How to Record Your Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, or iOS Screen

By Chris Hoffman on December 26th, 2014

young man with digital video camera

Screenshots are great, but sometimes you need to create a video recording to really get your point across. You can record your computer’s desktop, your smartphone’s screen, or your tablet’s display.

This process gives you a video file, which you can do whatever you like with. Upload it to YouTube or email it to a friend. Put together a video tutorial or just capture a problem you’re having so you an demonstrate it later.

Record Your Mac, iPhone, or iPad Screen the Easy Way

Whether you want to create a screen recording, a video of something on your iPhone or iPad, or you need to create a full tutorial with high-quality editing, Capto is the best tool for the job.

You can record your screen along with audio to create instructional videos, you can capture video directly from an iPhone or iPad, or you can capture video from the webcam on your Mac. And once you’re done, you can use the high-quality video and image editing tools to make it perfect.

And they have a  free trial. So you don’t have to pay for anything unless it does what you need it to.

Download the Free Trial of Capto Today

Windows

Windows doesn’t include a built-in tool for creating desktop recordings. There are many tools for doing this, but make sure you avoid the junkware bundled into their installers if you go hunting for them. You can actually use VLC to record your desktop, and that’s a convenient option. There’s a good chance you already have VLC installed, and it’s a Swiss army knife that will allow you to quickly record your desktop without installing anything else.

For more advanced screencasts, we recommend OBS (Open Broadcaster Software). It’s very powerful, free, open-source tool that allows you to do more. Insert watermarks, embed a video of your webcam while capturing your desktop, choose specific desktop windows, and so on. OBS is widely used for video-game-streaming on Twitch.tv because it’s so powerful, but it works just as well for creating a professional-looking video of your desktop.

If you want something even more powerful that also comes with editing capabilities, you can pay for Camtasia, the best software on the market — but be warned, it’s not cheap. Luckily they do have a free trial, so you can test it before you buy.

Mac OS X

Mac OS X offers a convenient, built-in screen-recording tool. It’s one of the many useful functions hidden in QuickTime, which is more than just the simple media player it looks like on the surface.

To record your Mac’s screen, open the QuickTime application — press Command + Space to open Spotlight search, type QuickTime, and press Enter to do so. Click the File menu on the menu bar, select New Screen Recording. You can then click the little menu to the right of the Record button and choose whether you want to capture audio from your microphone in the video, too. This will allow you to narrate along with your actions. Click the Record button to start when you’re ready.

QuickTime will minimize itself to a small icon on the right side of your menu bar and start recording. Click Stop when you’re done, and you’ll be able to preview and save your video. QuickTime can also edit the video, trimming out any unnecessary bits.

For something more powerful, you may want to try Open Broadcaster Siftware (OBS). It’s not just for Windows — it works on Mac, too. If you want something even more powerful that also comes with editing capabilities, you can pay for Camtasia, the best software on the market for both Macs and PCs, but like we mentioned earlier, it’s not cheap.

Linux

There are quite a few open-source screen-recording applications for Linux, and you’ll probably find many of them if you pull up your Linux distribution’s package manager and do a quick search. There’s even a way to do this with ffmpeg and other commands from the terminal, if you’re into that sort of thing.

One of the most popular and longest-standing open-source tools for this is recordMyDesktop, which you can install from the Ubuntu Software Center or your Linux distribution’s package management interface of choice.

Launch recordMyDesktop and use its options to choose video and audio quality levels. This tool can record your entire desktop or just a small portion of it. recordMyDesktop works well, provides a simple interface, and offers the most important desktop-recording options.

If you want something more powerful, try Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). It’s available for Linux as well as Windows and Mac OS X.

Android

Android allows you to capture a video of your device’s display and save it as an mp4 file. This feature was added in Android 4.4, and it still works on Android 5. To do this, you’ll need to connect your Android device to a PC and use the adb command. Apps on your phone can’t start recording your display on their own — this prevents apps from initiating a recording to capture you entering sensitive data.

Connect your Android device to a Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux PC with a USB cable and use the “adb shell screenrecord” command to start recording its display. If you have a rooted device, you can also initiate a screen recording with an app on your device — but that app needs root permissions.

iOS

Apple now offers a convenient, official way to record an iOS device’s screen. This requires a Mac running OS X Yosemite and an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch running iOS 8 or newer. Unfortunately, this feature is only available for Mac users. It’s intended for developers to capture their apps in action, and iOS developers will need to have Macs anyway.

If you have a Mac and an iPhone or iPad, you can connect your iPhone or iPad to it and use the QuickTime application to capture its screen. Just select “New Movie Recording” instead of New Screen Recording, click the menu button, and select the connected iOS device instead of your Mac’s built-in webcam.


You can live-stream your desktop instead of recording it, too. On a desktop PC or laptop, OBS works very well for live-streaming. You can even live-stream your desktop straight from VLC!

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 12/26/14
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