John Kaster

Behind the Screen

Recommendations for screen recording software

with 49 comments

The BDNtv episodes we’ve produced are considered very successful by the company. They’re great for demonstrating the functionality of our products in a clear, informative, and concise manner that is easily accessible to all our customers.

So, I’m working on increasing our investment in recordings of this sort. I’m currently working on getting a site license for a recording/producing combination so all our technical people who are so inclined (and also guests who want to produce episodes for BDNtv) can have an easy to use and flexbile utility for recording and producing BDNtv episodes.

I’m asking for opinions on software you have used for this purpose.

In decreasing order of familiarity, here are the tools I’ve already used or looked at a bit:

I’ve started looking here for a list to evaluate.

I want something that:

  • has easy and quick automatic recording, like full-time capture, or capture when mouse is clicked and/or key is pressed
  • also captures audio, hopefully from both the internal audio and mic input
  • has good editing capabilities for both audio and video, support for inserting callouts, cutting out parts of a recording, inserting graphics, voice annotation, etc
  • produces output for flash and mpeg or avi or wmv

Camtasia is what we’re primarily using right now as it appears to have the most options and most functionality, and is very productive. But again, my evaluation is rather out of date.

I know there are some recorders out there with their own proprietary formats that might be more compact than Flash, but Flash is an acceptable cross-platform standard I can use for BDN and expect it to be reasonably supported in someone’s browser. Thanks for any recommendations you might have.

Since it’s something I’m going to be suggesting Borland standardize on, I want to be sure I take a good luck at all the good capturing/mastering solutions out there. I’d hate to buy a site license for something, then find out a month later there was a better solution for us.

Thanks again for any recommendations on screen recording software I should look at!


Written by John Kaster

November 5, 2004 at 9:18 pm

Posted in EDN, IT Industry

49 Responses

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  1. Try this
    very easy to use and quite powerfull.

    Tomasz Kosinski

    November 5, 2004 at 11:08 pm

  2. thanks much for the recommendation! will look at it

    John Kaster

    November 5, 2004 at 11:17 pm

  3. We use TurboDemo, and have found it to be excellent; however, I haven’t tried importing audio into it yet.

    Andrew Neillans

    November 6, 2004 at 3:06 am

  4. I have used TurboDemo and like it a lot. Some parts of the UI seem a bit clunky to my, but but it works well.

    Our company has been using Viewlet Suite to create some demos. I have installed it, but haven’t had time to play with it so I’m not sure if it is better than TurboDemo.

    It has a very nice real-time capture utility that works really well, but I don’t see any way to edit the results afterwards. I haven’t called support or spent much time on it yet though. Anyway, just wanted to mention the company (URL listed above) so you would know it was one to investigate.

    DavidR. Robinson

    November 6, 2004 at 6:56 pm

  5. URL is (I didn’t realize it would make my name the URL link).

    David R. Robinson

    November 6, 2004 at 6:57 pm

  6. I have always been really impressed with TurboDemo. Their booth at BorCon has usually be pretty busy too, so I would expect other people like their product as well. I have not done any audio work with it though.

    Jim McKeeth

    November 7, 2004 at 8:25 pm

  7. Thanks for the additional recommendations for TurboDemo. It is one that I’ll make sure I look at again (for latest features) before making my final recommendation.

    John Kaster

    November 8, 2004 at 12:09 am

  8. John,

    I would certainly recommend Turbo Demo Professional – see my review in Delphi Informant in March 2004.


    John C Penman

    November 11, 2004 at 1:36 pm

  9. Instant Demo v4.0 is awesome


    November 19, 2004 at 11:00 pm

  10. I have used snagit a lot, it offers AVI video making through to single object capture out of an application, wanted to capture a button? tired of having to highlight the right region, this sorts it all out and its very cheap.

    I love it

    Liz Kimber

    December 1, 2004 at 12:44 pm

  11. Try mediaCam it’s smart cheap and works


    December 13, 2004 at 1:32 am

  12. I tried TurboDemo 6.5 and a lot of new features. I’musing it since 2 years and I bought the upgrade. It is really a vey good tool and I recommend it to everyone.

