Friday, March 21, 2008

CamStudio 2.0 - A free, Open-Source AVI or SWF screen recorder

Cam Studion 2.0

I've been experimenting with adding video software reviews to this website, and in the process have tried several utilities for recording screen output to common video formats. The best free tool I've come across to this point is CamStudio. This handy little program allows you to quickly and easily record screen activity to either AVI or SWF format.

AVI format can be played in most any video player, including the YouTube site, while SWF requires a Flash player to view. The biggest difference between the two file formats is that AVI files can be quite large, while SWF files are much more compact with less quality.

I found CamStudio to be very straightforward to use. I was able to make a full-screen recording of a program in operation shortly after I installed the program. You can set the program to minimize to the task tray while it is recording, so it is not included in the video capture. AVI or SWF output mode is selected via a convenient toolbar button. The F8, F9 and F10 keys are used to start/pause, cancel or stop the recording.

CamStudio can record audio from the microphone, speakers, or not at all. It also allows you to add text or video annotations to your recording. A wealth of settings are available for more control over your videos, but I achieved good results with the program straight out of the box.

There is also an Open Source lossless codec package that was developed for this product available on the download site. (If you don't know what this means, you probably don't need it - I was able to use the program without downloading the codec.)

The installation archive also installs a lightweight AVI player, and a utility for converting AVI files to SWF. I especially liked the video player. It automatically sizes itself to the size of the video, and can be set to run as soon as you finish recording. This allows you to immediately see the results of your effort.

The Bottom Line...

As near as I can tell from browsing the CamStudio website, this was a finished, commercial product that was released as Open Source. The present author has picked up the project source files and development is continuing, with a version 2.5 beta available. Whether you are making software tutorials, demos or training materials, I would definitely recommend giving this little program a try. CamStudio 2.0 can be downloaded here - CamStudio 2.0 download. (You will find the download link for 2.0 about halfway down the page; there is a link to the new 2.5 beta near the top of the page.)


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