How-To: Create Screencasts on (nearly) Any Operating System

Mac OS X

Unfortunately, the free offerings available on OS X pale in comparison to the other operating systems. There are a number of screencasting programs available, but almost all of them cost upwards of $20. Most of them are also demos, and any “test” movies that you create will have huge watermarks on them.

Option 1: Snapz Pro X

Price: $69 (shareware)

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If you have only heard of one screencasting program for OS X, I bet that it is Snapz Pro X. Despite the hefty price, it’s quite good at capturing screencasts, outputting the results as Quicktime movies. Here is a screenshot of the main window:

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Because of its shareware license, videos created are not watermarked (unlike other programs such as iShowU). Like most shareware packages, there is a “nag” screen, which goes away if you purchase the product.

The current version (2.1.0) is a universal binary. I had no problems with it on my Macbook.

Option 2: Copernicus

Price: FREE

copernicus_logo.jpgIn a field dominated by commercial applications, Copernicus is a breath of freeware fresh air. For starters, it’s elegantly simple. Here is the main window:

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Ah, it’s beautiful. If you don’t like that theme, there are a number of others available, including one that mimics Snapz Pro X!

Copernicus offers the unique ability to record screencasts either to RAM or to the hard disk, the former offering the possibility of higher frame rates, and the latter allowing for longer videos.

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I wish I could say that Copernicus worked without flaw, but it only worked in creating rather short videos for me. Anything over about 10 seconds resulted in the application hanging. I don’t know if it’s just an issue with my Macbook or a greater bug within the program. Still, I welcome any free offering in the screencast category for OS X. Keep your eye on this one.

OS-independent (sort of)

Online option: Screencast-o-matic

Price: FREE

Here’s a unique idea – use your web browser to capture a screen recording without installing any software! Ok, I lied. You need to have Java installed and working with your browser, but most of you probably already do. Screencast-o-matic works on Windows, OS X, and Linux.

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This is a novel idea, and it works, but the performance is limited when compared with a stand-alone application. I was only able to manage about 2 fps on my Macbook, making the resulting presentation rather “janky.” The online option is definitely intriguing, and works well for presentations that do not require higher fps. For instance, you would not want to use Screencast-o-matic to capture smooth footage from a 3D video game, unless you don’t mind it looking like a slide show.

There you have it: a number of ways to create screencasts from (nearly) ANY operating system. Do you have a favorite, preferably FREE program to capture screen recordings that I did not list? Let me know. We can all benefit from that knowledge.

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