    Olaf Mayer

    September 29, 2005 at 10:07 am

  13. Thanks Olaf. I’ll take a look at the latest TurboDemo. Right now, I’m very happy with Camtasia 3.

    John Kaster

    September 29, 2005 at 10:33 am

  14. do u think is hypercam is good or craP?


    January 24, 2006 at 3:44 am

  15. Try this one:

    Totally free! And it is the fastest screen recorder I’ve ever seen. That application is amazingly efficient on screen capture – it’s as though it’s not even running.


    February 15, 2006 at 9:52 am

  16. i want this


    February 28, 2006 at 11:54 pm

  17. I downloaded a freeware version of a product from a company called Sentryworks. Their screen recorder was by far the best performance of any product I have tested. It records to Flash SWF and was the only product I tested capable of recording things like quicktime movies without data loss. Other products either hung or crashed when attempting to record a quicktime movie.


    March 31, 2006 at 12:46 pm

  18. I use video screen capture tool from etrusoft inc.
    <a href="">quick screen recorder</a>

    I think it’s worth downloading!

    screen recording

    April 4, 2006 at 11:35 pm

  19. cool, AimOne Screen Recorder, a powerful tool!


    April 5, 2006 at 1:25 am

  20. Funny, I wish I had found this site a couple of months ago. I have been looking into this for my company for the past month and here is the results of my testing:

    SentryWorks – this had by far the best recording engine of any product (including Macromedia’s CAptivate). If you need to capture high speed screen changes this is the only product that is capable! It also had some cool features specific to networked environments (like an IM client). SWF files were smaller than captivate. The only bad thing is their documentation needs lots of improvement!

    Macromedia Captivate – excellent feature set. Evolved from Robodemo. Geared more toward e-learning. If it had the sentryworks engine it would be the best product! Downside: It is fairly expensive.

    MatchWare – looks like interesting feature set, but very poor recording performance (not worth it).

    BB Flashback – decent feature set, poor recording performance, choked capturing quicktime video. Interface could use update.

    Funk Software – horrible recording performance! Don’t even bother. It too can’t handle quicktime video (or anything with lots of screen updates). Also high CPU utilization.

    Multidmedia Capture V2 – Also failed the performance tests miserably. The product does appear to have potential (decent UI and feature set, if only performance was better).

    I also tested a variety of other products mentioned here. None of them are worth mentioning. Best bet, stick with SentryWorks or Macromedia depending on your needs.

    James Dahl

    April 7, 2006 at 11:25 am

  21. Forgot to mention I also tested Camtasia Studio since it seems to be the most popular. Like other products, the screen recording engine choked capturing quicktime video. It does have a good feature set, but it just couldn’t handle what we needed. I would love to see Camtasia and SentryWorks merge. Together they would have a much better Flash product than even Macromedia.

    James Dahl

    April 7, 2006 at 11:30 am

  22. James thanks for your excellent review. I downloded the SentryWorks product. It took me awhile to figure out that I needed to have the server started (I was recording my own computer). The product is amazing. I create video’s and it is the only product I find to record all of them to swf.

    Marcos Sanz

    April 18, 2006 at 1:30 pm

  23. AimOne Screen Recorder is a powerful video-recording software, allows you record the full screen, window or fixed-region to AVI or WMV files.


    April 27, 2006 at 1:00 am

  24. I downloaded and installed the AimOne, ZDSoft, Techsmith Camtasia and Sentryworks Abra products per the recommendations on this page. Abra from Senttryworks has the best performance of any of the programs and is very easy to use. I like the way it is geared towards networked environments including automatically detecting workstations. It also has a basic IM capability built in to allow a supervisor that is recording an employee to talk to the employee while they are being monitored. It also has live monitoring and recording options. The recording can be exported to Flash SWF. Much more than any other product here!

