Show, don't tell. It's simple enough advice, and screen recording software makes it easier to follow.
Screen capture apps record what's happening on your screen, including the movement of your cursor, so you can deliver instructions, describe problems, or share knowledge. Writing out descriptions of such things takes significantly longer than just showing someone your screen, but you're usually not standing next to the person or people who need to see your screen. Video capture apps solve that problem.
We evaluated more than 30 screen recording apps, and here we'll present the nine best.
The 9 best video capture apps
Camtasia for detailed video editing
Screencastify for recording your screen from a Chrome extension
Apowersoft Unlimited for mobile screen capture
ScreenFlow for high production value recordings
Movavi Screen Recorder Studio for screen capture when you're away from your desk
Bandicam for hi-res screen recording
FlashBack Pro for editing audio post-capture
CloudApp for integrating screen recording with other services
Zappy for quickly sharing screen recordings from a Mac
What makes for great screen recording software?
Screen capture software simplifies everyday tasks such as submitting or responding to support tickets, announcing product updates, onboarding new employees, or creating software tutorials.
In our research, we tested options ranging from minimalistic three-button windows to complex apps overflowing with tools, priced from free all the way up to several hundreds of dollars. Each of our picks offers a unique feature, but they all meet some basic criteria:
The ability to record your whole screen, one window, or a specific area
The option to superimpose a webcam feed over the screen capture
Simultaneous microphone and system audio recording
Built-in video sharing and/or convenient exporting tools
A friendly user interface
Of course, the process doesn't end with the screen recording. The quality of the final product can make or break user engagement, so we also considered the post-capture editing features as we selected the best video recording software.
Best screen recording software for detailed video editing
Camtasia (Windows, Mac)
The Camtasia video capture interface is straightforward and no-nonsense. You choose your capture area, whether or not to include webcam and microphone inputs, and click Record.
Its built-in video editor is a different story. There's an exhaustive list of editing options that manage not to feel overwhelming. Click-and-drag effects and a decent selection of stock media are located along the left-hand side of the app, with detailed properties and customizations appearing on the right-hand side whenever you select an element from the timeline.
Camtasia provides outstanding tutorial videos for anyone that struggles with its editing tools, but creating surprisingly professional intro and outro segments and dropping them into our test video took a matter of seconds. Our only hiccup was with the interactivity features, which allow you to add quizzes or clickable buttons to your project. Configuring these elements was easy enough, but previewing the video and exporting the final product was noticeably more complicated after adding interactivity.
This is also the only app we tested with a closed captions tool that loops audio while you add the text. A four-second segment plays until you're done typing, and then you can press
Tab, and it plays the next loop.
Camtasia Pricing: $249 for a lifetime business license for up to two machines.
Best screen recording software for recording your screen from a Chrome extension
If you need to share lots of short screen recordings but don't need a bunch of editing bells and whistles, you can't go wrong with Screencastify. For example, if you provide customer support, you're probably less interested in polished videos with long production turnarounds than you are in quick and easy screen captures. Screencastify trades in the editing options for an uncluttered desktop recording and video sharing interface.
Since it's a Chrome extension, you can set everything up in one to two minutes. Install it, choose what you want to capture (Screencastify can capture video outside of your browser window), enable or disable webcam and microphone capture, and click Record.
During a recording, Screencastify positions a toolbox in the lower left corner of your browser that includes cursor settings (toggling the focus bubble, adding click animations, and auto-hiding the cursor when it's inactive) as well as a paintbrush to annotate content within a Chrome window.
When you stop the recording, Screencastify opens the video in its web player and uploads the file to your Google Drive (or saves it locally on your computer, if you've changed the settings). You can upload to YouTube or Google Classroom, if you want, or download the video. There are also some simple editing tools: trim, split, and merge.
Screencastify Pricing: Free for videos up to 5 minutes each; $49/year for unlimited recordings with no length restrictions and additional features.
Best screen recording software for live streaming webinars
OBS Studio (Windows, Mac, Linux)
What OBS Studio lacks in editing features, it makes up for with streaming and recording options. For starters, the open-source app lets you create customizable "studios," preset audio and video configurations that you can cycle through during a recording.
