Are you a computer expert stepping into the world of video tutorials? Or someone who's looking to record and share bugs in an application? Whatever the reason or requirement, whenever you want to create a digital recording of your computer screen, what you need is good screen recording (a.k.a. screencasting) software.
Such tools are available for all popular platforms, including Windows, Mac and Linux. In this roundup, we take a look at five popular free and open-source screen recording applications for Linux: Byzanz, Kazam, RecordMyDesktop, ScreenStudio and SimpleScreenRecorder.
Version tested: 0.2.1
Byzanz is a command line-based desktop recording tool. It creates animated GIFs by default, although you can also save your recording as an FLV, OGG, OGV or WebM file. The tool also allows you to record to its internal debugging format (.byzanz); this is useful for benchmarking purposes or in cases where you want to convert the recording to any other supported format later.
Byzanz is easy to install and use, and it offers a number of useful features. For example, you can set a specific duration time for a recording, limit the recording time to the time it takes to execute a particular command, and more.
The tool also allows you to record from multiple displays. However, unlike many other tools, Byzanz doesn’t provide an option to stream recordings online -- you can’t live-stream on YouTube or Facebook, for instance.
Versions tested: 1.4.5 and 1.5.3
Kazam is a GUI-based screen recording tool. Aside from recording video, the tool also has a built-in feature that helps users take screenshots. Kazam offers all the basic screencasting features, including the ability to select a particular window, area or the whole screen for recording; record multiple displays; and pause an ongoing recording.
When run through the command line, Kazam also offers a 'God Mode' feature that lets you capture (in still screenshots) both the currently active window and the whole desktop in one go.
The most recent stable release (version 1.4.5) of Kazam that we tested doesn't offer any advanced features, but a release from the unstable channel (version 1.5.3) includes such features as the ability to live-stream (on YouTube) the recording and to record from the webcam feed.
The stable version works fine overall. As for the unstable version, while the YouTube streaming functionality works like a charm, the webcam feature is currently broken -- a black screen appears, but you can't see any webcam feed and nothing gets recorded.
Version tested: 0.3.8.1
RecordMyDesktop is primarily a command line-based screen recording tool, but there are two GUI front ends (gtk-recordMyDesktop and qt-recordMyDesktop) available as well. We tested the gtk-recordMyDesktop front end, which contains a small desktop preview image. You can left-click and drag on the image to select an area for recording (right-click to reset), or click the 'Select window' button to select a particular window. An OGV file is produced in output.
Among the tool's features that stand out is a Follow Mouse feature that makes sure the capture area follows your mouse cursor movement. Several other useful features, including the ability to pause video and to introduce an initial delay, are also supported. However, when we tested the delay option, the recorded audio was out of sync with the video -- it played a few seconds behind.
The tool offers several sound and performance-related settings (shown above) that you can access by clicking the Advanced button. There are some known limitations (mentioned on the tool's manual page, under BUGS), and RecordMyDesktop doesn’t offer either webcam recording or the ability to live-stream your recording.
Verison tested: 3.2.1
ScreenStudio is a graphical screen recorder. It supports various file formats including FLV, MOV, MP4 and GIF.
To start using the tool, you first have to select a video source -- say, your desktop or webcam, or both. You can also add labels if you want. To limit your recording to a particular area, you'll have to tweak the default position (x, y coordinates) of the selected video source(s) as well as their width and height. Use Ctrl+R to start recording.
Aside from creating local recordings, ScreenStudio allows you to stream your recording to services such as YouTube, Facebook Live (shown above) and Twitch. While the tool offers some useful and interesting features -- such as the ability to add background music to your recordings, record from multiple displays, and save recording profiles as XML files -- it has its share of shortcomings as well. For example, there's no option to pause/resume recordings, and you can't simply click on a window to record it.
Version tested: 0.3.8
SimpleScreenRecorder is a GUI-based screencasting tool for Linux. Aside from letting you record the entire screen, a specific window or a region of the screen, the tool allows you to live-stream your recording on YouTube. There's also an option to select a screen (in case of multiple displays) as well as record OpenGL video. The tool offers detailed settings related to video/audio input and output, and it allows you to save your settings as profiles.
SimpleScreenRecorder supports a plethora of media containers including MKV, MP4, WebM, OGG, H.264, M4V and AVI. It also offers some small but useful features like sound notifications, as well as the ability to follow the mouse cursor. You can also choose whether or not to record the mouse cursor.
There's also an option to pause/resume recordings, although it's worth mentioning that a pause followed by a resume results in two files being created -- one containing the recording before pause was hit, and the other containing the rest of the recording.
So which is the best Linux screen recording app? It depends on your specific needs.
For example, those looking to live-stream their recording can choose between Kazam, ScreenStudio and SimpleScreenRecorder, but if webcam support is also a requirement, then the former two are the better choices. Similarly, if you’re looking for an app that can record for a predefined period of time or just until a command has finished executing, then Byzanz is your best bet.
To help you choose the tool that's right for you, we've created a table that compares key features for the screencasting software covered in this story.
5 Linux screen-recording apps: Key features