Free and Open Source Screencasting Software Applications for Linux

A screencast (also known as video screen capture) is a digital recording of computer screen output that usually contains audio narrations. So basically, an application that records a user's screen activities and then saved them in video format is called screencasting software. The program is often used for training, demoing, documentation, and for assessing technical skills.

If you are using Linux and are looking for a screencasting tool that would suit you needs, then you are in luck because there are plenty to choose from. Here are some of most widely used free and open source screencasting software applications that you should check out:


XVidCap is aimed to be a standards-based, free and open source alternative to commercial applications such as Lotus ScreenCam and Camtasia. XVidCap works utilizing an on-line encoding facility with the FFmpeg libavcodec / libavformat. It can capture any movement on an X11 display either as single frames (like a number of JPEG images) or it can encode the captured frames to a video on-line. It can also grab and embed an audio recording provided users have an OSS compatible system and FFMPEG libraries with compiled audio capture support.

Other features of XVidCap:

* Save videos in MPEG or AVI format
* Support for direct VOB creation, Flash Screen Video
* Capture the mouse pointer
* Capture OpenGL accelerated graphics
* Capture a running video (hardware acceleration on the graphics adapter needs to be disabled)
* On-the-fly frame size reduction
* Choose the number of frames to be captured per second
* Dbus remote control application

recordMyDesktop is a software application that is especially made for Linux. It strives to be user-friendly and at the same time effective at its main task. It captures audio/video data of a desktop session, producing an ogg-encapsulated theora-vorbis file. recordMyDesktop tries to be as unobtrusive as possible by processing only regions of the screen that have changed. It has a simple command line tool that performs the basic tasks of capturing and encoding. It also has an interface that exposes the program functionality in a usable way. The GUI frontend comes in two versions: gtk and Qt.

Some of the features of recordMyDesktop:

* On the fly encoding
* Disable compression
* Quick subsampling
* Configurable capture rate
* Directly interface with the ALSA or OSS sound system, or the software can connect to the recording port via the Jack audio server
* Configurable, global shortcuts

Istanbul (named as a tribute to Liverpool's 5th European Cup triumph in Istanbul on May 25th 2005) is a popular desktop session recorder that works on on GNOME, KDE, XFCE and others. It records session into an Ogg Theora video file. You can start and stop the recording by simply clicking on its icon in the notification area. The screencast can be in full screen or just the specific part of the screen. It sits in the task bar and lets the user select an area or a particular window to record. Istanbul inherits its screen capturing ability from the GStreamer plugins.

Here are some of its main features:

* Ability to select a window to record
* Ability to start a screencast from the command line
* Live recording of audio synchronised with the screencast video
* Uses gconf to store settings
* Stream to Icecast2 servers
* Encode at a later date
* Disable recording the mouse pointer
* Enable 3D captures

Those were the three excellent free and open source screencasting software programs that I've tried so far, but I've heard that Cankiri and vnc2swf are also good so I may have to check them out soon.


  1. On my Debian Sid system with KDE 4.3.2 and Intel 3D video card, none of these want to work.

    Istanbul crashes every time I try to stop the recording.

    recordMyDesktop's GTK interface ignores my 'no soud' option and records the sound at high-speed, and the frame rate is horrible, missing nearly everything I've tried. 5 minute videos turn into useless 8 second clips. I cannot seem to build the Qt/KDE interface for this and its not (yet) in the Debian repos.

    XVidCap seems to record fine but the right-click menu to Play (MPlayer) gives me a gabled MPlayer window, and the Make Video (encode I would guess) option flashes a console quickly and it disappears without any activity.

    KDEnlive also has built-in screencapture capabilities, but since this also relies on recordMyDesktop it doesn't seem to do any better.

    Perhaps Debian Sid just has too-new of software? The only reliable videos I've made with my setup is when recording VirtualBox guests; I was hoping to learn about something new here but the article is the same old players that have failed me in the past.

    Still, an informative article if the apps work for you, thanks for bringing the apps to our attention!

  2. Good sharing. Add some other screen capture tools here.
    For Mac: Jing, Screenr, iShowU and Snapz.
    For Windows: Demo Creator, Camtasia

  3. This is unfortunately one area that Linux is lacking in that I sourly miss from Windows. Recordmydesktop is pretty good but it does have a couple bugs. And I don't think Xvidcap and Istanbul are even developed anymore (correct me if I'm wrong). There's Windows programs that let you move the screencast window, follow the mouse, zoom in and out and they don't seem real resource hungry (except doing full screen). Nothing like this in Linux unfortunately.

  4. “And I don't think Xvidcap and Istanbul are even developed anymore...”

    recordMyDesktop isn't going anywhere either:

    A choice between a handful of half-baked poorly written slow and buggy 'lightweight' implementations - usually written in Python of course - has become the norm for the FOSS/GNU/Linux desktop application these days. ;-)

  5. Same issues with recordmydesktop on my gentoo (albeit I do have to comment I run fully unstable :)). Although with a small change. The movie is just as long as I record. However, if I record a terminal running bwm-ng (which changes statistics on screen every 0.5s) I only see the screen change every 5-10 secs which makes it kind of useless. Did try the option --full-shots (apparently I only have a cli version, which is odd as the homepage says it doesn't have a cli hehe :D).

  6. Forgot to mention, xvidcap ran fine on my system. Had to change the ebuild a bit as one of the dependencies had changed filename (you compile everything on gentoo). But this was nicely on

  7. Thanks. I was not even aware that these apps existed, and I've been using Ubuntu for years!

  8. Don't forget that you can use this one liner using ffmpeg:

    $ffmpeg -f x11grab -s wxga -r 25 -i :0.0 -sameq /tmp/out.mpg

  9. Thanks a million to Gareve!

    Your simply one liner works brilliantly for me capturing my Ubuntu 10.10 desktop with Compiz and full 3D effects whereas none of the other utils above did!!