We created three studios during our test (shown above): one for just the primary display and webcam, another for the secondary display and webcam, and a third for both displays and the webcam. Sizing and positioning elements within each studio is a simple click-and-drag affair, and cycling through them during a recording session is controlled with a hotkey.
With enough preparation, these audio and video presets eliminate the need to fuss with any settings while streaming live video via OBS's robust integrations. There are 44 (!) platforms in the live streaming menu, ranging from big-name sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch, to obscure streaming platforms like watchpeoplecode.com and Sermon Audio. Opening the Settings menu and pasting your stream key into the text box is all it takes to set up the one-click Start Streaming button on the main dashboard. Changes you make to a studio, such as sound mixing or webcam placement, are broadcasted live, so make sure you're ready.
OBS Studio Pricing: Free
Best screen recording software for mobile capture
Apowersoft Unlimited (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS)
Any up-to-date Android device or iPhone has a built-in screen recorder and some basic video editing tools. But for those who need more functionality, Apowersoft's Unlimited package has a lot to offer.
It includes subscriptions to all 17 Apowersoft apps (eight of which handle some sort of video capture or editing) that can be launched from a single dashboard. There's one app for recording an Android screen and another for iPhones, both of which include settings we didn't see in any other apps, like resolution control, bit-rate throttling, framerate selection, and camera configurations.
If you have Apowersoft's Unlimited suite, you can wirelessly cast a mobile device to your computer screen and use the desktop recorder to capture your computer's webcam, microphone, PC audio, and mobile device simultaneously. This is especially convenient if you want to show someone how to use an app that has a desktop and a mobile version. If there are similar features with dissimilar interfaces, showing them side-by-side would clear up any confusion.
The suite's video editor is pretty basic, but it will let you trim segments, add text overlays, and adjust contrast, brightness, and saturation.
Apowersoft Unlimited Pricing: $59.95/year for Personal plans; $99.95/year for Business plans. You can also buy the individual products at lower rates.
Best screen recording software for high production value recordings
Telestream's ScreenFlow adds a wow factor to your screen recordings, but it does have a steeper learning curve than other options on this list. Although its editor looks minimalistic at first, there's an overwhelming number of features to sift through.
By far the most valuable of these tools is Telestream's stock media library, which includes more than 500,000 images, audio clips, and videos (some in 4k) to put a professional sheen on your screen recording. Open the in-app library from the Features pane, search by keyword, then click and drag the media to your timeline. Access to the stock media library is $60 per year, which is well worth it if customers or large audiences are watching your videos.
Other standout features include the ability to record your desktop at retina resolution (i.e., very high resolution) as well as some impressive templating options for cutting down on production time. The Styles and Templates tools allow you to group settings and video components so they can be applied with a couple clicks. With Styles, you can save audio/visual settings for individual elements like color filters or drop shadows for a video segment. Templates lets you insert, arrange, and configure groups of elements in advance, such as branded intro and outro segments, text placeholders, and background music.
ScreenFlow Pricing: $129 for a lifetime license.
Best screen recording software for screen capture when you're away from your desk
Movavi Screen Recorder Studio (Windows, Mac)
Movavi Screen Recorder Studio is a great mid-level screen recording app, complete with a built-in editor that gets the job done. But there is one feature it does exceptionally well: scheduled captures.
This tool lets you record webinars or live streams while you're away from your desk. You'll find this feature in the Preferences, under Scheduler. You can set a time limit for the next recording, or you could specify a time for a recording to begin and end. You can even set it up so your computer shuts down or goes to sleep after the capture is finished.
It's convenient and unambiguous, further improved by Movavi's above-average resolution settings. If you need to record an inconveniently-timed webinar to share with others, you'll want it to look good.
Movavi Pricing: A lifetime $59.95 for a one-computer lifetime license. There's a free version, but it adds a large hideous watermark to the center of every video, so it's really only useful for getting a feel for the software.
