Thanks to broadband and some excellent screencasting applications, you don't need to limit yourself to mere static images when you're trying to show someone how to do something on your computer. Record video, audio and do even more with these screencasting tools.
Photo by ToastyKen.
Screencasting can be an enormously handy tool for all manner of things: demonstrating a product, broadcasting your favourite software hack to all of the internet, emailing a how-to video to your less savvy friends or relatives to help them finally grok that whole email-attachment manoeuvre.
ScreenFlow (Mac, $US99)
ScreenFlow is a Mac-only screencast editor that fills a nice niche between the limited-but-free options and the car-payment-sized options. Screenflow sports advanced features, like the ability to decouple audio and video streams for independent editing and audio ducking (if you're using background music it's automatically adjusted during speaking portions of the video); the ability to freeze, speed up or slow down the video to allows you to time lapse or zoom through a more tedious portion of the task you're demonstrating. Screenflow also supports custom cursors and callouts for emphasizing the cursor or foremost window.
Jing (Windows/Mac, Basic: Free, Pro: $US14.95 per year)
Jing is the more compact cousin of Camtasia Studio (see below) and great for less complicated—and more economical!—screencasting. Both the free and pro version are limited to five minutes of screen recording and come with a free account at Screencast.com for sharing your captures. The free version can save video as SWF video and is branded with the Jing logo. The pro version allows you to save your videos as SWF and MPEG-4 files, the branding is removed, and you can also share directly to YouTube (in HD) and record from your webcam. Both the free and pro version use the same intuitive and easy menu.
CamStudio (Windows, Free)
CamStudio is a free and open-source offering for the screencasting market. You can record all or part of your screen, customise cursors and text annotations, adjust the quality of the video output, and save screencasts as AVI or SWF files. The interface is easy to understand, and you won't be overwhelmed with extensive options. In a nutshell, it's a free and effective tool for creating screencasts without a lot of bulk or expense.
Camtasia (Windows/Mac, $US299)
Camtasia Studio is a powerhouse in the screencasting world. Packed with features, Camtasia Studio makes it easy to create screencasts with presets for a variety of sharing situations like YouTube, HD displays, Screencast.com, and more. You can edit the audio and video independently so you don't have to redo a whole segment just because of an oops in the audio or video portion. Special effects and edits are easy to manipulate thanks to fine control over the time line—you can select a portion of your editing timeline right down to the tenth of a second. It's far from free, but Camtasia Studio is a well thought out and feature rich screencasting tool.
ScreenToaster (Web-based, Free)
ScreenToaster is the only web-based offering in this week's Hive Five, and it definitely fills a handy niche. Whether you don't screencast enough to want to install a dedicated application or you just need to crank out a quick screencast wherever you are, ScreenToaster can help. You don't get any advanced editing tools—screw up and you're redoing it—but you do get full screen capture, support for picture-in-picture webcam video in the lower right corner, and audio for voice-over. When you're done recording and previewing your clip, you can upload the video to ScreenToaster or YouTube, or download it as a MOV or SWF file. ScreenToaster is free and works with any Java-enabled web browser.
Have a favourite tool that didn't get a shout out? Have a tip or trick of your own for better screencasting? Let's hear about it in the comments.