Screen recording software allows you to take a capture of your monitor and share it with the world. Whether it be a stream of a game, a presentation for an office or a video lecture for students, screen recording software is paramount in how we now share information.
However, not all pieces are created equal. Some have nasty watermarks or a lack of export options. Here at Cloudwards.net, we looked at the best screen recording software to determine which packs the most power, for the lowest price while also being easy to use.
Read on to see our recommendations and why we chose each. If it’s still images you’re after, read our piece on the best screen capture software.
What Makes Screen Recording Software Good?
There is an insane amount of screen recording options, from freeware to donationware to crapware and everything in between. Weeding through all of it can be a chore, considering the software is meant to perform one task but often performs many others.
That’s what we first looked at, that the software could stand on its own without any extra features. For instance, many add video editors that are clunky at best, with interfaces resembling MS Paint more than Premiere. While we’ll give you some options on this list that include video editors, each of them can perform that way in its own right.
Next, we looked at cost. Considering they are often just another tool, they shouldn’t come with too hefty a price tag, especially for features that aren’t ideal. We looked at software that either had a free version or was very inexpensive, trying to skip over options with an excess amount of bundled bloatware.
While video editors didn’t add much to scores, we did look at the included features with each software. It was mainly features that helped during recording and not in post. For example, the ability to add overlays or record picture-in-picture ranked highly among our considerations.
Last, we looked at usability. The ability to open up the software and start recording quickly was important, not requiring extensive set up to get the desired look. You may have to go in-depth to unlock the full power, but the base usability is still straightforward.
Camtasia is the most expensive piece of software on this list, but it’s also the best. This is one of the rare occasions where the bundled video editor is quite good, allowing you to capture multiple tracks of audio and video and put them together in one spot.
What makes its implementation work so well is that the video editor and screen capturing portions of the software are in different places. Once you go into screen recording mode, the editor disappears, so you’re not juggling windows around.
You have the choice to record your entire display or just a particular window. This small feature is very useful. Take, for example, an educator who needs to screen capture for a lecture. They could capture part of their screen while having lesson notes on another part.
That’s probably a likely scenario as well considering Camtasia allows you to drop PowerPoint presentations directly into the software. You select the slides you want, and it imports, then you can layer your webcam or any other media over the top.
There are a ton of features included with Camtasia including annotations, keystroke and mouse recording and 4K-video rendering. The software is pricey but comes packed with everything you need to take you from recording to export.
- Easy to use
- Packed with features
- Learning curve
TinyTake is cheaper and more stripped than Camtasia, but still offers plenty of features. The base application is entirely free, but only for personal use. For any commercial venture, you’ll need to buy a subscription.
Initially, we weren’t a fan of this model, considering TinyTake caps your screen recording times. However, the plans work really well and come with extra features like cloud storage to sweeten the pot (though nothing in the league of our really good cloud storage providers).
This software is best suited for those who need something quick without too much time or effort. Camtasia is far more powerful, but it also takes some time to learn. Such is not the case here. The interface is dead simple, which leads to a limited amount of options, but far less confusion.
Because of the limited options and recording caps, TinyTake falls in line with those who need to make many small videos. Unlike Camtasia where someone could record a four-hour tutorial, TinyTake focuses on recording bite-sized chunks which, considering, meaning the name is very fitting.
- Easy to use
- Cloud storage included
- Somewhat limited
- Not great for longer vids
GoPlay sits in between our first two picks when it comes to price structure and features. This screen recording software mainly focuses on gaming, but you can use it with any application. It supports all 3D/OpenGL games, as well as mobile titles, so you should be covered.
There aren’t as many features while recording, though. You can still select an area of your screen and capture your webcam, but GoPlay doesn’t include features like keystroke recording and annotations.
What you go get is full 4K capture at 60 frames per second. For gamers capturing their gameplay, this is huge as YouTube now allows 4K60p content natively. Once you finish editing, you can upload directly to YouTube as well instead of exporting and going through the process separately.
The editor included here is the best looking on the list, but not as powerful as Camtasia. You can add filters, transitions and even manipulate speed which are all impressive features, but not ones that make a considerable difference. The bulk of what this editor does is put clips together and, for that, it can’t be faulted.
GoPlay offers a free version of the software, but with strict limitations. You can only record up to 10 minutes at a time, at 720p, with a watermark. The full version is under $100 for a lifetime license and even cheaper if you opt for an annual plan, so it makes sense just to bite the bullet for that.
- Great for gamers
- Lacks features
- Free plan is meh
Another piece of software aimed at gamers, XSplit is a powerful screen recording application that has uses far outside its target audience. It’s focused much more on the production side of the process and not the editing side, so we recommend an external editor, although it’s not required.
The built-in one mainly functions to splice separate clips together. There’s the option to upload directly to YouTube or social networks, but you won’t find the flexibility of other applications on this list.
That’s really not a problem, though, because XSplit allows you to do so much beforehand. A simple layering interface allows you to put overlays, webcam capture and more in the frame before hitting record. There’s even an option to remove green screen backgrounds on a webcam.
You can do even more when you combine the software with plugins. XSplit’s plugin store allows you to customize the interface to your needs and add new scene elements as you need them. For instance, Twitch streamers can add a custom donation pop-up or a rolling list of subscribers. There are a ton of possibilities here, and it’s continuously updated so you always have something new to try out.
XSplit points itself towards gamers, but it’s a competent piece of software in other areas as well. It’s fully featured on the front end, and lacking a little on the back. Though, sometimes it’s better to capture the scene upfront instead of trying to piece it together later.
- Nice feature set
- Built-in editor isn’t very good
- Little rigid
OBS, or Open Broadcast Software, is true to its name. It’s a free, open source screen recording software with tons of options and plenty of plugins to boot.
It’s a lot like XSplit minus the video editor and sleek interface. You have the same options for crafting your scene, though. There are options for placing your webcam, adding static overlays and capturing only selected areas of your screen.
There’s no video editor, but that’s because you really don’t need one. As the name implies, this software is focused on broadcasting, meaning you can set up scene changes on hotkeys to do the editing on the spot.
This is known as “studio mode” and it lets you preview up to eight sources at once and switch between them as needed. Live streams that need a camera and a screen capture, for example, can harness the power of OBS to accomplish that.
You don’t need to use it for broadcast alone. Simple screen recording is the center of OBS, and it accomplishes that without throwing too many options in your face. It’s completely free too, so it’s best to download it and try for yourself.
- Plenty of features
- Easy to use
- No built-in editor
- Bit limited
Screen recording software is often bogged down by bloat, ineffective in accomplishing the one task it’s intended to or broken by a sketchy editor. These pieces of software break that trend, fit with functional editors, intuitive interfaces and plenty of features to take you from record to export.
What piece of software did you download? Do you have any options we missed? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.