Screencasting: Where Windows Clearly Spanks Mac OS X

Camtasia Studio box.

(I was strongly tempted to reference the Pussycat Dolls song and give this post the title Don’t You Wish Your Mac Did Screencasts Like the PC?. That damned song seems to have crept into every movie or trailer I’ve seen in the past week.)

You’d think that with its serious “creative cred” that someone would’ve developed a killer screencasting application for the Mac, but I agree with the folks over at 37 Signals: there just isn’t one. The 37 Signals folk are pretty hard-core Mac fans — it’s reflected in both their design aesthetic as well as the preferred platform of Ruby on Rails developers (RoR was developed by 37 Signals’ David Heinemeier Hansson) — so it’s pretty safe to assume that they’ve hunted high and low for a reasonable scrrencasting app that runs on their platform of choice.

The closest candidate is Snapz Pro, written by Ambrosia Software, creator of some really great Mac games and utilities. I use Snapz, which is probably the best screen-grabbing utility I’ve ever used as well as WireTap Pro, which is equally excellent as an audio capture tool.

The pro version of Snapz does a decent job of capturing screen movies, but therein lies the problem: there’s a difference between “capturing movies of the screen” and “producing a screencast”. When it comes to producing a screencast, the editing process tends to take up far more time than the recording prcoess, and that’s where Snapz Pro falls short. To do editing, you’ve got to go to iMovie, and to produce title cards, you’ve got to fire up your favorite image-editing software, and so on. There’s a lot of “legwork” involved. As the 37 Signals people put it:

Here’s what I’d like to see. Basic screen video capture with a few simple compression options, audio recording, caption/graphic overlay support, simple video editing (cut, duplicate, slow down, just the basics), and export to Quicktime or Flash. All wrapped up in a nice UI too, of course. The biggest downfall of the current options is editing — there’s no way to preview the screencast you just created, overlay some captions, intro and outro text, and cut out some of the dead video).

Can I get an amen? Better yet, can I get a product?

I’ll agree that using separate tools is probably the better way to go if you’re producing a film, but if you’re trying to quickly produce a screencast (or several screencasts) demonstrating a UI for your customers with voice-over narration that also lets me do a little editing, make titles and throw in some transitions, I want a tool that’s a little more monolithic, a tool that — dare I say it? — takes a more “Microsoft Office-y” approach like the 37 Signals people suggest. That tool is Camtasia Studio.

Camtasia Studio supports all sorts of output formats, from QuickTime and Windows Media to what seems to be the preferred format these days — Flash video with an integrated player, a la YouTube. Adding titles, transisitons and text captioning is easy, and there’s a pretty decent edit suite in there too. For the videos you output in Flash, there’s the option of adding interactive “call-outs” (highlighted areas of the movie) and “hot spots” which when clicked take the user to a predetermined point in the movie or a web page. I’ve already used it to create a couple of screencasts for use by Tucows’ sales team, and they love the results. I’ve already committed to creating some screencast tutorials for end users for some of our Tucows services. And yes, they’ve got a version that runs under Vista — I run it on “The Taint”, the Acer laptop sent to me as part of a Vista promo. Call me a happy (and completely unsolicited) user of Camtasia Studio.

So c’mon, Mac developers — where’s the Mac equivalent of Camtasia?

4 replies on “Screencasting: Where Windows Clearly Spanks Mac OS X”

I’m glad that Camtasia worked without in Vista without giving you any headache. Many are expecting compatibility problems with the new OS. Although I already found a site which has a complete database of Vista drivers (, it would be a very welcoming news if the new applications already come with a Vista driver.

ScreenFlow (OS X only) is a really nice app. You can blur the backgrounds, enlarge the recorded cursor or even sections of the screen, individual windows. Plus, it is fairly inexpensive at $100.

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