Education

Product Spotlight: TechSmith's Camtasia Studio 6

Derek Schauland puts Camtasia Studio 6 through the paces with some training materials for users he supports. Find out what he thinks works well and what could use improvement.

Derek Schauland puts Camtasia Studio 6 through the paces with some training materials for users he supports. Find out what he thinks works well and what could use improvement.

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In my job as an IT administrator and help desk technician, there are many days where I repeat the same tasks -- not only things like changing tapes or the routine back-end portions of my job, but also answering the same (or similar) support questions over and over or providing the same training to three users independently, based on when they asked for help.

Getting an opportunity to create a training video that answered these common support questions once but was reusable or distributable to all was definitely a goal for me. I tried recording a presentation of the training with PowerPoint, but that didn't seem as effective. In my search for a better way to handle these situations, I discovered Camtasia Studio from TechSmith Software and decided to give it a shot.

Specifications

Supported operating systems:
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows XP
Hardware requirements:
  • 1.0 GHz processor minimum (recommended: 2.0 GHz for PowerPoint and camera recordings)
  • 500 MB RAM minimum (recommended: 2.0 GB)
  • 115 MB of hard-disk space for program installation

Who's it for?

Camtasia studio is for anyone who needs to create reusable screen casts for documentation or training purposes.

What problem does it solve?

Camtasia plugs into PowerPoint to allow presentations to be captured as they are given, rather than re-recorded before or after the actual presentation happens. The application also allows for any content that comes across the screen to be captured into the recording, making training on a specific task much better.

As an example, suppose I need to train a group of users on the topic of adding contacts to Microsoft Outlook. The process is simple enough, and I could walk each of these users through the Contacts folder in Outlook if the users are all together, but if they are spread out across the country or even worldwide, this becomes a huge challenge.

Using Camtasia studio, I can walk through the process of adding contacts to Outlook, with accompanying audio explanation, and publish the video to the corporate intranet, send it out via e-mail, or mail it to the users on a DVD. Using a single training session recorded with Camtasia Studio saves time, effort, and cost to provide top-notch training to any users. Plus, the recorded training can be replayed as often as needed.

Standout features

  • Easy-to-use interface (Figure A) allows content preview and media import
  • Multiple output formats include AVI, FLV, MOV, Mpeg
  • Easy publication to multiple output destinations: CD-Rom, DVD, Web, and TechSmith's Screencast.com service

Figure A

Click to enlarge.

The Camtasia Studio interface
  • Still images and separate audio tracks can also be included in recordings you create with Camtasia, making the tool capable of creating top-quality presentations and leaving no format out. MP3 files and images can be imported into the application to create slideshows ready to be produced as video content with very few clicks.
  • Transitions, similar to those used between slides in a PowerPoint presentation can be used between images and/or clips in Camtasia.

What's wrong?

Audio: I had some trouble with audio getting split up when transitions are used in a video. Example: If I have a set of photos and put transitions between them, the audio track gets cut up at the transition. Not sure why this would be useful because the audio track will likely span more than one clip or photo. Option should be available to enable/disable audio-splitting at transitions. Price: Camtasia Studio can be quite expensive at $299 per copy.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

If you will be creating a lot of training content or walk-through documentation, Camtasia Studio will likely be your best bet in getting the highest quality recording and most input/output options for a single capture. The cost can be a bit high at first, but working with the application and creating recorded presentations or training is a very easy process, which will provide great reusable content for users throughout your organization.

About

Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.

4 comments
Derek Schauland
Derek Schauland

Thanks for the feedback all. Glad to see this piece was helpful to you.

rupeshw
rupeshw

Thanks for this.I am using gmail for so long but was not knowing of this function.

Randy.Cartwright
Randy.Cartwright

We have created several training videos using the product and have had excellent results. We mostly use the screen recordings to show users what to do, and the pan and zoom features is by far one of the better features of the product. I wish they would package a library of audio clips, like intro and exit music that would be appropriate for business. I had a hard time coming up with my own, but it makes for a polished and professional production.

williamjones
williamjones

I think you pretty much nailed it with your overview of Camtasia. Based on my limited use of the program, I agree that it can be a great way to produce some nifty training materials. Thanks for the info.

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