A screencast is a recording of actions performed on a computer screen. Screencasts are used to demonstrate computer-based tasks, such as website navigation, and are especially useful for distance education. Screencasts include audio and video, or sometimes just video with captions. Camtasia Studio, Adobe Captivate, and similar software can be used to create high quality, professional looking screencast tutorials, but not without significant investments in time and money.
Until recently, it would have been unreasonable to think about creating a screencast to address just one person’s specific information need. However, thanks to a number of free web-based tools that have come on the scene in the past few years, producing a screencast no longer needs to be a major production. In just minutes, you can create a screencast, upload it to the web, and share it any number of ways. Here are some free tools you can use to incorporate screencasts into your everyday interactions with information seekers.
Screencast-O-Matic is entirely web-based. There is no software to download, and you can create a video without signing up for an account. Screencast-o-Matic produces a .mov file you can save to your own computer, send directly to YouTube, or have hosted at screencast-o-matic.com (this option does require a free account). Your video can be up to 15 minutes in length. Post-recording, you can add notes and create links allowing the viewer to jump to specific points in the recording.
ScreenToaster is a similarly simple tool. Videos can be up to five minutes long. You have the choice to download your video, host it at screentoaster.com, send it to YouTube, or embed it directly into a web page or blog. ScreenToaster allows for simultaneous recording from a webcam for a picture-in-picture effect. Viewers get to see the person speaking as well as what is happening on the screen.
ScreenJelly is designed for smooth integration with social media. You can record up to three minutes of video, then share your work via email, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or any of several other social media sites. You also get embed code, which allows you to copy and paste the video into any web page or blog.
Jing is a free screencapture/screencasting tool from TechSmith, the company that also produces SnagIt and Camtasia. A free software download is required. The free version of Jing produces .swf (Flash) videos up to five minutes in length. Jing videos can be saved to your own computer, sent directly to an ftp server, hosted at screencast.com, embedded in a blog or web page, or shared with Flickr or YouTube. For $14.95 a year, Jing Pro removes Jing branding from your videos, allows for simultaneous recording from a webcam, and uses a different format (MPEG-4) to maximize quality and minimize file size.
These are just a few options for creating quick screencasts. For more information about these and other tools, check out these software reviews written by medical librarian Melissa Rethlefsen for Library Journal: