Camtasia alternatives and other media tools for screencasting

Camtasia is one of the best and most complete set of tools out there for capturing a recording of your screen (called screencasting) but comes at a cost of $313.99 per person (as of this writing). While you might be able to afford it for a few licenses, if you want to give access to this tool to your whole staff, the cost can really add up.

Here are some recommendations for (mostly) free media related tools -- for those on a limited budget:

  • Greenshot -- Simple to use, comes with an editor to annotate still screenshot (no video). Kind of like a free version of Snaggit. Why is a screenshot only tool included here? Because sometimes you may want to include screenshots in your presentation.
  • ShareX -- Does almost everything that Greenshot does and also includes full web page screenshots from browsers and screencast videos in both MPEG and animated GIF format. MPEG4 is great when you want to include sound while animated GIFs are great for short demonstration clips but does not support sound but result in much smaller files.
  • ScreenToGif -- Enables you to capture screencasts, webcam, whiteboard in animated GIF format. Includes an editor which is great for fixing your mistakes or removing long pauses in the video.
  • Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) -- This open source software is professional quality and offers the most flexibility through it doesn't do animated GIFs. You can do overlays, transitions, include video from multiple sources, includes a video editor and much more. The down side is that it has a higher learning curve than the others due to its extended feature set. I've done screencasts of up to 2 hours in a single take using this software.

The rest of the tools mentioned below enhance your screencast presentations or make it possible to edit your videos.

  • PenAttention PointerFocus ($) -- Wish you could help students follow your screencast by highlighting you mouse in a yellow circle like the pros do on YouTube? You can find all kinds of complicated tutorials on YouTube but PenAttention and PointerFocus makes it a snap. PenAttention is free but I found that it is not compatible with some computers. If you decide to go with PenAttention but want to also display keystrokes like PointerFocus, you can add this feature using PxKeystrokesForScreencasts. PointerFocus is a commercial product that you can try for an unlimited amount of time however, only when active, it will periodically nag you until you to pay for it ($12.50 USD). It does come with a number of extras to make your course or presentation easier to follow.
  • ZoomIt -- This free screen zoom and annotation tool makes screencasts even better by allowing you to zoom in to parts of the screen you are working on. It even includes a break timer should you use it for presentations.
  • Audacity -- One of the most powerful audio editors is available for free.
  • Pixlr / GIMP -- The cost of the Adobe Photoshop graphics/photo editor can really add up, especially when you have a team who only needs to use it occasionally. While GIMP is probably the most feature rich alternative to Photoshop, I personally find that it does not always produce the best results. Give Pixlr a try. It is an online tool so there is nothing to install.
  • Kdenlive -- There are several great free standalone video editing applications out there these days like Shotcut and VSDC however, if you find your computer is too slow or doesn't meet the minimum system requirements, take a look at Kdenlive. I've used this on 10 year old computers with just 2 GB of memory and it worked great.

TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: If you are trying to capture a screenshot or video of Chrome and are just seeing a black screen, you can fix this by disabling Hardware Acceleration. In Chrome, go to Settings Show Advanced Settings. Scroll all the way down to System and uncheck Use hardware acceleration when available.

Have any media tools you use that you recommend? Feel free to share your experience!

Best regards,

Michael Milette


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