    Liz Roberts

    April 27, 2006 at 12:34 pm

  25. I also downloaded the free version (what they call the Personal Edition) of Abra from SentryWorks based on this site. I definitely agree that it seems to have the best performance of any product mentioned here. The only downside was that the free version did not have a way for recording audio. I sent an email note to the company and they responded that they would add that to the free version within the next few weeks. I was very impressed with the fast response and what appears to be a great product.

    Katie Carafiello

    April 30, 2006 at 1:36 pm

  26. Thank you all., James you gave excellent review. I was using Camtasia and also vnc2swf, but neihther works very well with lots of screen activity. Sentryworks Abra has a very fast recording engine as you point out. I used the free version to convert all of my PowerPoint files to SWF. It is very nice and simple.

    Abhay Patny

    May 1, 2006 at 2:50 pm

  27. Does anyone have any experience using SentryWorks Abra in a call center environment? Are there any limitations in the free version to the number of workstations I can capture? I have a small tech support operation. Can I use their live monitoring to monitor/record 30+ agents? Do I need to purchase the Contact Center edition for that? Thanks in advance.

    Andrew Shuman

    May 1, 2006 at 4:33 pm

  28. I am not sure of the differences between the free and contact center versions (I am sure there are additional features missing). I am using the free version in a 70 seat environment for testing. It is awesome! We are using it to live monitor a group of agents at the same time in split screen. You can even live monitor and record others at the same time. It took me a while to figure out that "live monitoring" as they call it is initiated by the media player applet and NOT the server. It makes sense now that I know more about how it all works, but it was a bit confusing at first. They do need more documentation. Overall, I am very pleased with it though!

    Dennis Walls

    May 2, 2006 at 1:04 pm

  29. I used a lot of screen recording software – but when you want to capture to .swf files and would like to have the option to edit your captured movements before finally safing it there seems to be no other choice than robodemo from macromedia … am I right?


    May 7, 2006 at 7:48 am

  30. Oliver, what was Robodemo is now a product called Macromedia Captivate. As others have noted, the SentryWorks Abra product definitely seems to have a better/faster recording engine than Captivate. I am not sure what the Professional version of Sentryworks Abra contains with regards to functionality. The "Professional" version, which you have to pay for, may have an option to write to FLA instead of SWF. This would allow you to edit the file with the Macromedia Flash editor (which means you would not need Captivate). The Flash editor is the most powerful option for editing. For now, I downloaded a trial version of a Flash decompiler. I am using the SentryWorks Abra (free version) to create screen recordings then using the decompiler to convert the SWF to FLA format. I can then edit the file in Flash. This has been working quite well for me, and I do not need to pay for Captivate.

    Todd Martin

    May 9, 2006 at 1:05 pm

  31. Thought I would chime in here as I ofund the above useful. I tried to use the Ambra personal version to capture full-screen video 3D game play, and it does not work for this. (I have a high-end 3d ATI video card in the system.) When you alt-tab to the full screen game after starting the recording process, the recording function just keeps recording a static desktop display – not the game play.
    And the virtual video driver used in this program causes problems whether you are running any of the Ambra software or not – it prevents full-screen games from running at higher than 800X600 – the higher options just disappear from the setup menus in the game. I am hoping an uninstall will solve this problem.

    Herb W

    May 30, 2006 at 11:31 pm

  32. Sorry the program was Abra of course!

    Herb W

    May 30, 2006 at 11:32 pm

  33. I am a graphics developer so I can help tell you what is going on. Yes the problem is that your game is creating its own DirectX surface. Abra does not appear to capture these surfaces which is why you see just a blank screen during playback. I am not sure if the "professional" version does this or not. You can force it to work by disabling hardware acceleration via the display app in control panel (click advanced button and then troubleshoot). When you set hardware acceleration to none it will record these surfaces, but only because it is forcing the windows graphics engine to do the rendering as opposed to the graphics adapter. Of course, the recording will be somewhat slow because of the fact that the Windows graphics engine is doing the work. That is one of the GREAT things about Abra, most other products force you to disable hardware acceleration for any recording. Abra seems to work better with it enabled. You may want to contact SentryWorks to see if the professional Edition (the paid version) supports the recording of these surfaces. I am not really sure the free edition was designed to recording anything other than regular desktop activity which it seems to do better than any other product. I have contacted the company and they seem to be very responsive.

