Capturing high-quality screenshots and recording smooth videos of your screen are critical for various purposes like creating tutorials, product demos, how-to guides, bug reporting, and more. With the right screen capture tool, you can easily record anything happening on your computer screen and edit it to your liking.
But with so many options available, how do you determine which is the best screen capture software for your needs? This comprehensive guide will explore the key types of screen recording tools, pricing, and factors to consider when choosing software and provide detailed reviews of the top 10 screen and video capture programs in 2023.
What we cover
There are two major categories of screen recording software:
- Desktop Tools: These are applications you download and install on your Windows, Mac, or Linux computer. Some examples include:
- OBS Studio: Open source and packed with advanced customization features like scene switching. Ideal for gamers and online content creators.
- Camtasia: Robust professional tool with extensive editing capabilities and interactive video maker. Great for corporate elearning videos.
- Snagit: Combine screenshots and recordings with built-in image editor. Good for quick how-to guides and tutorials.
- Cloud-Based Tools: These run directly in your web browser without needing any installation. Some top options are:
- Loom: Simple and intuitive Chrome extension for quick screen grabs and videos. Great for workflow documentation.
- Vimeo Record: Browser-based screen recorder with cloud storage and video hosting. Good for webinars and product demos.
- Screencastify: Easy workflow for education with video trimming and cropping tools. Perfect for teachers making video lessons.
Both desktop and cloud-based tools have their own unique advantages. Desktop tools offer more customization, while cloud-based ones provide easy access from anywhere. Choose based on your specific use case.
Screen recording software ranges from completely free options to paid plans costing over $200 per year. Here’s an overview of pricing tiers:
- Free: Many basic tools like OBS Studio, Screencast-O-Matic, and the CamStudio open source program are 100% free. These offer core recording capabilities but lack advanced features.
- $10 – $50 per year: This is the budget range for limited but decent functionality. Examples are CloudApp, Apowersoft Unlimited, and premium plans of browser-based tools like Loom and Vimeo Record.
- $50 – $100 per year: Mid-range tools like Snagit, ScreenFlow, ActivePresenter, and premium Movavi options fall in this pricing segment. You get more features and functionality.
- $100 – $200 per year: Robust professional platforms like Camtasia, Adobe Captivate, and Techsmith Relay come with expansive capabilities but cost over $150/year with volume discounts.
What Impacts Pricing?
Several factors influence the pricing models such as:
- Platforms Supported: Supporting Mac, Windows, iOS, Android increases development costs.
- Advanced Features: Sophisticated editing tools, annotations, stock media libraries raise prices.
- Storage and Sharing: Cloud hosting, collaboration tools, and Smart integrations cost more.
- Licensing: Per user fees vs lifetime deals determine costs. Volume and bundle discounts are common.
Free vs Paid Screen Recorders
Free screen recording software offers basic capture abilities sufficient for casual users. But they lack key features like:
- Advanced editing: trim, transitions, effects, captions
- Tech support: get help with setup and troubleshooting
- Video hosting: publish and share easily online
- Mobile app: record from iOS or Android devices
- Screen drawing tools: arrows, shapes, sketching
- Webcam capture: record your camera feed picture-in-picture
For power users, paid software is worthwhile for the expanded feature set and convenience. But free tools work fine for simple usage.
With a crowded market full of options, it can get overwhelming to determine the best screen recorder for your specific needs. Here are key factors to consider when choosing screen capture software:
- Recording Quality: Ensure the tool records in HD quality – at least 720p resolution at smooth 30-60 fps frame rate. Review sample videos to check audio quality.
- Platform Compatibility: Choose a recorder that works seamlessly on your OS – Windows, Mac, Chromebook, Linux. Multi-platform tools offer flexibility.
- Editing Features: Evaluate built-in editing tools like trimming, annotations, animations based on your post-production needs.
- Cloud Storage & Sharing: If you want to publish videos online, pick a tool with cloud hosting and one-click social sharing.
- Pricing: Opt for a free program if you only need basic recording occasionally. For frequent business use, paid software with more capabilities is worthwhile.
- Ease of Use: The tool should have an intuitive interface for a quick learning curve. Favor ones with helpful tutorials and onboarding.