Best screen recording software for hi-res screen capture
With the rise in popularity of eSports, most of today's screen capture software programs include gamecasting features. That's not useful for productivity-minded workers, but high-resolution video capture—like that available with Bandicam—works wonders for those in creative fields.
If you're putting together a Photoshop tutorial or a webinar on web design, 144 frames per second in 4k resolution will ensure your content stands out from the rest. Bandicam requires top-notch hardware to process recordings at such a high quality, but most people in the creative field shouldn't run into any problems.
Although you might expect a complex interface from an app that focuses so much on video quality, this app has a sparse configuration window. It's a dead-simple app, and the only thing it's missing is a built-in editor.
Bandicam Pricing: $39 for a one-computer lifetime license.
Best screen recording software for editing audio post-capture
FlashBack Pro (Windows)
The FlashBack Pro screen recording interface looks a bit dated, and the editor is only a couple steps above average, but it comes with invaluable sound editing tools.
Recording your voice during a desktop capture creates lots of tiny issues. The proximity of keystrokes to your mic makes them sound like a jackhammer, unwanted noises from across the room are hard to prevent, and system audio is often at a totally different volume than your mic. Most editors help you minimize these problems, but none are as detailed or easy to navigate as Flashback Pro.
For example, turning down the volume on a system audio track is as simple as highlighting it on the timeline, right-clicking it, and choosing Change Volume of Selection. You can also remove background noises by applying a filter, or normalize microphone and PC audio so their volumes match.
The app also has a couple of novel video editing features, such as automatically highlighting sections of screen inactivity for removal and re-recording your mouse cursor without changing anything else in the video.
FlashBack Pro Pricing: $49 for a lifetime one-computer license; $74 for two computers.
Best screen recording software for integrating with other services
CloudApp (Windows, Mac, Chrome, iOS)
CloudApp, as the name suggests, automatically uploads every recording you make to the cloud. This makes it a convenient tool for quickly recording and sharing things. It also offers a Zapier integration, meaning you can automatically send those recordings to other apps if you want.
You can start recordings using the tray or menu bar icon, or using a custom keyboard shortcut. Record your entire display, or choose which section of the screen you want to record. There are some basic image editing features—trims and cuts—but overall the focus is on getting your recording to the cloud quickly.
There are a few limitations. You can't record system audio, for example, and there's no way to add annotations to your recordings. But that doesn't matter if you just need to quickly demonstrate something, which is where CloudApp thrives.
The main reason we chose this app is because of its integration power. By connecting it with Zapier, you can create automated workflows that do things like send recordings to Trello, Google Sheets, or Slack for easy reference.
See more ways to automate CloudApp with CloudApp's Zapier integrations.
CloudApp pricing: Free version is limited to 90-second videos. Pro version starts at $9/month for unlimited recordings and enhanced editing features.
Best free screen recording software for quickly sharing recordings from a Mac
Sometimes you just want to quickly make a recording and send it to someone, without having to edit anything or mess around with a bunch of settings. Zappy is perfect for this. This app is triggered using a keyboard shortcut, or using the menu bar icon. Select which portion of the screen you want to record, hit the video camera button, then hit stop when you're done. You can record a voiceover using your microphone, if you want.
If you're a paid Zapier user, the recording will be uploaded to the cloud and a link copied to your clipboard. If not, you can grab the video file locally and share it however you like. You won't find a lot in the way of settings, and there's no editing capability, but you can add arrows, boxes, basic text, and obfuscation while you're recording (or after the fact for a screenshot). It's just a fast way to share something.
Cards on the table: this is our app. We built Zappy for internal use, basically because we couldn't find a tool that worked quite the way we wanted. We thought people might find it useful, so we released it to the public.
Zappy pricing: Free for local recordings and screenshots. Paid Zapier accounts can automatically upload all recordings to the cloud. Zapier subscriptions start at $19.99/month.
Finding the best screen recording software
The best screen recording software is the one that saves you the most time and produces the most worthwhile content for your audience. Make sure you know your target audience and use case before selecting an app. All the options we've listed are either free or come with trial versions, so give your top contenders a whirl, and see which you like best.
This article was originally published in February 2019 and was updated in July 2020 with contributions from Justin Pot.