How-To Geek

Record Screen Activity in Ubuntu with RecordMyDesktop

Sometimes only a video will do, whether it’s making step-by-step guide, capturing an epic game of solitaire, or recording an IM video stream. We’ll show you how to record video in Ubuntu using RecordMyDesktop.

RecordMyDesktop is one of the few video capture programs available in Ubuntu. Keeping with Linux’s free philosophy, RecordMyDesktop produces Ogg Theora video files out of your entire desktop, or just a selected section. If you haven’t heard of Ogg Theora, don’t worry – any modern video player will play these files, and you can even upload them to YouTube without having to convert them to another format.


To begin, we will install RecordMyDesktop, and its graphical frontend.

Open the Ubuntu Software Center (Applications > Ubuntu Software Center). Type “recordmydesktop” in the search box at the top-right.

Highlight the entry marked “gtk-recordMyDesktop” and click Install.


That’s all you need to do! This will install both the core RecordMyDesktop files and the graphical frontend.

To begin recording video, click on Applications > Sound & Video > gtk-recordMyDesktop.


The main screen has a few common options, and a thumbnail of your desktop.


If you want to record sound, ensure that the checkbox beside Sound Quality is checked.

There are some more options that you may want to play with; to access them click the Advanced button.

Most options are specific to your needs, but one common thing that you may want to alter is the frame rate – a higher frame rate will look much smoother, at the cost of additional processing power. Frame rate can be changed in the Performance tab.


Record Your Entire Desktop

Unless you select an area of the screen, RecordMyDesktop will capture everything that is happening on your screen. Take care, because video files containing your entire desktop can grow very large.

To start recording your desktop, either click the Record button in the main window, or click on the red circle in your system tray (which is in the top-right of the screen by default).


Once you start recording, the red circle will change to a grey rectangle, the standard symbol for a stop button.

When you are finished recording your video, click on the stop button in the system tray.


By default, videos will be stored in your home directory, under the name “out.ogv”. If the file already exists, RecordMyDesktop will not overwrite it, but instead create a new file with a number at the end to differentiate it.


We recorded a quick video of a rousing game of Mines. It plays in Totem with no problems!


Record a Portion of Your Desktop

In most cases, you just want to record a small portion of your desktop. RecordMyDesktop does this easily as well.

You can use the main window and click and drag on the preview image to select an area if you wish. However, we find it easier to instead right-click on the red circle in the system tray and click Select Area On Screen.


This changes your cursor into a crosshair, and allows you to click and drag on your screen to select an area to capture – much easier than doing the same on a tiny preview window.

When you drag the mouse, a red rectangle tells you what you will be recording (unfortunately, this rectangle is opaque, making it impossible to see what’s underneath).


Once you release the mouse button, the area you have selected will be outlined with a black rectangle.


Now, click the red circle in the system tray to begin recording. It turns into a grey stop button. Click the grey stop button to stop the recording once you’re finished.

RecordMyDesktop will create out.ogv in your home directory. It plays great in Totem.


Record a Program Window

In most cases where you want to record a portion of the screen, you really want to be recording a particular application’s window. Unfortunately, in our testing, we found that the current version of the graphical frontend to RecordMyDesktop has a bug in that prevents you from doing this as you would expect.

This bug has been fixed, but the change has not propagated to the Ubuntu repositories yet. In the meantime, we can fix the bug ourselves.

Note: If this seems cumbersome or too difficult, you can always use the method in the previous section. If you have problems getting the selection to encompass the program’s window entirely, try making small adjustments to the size of the program’s window instead.

To fix the bug, press Alt+F2 to bring up the Run Application window. In the text field, enter:

gksudo gedit /usr/lib/pymodules/python2.6/recordMyDesktop/


Enter your password, and gedit will open. Go to line 222 of the opened file (you can show line numbers in Edit > Preferences) and insert a new line, with the text:

wid = None

In this case, the indentation matters, so ensure that your text file looks exactly like the following screenshot when you’re done.


Save and close this text file. If RecordMyDesktop is running, close it and restart it.

Now, if you are in the main window and you click on the Select Window button, the cursor changes to a crosshair, and you can click on a window to select it for recording.


Unfortunately, the window decoration was not included when we tested this feature, despite the option set in the Advanced window.


Click the red circle in the system tray to begin recording. It turns into a grey stop button. Click the grey stop button to stop the recording once you’re finished.

