Sunday, January 24, 2010
Screen Recording Software
Below is a list of five free screen recording program that I tested with a short review of each. Each program was highly rated on CNET or referenced on many of the websites I visited while looking for these programs.
Jing is probably my favorite screen recording software. It's very simple to use, and it is an attractive little program. Jing has a little sun icon that appears at the center top of your screen when you launch the software. The sun can be moved around the edges of your screen, or hidden altogether. Putting your mouse over the sun gives you access to all of Jing's controls. Jing is very basic and doesn't have as many features as some of the others I discuss below. It also can only save files in SWF format, though you can also upload your video to their website, Screencast.com, an FTP site, Flickr, or YouTube (for a premium). Despite all that, I like its simplicity and think it would be the best choice, particularly if you plan on having students use it.
CamStudio is another free software program that allows you to record everything that you do on your screen. It's a bit more complex than Jing, and therefore a little harder to use, but it does have some nice features that Jing doesn't. For example, you can have your cursor be highlighted in the video as it moves across the screen so that it's easier for viewers to spot and follow. You can also save your file as an SWF or AVI file. CamStudio apparently has the option to record from your Webcam, but after searching for three minutes, I couldn't find where to turn this on, which means this program is not intuitive enough for my purposes. The "help" menu was little help, as CamStudio could not locate the help files. The other downside is that it's easy to capture the recording controls in your video (though there may be a shortcut key to stop recording that would make it unnecessary to bring up the controls), and once you save, it takes a minute or so to synchronize your sound, during which time if you close CamStudio it won't save properly, and you get no warning. Obviously, it has some drawbacks, but it's not a bad little program if you don't try to get too fancy.
TipCam is highly rated on CNET and also has some extra options for customizing your output that Jing doesn't offer. It will save files in AVI or FLV format, and can upload to their website or YouTube. It also allows you to record a voiceover, so if you make a mistake while recording, you can rerecord your narration without redoing the whole thing. You can also trim the beginning and end of the video, which is a nice feature and would be useful in CamStudio to eliminate to problem of seeing the controls at the end of your video when you bring them up to stop recording. When I first loaded the program, it prompted me to download the "Mirage Mirror Driver", as it will work better than the "VNC" driver. The first time through, I bypassed this option. The result was that when I recorded a mini tutorial, TipCam did not properly record all the actions I took on my screen. After installing the Mirage driver, it worked much better. Overall, this program works ok, but has some drawbacks. The default video quality is pretty poor, your cursor is highlighted which is great if you want that, but there's no way to remove that option, that I could quickly find. In general, this program is much less polished than the other two.
Webinaria has some nice features that many others don't, like allowing you to record with the Webcam, and it comes with video editing software. However, I found that the recorded webcam video is much too large, and the video editing software is slow to respond and much too basic to be terribly useful. In fact, it froze up the first time I tried to use it. If used for basic screen recording, this is probably a solid program, but the bells and whistles are underwhelming.
Debut has lots of cool features, but the final recording came out a bit jumpy for me. Perhaps with some tweaking in options it would come out smoother, but I'm looking for something simple to use "out of the box". Some pluses to this program include the ability to record from a Webcam, you can create your own HotKeys, and you can limit the length of the video--which is great when using the software as an assessment tool, so you don't wind up with super long videos to watch from all of your students.
There are many other free screen recording programs out there, and I highly recommend you test out a few to see which ones you find to be the best. If you find a good one I haven't listed, please let me know about it!