Purchasing software can get expensive. While they offer many benefits in terms of work productivity and presentation, the combined cost can really cut into the bottom line. It’s always nice to find free tools can help you can get the job done and lower your costs.
Screencasts are a great way to capture thoughts and convey a message in an efficient, effective way. Whether you are going through the work you’ve done on a project for a client, providing training, or just capturing your thoughts on a particular project or topic, screencasts can be a powerful and productive tool.
In this post, I compare three of the top free screencast programs and pick my favorite.
Jing is a screenshot and screencast program made by TechSmith, which also brings you Camtasia. It is a user-friendly, slick, high-quality software application that produces a great video that is limited to five minutes in length in the free version. The “Jing” logo appears in the bottom right hand corner of the free version.
The real drawback to Jing, and this is huge, is the video output. The video is output as a Flash .swf file. Have you ever tried exporting a .swf file to YouTube? It can’t be done. Even worse, finding a free file converter tool that works for .swf files is a fool’s errand. Any viable converter program is likely in excess $50, which totally defeats the purpose of a free screencast.
Thus, free Jing only makes sense if you don’t mind sending out .swf file to others or is for your own use. Of course, Jing Pro eliminates this problem by offering different video file output options.
Screenr has a lot going for it. It is easy to use as it is entirely based in Screenr.com. It is not a downloaded program like Jing. To use Screenr, you have to login and you can create an account, which you can store your videos. Screenr can be used on either a Mac or PC.
If you like to Tweet your screencasts, Screenr makes it easy. It automatically provides a shortened link to you video and you can add a message and tweet with the push of a button.
Screenr has one large negative in my opinion. As a non-paying customer, your video is sent into the Screenr.com public stream. While this may not be a problem if there’s nothing remotely confidential or proprietary in your video, free Screenr doesn’t work very well as a work tool.
Once the free screencast is recorded, up to five minutes in length, and published, it goes into the Screenr.com’s “Public Stream”. From there, you can upload the video to YouTube or quickly save the recorded video to your device, and then delete the video from your account, if you’d like. Still, this is unacceptable unless you don’t want the world to be privy to your screencasts even if it is only for a very short period of time.
As we continue the quest for the Goldilocks of free screencast programs, Screencast-O-Matic is another Web-based screencast program. Screencast-O-Matic or “SOM” offers up to 15 minutes of recording time, which is a significant bump over the five minutes of Jing and Screenr. Also, SOM does not require you to put your video into a public stream or output your file format that does not work in YouTube.
Screencast-O-Matic outputs quality video and audio and also provides the circular highlight over your mouse as you move through the program, which is very helpful in allowing the viewer to follow along with you.
The only real drawback to using this free program for a basic screencast is the Screencast O-Matic watermark, which appears in the bottom left hand corner of your video. The paid version of SOM eliminates the watermark, adds unlimited recording time, allows you to publish screen shots, and provides editing tools, among its many features. And all this for the very reasonable price of only $12 per year.
If you have a need to screencasts and don’t need anything too fancy, Screencast-O-Matic Pro seems to provide a lot of value for a very modest annual cost. If you have a larger budget, Camtasia is a very effective tool, as is ScreenFlow for Mac.
Do you have a favorite free or paid screencast program? Let us know and tell us why by leaving a comment.
Author: +Jason Nelson