- Customer Support: Paid tools should offer multiple support channels like email, live chat, phone to resolve issues promptly.
- Specialized Features: Based on your specific use case, choose advanced features like webcam capture, smart zoom, app/website screenshots etc.
- Reviews: Check user reviews on G2, Capterra, and ToolsAdvisor for unbiased feedback before choosing a tool. Avoid software with many complaints.
By evaluating your particular needs against these key factors, you can zero in on your ideal screen capture program. Avoid choosing solely based on cost or brand recognition.
After extensive research, we have curated the top 10 best screen and video recording tools for any use case in 2023:
|Gamers, Online Creators
|Basic How-To Videos
|Ease of Use
|Windows, Mac, Linux
|Online Video Hosting
Best Screen & Video Capture Software – Let’s dive deeper
Let’s dive deeper into full reviews of each software:
Loom is the perfect Chrome extension for instantly capturing quick videos of your screen. With an intuitive click-and-drag interface, it makes recording and sharing recordings a breeze.
- Key Features: One-click recording, camera capture, drawing tools, unlimited sharing
- Price: Free/$5-$10/month for more features
- Reviews & Ratings: 4.7/5 on Capterra (98% recommend)
- Pros: Extremely easy to use, great collaboration features, Chrome extension access
- Cons: Basic editor, max 5 minute videos on free plan
Loom is likely the easiest and simplest screen video recorder available today. As a Chrome extension, it can be accessed with one click to start recording your screen instantly. The intuitive dashboard lets you capture your webcam, narrate with audio, and draw directly on the screen, all in real time.
With the useful features of one-click camera toggling, screen annotation, and drawing tools, Loom is optimized for quick how-to videos and workflow documentation. Users can capture short clips of up to 5 minutes and share them via a simple URL link.
Loom really shines when it comes to seamless collaboration. Your video links can be shared instantly with a single click to Slack, Google Drive, or email. Viewers can even comment directly on timestamped moments in the video for feedback. With unlimited sharing and HD downloads available even on the free plan, Loom hits the sweet spot for quick internal use.
For larger enterprises, the inexpensive paid plans add features like unlimited recording times, advanced permissions, and integration with popular platforms like Salesforce, Dropbox, and Asana. Phone support is also available on premium plans.
With its incredibly simple interface, handy browser access, and focus on collaboration, Loom is the perfect choice for easily capturing quick how-to videos, and product feedback and streamlining communication.
- Chrome extension for instant access
- Webcam and microphone capture
- Annotate videos with drawing tools
- Share videos instantly with one-click
- Unlimited viewing for recipients
For internal teams looking to streamline collaboration and documentation through instantly shareable video recordings, Loom is the ideal choice.
2. OBS Studio
As an open-source software with incredible customization options, OBS Studio is hugely popular among gamers and digital content creators.
- Key Features: Scene switching, audio mixing, platform extensibility
- Price: 100% free and open source
- Reviews & Ratings: 4.7/5 on Capterra (95% recommend)
- Pros: Incredibly flexible and customizable, open source with community support, packed with features
- Cons: Steep learning curve, requires technical know-how
OBS Studio is a top choice if you’re looking for extremely robust and customizable screen recording capabilities. As an open-source software, it is completely free and backed by a devoted community of contributors.
While it has a steep learning curve, OBS lets you truly fine tune every aspect of your screen recording and live streaming. You can add multiple sources and layer audio, switch between scenes, set hotkeys for every function, and modify settings like frame rates and video codecs. If you have coding knowledge, OBS even lets you create your own plugins and extensions.
The platform really shines for advanced use cases like recording your screen separately while gaming on the same PC. OBS’ scene switching allows toggling between overlays and layouts with key presses. Gamers can configure high-quality, complex workflows with a webcam, multiple graphic overlays, notifications, and screen capture all rolled into one professional livestream.
Despite the complexity, OBS still retains an intuitive and responsive user interface. The community wiki offers tutorials and guides to help you get ramped up quickly. Since OBS is open source and backed by the nonprofit OBS Project, you can access the source code and custom development capabilities for free.
