Screencast: Free Tools to Record Your Screen

Last week my boss approached me about a presentation she was putting together for a large audience. Her default play was to put together the typical Powerpoint slideshow which she planned to narrate.

Yawn. Snore. Boring!

Thankfully she has an open mind and I was able to introduce her to screencasts: simple videos that have the ability to show what is happening on the computer screen. They can be recorded in advance and some neat bells and whistles can be added. The best part is that many of these tools are free.

ScreenToaster

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ScreenToaster is compatible with Windows, Mac OS X and Linux and is 100% Web-based. Simply approve a Java Applet to run and you can capture screen actions with a single click.

The keyboard command of ‘ALT + S’ will record/pause your presentation. Choose to record the full screen or designate a specific area, depending on what you are looking to illustrate.

Bonus features include the ability to add subtitles, an option to remove/replace audio and control over a screencap preview.

Upon completion of your recording, you can upload the file to ScreenToaster for the highest resolution; send it to YouTube for a more compressed version. Videos can also be saved locally as a Quicktime file or Flash (in beta).

Social networking: E-mail screencasts to a friend, share them across all the usual networks, generate a URL or embed directly on your site.

FreeScreencast

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FreeScreencast allows you to create Flash-based screencasts for free after downloading the required screecast recorder. The software is ad-free and allows you to publish to the internet in seconds.

Embed your screencast in your website or blog.

Screencast-O-Matic

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All of the tools listed here allow you to not only create screencasts, but to view other people’s casts as well. Screencast-O-Matic does this better than most by letting the user search for videos in dozens of different languages.

To record, approve the Java applet and you are off and running.

Videos can be placed into “channels” which users create. These channels generate a pop-up window or an embeddable box that let viewers add videos into the channel. So for example, we could create a Rotorblog Channel and ask our wonderful readers to submit screencasts.

Jing

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Jing is free but requires a download. The software, which adds visuals to your online conversation, works on both Windows and Macs.

For a maximum of five minutes, Jing will record all of the actions that take place on your screen. If your computer is mic’d up, you can record audio simultaneously.

Uploaded videos can be accessed via unique URL or embedded on a Web site.

Jing’s functions expand beyond screencasts. You can also use the service to put your “Print Screen” button to shame. Select a portion of the screen, grab an image and then mark it up with text boxes, arrows, highlights or rectangles. The image can then be one-clicked over to Screencast.com, Flickr, Twitter or just about anywhere.

A paid version, known as Jing Pro lets you sync videos with Vimeo and Viddler, record MP4 screencasts and eliminate “Jing” labeling from your final product.

Honorable Mention

Capture Fox

If you’re a Firefox user, there is a great add-on that records your screen frame-by-frame. Add your voice and download as an .AVI file. Since it works within the browser, it is not OS dependent.

Camtasia Studio

For $299 you can record onscreen activity, edit it and share with the world.

Adobe Captivate

For $799 you can create professional-looking eLearning content with advanced interactivity, software and scenario simulations, quizzes, and other engaging experiences – no programming or multimedia skills required.

In my humble opinion, I do not see the need to pay for any of these tools, unless you are really looking to WOW an audience. My fall back choice is ScreenToaster. It has proven to be a consistent and useful with excellent uptime.