot on a Mac. If you just want to capture images, check out our picks of the best screen-capturing apps for either Windows or OS X.
If there ever was an award for sheer simplicity in a screencasting utility, CamStudio would win by a landslide. The freemium software offers options for capturing both audio and video, along with a set of features that allow you to add text annotations, choose a custom video cursor, and alter the video’s image quality. With CamStudio, users can choose whether to broadcast the entirety of what’s on their display, a specify what part of their display they want to show off using the software’s Autopan feature.
The software’s minimalist interface is rather self-explanatory, and a breeze to navigate, requiring users to do nothing more than launch the program and click the Cherry-red record button. On top of that, CamStudio is lightweight, offers picture-in-picture support, and even touts its own lossless codec.
However, don’t confuse CamStudio with Camtasia Studio. The latter will set you back $300.
Although Screencast-O-Matic boasts a desktop app for Windows, it’s the software’s Web-based offering that caught our eye. Screencast-O-Matic quickly allows for the broadcasting of your entire screen, or whatever your webcam sees. You can also publish whatever you record straight to YouTube.
Screencast-O-Matic supports MP4, AVI, and FLV files, and though the freemium edition comes bundled with a watermark and a 15-minute recording cap, the cap on video recordings should suffice for most users. However, you can always opt for the $15 premium package should you prefer to have unlimited video recording, additional sharing options for Vimeo and Google, or watermark-less webcam-exclusive recording options at your disposal.
Note that in order to run the web-based version of Screencast-O-Matic, you’ll need the latest version of Java. Java is free, and you can grab it here.
Jing is a jack of all trades, allowing you to broadcast specific parts of your screen, though it is limited to a feeble five-minute recording restriction whether you use the freemium or premium version. When users launch Jing, an icon resembling the sun rises to the top of the screen and remains there until you quit the program, allowing you to capture video, view history, and more.
With Jing, you can share your files via IM, email, and more via the bundled Screencast.com account. However, your content will unfortunately feature the Jing logo unless you opt for the Pro edition. Using Jing’s interface can be a bit overwhelming for people who are new to screencasting/screen capturing tools. However, there are a bunch of tutorials aimed at educating the less tech-savvy user.
ScreenFlow is attractive, wears a skin that reminds us of to Apple’s iMovie app, and is topped off with a grey finish and colored highlights that give it some more aesthetic points. However, it’s not all about looks for ScreenFlow. Once installed via the App Store, the utility allows users to effortlessly capture full-screen, 2880 x 1800-resolution video in H.264, MPEG4, and Apple ProRes formats, along with any associated webcam footage and accompanying audio.
The bundled editing utilities are extensive, allowing you to add images, text, and music, as well as seamless transitions, mouse callouts, filters, and wealth of other advanced tools not offered elsewhere. Users can also use the Chroma Key tool to cut out a recorded background, publish the clips to sites like YouTube and Vimeo among others, and even separate audio and video streams for individual editing. ScreenFlow isn’t the most expensive screencasting tool out there, but it’s certainly the one offering the most bang for your buck should you prefer a premium package.
With the Twitter-centric Screenr, users can quickly select a part of the screen to capture, as well as their desired audio input prior to clicking the bright-red record button.
Screenr is quite basic. There are no advanced editing tools or wealth of customization features, but the software does automatically pair you with a personal profile for viewing saved videos, and offers a slew of options for sharing your clips via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other popular social networking sites. Maximum recording length is strictly limited to five minutes, but video quality is solid. Screenr also provides you with embed codes, permitting you to easily share your videos on blogs and other sites.
What do you think of our top picks for the best screencasting tools for Windows, Mac OS X, and the Web? Do you use something that’s not listed here and you’d like to recommend it? Let us know in the comments below.