For amateur and professional gamers, digital content producers, and coders who require deep customization, OBS Studio is hands down the best screen recorder available thanks to its robust feature set and open-source accessibility.
- Customizable scene switching
- Audio mixing and monitoring
- Platform extensibility with plugins
- Open source access to code
For unparalleled control over your screen recording, consider OBS Studio. Perfect for advanced gaming, live streaming, and video content production.
Camtasia by TechSmith is the premier professional screen recorder used by businesses and individuals alike for high-quality videos.
- Key Features: Robust video editor, animations, interactive videos
- Price: $249/year
- Reviews & Ratings: 4.5/5 on Capterra (95% recommend)
- Pros: Powerful editor, templates and effects for professional videos, feature-rich
- Cons: Expensive, overkill for simple use cases
For enterprise training teams, digital agencies, and bloggers who need to create polished, professional videos, Camtasia by Techsmith is an excellent choice as a premium screen capture software. It has expansive sophisticated features to help you produce stunning videos.
Once you record a video of your on-screen actions and webcam footage, Camtasia provides robust tools to edit and enhance your videos with animations, annotations, callouts, transitions, and audio effects. You can instantly remove unwanted sections, optimize audio quality, zoom in to highlight specific areas, and add captions. An extensive media library offers videos, icons, backgrounds, and more to help polish your video.
One of Camtasia’s unique capabilities is creating interactive videos with in-video quizzing, hotspots, and action buttons users can click to drive engagement. This makes it perfect for eLearning tutorials, software demos, and video courses.
While Camtasia offers great value for professional videographers, businesses, and digital marketing agencies, it is likely overkill for simple screen recording needs. But for those looking for a tool capable of producing polished, professional video content, Camtasia is an obvious top choice.
- Advanced video editing tools
- Media library with assets
- Animations and interactive hotspots
- Quizzes and annotations
Camtasia makes producing professional, polished marketing and training videos easy. Perfect for enterprises and video pros.
CamStudio is free and open-source screen recording software that performs the job with its lean feature set.
- Key Features: Open source, light and simple, AVI recording
- Price: 100% free
- Reviews & Ratings: 4.1/5 on AlternativeTo
- Pros: Totally free, small resource footprint, easy to use
- Cons: Very limited features, only Windows support
CamStudio is a great choice for Windows users looking for a simple, free screen capture tool without the fancy bells and whistles. As open-source software, it is totally free to use and modify.
The interface is intuitive and lets you get started with screen recording in just a couple clicks. It captures screen activity to AVI or SWF format video files. While editing options are nearly non-existent, you can tweak settings like the capture frame rate and video quality. Annotations like text labels can be added during recording.
Being an open-source program, CamStudio benefits from an active community contributing updates and improvements. However, it lacks capabilities like webcam capture, advanced editing, and cloud sharing offered by more modern tools.
Overall, CamStudio delivers core screen recording functionality for a small resource footprint. For Windows users wanting a basic free recorder, CamStudio gets the job done. But for more serious work, a more capable program is recommended.
- Free and open source
- Lightweight and easy to use
- AVI and SWF recording
CamStudio is a good option if you need basic screen recording functionality and want something open-source and free on Windows.
FreeCam offers speedy GIF creation along with standard screen recording capabilities completely free.
- Key Features: Quick GIF recorder, low resource usage
- Price: 100% free
- Reviews & Ratings: 4.1 on SoftwareInformer
- Pros: Free, super easy GIF creation, very lightweight
- Cons: Limited features beyond GIFs, Windows only
For Windows users looking to create animated GIFs and basic screen recordings quickly, FreeCam delivers good functionality at zero cost.
The intuitive interface lets you instantly draw a rectangle over any part of your screen to record it as an animated GIF. You can adjust sizing, frame rate, output quality, and other settings for the perfect short clip. Beyond GIF creation, you can also record your full display with audio narration.
FreeCam consumes minimal system resources resulting in smooth screen capture even on older PCs. This comes at the cost of advanced features like annotations, webcam capture, and expansive editing capabilities. But for quick GIF creation and basic screen recording, FreeCam excels at a totally free price point.
