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.
This year, I evaluated and tested over 40 screen recording apps, and here I'll present the six best.
The 6 best video capture apps
Loom for quickly recording and sharing on the desktop
Camtasia for advanced video editing
OBS for advanced recording tools and live streaming
Movavi Screen Recorder for screen capture when you're away from your desk
Zappy for quickly sharing screen recordings from a Mac
ScreenPal for affordable editing features
What makes the best screen recorder for PC or Mac?
How we evaluate and test apps
Our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. Unless explicitly stated, we spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.
The best screen capture software makes it really easy to show how things work—or, if you're filing a support ticket, how they don't work. But different people are going to be looking for different things. In my research, I tested several dozen apps, ranging from minimalistic three-button windows to complex apps overflowing with tools. The options are priced from free all the way up to several hundreds of dollars. Each of my picks for best screen recorder app offers a unique feature, but they all meet some basic criteria:
The ability to record your whole screen, one window/app, 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
An intuitive, friendly user interface
Affordable pricing plans that match the value
Of course, the process doesn't end with the screen recording. The quality of the final product can make or break user engagement, so I also considered the post-capture editing features.
One thing to note: It's possible that an app you already use has screen recording built in. Many video conferencing, communication, and productivity tools have added screen recording to their feature sets (like Dropbox Capture and Vimeo Record), so it's worth checking if you can get the capabilities you need from a tool that's already in your stack.
Plus, iPhones and Androids both have a built-in screen recording feature. If you're just looking to record your phone screen, that may be all you need.
Add screen recording to your Control Center by navigating to Settings > Control Center and clicking the green + next to Screen Recording.
When you're ready to record, swipe down from the top of your screen to open Control Center, tap the Record icon, then wait for the three-second countdown.
Stop the recording by swiping down and tapping the Record button again (it'll be red now), or by tapping the red recording status bar in the top-left corner of your screen.
Swipe down from the top of your device's screen, and tap the Screen record option.
Choose your recording area, opt to record audio and screen touches (or not), and tap Start.
When finished, swipe down from the top again, and tap the Screen recorder notification to end the recording.
That's it! Your recording is automatically saved to your Photos app on either device.
The best screen recording software at a glance
Quickly recording and sharing on desktop
Super easy to use and works across devices
Free for 25 videos of up to 5 minutes
Advanced video editing
Robust editing features
Advanced recording tools and live streaming
Live streaming and advanced recording tools
Screen capture when you're away from your desk
Watermarks on all free recordings
Free screen recording for Mac
Exceedingly simple and quick
Free for local recordings and screenshots
Affordable editing features
Tons of editing options
Free for unlimited recordings up to 15 minutes each
Best screen recording software for quickly recording and sharing on desktop
Loom (Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone/iPad, Chrome)
Super easy to use and works across devices
Generous free plan
The mobile apps aren't perfect
If you want to quickly record something and share a link, give Loom a chance. Loom isn't overly complicated when it's time to record: you can choose whether you want to record just your screen, your screen with webcam video, or just your webcam. Once you finish, your video will be uploaded to Loom. You can do some basic editing in the browser, if you want, or you can copy the link to share the video. It's all very quick, which makes it, overall, the best screen recorder.
With the free version of Loom, you can store up to 25 videos of up to five minutes each. It's limited, sure, but great for quickly showing something to a collaborator, coworker, and/or archenemy. And you can always download your videos and store them somewhere else if you're getting close to that 25 video threshold.
Having said that, Loom isn't perfect. The desktop app works well, but I found the mobile apps limited in confusing ways. The Android version, for example, requires users to enter their Google password in order to log in instead of using the built-in Android support for Google accounts, which is odd. The iPhone and iPad apps can't combine video with screencasting.
The company recently wrapped a beta on AI features, including auto-generated titles, summaries, and chapters, auto-suggested tasks and next steps for viewers, and removing filler words and silence. In my testing, auto-generation worked fine, but the results were pretty simplistic. AI features do require an upgrade, and in my experience, their value isn't quite worth an upgrade on its own.
Still, Loom will get the job done without a lot of fuss for most users.
Loom pricing: Free for 25 videos of up to five minutes. Business plans start at $12.50/month/user with unlimited videos and recording length.
Dropbox Capture (which has been in beta for a bit) is a solid Loom alternative, so be sure to check it out if you're already paying for Dropbox and need an app for recording your screen.
