Windows users have a lot of choices when it comes to screencasting tools, but the best of the bunch is the professional, feature-rich, editing, quality-producing Camtasia Studio.
- Record from your computer screen, a video camera, microphone and computer's audio all at the same time
- Plug-in for PowerPoint lets your record PowerPoint presentations with one click
- SmartFocus feature that keeps track of your mouse and the action on screen, and automatically zooms in on those parts
- Built-in video editor that can add callouts, cursor effects, title clips, transitions and more
- Automatically transcribe your audio into captions for your video, with a "learning" transcription engine that gets better over time with your voice
- Share videos to YouTube or Screencast.com
- Export to a variety of formats, including MP4, FLV, SWF, M4V, AVI, Silverlight, MOV, RM, animated GIF and MP3
For a full rundown of Camtasia Studio's features, check out their features page.
Camtasia Studio has more features than you ever imagined you might want in a screencasting application. As if great format support, a built-in editor, and picture-in-picture video weren't enough, you also have Camtasia-specific features like an intelligent zoom feature that keeps track of the action, the ability to transcribe your audio track (which learns your voice and gets better over time), and a PowerPoint plug-in. All that said, Camtasia Studio's biggest advantage is its smooth, flawless, HD video -- which is something a lot of other screencasting tools really lack. Whatever you make with Camtasia, it will probably look fantastic, even if you aren't a seasoned video editor.
Camtasia isn't without cons. First, of course, is the cost -- $US300 is a hell of a lot to pay for a program, especially if you're just making the occasional screencast to send to your less tech-savvy friends. We almost put Camtasia as number two for its extremely high cost, but the fact of the matter is that it's just the best there is, and if you need a screencasting tool that goes beyond the basics, Camtasia does. Way, way beyond the basics.
Camtasia can also be a bit intimidating when you first start it up. The video editor is big and scary looking, but after a few minutes you'll probably find that it isn't all that hard to use -- but beginners will undoubtedly find that there's a learning curve. Still, its big descriptive buttons and great tutorials make it a much easier learning curve than other professional editors.
If Camtasia is a bit expensive for you, take a look at Camstudio. It's completely free, can do things like follow your mouse or provide a picture-in-picture view of your webcam, and it's very simple and easy to use. The default video is of pretty crappy quality, but with the CamStudio lossless codec (which you can grab from their homepage), you can make it look a lot better.
Jing, which is by the same company as Camtasia, is great for really quick videos that you want to upload to the net. It's free, but for $US15 a year you can add webcam recording and YouTube sharing to its feature list. Its only downside is that you can only record up to five minutes of video at a time, which can be a big roadblock for some.
You might also try web-based screencasting tools like Screencast-O-Matic or Screenr. Without installing anything to your machine, you can instantly record short videos that you can upload to YouTube, Twitter or other sites. Screencast-O-Matic even lets you record your webcam, and provides a $US12/year pro version with editing tools, offline support and more.
These are far from the only screencasting tools available, but they're certainly our favourites, and you should be able to find one that suits your needs well here. Many of you undoubtedly have other favourites we didn't mention, so be sure to share them with us in the comments below.
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