Screencasting to help your mom is a software buying guide to help you choose the right software for screen capture and for screencasting or recording movies of your desktop screen activity.

How often friends visit you to learn how to use email, how to search Google or how to install a software. Or how do you teach Microsoft Office to mom who is sitting miles away. Well, the answer is simple - just record a screencast video of your screen with voice narration (aka screencast) and upload it a website like YouTube.

What is Screencasting (Desktop Screen + Broadcast)

Screencasting (see glossary) is a process of creating interactive demonstrations and software simulations by capturing a series of screenshots of any running software application. The screencasting software (like a video camera) records all your actions and instantly creates a simulation or screencast. These screencast movies can be exported in a variety of formats like Standalone EXE, SWF, Flash Video, Windows Media, AVI, QuickTime or MPEG-4 incase you want to distribute your screencast on a portable device like an iPod or a cell phone. These formats are widely supported so you may easily import screencasts into any video editing software for more advanced editing.

Screencasts can be used for describing software features, reporting bugs, or for interactive e-learning. Just as a screenshot is a picture of a user's desktop screen, a screencast is essentially a movie of what a user sees on his or her monitor. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, a movie is worth a thousand pictures. Software Tutorial companies like TotalTraining.com, lynda.com and vtc.com also use one of these screencasting tools to create their instructional video DVDs.

Screencasting Software - Tools for Recording Screencasts

Here's a list of some of my favorite screencasting tools along with a quick review.

Commercial Screencasting Tools

1. Qarbon Viewlet Builder - Qarbon patented the Screen Capture technology and prefer to call their flash movies as Viewlets which are basically .swf files. Qarbon seems to have the best Flash file compression algorithm around. However, another software called ViewletCam is required to enable moving screen captures. This is Windows only as Qarbon recently discontinued ViewletBuilder for Mac.

2. Camtasia Studio - From the developers of SnagIt, Camtasia is probably the best screencasting software for Windows. Camtasia Studio can produce 720p HD screencasts with minimal effort and Camtasia for Mac is expected soon. Camtasia can also record and export your PowerPoint presentations as a movie.

3. Turbo Demo - With Turbo Demo, you can create screencasts in either Flash or Java. The screencasts projects can be exported to plain text files, that are editable and can be imported back into Turbodemo. In the screencast editing mode (after screen capture), you can change the cursor style or reposition the mouse anywhere on the slide.

4. Adobe Captivate - Captivate (earlier RoboDemo) is a screencasting cum e-learning program and at $800 a license, Captivate is the most expensive screencasting software tool that I know of. Other than basic screen capture, you may use Captivate for creating interactive simulations, soft-skills training in organizations, quizzes and e-learning courses. The software can export your screencasts as SWF, FLA, FLV (with closed captioning), and MP3 (for audio podcasts).

5. Camtasia Relay - University professors can use Camtasia Relay to record and publish their classroom lectures on the web in almost real time.

6. Demo Builder - It sports a very pleasing interface and can record full motion videos (like in Camtasia) or through manual screenshots (as in Qarbon Viewletbuilder). Demo Builder can automatically add visual hints (in the form of text balloons) at relevant points in the screencast (like closing a button with the mouse). You can also edit cursor motions after the screen capture.

Free Screencasting Software

7. Capture Fox - This is a free add-on that turns your Firefox browser in a screencasting application. It can record Firefox as well as the entire desktop screen and will save it as a video file.

8. Screen Toaster - This is an excellent online screencasting tool that requires no installation and works on Windows, Mac and Linux machines. You record the screencast on the desktop and it instantly becomes available on the web as a flash video. ScreenToaster can directly upload screencasts to YouTube and they also a community site like YouTube.

9. Community Clips - Another free screencasting tool from the Microsoft Office team that is not as polished a Screen Toaster or Jing but can used for creating quick screencasts from within Microsoft Office.

10. BB Flashback - This was a earlier a paid software but now the basic screen recorder software is available as a free download. BB Flashback installs a separate capture driver for Windows Vista to record the Aero effects of Vista at a high frame rate even on a slow PC.

11. Tip Cam - It's a free screencasting software that can also record a remote computer screen provided your computer is running the VNC server.

12. Go View - From the developers of GotoMeeting.com, Go View offers desktop screen recording (with audio) as well as free hosting for your recorded screencast videos with no bandwidth limitations.

13. Debut - This can transmit your desktop screen or webcam video to a remote computer and can therefore be used as spy camera for monitoring the desktop screen from any internet connect camera.

14. Live Screencasting - Procaster from Mogulus is a free software that helps you broadcast your desktop screen (live streaming) on the Internet to any number of users.

15. Techsmith Jing - Jing can capture a still snapshot of your desktop screen as well as record screen movies. Jing Pro can record HD screencasts and both versions are available on Mac and Windows. Related: Compare Jing with Skitch

16. Demo Studio - GPL-licensed screen capture application for Microsoft Windows (open source). DemoStudio records by default to AVI format, but you may use Demo Studio Producer for converting screencasts into Flash (SWF) files.

17.  Windows Media Encoder - encodes other formats to WMV which can be progressively download and can even broadcast a live event from your webcam.

Open Source Screencasting Software Programs

18. CamStudio- GPL-licensed screen capture application for Microsoft Windows (open source). CamStudio is a simple, straightforward program to record screen activity to AVI or SWF format. You can also record audio from your speakers or microphone.

19. Wink (freeware) - Wink, available for Windows & Linux, can capture screenshots, mouse movements and you may also add annotations to your screencasts. You can also add voice narrations at the time of recording and screencasts can be exported as Flash, PDF or EXE for distribution on a CD.

20. vnc2swf - This can capture live motion of a screen through VNC protocol and converts it a Flash movie. Implementation available in Python and C - the former supports Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, Mac OS X, and Windows while the C version of vnc2swf only runs on platforms which support X11 (i.e. Unix, Linux or Mac OS X).

21. Istanbul: GTK-based Open Source Istanbul for Linux can record the desktop screen into an Ogg Theora video codec. The software works on GNOME, KDE and XFCE.

Screencasing Resources