    Lenny Pickering

    June 1, 2006 at 7:29 pm

  34. Sorry let me clarify one statement. It is not recording the DirectX surface when you disable hardware acceleration. The rendering is just done by the Windows graphics engine which is why you WILL be able to record it. It will record, but it will not be fast. Hope that helps clarify things a bit, and yes I would contact SentryWorks if this functionality is important. It might already be available in the paid version.

    Lenny Pickering

    June 1, 2006 at 7:32 pm

  35. Lenny thank you for the explanation. I noticed that the free version of Abra will not let you record DVD movie software also, but figured the product was probably not designed to. I imagine it was more design for recording standard desktop. As you mention, it does this better than any product I have tested. I am curious if you can tell us what they seem to do different?

    Abhay Patny

    June 5, 2006 at 3:12 pm

  36. Abhay, it is difficult to say since I have not spent time debugging the driver. Any recording application like this uses a special kind of video driver known as a "mirror" driver. Writing any kind of video driver is no simple task. I will say it definitely appears that these guys know what they are doing, and have an excellent understanding of video hardware and windows graphics in general. The SentryWorks driver appears highly optimized (although there are still a few things I would like to see them add to the application itself) the performance of the driver is very impressive indeed. It is by far the best application I have found for recording regular desktop activity.

    Lenny Pickering

    June 6, 2006 at 12:51 pm

  37. Lenny, I am new to this softwares Abra, Camtasia, Captivate. Before buying Abra, I would like to know what important features it has better than Camtasia and Captivate. I downloaded Abra trial version and I could not find features as many as the other 2.

    Dino Pe

    June 9, 2006 at 10:56 am

  38. Hi Dino.. I suppose the functionality depends entirely on what your needs are for such a product. James Dahl gave an excellent review of several "similar" products back on 4/7 (see above) which is how I found SentryWorks. I have only evaluated the "Free personal edition" of Abra, so I do not know what is offered in the "Professional" edition (which I am not sure is available yet). The free version does lack advanced frame editing capabilities, but if you have a flash decompiler you can convert the SWF back into FLA and edit your recording in Flash. If you are running a call center/helpdesk environment, SentryWorks Abra really is the best product for you. They seem to be the only product designed for monitoring multiple users in a networked environment (as opposed to just recording your own machine for creating a product demo/tutorial).

    They added several features that I haven’t seen in other products. In addition to recording users at their workstation, you can live monitor multiple users at the same time, and can even communicate with users through a built-in instant message interface (while the IM features are not as extensive as MSN or Yahoo Messenger, this functionality seems to be very unique and VERY useful). A couple of weeks ago, we started using it here at my company for tech support issues and thus far everybody loves it.

    From a video driver perspective, the performance of the Abra product is far better than any product I have tested to date! While the free version of Abra does not capture DirectX surfaces (so you can’t record games, DVDs etc.), it does a far better job recording "normal" desktop activity than any other product I have tested (and I tested a lot). I am a graphics developer for a video device manufacturer, so I was very skeptical when I first heard others talk about the performance. I was very impressed to see how the product can record quicktime videos, and have the videos play back exactly as recorded (you can see an example on their website). I tried the same test with other products (Camtasia, Captivate, Quick Screen Recorder, BB Flashback and others) and in every case the other products would either fail, or have a noticeable performance impact when recording the quicktime video, or the playback would be spotty since other products can not keep pace with the frame rate. Abra definitely seems to have the best performance.

    If anybody from SentryWorks reads this I would like to see more extensive help/documentation and also it would be nice if you added some tutorials for how to use the media player functions to your website. You have a great product, but need others to be able to see how to use it easily!