- Instant GIF recorder
- Very low resource usage
- Simple interface
- Free with no watermark
For effortless high-quality GIF creation and basic screen recording on Windows, FreeCam is an excellent free choice.
Snagit by Techsmith combines screenshots and recordings into a streamlined workflow with built-in image editing capabilities.
- Key Features: Image capture and editing, animated GIF maker, basic recording
- Price: Roughly $50/year
- Reviews & Ratings: 4.7/5 on Capterra (98% recommend)
- Pros: Excellent screenshot annotation tools, GIF creation, easy to use
- Cons: Fairly limited video recording capabilities
Snagit makes creating engaging screenshots and basic screen recordings incredibly easy to document processes and create tutorials. Its seamless workflow centers around capturing, annotating, and sharing images.
The program lets you grab full screenshots, custom selections, or scrolling windows. Built-in markup tools help you annotate screenshots with arrows, text boxes, and highlighting. Snagit’s editor simplifies erasing backgrounds and stitching together long image captures.
Videos can be recorded directly within Snagit or by importing external footage. Basic editing, like trimming and concatenating clips, is available. While recording capabilities are fairly limited, integrating screenshots and videos into one interface is Snagit’s prime strength.
For teams that rely heavily on static how-to guides and visual documentation, Snagit is an excellent choice for smooth content creation workflows.
- Advanced screenshot annotation
- Animated GIF creation
- Basic screen recording
- Image capturing and editing
Snagit makes creating annotated screenshots, short video tutorials, and animated GIFs fast and easy with an integrated editing interface.
ShareX is a free and open-source program tailored specifically for software developers to capture and share screenshots.
- Key Features: Customizable capture shortcuts, screenshot sharing automation
- Price: 100% free and open source
- Reviews & Ratings: 4.8/5 on AlternativeTo
- Pros: Specialized for developer screenshots, auto-uploading to share images
- Cons: Only basic screen recording, fairly limited overall
For software developers who need to capture and share screenshots of their work frequently, ShareX is an excellent customized option. As open-source software, it is completely free while offering useful capabilities tailored specifically for programmers.
You can take screenshots of full screens, active windows, rectangular regions, and scrolling website captures using customized hotkeys. ShareX automatically names files and uploads them to image hosts like Imgur with just one keystroke. This allows easily share your screenshots in documentation or communicate issues quickly.
Beyond images, ShareX can also capture basic screen recordings without audio. But its video recording lacks more advanced controls.
Given its focus on automating developer screenshot workflows rather than robust screen recording, ShareX fills an excellent specialized niche at no cost.
- Auto screenshot uploading
- Customizable hotkeys
- Coded specifically for developer needs
- Free and open source
For developers who need to communicate complex issues with screenshots frequently, ShareX automates and simplifies the capturing and sharing process.
Zappy offers PowerPoint automation features paired with basic screen recording capabilities.
- Key Features: Automatic PowerPoint video creation from slides, webcam picture-in-picture
- Price: $4.99/month
- Reviews & Ratings: 4.7/5 on Capterra
- Pros: Automates PowerPoint video creation, handy for presentations
- Cons: Limited functionality beyond PPT production
For presenters, teachers, and public speakers who frequently narrate PowerPoint presentations, Zappy makes video creation completely automated. Within PowerPoint, you simply click to record audio narration over each slide.
Zappy will automatically take your slideshow and recorded audio to generate a full video. The video export offers options like slide transition times, text highlighting as you narrate, zoom animations, and laser pointer effects. You can also embed your webcam feed picture-in-picture.
For quick and automated video creation from PowerPoint decks, Zappy Excels. But for more general screen recording needs like capturing software demos or gaming footage, Zappy falls short with minimal controls.
Still, if you routinely need to produce videos from PowerPoint, Zappy takes the hassle out by auto-generating videos from your narrated slides in minutes.
- Automates video creation from PPT slides
- Webcam picture-in-picture
- Custom transitions and pointer effects
If you regularly need to produce videos of your PowerPoint presentations, Zappy automates the entire process seamlessly.
9. Vimeo Record
Vimeo Record is a browser-based screen recorder that simplifies capturing, editing, and sharing videos online.
