Screencast-o-matic.com allows users to create recordings of their screen activity and audio using a Java-based applet. The application runs in a browser window and is cross-platform compatible. Java 1.5 or higher is required to use the site. The application has most of the features of similar desktop applications, allowing you to capture a portion of the screen (users can choose from 640x480, 800x600, 024x768 or full-screen). In practice the application worked seamlessly with Internet Explorer and Firefox 2.0. The site is also compatible with Safari 2.04 and Opera 9.
The site allows registered users to create screencasts and keep track of them in My Screencasts. Users have the ability to create Channels and add their favorite screencasts to them. There is a screencast Request feature, which allows users to request for someone to do a screencast on a particular topic. Once their screencasts are complete, users have the options of viewing them on the Screencast-o-matic site or converting them to a QuikTime movie file which can be saved on their hard drive. In practice, the converter did a good job of converting screencasts to QuikTime format. Users can also search through all of the screencasts on the site via a convenient search bar on the home page.
Operation is simple. The user first selects the size of the area they want to capture, or chooses full-screen mode. Next there is an option to record audio or not and then the user hits the Go button. This brings up a recorder interface window with buttons at the bottom to Start Recording, Pause/Stop Recording, or to Play the recording back. There is also a button available for turning audio off or on during the screencast. The user then chooses whether or not to make the screencast viewable and searchable on the site, and whether or not to create a QuikTime version of the screencast.
Launched in May 2007, Screencast-o-matic was created by Big Nerd Software. The site has continued to add users since launch, as well as adding a number of new features. It has enjoyed a fair amount of success on YouTube as it allows both free and premium users to publish there.
Screencast-o-matic’s competition comes mainly from the online site Screentoaster.com (a free service) and the desktop applications Camtasia Studio (paid software) and Wink (free software). Screencast-o-matic’s main advantage over Camtasia and Wink is its cross-platform capability, but Screencast-o-matic does not provide nearly as many features as either of the two desktop applications. Screentoaster.com provides similar functionality to Screencast-o-matic, but does not require Java – it is completely browser-based. The Screentoaster site is also more fully developed, with the ability to browse and search screencasts by topic. The Screentoaster site also has a much more professional look and feel.
The Screencast-o-matic site has a very minimalist look to it, almost like a page at a free web-hosting site. The pages are a bit cluttered, however, due to advertising displayed on the site. The site is very responsive, and the screencast application loads fast and is responsive as well. The screencast applet is very easy to use, as is the QuikTime converter feature. Page loads and files transfers happen quickly.
Registration is not required to view or create screencasts, but is necessary in order to use the My Screencasts and Channels features. The registration process simply asks for email address and password. Validation of the email address is not required.
Screencast-o-matic comes in both a free and a premium version. The free version allows a maximum recording time of 15 minutes. The premium, or Pro, version, costs $15 a year, which works out to about $1.25 a month. It allows an unlimited amount of recording time, plus allows users to publish to Google Docs, requires no wartermark when publishing and supplies a series of editing and other tools.
Screencast-o-matic is recommended to users who need to create a screencast to demo software, make software tutorials, or to build a presentation. The ability to convert the screencasts to QuikTime format gives portability to user’s screencasts, which makes the site a very useful one. A nice application overall, suitable for anyone having a need to make a screencast for free.