    Lenny Pickering

    June 14, 2006 at 8:44 am

  39. fyi, based on the feedback here I just downloaded Abra from SentryWorks. According to the note that came with the download, they just added support for audio to the free version. I just downloaded and tested it. It works great! I recorded my screen and audio while the screen was being recorded. The audio is saved to a WAV file on the "agent" which can then be merged into the recording using the "server" application. I guess this is because the agent and server can be different machines. In any case, I was able to create a recording and export screen and audio into FLASH SWF format. The resulting flash file is very small.

    I am very impressed with the technology, especially for a totally free product! We need more products like this.

    Alexander Perkins

    June 19, 2006 at 3:04 pm

  40. Hi John,

    I recommend looking at Voice Print International. They offer a robust screen recording software application utilizing the Borland SQL database. Some features include synchronized voice/video files, industry standard AVI file formats for easy sharing and playback, streaming playback capabilities, small file size, stealth recording of call center agents, and high file security. You can visit their screen recording resource page for more details: <a href=""&gt;.

    Patrick Botz

    July 14, 2006 at 12:19 pm

  41. Thanks for the recommendation, Patrick. Will look, but the URL you provided comes back as "Invalid" unless I hit the home page first. Seems maybe the home page sets a cookie that the product page requires?

    John Kaster

    July 14, 2006 at 1:15 pm

  42. Where can I download the SentryWorks tool?
    They didn’t answer my requests for a download 😦

    daniel kirsch

    August 14, 2006 at 9:58 am

  43. I finally received an answer. Seemed to be some technical problems that caused the delay.
    The speed and results of the SentryWorks tool are indeed fantastic. The resulting swf files are very smal. Great work!

    I only wish their prices for the SDK licence would be affordable for us. And some more product details on their web pages.

    daniel kirsch

    August 21, 2006 at 11:06 pm

  44. Just wanted to add that it took some time for me to get the download instructions for the SentryWorks abra also. I got a note from a manager there apologizing for the delay, indicating they are experiencing some technical problems with the download process. The personal edition that they offer for free was well worth the wait! As Daniel Kirsch noted, the SWF files are very small and the performance is notable better than competitive products. The company also seems to be very open to product feedback. We sent a request with several suggestions for changes to the ‘server’ interface and were told they would be made in the next release. So far I am very pleased with this tool and you can’t beat the price 🙂

    Juan Romero

    September 15, 2006 at 2:00 pm

  45. Can anyone help me out in locating a contact at SentryWorks? I called the phone number on their brochure (561-482-9495) and that now belongs to a different company. They are also no longer located at the mailing address on their website (20283 State Road 7, #400, Boca Raton, FL) as another company has been in suite #400 for 2+ years… I’ve sent an e-mail to one of the addresses listed on their website but have yet to get a reply. How have you guys been able to reach these people??

    Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.


    September 20, 2006 at 9:53 am

  46. Skip, they are still around. I think they need to update the address they have listed on their PDF brochure (which seems to match the one you listed). In fact, I have been talking to one of their support reps regarding an issue for the last week. Have you tried contacting them via the email addresses listed on their contact page? They have always been VERY responsive to problem reports and other inquiries that I have made via email.

    Lenny Pickering

    October 2, 2006 at 3:44 pm

  47. so i like to ask if anyone there knows simpler screen recording software which has video editing function. recently i got one called democreator and paid for it (it’s on discount sales so i got 45% off). the GUI was really simple and the edit function was OK, but the AVI output file sucked, so i had to save my recording video to SWF to keep it in higher quality. Anyone any suggestion on which screen recorder can i choose?
    here is what i brought


    October 5, 2009 at 9:28 pm

  48. I like Total Screen Recorder,which could record webcam video,desktop video and upload the video to youtube freely.It could record the video as long as you wish. Not like the other screen recorder, which just let you record one minute or with large watermark on the video.


    April 26, 2010 at 11:23 pm

  49. @Totalilo, are you the vendor of Total Screen Recorder?

    John Kaster

    April 26, 2010 at 11:26 pm

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