Jack Wallen walks you through the steps of getting quality Android screencasts without having to root your device.
Sometimes, a video is worth a thousand words -- or so anyone in the IT industry would think when they have to show someone how to do something on a mobile device. Imagine being able to record a video screencast on your device, upload it to a server, and point users to that video. You'd decrease support calls for mobile devices, allowing you to get system admin jobs done. The problem is, there's never really been an easy way to record screencasts in Android... until now. With the help of an app called Recordable, you can create those screencasts, even without rooting your device.
Before you toss your hands in the air and shout "Score!" you need to know that it's not as simple as installing an app from the Google Play Store and having at it. There are a few hoops to jump through. However, once those hoops are behind you, recording a video of your Android device is really simple.
Let's walk through the installation. You'll need to have your Android device (4.1 or greater) and either a Linux, Windows, or Mac PC (I'll demonstrate on a Linux PC).
Install the Recordable app from the Google Play Store. Here are the steps for that process:
- Open the Google Play Store on the Android device
- Search for Recordable
- Locate and tap the entry by Invisibility Ltd
- Tap Install
- Read the permissions listing
- If you agree with the permissions, tap Accept
- Allow the install to complete
The next step is to locate the Recordable launcher in the app drawer and launch the app. You'll be welcomed by a first-run wizard. Tap OK to start the wizard. It will instruct you to turn Developer Options on and Activate USB debugging. This is handled in Settings. The quickest way to set these options is to simply tap Next, which will take you to the Developer options screen (Figure A).
Setting the dev options on a Verizon-branded HTC M8.
In this screen, make sure Developer options (top of the screen) is set to ON and USB Debugging is checked. After you enable USB Debugging, you should be sent back to the Recordable wizard. The next page will inform you to go to the Recordable Install site and follow the directions.
The PC end of things
Now you have to migrate to your PC and run a simple Java file. This means, of course, you'll need to make sure the PC in question has a Java Runtime installed. With that out of the way, download the installer for your platform.
If you're using the Linux OS, you'll need to open your file manager, right-click the RecordableSetup.jar file, and make sure executable permissions are set (Figure B).
Allowing executable permissions for the Recordable setup file on Ubuntu Linux.
With the permissions set, right-click the file again and select Open with OpenJDK Java 7 Runtime (this will vary, depending on which runtime you have installed). A new setup wizard will begin. Click Next in the new wizard (on the PC side), and you should see a new pop-up on your Android device. This pop-up (Figure C) requires you to allow USB debugging. Tap OK (with the option to Always all from this computer).
Allowing USB debugging on the Android device.
Tap next on the PC wizard, and you should be informed that the Android device was found. Tap Next again, and you should then be informed that all is complete. You can unplug your Android device and start recording screencasts.
There is a caveat to this. Any time you reboot your Android device, you'll need to go through the PC setup again.
Capturing a screencast is quite simple:
- Open Recordable
- From the main window (Figure D), tap the record button (directly left of the settings button)
- Tap the device's home button
- Wait for the countdown (by default this is five)
- Begin your screencast
- To end the screencast, open Recordable again
The Recordable main window.
There are some settings you might want to visit. The first setting is how you stop recording. By default, you have to re-open the Recordable app. This is actually the easier of the two available options. The second option is to tap the back button, but this only works when you're within the Recordable app. So, the most efficient means of stopping the recording is to leave the default set.
The other settings you should take a look at, from within the Settings window, are the frame rate (1, 2, 4, and 8 FPS), video quality (from 200 kbits/s all the way to 6400 kbits/s), record audio, enable/disable hardware to encode video, and enable/disable gestures. If you have trouble viewing videos, you may have to disable hardware encoding. This will make your videos a bit less smooth, but most often will solve the problem. On the HTC M8, I was able to use hardware encoding.
Videos recorded with this free app will have a small watermark at the bottom. You can purchase the full version (called Easy Screen Recorder) for $3.99 (USD). Make sure to install the free version first to ensure the app works on your device.
Creating a screencast need not involve rooting your device and jumping through more hoops than it's worth. Give Recordable a try, and see if it doesn't make recording screencasts an easy task.
What do you think, are mobile screencasts one of the easiest ways to support your end users, or is face-to-face or phone support your best option? How do you support your Android users? Share your thoughts and experience in the discussion thread below.