Creating how-to video by screencast software is one of the most cost effective ways that educators are using these days. In order to choose the best screencast software, you may have to consider some vital criteria such as: recording possibility, annotation tools, license cost or technical support, online video tutorials and many other things.
In order to save your time, I am going to point out the most important things you need to consider when using or purchasing a screencast software for your work in this article. These criteria are created during the time I creating tutorial videos and product demonstration for my company.
Firstly, you’ll need to know that screencast is a digital recording of your computer screen output. It may include video with or without voice-over and has been widely used to create how-to video, product demo or software simulation. It is also very popular in creating e-learning lessons too. The cost of screencast software is varied from $50 to $500 depend on the features of the software. There are also some good free screencast software too.
How to choose the best screencast software?
Here are some of my recommendations for you to define the best screencast software and my list of some good free screencast software you should try.
1. Define your goals
The first thing you have to keep in mind is your Goals. What do you need a screencast software for? How often will you use the software? Will it be used for earning money or just for fun? By answering these questions, you’ll be able to go further to the next points. For example, if you need a screencast software for recording your computer screen only. You don’t need to annotate or edit recorded video, then you don’t need a screencast software but a free screen recorder can suite you. If you have to use the software daily, then you should choose an offline app to be installed on your computer instead of an online program. Since offline software are often more stable than online tools. If you want to start earning money from your screencast video, then exactly you will need paid screencast software. For fun, you can try some free options.
2. Define the most important features you want
After knowing your goals, the second things you’ll need to consider is the features. Common features of screencast software are: recording screen, editing video, annotating video or image. However, there are many other things you have to consider inside these features. For example:
- Recording screen often comes with audio, system sound or without. The quality of the video will varied from HD, full HD, 2K or 4K and so on. Video output formats are also a thing you need to know. Many free screencast software allows you to record video in only 1 or 2 output formats. Those are just some examples you should take care of the recording features of a software.
- Editing video feature is not a must, but necessary option of a good screencast software. For some reasons, your recordings may need to be edited such as: trimming unwanted part, blurring some sensitive information or adding an existing video to make your screencast more meaningful.
- Annotating video and image: These features must be considered to be vital in good screencast software since your tutorials will become difficult to understand if you don’t explain what you are going to do in the video or simply drive your viewer attention to a specific point on your video. By adding annotations like shapes, spotlight, text or highlight into the video, it is much more engaging than a clear screen indeed.
3. Choose free or paid software
Once you got the point: your goals and important features, you are now ready to search for a screencast software to download and use on your computer. The point is, whether you should us free or paid software. This is not a big deal since professional screencast software often comes with a free trial or free version for non-commercial use like ActivePresenter, Camstasia Studio or VSDC. All you need to do is spending your time trying their free versions; evaluate its features by creating your own video before making your decision to purchase a license. In the next paragraph, I will recommend some great free software for you to try and tell you the reason why you should buy it.
Top 2 best free screencast software you should try
ActivePresenter is a free, powerful screencast software I suggest you to try for making tutorial videos, products demos or software simulation. It has a high quality screen recorder, built-in video editor with annotation tools plus some extra features like: Picture in Picture, Text-to-speech and embedded CSS. ActivePresenter can be downloaded and used in Windows 7, 8x, 10 and macOS X without any limitation. No watermark, no time limit on your recordings.
Best features of ActivePresenter
- Smart Capture : Capture screen when mouse clicked or key pressed. Each action is captured as a slide which explains in details what the viewer/learner should follow to master the lesson.
- Full Motion Recording : Record screen as a full motion video and embedded in a slide for further editing with annotations, voice-over, zoom-n-pan, closed captions and animation effects.
- Microphone & Speakers Recording: Record system audio and audio from microphone simutaneously while recording screen.
- Smart Annotation: Automatically generate the description from the action and target application and insert to slide properly. This makes the content almost ready to publish for a quick tutorial.
- Lossless Quality: The video is recorded with the lossless codec to ensure the highest quality (100%) in the overall editing process. H264, MPEG-1,2 lossy codecs are also available.
- Configurable Hotkeys: Some target applications already registered the common hotkeys. In that case, configurable hotkeys are vital to make a complete recording session.
- Audio & Video Editing: Edit audio and video instantly without quality loss. Supported operations includes: cut, delete, crop, join, split, blur, change volume, insert freeze frame.
- Shapes: There are dozens of shapes to choose from. Changing the form and hotspot of a shape just by dragging mouse.
- Style (Color & Effect): Create polished and high quality screencast videos and training simulations with various line/fill/text styles and shadow effects.
- Interactivity: The flexible event-action mechanism with rich event and action types allows defining different learning scenarios based on viewers’ responses at each step.
- Quizzes: Create virtually any kind of assessments or surveys by using 9 quiz types.
- Slide Pool & Randomization: Create professional random quizzes with slide pools & random slides to avoid viewers from remembering and predicting answers.
- Multiple Media Layers: Insert multiple videos, audios onto a slide.
- Blur: Hide the sensitive information in video or image with Blur effect
- Text To Speech: Convert text in any shape/object or closed captions to speech using installed SAPI 5 Text To Speech engines on Windows. Add more voices to make attractive tutorials.
- Zoom-n-Pan: Guide the viewer to different parts of the screen by using Zoom-n-Pan. This makes a smoother transition when changing focused area.
- Cursor Path: Emulate the cursor movement with flexible cursor path. Add more visual to cursor path with highlight and click sound.
- Closed Caption: Provide more information, make audio transcriptions, support for people with disabilities with Closed Caption.
- Spotlight: Draw viewer/learner attention to a specific region with Spotlight. It is possible to apply shape and style to a Spotlight.
- Image Editing: Built-in image editor with transparency support allows modifying any image quickly and easily.
- Transitions & Animations: Attract viewer/learner by applying effects to slides and objects. There are several transition effects to choose from: Fade, Fly, Wipe, and Peak.
- Backup: Prevent losing data when the power failed or system crashed with backup capabilities.
- Protection: Protect the project in the shared environment with a secure password.
- Spell Checker: Ensure the quality of content by using spell checking feature. It is very necessary when working with text.
- Video Export: Export content to popular video formats including AVI, FLV, WMV, WebM, MP4. Balance between output size and video quality with frame rate, key frame, and quality options.
- HTML5 Export: Export content to HTML5 Simulation which can run on any modern web browser and device (desktop, tablet, smartphone).
- SCORM & xAPI: Support SCORM and xAPI, two most popular eLearning specifications which are widely supported by many Learning Management System.
- Player Skin: There are several templates (player skins) to choose from and each also has more options to customize.
- Report & Tracking: Even without using LMS, the learner result can be tracked by using HTTP method. The report data is in form of well-known standards such as XML, JSON, CVS,..
- Document Export: Export to most popular document formats. Further editing with Microsoft Office. Custom layout with Microsoft Word.
VSDC is a 2-in-1 software: free video editor and screencast software. It has the same features with ActivePresenter and even more simple-to-use than ActivePresenter in editing video. However, VSDC’s free screen recorder is having some issues that need to be fixed such as the issue of cursor overlay, its lack of possibility to record webcam and there is only one option in output format. There are many good things in VSDC, for example: it is free, no watermark, no time limit and capable of rendering large size video quickly.
For more review about VSDC, read our story here!
If you are looking for a good free screencast software, try ActivePresenter. It can suite your needs in creating tutorial video, product demos, software simulation. Share with me your experiences about this software after you tried it. Remember to follow us to recieve more valuable post notifications in the future.