Screencasting, video, and animation tools for technical documentation

Market overview of recommendable screen recorders for creating screencasts (software videos, screen videos). Plus a market overview of recommendable animation and multimedia tools as well as audio and video editors, especially in connection with the creation of technical documentation and user assistance.

For information on the indicated price levels , see Price levels.

Screencasting tools

Captivate

If there’s anything like a Swiss Army knife among the authoring systems for software demos, then it’s Captivate. The program offers a scope of functions that’s by far the largest, especially with regard to quiz functions and branching scenarios. Among its strengths are flexible customization of the output, smooth translatability (XML export and reimport), and attractive results. Currently Captivate is the only screencasting tool that comes with text-to-speech voices.

Price level: medium

Camtasia

One of the most popular screencasting tools. Camtasia supports a large number of output formats and is available for Windows and for the Mac.

Price level: medium

HelpXplain sponsored entry

Very efficiently creates simple, slide-based screencasts, but also animated images, animated screenshots, sliders, and presentations.

Price level: low

sponsored entry  Description supplied by vendor:
HelpXplain speeds up creating HowTo screencasts by animating screenshots instead of recording video. Work at your own speed, change any step at any time, never redo an entire presentation to correct a single mistake. Also creates image sliders, complex screenshots, animated infographics, and more. Supports audio narration, background audio, and audio objects. Easy embedding into web pages and WebHelp.

Demo Builder

Lying hidden behind an uncluttered user interface are more features than you’d guess at first sight. Despite the affordable price, there are hardly any requirements that DemoBuilder doesn’t meet. Texts can be exported to Microsoft Word for translation and then be reimported. DemoBuilder is straightforward, simple, and efficient to use. Another key advantage is that it’s particularly easy to update existing demos when there is a new version of the demonstrated product.

Price level: low

Mimic

Unlike other products listed here, Mimic focuses very specifically on the needs of technical documentation. Unique features are the possibility of using variables while working with texts, and the possibility to use individual scenes several times over, even in different projects. Only available in combination with MadCap Flare.

VideoDetailer

Essentially a simplified and streamlined version of the program Demo Builder made by the same manufacturer.

Price level: low

datango

From a series of screen captures builds screencasts, interactive tutorials, and also printed documentation.

Price level: not published

ActivePresenter

Presentation tool to create Video interactive simulations. SCORM compatible.

Price level: medium

FlashBack

The built-in autoscroll function can automatically ensure that regions where interaction is happening are displayed in the center. Easy to use.

Price level: low

Wondershare DemoCreator

Records and edits video presentations.

Price level: low

RecordCast

Browser-based screencasting software. Nevertheless, according to the vendor, the created videos are edited locally and not uploaded to a server, which can be important for confidential content.

Price level: low

movavi Screen Capture Studio

Simple screen recoding software. Also lets you edit the recorded videos to some extent.

Price level: low

ViewletBuilder

ViewletBuilder was one of the first screencasting tools on the market. It’s one of the few programs that are available for Linux and Mac as well. All important features are available. Comprehensive event control. Text can be exported to XML for translation and then reimported again.

Price level: medium

WinCam

Simple screen recorder with some basic editing features.

Price level: low

Gif Recorder

Basic screencasting tool dedicated to the GIF format. Comes with a jQuery implementation to start and stop the animations and to play audio files in sync.

Price level: low

ScreenFlow

One of the market leaders for the Mac.

Price level: low

iShowU Studio

Another well-known audio and video recorder for the Mac.

Price level: low

Screenium

Screen recorder and video recorder for the Mac.

Price level: low

Reflector

Wirelessly mirrors an iPad or iPhone to a PC or Mac so that you can record the screen or take screen captures.

Price level: low

OBS Studio

Can create scenes made up of multiple sources including screen captures, images, text, webcam, and more.

