Finding desktop capture (screencasting) software

Q I am trying to find an application that will record whatever I do on my machine so that I can make a small movie of what I am doing. Can you recommend any software for me?

A There are a number of solutions to this, depending on what you want to do with the movie. If you want to publish your video on the web, Vnc2swf may be the best choice. This records a VNC session as a flash animation. You'll need VNC installed (or Tightvnc, from VNC is designed for running a remote desktop, but you can also run it on just one computer. Start a VNC session with

vncserver -depth 16 -geometry 800x600

and you will see a line like:

New 'X' desktop is yourhostname:N

The last part is the hostname and display number. If your computer is not networked, you can use localhost. Now start recording the session with

vnc2swf -startrecording -geometry 800x600 -depth 16 -framerate 5 demo.swf yourhostname:N.0

Make sure the geometry, depth, hostname and display match the VNC server you just started. The .0 at the end is compulsory. A new window will open containing the VNC desktop session and anything you do in here will be recorded to demo.swf. End the recording by closing the window. The program will output some suitable HTML for viewing the Flash animation in a web browser, which you can redirect to a file if you wish. This size and frame rate are suitable for web use, but to display a local demo directly on a monitor or projector you may wish to increase both. To generate a movie file, you can use Vncrec. This works in a similar way to Vnc2swf, but creates a file in its own format, which you can convert to AVI or MPEG with transcode.

vncrec -record demo.vnc transcode -x vnc --use_rgb -y xvid -k
--dvd_access_delay 5 -f 10 -i demo.vnc -o demo.avi

As before, the geometry used here must match that with which the server was started. The -f option sets the frame rate of the video. The resultant file can be played with any video player, such as MPlayer or Xine. Whichever recording software you choose, if you want a program to be running at the start of the recording, start it from ~/.vnc/xstartup:

ooimpress sample.pps

An alternative approach is Istanbul, from This is a Gnome program, but works with other desktops. It puts an icon in the panel: click it to start recording and click it again to stop. The result is saved as ~/desktop-recording.ogg, as a Theora video. This can be limiting compared with the alternatives, but it is quick and easy to set up.

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