CXO

Record screencasts with open source Webinaria

Webinaria allows you to create either AVI or Flash videos of the activity on your PC screen. Jack Wallen shows you how it works.

If you've ever had to try to create a training demonstration, you know how helpful a screencast can be. If you're not sure what a screencast is just think of it as a video capture of you working on your PC. This is an incredible educational tool that users can watch to see how to do things. There are a number of tools out there to do this, but only a handful of them are free. Webinaria goes even further and opens its source up to the users.

Webinaria allows you to create either AVI or Flash videos from your screen. You can capture the entire screen, a single window, or just a portion of your screen. You can also record voice along with your video and add Webcam video and even text. Webinaria is an outstanding solution for recording screencasts. Is it perfect? No, but it does the job well enough that what few quirks and flaws you will find are worth dealing with, considering the price.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download. You can also download Webinaria from the TechRepublic Software Library.

Requirements and installation

In order to install Webinaria you will need the following:

  • Microsoft Windows 98 or better (including Windows 7)

That's it!

Also note that on the application Web site, Webinaria offers free hosting and sharing of videos. This makes for easy online sharing. Naturally, however, you can save the video to your local drive and share it that way. And, of course, if you save in Flash format you will need to be able to host the file on a Web site or embed it in a Flash-supporting document (such as OpenOffice Impress).

You will need to grab the installation file, which is an .exe file located on the Webinaria site. With that file on your local drive, double-click it to initiate the installation process.

The installation is a typical Windows application installation, so you will find no surprises there.

Using Webinaria

The basic usage is simple. You will find the menu entry in the Windows Start menu under the Webinaria sub-menu. Click on the Make a Recording entry to open up the main window (Figure A).

Figure A

As you can see, there are also hotkeys you can use to initiate, pause, and stop recordings.

Before you start recording, make sure you take care of a few simple configurations. Click on the Options tab and set any configuration options you need. Included in the available options are

  • Record audio narration (on/off)
  • Record Webcam video (on/off)
  • Capture area (entire screen, window, custom)
  • Frame rate (5, 10, 15 fps)

If you have either a Webcam or sound-recording device make sure you go to the hardware section and configure those options. Finally, the last configuration is to make sure the Hide Window when Recording box (in the Record tab) is checked so the Webinaria window hides when you hit Record.

Now that you are set up, click on the Record button and start creating your screencast. You will notice that when Webinaria hides itself, it goes to the system tray. In order to stop, pause, and restart, you can just right-click on that icon and select what you want to do. If you don't want to show the action of clicking on that icon in your screencast, simply use the following hotkeys:

  • <Windows Key><Alt>R - to record or resume
  • < Windows Key><Alt>P - to pause a recording
  • < Windows Key><Alt>S - to stop a recording

When you click the Record button, you will be asked where you want to save the file and what type of file you want to save the recording as. You can save the file only as an .AVI file from the recorder. The Webinaria Editor allows you to take care of all the necessary tricks.

Webinaria Editor

Once you have stopped your recording, the Webinaria Editor will open (Figure B). This is where you do all of the fancier tricks with your video, including saving in Flash format, adding text, adding intervals, viewing your video frame by frame, and previewing and publishing your video. NOTE: In order to publish your video to the Webinaria site, you will have to sign up for a free account.

Figure B

Fortunately the developers included a frame-by-frame viewing, which makes adding intervals simple.

If this is just a simple screencast where you are demonstrating to your users how to take care of tasks within the operating system (or specific application) you most likely won't need to edit the file. Once you have finished, you can then save the file as is or save it as a Flash file.

But say you want to add text to highlight a section or even audio to highlight a section. To do this you will first have to add intervals. To add an interval, you click the Add Interval button, and a small blue rectangle will appear in the time line. To change the length of the interval, you click on either the right or left edge of the interval and drag it. The length of the interval will depend on how much time you need for either your text or audio sample.

Gotchas

There were a couple of issues I came across with Webinaria. The first is due to the fact that I was running Windows 7 in a virtual machine on Ubuntu 9.04. The Webinaria Editor (where you can edit your videos and add text, voice, etc.) will not run inside a virtual machine. So I moved to a full-blown Windows installation where Webinaria ran just fine.

Final thoughts

Webinaria is one of the easiest screencast tools I have used in a long time. If you need to create simple screencasts to aid your classrooms or users, this tool is worth a long look.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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