Price level: free (open source)

Screenity

Screen recorder & annotation tool for Chrome. Can make recordings of browser tabs, the desktop, any application, and the camera.

Price level: free (freeware)

ScreenToGif (NEW ENTRY)

Can save a short scene to animated GIF, to animated PNG, or to video.

Price level: free (freeware)

Wink

Produces screencasts as MPEG-4 video, PDF (for printable manuals), PostScript, HTML or images.

Price level: free (freeware)

Ezvid

Screen recorder with also some basic editing features.

Price level: free (freeware)

LICEcap

Doesn’t create full-featured screencasts but small animated screen captures (animated GIF).

Price level: free (open source)

Debut Video Capture

Records from webcam, screen, or video input device. You can also add text captions.

Price level: low

Screencast-O-Matic

Works from your web browser without installation.

Price level: low

xvidcap

Basic screencasting application for Linux.

Price level: free (open source)

recordMyDesktop

Basic screencasting tool on Linux.

Price level: free (open source)

Some screen recorders for Andriod:

Video and animation tools for creating explainer videos

HelpXplain sponsored entry

Efficiently creates animated images, animated screenshots, simple screencasts, sliders, and presentations.

Price level: low

sponsored entry  Description supplied by vendor:
HelpXplain speeds up creating HowTo screencasts by animating screenshots instead of recording video. Work at your own speed, change any step at any time, never redo an entire presentation to correct a single mistake. Also creates image sliders, complex screenshots, animated infographics, and more. Supports audio narration, background audio, and audio objects. Easy embedding into web pages and WebHelp.
 

Anireel (NEW ENTRY)

Creates animated explainer videos for marketing and eLearning. Comes with templates, assets, and AI powered text to speech.

Price level: medium

CreateStudio

Software for creating marketing videos.

Price level: low

FlexClip

Browser-based, simple to use online video editor that comes with a huge number of preconfigured effects and royalty-free stock assets. Can also record the screen and thus be used for creating screencasts.

Price level: diverse

Toonly (NEW ENTRY)

Drag and drop explainer video creator. For PC and Mac.

Price level: medium

video2manual

Creates short video-based instructions (“utility movies”) for hardware-based products.

Price level: not published

SmartAssistent

Video-based documentation solution for training, user assistance, and process documentation (website in German only).

Price level: not published

Operations1

Creates multimedia and interactive process documentation.

Price level: not published

General purpose video and audio editors

Adobe Premiere

Very feature-rich and powerful video editor. The market leader in its field.

Price level: medium

VEGAS

Can be purchased in various versions from basic to professional.

Price level: medium

DaVinci Resolve

Post production video editor. There is also a free version available.

Price level: medium

PowerDirector

Easy to use video editor.

Price level: low

VSDC Video Editor Pro

Simple, affordable video editor.

Price level: low

Final Cut Pro

Specifically for macOS.

Price level: medium

Pinnacle Studio

Powerful video editing software. Supports stop-motion video capture from any connected camera. Also includes a screen recorder.

Price level: low

filmora

Easy-to-use, feature rich video editor. Also includes a screen recorder.

Price level: low

MAGIX Movie Edit Pro

Video editor with various features.

Price level: low

MAGIX Video Pro

Professional video production software.

Price level: medium

Corel VideoStudio Pro

Video editor that brings together creative editing, advanced effects, screen recording, and interactive web video.

Price level: low

muvee Reveal

Movie editor with a strong focus on automating tasks.

Price level: low

OpenShot

Free cross-platform video editor.

Price level: free (open source)

Lightworks

Powerful video editor.

Price level: diverse

Shotcut

Free, open-source video editor (cross-platform).

Price level: free (open source)

Avidemux

Free video editor designed for simple cutting, filtering, and encoding. Tasks can be automated.

Price level: free (open source)

kdenlive

Non-linear video editor.

Price level: free (open source)

Cinelerra GG Infinity

Video editing software for Linux. Can handle color correction, motion tracking, video stabilization, audio mastering, etc.

