Camtasia AlternativesJanuary 18, 2008
Last night I decided I would like to create some how-to videos; it would be a great way to present some of the processes I was documenting at work and could motivate me to release more information on here. I needed software for that though. I had seen various flash-based how-to videos before and seen reference to some of the software that was used. I knew which presentation features I would like to have and wanted something that was at least freeware and preferably open-source.
The features I was most interested in:
- Small file sizes
- High image quality
- Ability to export to Flash/SWF
- Visualization of hotkeys / mouse clicks (little pop-ups that say “Shift+W”, for example)
- Pop-over frames and notes (like comic dialog balloons or sticky notes)
- Keyboard visualization (a little on-screen keyoboard so users can visualize keys to enter)
- Ability to draw on the recording or insert shapes
I wasn’t sure what the type of software to search for would be, so I tried some google terms like video presentation software and tutorial video software that came up with results for Camtasia Studio and Adobe Captivate, which are apparently the leading commercial products. Small problem: Camtasia is about $300 and Captivate is about $600. So I started searching for free alternatives (a great way to find alternatives to commercial software is just to enter the product name followed by alternative(s) in google). This led me to the open source CamStudio software, but it lacked features and polish I was looking for. It does seem to be the favorite software of the crowd-sourced computing tutorial site ShowMeDo if you’re interested in examples of it in action. I had to keep searching, I knew I had seen better software before.
I turned to Wikipedia with my new list of software names and terms to search for and came up with a new term: Screencasting. Bingo, that’s the software category I was looking for. From there I was greeted with the motherload of relevant software. It was even in everyone’s favorite form too! I present the (drumroll please) … categorized list!
I plan to follow up this post with some software tests and reviews, but I will add my impressions of the software that stood out to me.
- UVScreenCamera’s features stood out and were what I was looking for, but it was miscategorized as freeware. I haven’t yet tested the software to see what kind of restrictions the download has, but a license is $50. I also prefer something open source.
- Jing appears to be a project released by TechSmith (the authors of Camtasia, interestingly) in the form of a stripped down Camtasia client and an easy screencast hosting service. Currently it is free, but it seems that it may not be for long. This looks really polished and seems like a great way to do fast and simple one-off demos.
It looks like CamStudio is the only viable open source option for Windows and it is again under active development, so I will investigate it further. Please let me know in the comments if you know of any other screencasting options.