Screencasts, or capturing a digital video of movement on your computer screen, are a great way to create tutorials, presentations, and even entertaining videos. Software used to create screencasts abounds for (nearly) every operating system, and ranges in price from free to upwards of $50.
Naturally, I prefer the free options, but will give credit when credit is due if a paid option is simply better than a free option. That said, here is an overview of some of the screencast options available for Windows, Linux, and OS X, and possibly other operating systems.
Option 1: Wink
Wink is a free screencasting program aimed at creating tutorials. As such, it offers a plethora of options in addition to simply recording the action on the screen. Some of the options include audio recording, inclusion of navigation buttons, adding text, and exporting to various formats, such as PDF, HTLF, and SWF. Wink also allows you to capture still screenshots, including the ability to capture screenshots based on the mouse and keyboard input.
If you simply want to record the action on your screen, choose the designated section on your screen and press SHIFT + PAUSE to start/stop recording. When finished, you can render your video as a Flash movie.
Option 2: Camstudio
Camstudio is free, open-source program that does one thing and does it well: capture action on your screen in a digital format. Ok, it can actually do a little more than that, but the learning curve for creating basic screencasts with Camstudio is practically non-existent.
To begin using Camstudio, select your desired region, then press “Record.” Easy as pie. Camstudio creates AVI files by default, though you may choose the specific codec. Don’t forget to pick up the lossless codec on the Camstudio website – it creates large, but great-quality files. Using the included SWF Producer, you may easily convert your AVI files into Flash files. You may also add “screen annotations” – shapes and text boxes – to your video, increasing Camstudio’s usefulness as a tutorial creator.
I like Camstudio, but in the current version (2.0) there is a serious bug in which newly-created Flash files cannot be viewed in Firefox. Yikes! The issue is easy to fix (altering some values in the HTML source – see the Camstudio website for details), and should be corrected in the next version.