Price level: free (open source)

PiTiVi

Free movie editor for Linux.

Price level: free (open source)

Aiseesoft Video Converter Ultimate

All-in-one video conversion software.

Price level: low

VLC media player

The popular open source media player can also convert media files between various formats.

Price level: free (open source)

VLMC

Video editor based on VLC.

Price level: free (open source)

HandBrake

Multi-platform video converter.

Price level: free (open source)

unscreen

Web application that removes the background from videos without needing to have used a green screen or blue screen.

Price level: low

Audacity

Cross-platform audio editor. Supports multichannel recording, editing, and effects.

Price level: free (open source)

General purpose animation tools

Adobe Animate CC

One of the market leaders.

Price level: medium

WebAnimator

Creates HTML5-based animations that work in all browsers.

Price level: low

Saola Animate

Creates HTML5 based animation for the web.

Price level: low

Hippo Animator

Creates HTML-based animations that work in all browsers and on all devices.

Price level: low

Mango Animation Maker / Whiteboard Animation Maker / Text Video Maker

Basic animation tools for specific purposes.

Price level: low

Stop Motion Studio

Specialized on making motion videos. Comes with some interesting features, such as camera control, green screen, adding facial expression to figures, and more.

Price level: low

FlipBook

Basic program to create short flipbook and cartoon movies.

Price level: low

svgator

Web application for creating animated SVG.

Price level: medium

Google Web Designer

Creates interactive HTML5-based designs and motion graphics.

Price level: free (freeware)

KoolMoves

Easy to use but with a limited set of features.

Price level: low

Synfig

2D vector-based animation program.

Price level: free (open source)

NATRON

Price level: free (open source)

Compositing software for visual effects and motion graphics.

Cartoon Animator

2D animation software.

Price level: low

PowToon

Online animated presentation software that can be used to produce product demos, business presentations, and social media clips.

Price level: medium

VideoScribe

Whiteboard animation software.

Price level: medium

TTS Sketch Maker

Creates sketch videos and can also add audio with the help of a text-to-speech engine.

Price level: low

Pencil2D Animation (NEW ENTRY)

Tool to make 2D hand-drawn animation.

Price level: free (open source)

Prezi

Creates rotating and zooming presentations.

Price level: medium

impress.js

Creates rotating and zooming presentations in HTML and CSS3 (requires HTML coding).

Price level: free (open source)

Text-to-speech (TTS) engines

The following providers make it possible to download audio files created with a TTS engine. (Usually these providers are not the producers of the voices, but work as resellers. Therefore, many of the voices are the same with different providers).

The following providers are producers of voices and offer them e.g. as web services to dynamically generate a voice at runtime.

Teleprompters

Some teleprompting tools are:

Decision aids: Choosing a screencasting tool

A screencasting tool (screen recorder) enables you to record your actions directly while you perform them within the demonstrated application. After the recording, you can add captions, interactive elements, and optional audio with a click of a few buttons. You don’t need to be an expert in video editing.

To create a small screencast, even most low-cost screen recorders are adequate. However, when it comes to more professional and strategic requirements, there are big differences. For example, not all tools let you translate a screencast into foreign languages, and not all tools let you easily update an existing screen video when there has been a new release of the demonstrated software. The following checklist can help you not to miss an important requirement when choosing a screencasting application.

Basic groups of tools

When evaluating tools for screencasting, it’s important to understand that there are two general groups of tools:

The group of frame-based screen recorders creates animations based on a few static images (“frames” or “slides”). A new frame or slide is only created when something new actually took place in the software (when a new window has opened, for example). The mouse cursor isn’t visible in the frames. Movements of the mouse and user inputs are simulated separately by the tool.

The group of full-motion-based screen recorders records a “genuine” movie. These tools generate videos at about 30 frames per second, regardless of what’s actually happening on the screen. Usually, the mouse cursor will be visible in all of these frames.