RecordMyDesktop will create out.ogv in your home directory. Once again, it plays great in Totem.



RecordMyDesktop is a great tool for quickly recording your desktop in Ubuntu. The quality leaves a bit to be desired, but playing around with the options can help.

What do you use desktop recording software for? Let us know in the comments!

Trevor is our resident Linux geek, but always keeps his eyes open for neat Windows tricks too.

  • Published 08/6/10

Comments (10)

  1. Bjarnovikus

    It is a great program indeed, but the format is difficult to use on windows systems or with other tools except for most (great) open source tools.

    So it is a great program, but you need to have Damnvid for converting (I think that this will work, haven’t tested already).

  2. Larry Thiel

    What version were you using? I had 0.3.8 of gtkRecordMyDesktop installed on ubuntu 9.10 and the record window works fine. When I looked at the python file it does look a bit different than yours.

    def __select_window__(self,button):
    if self.values[21]==1:
    for i in wid:

  3. Trevor Bekolay

    @Larry Thiel

    Sorry, I should have mentioned in the article, I was using the latest version in the 10.04 repositories, which according to this page is 0.3.8-1ubuntu1. It must be a recent change that caused the bug.

  4. James

    I’ve been using gtkRecordMyDesktop to record Windows tutorials through Terminal Server Client. I haven’t had any problem with selecting the program window to record from as long as I click in the window and not a border.
    I have had a problem with nearly most of the better video editors in Ubuntu not being able to render the video from gtkRecordMyDesktop correctly. Audio is fine but the video is just a smear. I’ve ended up running the video through Transmegeddon Transcoder before I can edit. I’m not sure why this is such a problem. I seem to be able to upload the video straight to YouTube but it’s a problem if I need to edit it.
    It’s a simple but effective program and it works.

  5. aziz

    can i get a offline installer of this software…..!

  6. Sridhar

    A little cumbersome for the uninitiated, but it serves the purpose. Biggest grouse is the lack of hotkeys. How am I supposed to capture a full screen presentation? Presentation occupies entire screen and the red record button is inaccessible. A hotkey would have been pretty useful.

  7. Frurianek

    Specially for people having problems to record audio or sound with a GNOME based GNU/Linux distro, for example Ubuntu:

    gtk-recordMyDesktop (records video + audio) and gnome-sound-recorder (records audio) can record both the system and the microphone sound. To choose the sound to be recorded open gnome-volume-control (from ALT+F2 for example), click on Hardware, then on Profile and there choose the corresponding option, depending on what will be recorded ..:

    + sound of the system: a) Analog Stereo Output; or b) Digital Stereo Duplex (IEC958)
    + sound from the microphone: a) Analog Stereo Duplex; or b) Digital Stereo (IEC958) Output + Analog Stereo Input

    In gnome-volume-control, it may be necessary to choose “Off”, close it, open it again, choose the desired option and close it again.

    Some of the other options may work sometimes, but they may record sometimes the system sound and sometimes the mic sound. And other options may record audio but could not permit to listen to the recorded sound. So it’s better not to use those options.

    NB: system sound is the sound of what one can hear from the speaker. It can be a .ogg or .mp3, … song played by Totem, or a Flash music video of a web site, …

  8. Zapi

    In Ubuntu I’ve tried xvidcap and gtk-recordMyDesktop. I’ve been able with both of them to record video and audio from the system or the microphone.

    But gtk-recordMyDesktop has 2 problems:
    a) When you click on stop it takes a lot of time to encode the video (in xvidcap you have it in the moment you stop the recording).
    b) It uses a lot of space in a folder called more or less /tmp/rMD-session-xxxx. Sometimes is deleted after the encoding but sometimes not (keeps on growing) and you have to delete it before your linux partition gets full.

    In Ubuntu, to be able to record the sound with xvidcap you just need to follow a few steps:

  9. Luis

    To include always window decorations just replace xwininfo_com=[‘xwininfo’] (about line #252) by xwininfo_com=[‘xwininfo’,’-frame’].

  10. Nick

    Great article thank you! It works great, however whenever I try to convert the .ogv file it looks like a grey blobby mess. (?!?) I have tried updating codex and different apps to no avail :( I am running Ubuntu 10.04 and it seems others have seen this as well. Does anybody know a fix for this? It’s maddening!

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