Mac OS X is full of ways to record your screen, with a tool built in to Quicktime Player and a vast number of third-party apps. Among the many tools, Screenflow is easily our top choice. It's fast, feature-rich, handles everything about the screencasting process from start to finish, and doubles as possibly the best simple video-editing application on the Mac.
- Record from your computer screen, a video camera, microphone and computer's audio all at the same time
- Excellent built-in editor that can also double as a phenomenal video editor.
- The editor allows you to add callouts, shapes, text overlays and perform simple motion effects very easily.
- Publish directly to YouTube or Vimeo, or export to an all-in-one Flash video presentation
- Mac OS X Lion users can take advantage of several features like resume, auto saving, document versioning and full-screen mode.
- Export screencasts to multiple settings and save your own presets.
- Several built-in audio functions, such as a limiter and easy conversion to mono.
This is just a condensed version of ScreenFlow's features. It is a very powerful, very feature-rich application. You can see the longer list here.
ScreenFlow is a phenomenal application. It handles the screencasting workflow from start to finish. You can record your screen, yourself, your audio and your computer's audio all at the same time. Then you can edit what you just recorded in ScreenFlow's built-in editor. From there you can add text overlays, video annotations, motion effects, focus a spotlight on the mouse's position and a lot more. When you're finished with your recording, you can send it directly to YouTube or Vimeo, export to an embeddable Flash player for your website, or export the video file to a number of other formats. It just takes care of absolutely everything you could need to do with a screencast.
But beyond screencasting, it's actually a very functional video editor. In the latest version of ScreenFlow, you can actually create a blank document and just throw a bunch of video files into it for editing purposes. Now that iMovie has its strange interface and isn't terribly easy to use, ScreenFlow is a great alternative for simple editing projects. It has a few built-in motion controls, plenty of transitions, and you can just drag the video you want to edit right onto the timeline. If Quicktime can open the video file, ScreenFlow can edit it. And ScreenFlow won't need to convert it to another format. It'll just play the video as-is. Sometimes it can get a little choppy if the video requires a bit of work to decode, but I use it to edit 1080p H.264 video on a MacBook Air and it handles things just fine.
What makes ScreenFlow so amazing is that it does everything and yet somehow doesn't feel like any of its abilities are superfluous. It's really an incredible app that's worth every cent if you do a lot of screencasting — and especially if you want a great little video editor as an added bonus.
ScreenFlow is probably the most expensive screencasting application you can buy, coming in at $US100. When we started putting together regular screencasts for Lifehacker, we avoided ScreenFlow because of the cost. After trying it out, however, it was clear that it was worth the money. That said, it isn't without its flaws. When Mac OS X Lion was nearing release, ScreenFlow was particularly buggy. When version 3 was released, it also came with several issues as well. Currently the app is very stable, but sometimes updates bring more problems than they fix.
Additionally, there are just a few quirks in the user interface that become annoying at times. For example, when you drag the clip at the end of the editing timeline to the left, the entire timeline shrinks, making it difficult to drag accurately. There are a handful of issues like that. None are deal breakers, but they are definitely annoying when you use the app often.
Although ScreenFlow allows you to set defaults for video transitions and a couple of other things, you can't set defaults for everything you do. For example, you can't set a default font and style for text overlays. But like every other problem with the app, it's not a lack of functionality. ScreenFlow's issues all reside in little quirks and annoyances that you can expect from any app with so many capabilities. You'll find similar problems in any video editing software. While these quirks can get annoying and you might wonder why they left an option or two out, they're all tiny problems.
Quicktime Player — the version included with Mac OS X 10.6 and 10.7 — offers screen-recording features. They're very limited, but if you need to create a screencast and you don't want to pay for anything, you've already got an option built-in. It saves file in H.264 format so your screencasts are immediately ready to upload to video sharing sites or can be shared as-is. The video quality isn't great and you don't have much control over the recording itself, but it's definitely sufficient for casual screencasters.
Screeny (free) is very similar to Quicktime Player's screencasting feature, but offers a little more control. Seeing as it's free, it's a worth grabbing as a simple upgrade.
Screenflick ($US29) is a simple but solid option that pays attention to more than just recording the screen. It will watch for key and mouse presses, too. You can also record computer audio, watermark your recordings and pause if you need to take a break. It also offers phenomenal export settings, allowing you to choose simple presets or make your own and export to multiple sources in one sweep. It's basically like ScreenFlow without the editor and a better set of video export controls.
Jing (free or $US15/year for premium version) is a screenshot and screencasting tool with a focus on social media. The idea is to simply capture what you see and share it on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and others. It is designed to be quick and simple, rather than feature-rich. If those things are important to you, Jing is worth a look.
iShowU HD ($US50-$US70) is a simple but powerful screencasting tool. It records its screencasts in an easily-shareable format so you're ready to upload to YouTube or send the screencast via email as soon as you're done. It integrates with pro apps like Final Cut Studio and boasts plenty of optimisations to handle everything it does very quickly. It's definitely a good screencasting app, but we thinking the competition offers either an advantage on price or an advantage on features.
Got another favourite screencasting app we didn't mention? Share it in the comments!
Lifehacker's App Directory is a growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools across multiple platforms.