Best screen recording software for advanced video editing
Camtasia (Windows, Mac)
Simple, easy-to-use capture
Robust editing features
High upfront cost
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 who struggles with its editing tools. Creating surprisingly professional intro and outro segments and dropping them into my test video took a matter of seconds. My 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 I 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.
My one complaint about Camtasia is the pricing structure. There's no monthly option, and the free trial only gives you three days to try out the software, so it's a bigger upfront investment than most. That said, if you know you like the interface, the cost is lower over time than most.
Note: if you don't need editing but like the look of Camtasia, Capture (formerly Jing) comes from the same company, only offers screen recording, and it's free to download and use.
Camtasia pricing: $299.99 for a lifetime business license.
Best screen recording software for advanced recording tools and live streaming
OBS Studio (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Live streaming and advanced recording tools
It's totally free
Can be difficult for beginners
OBS is a screen record app that's mostly built with live streaming in mind—if you've ever watched someone play games on Twitch, for example, they were probably using OBS. But you can also use it to record videos (it's by far the most robust tool for doing so), and it's free, so it's a great choice if you're looking for Camtasia alternatives.
Most of the apps in this list let you record using a webcam and your display. OBS Studio can go much, much beyond that. It's a complete tool for broadcasting, meaning you can add as many displays and cameras as your computer can handle. You can also create customizable "studios," preset audio and video configurations that you can cycle through during a recording.
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 80 platforms in the live streaming menu, ranging from big-name sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch, to obscure streaming platforms like Pandora TV. 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 broadcast live—make sure you're ready.
OBS Studio pricing: Free
Best screen recording software for screen capture when you're away from your desk
Movavi Screen Recorder (Windows, Mac)
It's easy to set up scheduled captures
No monthly pricing option
In-depth editing requires a separate Movavi app
Movavi Screen Recorder is a great mid-level screen recorder for PC, a nice OBS alternative, 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: Watermarks on all free recordings; $42.95/year for an individual personal license or $85.95/year for a business license.
Best free screen recorder for Mac
Exceedingly simple and quick
Allows you to make GIFs
It's completely free
Relatively limited feature set
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, and you have the option of recording your face on the webcam too.
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 Zapier's app. Zapier built Zappy for internal use, basically because the team couldn't find a tool that worked quite the way they wanted. They thought people might find it useful, so they 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).
Best screen recorder for affordable editing features
ScreenPal (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Chrome)
Tons of editing options
Super affordable upgrade
No built-in sharing options
Recording system audio requires upgrade
If you need a screen recorder that won't break the bank, ScreenPal (formerly known as Screencast-O-Matic) is one of the most affordable—yet feature-packed—options I tested. The free plan includes unlimited screen and webcam recordings (up to 15 minutes each) with no watermark. Even if you need to upgrade—to record system audio or add automated captions, for example—paid plans start at just $3/month.
Despite that affordability, ScreenPal is a capable choice. The app features an easy-to-use recording interface and a ton of options for editing your video. More than the standard trimming most apps offer, ScreenPal lets you record separate narration, add overlays and transitions, hide the webcam, cursor, or drawings, insert pauses or separate video files, and add manual captions—all without leaving the app. Tools with that many editing features can easily become overwhelming, but ScreenPal's straightforward menus make it a breeze to pick up.
Once you're ready to share, upload videos directly to YouTube, Vimeo, Dropbox, Google Drive—or upload to the ScreenPal web app for more sharing options like embedding, link sharing, email, and sharing directly to Facebook, Twitter/X, Microsoft Teams, or Google Classroom.
ScreenPal pricing: Free for unlimited recordings up to 15 minutes each; upgrade to the Deluxe plan for $3/month to get unlimited recording time, system audio recording, and additional editing features.
Screen recording software FAQ
Here are some questions lots of people have about screen recording apps and how to choose the right one.
Why use screen recording software?
There are a ton of different reasons why you might need to record your screen. You might want to show someone how to do something, describe an issue, or share knowledge with coworkers—all of which can be done through a screen recording.
What's the best free screen recording tool?
It depends on what you want to record your screen for. For something simple, like just sharing what's on your desktop, Loom, Zappy, and ScreenPal are great options. For live streaming, OBS is a reliable choice.
Are there any free screen recorders that don't leave a watermark?
OBS, Zappy, and ScreenPal are free to use and don't include a watermark in your video recordings.
Finding the best screen recording software
The best screen recording app 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 video recording software 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 by Ryan Farley and has also had contributions from Justin Pot. The most recent update was in November 2023.