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I've been using screen recorders for years. These applications allow you to record what you're doing on your Mac directly (or after rendering) to a QuickTime movie. Five years ago If I were to ask all my friends that do presentations on the Mac which screen recorder do you use? Most likely the answer would have been 100% – Snapz Pro X by Ambrosia Software. However, while Snapz is still the number one choice for a superb screen shot utility, I find very few pros using it to record their screens for tutorials and training videos anymore. The reason for this shift is that the landscape has changed and quite frankly Ambrosia just hasn't kept up.


iShowU Pro HD

The first App to completely lure me away from Snapz Pro was iShowU. It had one game changing feature and that was once you hit "stop recording", your movie was done! Instantly! With Snapz Pro X, after you hit the stop button/keyboard shortcut you have to wait while it renders out your movie and unfortunately it would take as long to render the movie as you took to record it. So a 10 minute recording would take 10 minutes to render. Now while that may not sound like the end of the world, imagine recording a 1 hour presentation and then having to wait an hour while it rendered before you could turn off or sleep your computer or do anything else on your computer. There was no way (and still isn't) to say, "do it later." If you didn't wait, you'd lose the recording. iShowU on the other hand would produce your movie file the minute you pressed stop. There it was, ready to use. No waiting! This took the community by storm and all the people I know that use these kinds of apps on a regular basis switched overnight to iShowU. Since that time iShowU has gotten a bigger brother,  iShowU Pro HD and of course the HD meaning that it can capture High Definition videos. I still prefer the original iShowU interface over the new Pro version, but the new Pro version has a better crash recovery feature. Also the Pro version allows you to capture both your screen and webcam/iSight video at the same time. All-in-all I go to iShowU when I want to record a movie/tutorial and have to have the file immediately for sharing or posting. 

iShowU starts at $20 and goes up to $59.95 for the Pro HD version here.



I've also been a ScreenFlow user for some time now too. ScreenFlow takes a slightly different approach in that you can record your screen and webcam video simultaneously and then once you're done with the recording you can actually edit your video right inside of the ScreenFlow app. They even record the webcam video on a separate track so that you can fade it in and out as needed. With iShowU HD Pro, your iSight video becomes part of the main video and there's no way to separate it out later. Screen Flow's editing environment allows you to do titling, add graphics, add other recordings as well as do things like zoom in on the screen, have a large cursor and add other call outs. All of this can be added AFTER the movie has been recorded. While I usually put the finishing touches on my video tutorials in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, I could certainly see someone using ScreenFlow for all of their basic editing needs of their recorded tutorials. 

You can get ScreenFlow here for $99.00 (there is a free trial)



The Bottom Line – Which one do I use?

After all that was the point of this right? To recommend one. Honestly I use all of the above and before you say "argggh", let me explain first and then I will then recommend ONE. I still use Snapz Pro X simply because it's the most full featured screen shot utility (for capturing dialog boxes, menus, etc.) I've seen. I use iShowU and iShowU Pro HD when I need it NOW! There's no time to render or it doesn't require editing. I use ScreenFlow when I want that polished look and I can wait for a final render of the edited movie. So if you said, you have to give up one all but one of the screen recorders. Then I would have to say that it would be ScreenFlow. You can record your movie, stop and output later. So it solves that having to clear the room problem after a presentation. Because you can edit right in the App and the iSight camera comes in a separate track, it wins in terms of flexibility. It's also the most expensive of the bunch, but you do in this case get what you pay for.

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10 Responses to Screen Recorders: Which one?

  1. Donna says:

    My daughter, who often does video capture, was surprised you didn’t mention camtasia, which she uses. Have you tried that one?

  2. Terry White says:

    Camtasia had always been a Windows ONLY product until recently. By the time it came to the Mac I already had my solution.

  3. Alistair says:

    Hey Terry – I’m curious to know if you’ve tried Adobe Captivate which is now available for the Mac.

    • Terry White says:

      It’s on my todo list 🙂
      In the past besides being Windows only, the problem was the only format it would output was Flash. I often need .MOVs or .MP4s more than .SWFs or .FLVs when it comes to podcasting. Has the export format list been expanded?

  4. ScreenFlow has one tremendous advantage in that it will output (or even convert QT) directly into Flash.

  5. Joel says:

    Let me toss in Screenium too for another good inexpensive screen grabber, no I’m not affiliated with them, just happy to find a $30 screen grabber that does more than Snapz does for $80!

  6. dggraphics says:

    How about the free screen recorder built into QuickTime Player X?

    It’s free.

  7. Steven Klein says:

    My need for screen recording is very rare.

    I’ve been using QuickTime Player, and found it sufficient for my admittedly modest requirements.

    And you can’t beat the price!

  8. Ken Hancherow says:

    What do you recommend for saving the odd You Tube video?

    Do you have a fav for recording audio such as WIre Tap Pro or Audio HiJack?