Windows: Among the screen capture and encoding tools, Microsoft's name probably doesn't come up. Too bad, because their Expression Encoder offers a free, high-resolution screen capture tool that works great for how-to recordings, demonstrations, and other desktop video capture needs.
Expression Encoder, which offers a free "Standard Version" and paid Pro versions, is ostensibly a tool made to make encoding to Microsoft's Silverlight format easier. But Expression Encoder includes a separate but connected screen capture tool that's really handy. Capture a single window or outline an area you want to grab, or set the window to a custom pixel size if you're trying to match a certain video target. You've got easy options for cursors, audio capture, voiceover and editing, all built in.
Here's a quick, if not all that active, screencast I created in just two minutes with Expression Encoder:
Whereas the folks at the Digital Inspiration blog, through which we found this tool, spent a little more time under the virtual camera:
The catch? "Standard" Expression Encoder limits your screencast to 10 minutes, and the output is only in Windows Media formats. But the videos come out in 1080p high def, they're entirely YouTube-ready, and most screencasts are decidedly less than 10 minutes. The other catch is that the app requires Microsoft's .NET 4.0 platform or higher installed, but that's a pretty common catch with Microsoft products these days.
Microsoft Expression Encoder is a free download for Windows systems only.