- Key Features: Direct video hosting, cloud storage, collaborative reviews
- Price: Limited free plan, paid plans from $20/month
- Reviews & Ratings: 4.7/5 on Capterra
- Pros: Easy to use, handy video collaboration features, instant hosting
- Cons: Fairly limited free plan, software installation required for full access
Vimeo Record is a great option for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and content creators needing an end-to-end video creation and hosting platform. The browser-based recorder can capture crisp HD videos right from your desktop. Videos are automatically saved and organized within the Vimeo cloud.
Uploaded videos can be easily edited within your browser with annotations, titles, filters, and trimming capabilities. The video collaboration features really stand out—you can host video reviews and gather timestamped feedback from colleagues. Published videos are instantly hosted on your private Vimeo channel.
While the free plan only allows weekly video exports, reasonably priced paid plans unlock more cloud storage, custom branding, and premium video privacy controls. Overall, Vimeo Record offers excellent value by combining simplified screen recording, video collaboration, and hosting in one streamlined service.
- Cloud video storage and hosting
- Browser-based editor
- Video review and collaboration
- HD screen recording
Vimeo Record is a great choice for entrepreneurs and digital media creators needing an integrated screen recorder, editor, and online video hosting platform.
ScreenRec is a free web-based screen recorder optimized for Chromebook users.
- Key Features: Web app for Chromebook screen recording, image and camera capture
- Price: Free
- Reviews & Ratings: 4.2/5 on Chrome Web Store
- Pros: Free, easy tool tailored for Chromebooks
- Cons: Very limited features beyond basic recording
For Chromebook users, usable screen recording options are nearly non-existent. But ScreenRec provides a serviceable free web app for capturing your Chromebook screen without any software installs or setup.
ScreenRec runs totally in your browser, allowing recording of on-screen activity. You can toggle webcam and microphone permissions as needed for picture-in-picture or narration. Basic annotations are available with the ability to draw on your recordings.
Finished recordings can be downloaded locally or optionally uploaded to Google Drive or Dropbox. Since ScreenRec is web-based, no installation or setup is needed on your Chromebook.
Advanced users will notice missing features around editing, effects, and more granular controls. But as a free Chromebook screen recording solution requiring zero setups, ScreenRec delivers respectably.
- Web app tailored for Chromebooks
- Camera and mic integration
- Screen annotation abilities
- Direct cloud storage uploads
For Chromebook users needing a fuss-free screen recorder, ScreenRec provides a usable free web-based option without any software installs.
Can these screen recording tools capture audio as well?
All the reviewed screen recorders above support capturing audio input from your microphone and computer system sounds. Desktop tools like Camtasia and browser-based apps like Loom allow recording narration simultaneously while you record your on-screen actions.
Do I need a powerful computer to use screen recording software?
Not necessarily. Simpler free tools like Apowersoft Unlimited and lightweight ones like Screenrec work great even on low-powered machines since they consume minimal computing resources. More advanced screen capture programs may require recent Windows, Mac, or Chromebook systems to optimally utilize the full suite of features.
What formats do screen recording tools capture video in?
Common recording formats include AVI, MP4, MOV, MKV, FLV, and more. Typically, the software will let you tweak the output format and encoding parameters like codecs and compression ratio to balance file size and quality as needed.
Is screen recording software legal to use?
In most general use cases, screen recording programs are completely legal. As long as you own the content being recorded or have explicit permission, capturing your computer screen activities is fine. But unlawfully recording media like copyrighted videos playing on your screen without authorization could be illegal.
Recording smooth, professional-grade videos on your computer screen does not need to be difficult or expensive. With user-friendly yet powerful options like Loom, OBS Studio, and Camtasia, creating high-quality screen recordings and even live streams is easy and accessible to anyone.
Consider your specific use case, whether it be quickly capturing bug repros, producing tutorial videos, or live streaming your gameplay. With this comprehensive guide detailing the top screen recording apps available today spanning free and paid options, you can choose the perfect screen capture platform tailored to your needs.
So fire up your preferred screen recorder, tweak the settings for quality and performance, grab that microphone, and start producing your next webinar, software demo, or viral gameplay livestream! The power is now in your hands.