Both groups have specific advantages and disadvantages. Frame-based screen recorders are pushed to their limits when it comes to recording dynamic processes. Example: Imagine that you want to record how you draw a shape in a drawing program with the pen tool. In this case, you’re likely to have just the start (the empty workspace) and the end (the finished shape) in your movie, as most frame-based tools only create a new frame when the mouse button is pressed or released. The images for the steps in between (the dragging operation with the mouse) will be missing and can’t be interpolated later on.

The big advantage of frame-based recordings, however, is that significantly fewer individual images are created. This makes the subsequent post-processing considerably simpler, and even makes it possible to replace individual frames later on without having to record the entire movie all over again. Also, you can subsequently change the cursor paths. This is an advantage that can hardly be underestimated, because it’s rare that a recording turns out to be perfect the first time. While recording a full motion movie, the person guiding the operations must be constantly careful to move the cursor with smooth movements, simultaneously without covering any of the important contents on screen. Thus, the visual impression achieved will noticeably depend on the skills of the person creating the recording.

The trend goes toward combining the best of the two worlds: In the standard case, the recordings are frame-based, but when there’s a drag & drop action (or upon manual request), a full-motion-based recording begins.

Recording

Which recording methods are possible? Frame-based recording, full-motion-based recording, or both?

Can you also create demos that are based on imported, static screenshots? This is especially helpful when the software is still under development.

Can you import externally created videos as well? This is important if, in addition to the interaction with the software, you also want to show what’s to be done with some specific hardware.

Editing

What objects (such as texts or arrows) can you insert?

Can you create formatting templates and change the design of callouts, arrows, etc.?

How extensive are the animation options?

Can you incorporate interactive buttons and stop points into the demo to prevent the demo from running too quickly for viewers who are slow readers?

Can you add a quiz to test and reinforce what has been learned?

Can you port the results of a quiz to a learning management system (LMS)?

How precisely and how easily can you control the timing of individual objects?

How well and at what level can you insert and edit audio files?

Output

What output formats are supported?

Can you customize the appearance of the viewer?

Is it possible to add a navigation menu so that viewers can jump from one scene to another?

User-friendliness

When a product undergoes changes, all that needs to be done in the case of text-based documentation is to modify the texts and maybe replace some individual images. In the case of multimedia contents, this becomes several times more time-consuming: If the crucial spots can’t be edited later on, you’ll have to recreate entire scenes, including the timing, animation, and interaction. Therefore, in the case of multimedia content, the question of how easily existing content can be changed is even more important than with traditional technical documentation.

Can you delete or add individual sequences? What happens to the mouse cursor in this case? Is it possible to achieve seamless integration with the preceding scene and with the subsequent scene?

Is it possible to replace individual screenshots?

Is it possible to edit the mouse paths?

Is it possible to make changes later on to the design (for example, to unify the style of callouts)?

Translation process

Here again, this is important: Is it possible to replace individual screenshots?

Is it possible to replace the audio as well?

Can you export the text contained as a file (preferably in XML), translate it externally, and then reimport it after translation?

Is the software Unicode-compatible?

Usability

Finally, of course, it’s also crucial how easy you find it to work with the software. Only if you really feel comfortable with the software will you be able to produce top-quality results.

Is there some good documentation?

Do you need much training, or can you get started immediately?

What’s your personal preference?

Strategic questions

Aside from the tool’s set of features, and its performance and usability, you should also take into account the following worst-case scenarios:

What happens if the manufacturer of the tool discontinues the product or ceases operations? Does your tool require a server run by the manufacturer? Does your tool require activation when installed on a new computer? If any of these scenarios occur, could you continue to use the tool for at least a limited amount of time?

How easily can you migrate your source files when you have to (or want to) switch to another tool in the future? Does the tool use standard formats to store its data?

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This page was last updated 01/2023
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