Five screencast programs tested

Vokoscreen

Vokoscreen, which is still going through some serious development work, is also found in the repositories of the established Linux distributions. Additionally, the source code is available on GitHub [4]. The developers also offer a comprehensive portable version weighing in at around 36MB as a tar.gz archive [5] for distributions that lack binary packages. You need to unpack the archive in a directory of your choice, which creates a large executable file of 95MB; then, working at the command line, type the vokoscreen.run command.

As with all screencast programs, Vokoscreen is configured in a central window; screencast recordings are controlled from an icon embedded in the panel. The program window differs from the usual visual conventions (Figure 8). Six tabs for the various control groups top the main window, with controls at the bottom in the form of buttons for playing back, pausing, and stopping a recording. In the tabs, you select parameters for the audio and video codecs, the audio system, and the container format to use. Vokoscreen does not have a menubar.

Figure 8: Vokoscreen's application window couldn't be easier to navigate and use.

Settings

In the first tab, you can enter the basic options for the area to record, including the choice of screen for full-screen recording, a window, or an area. As a special feature, the software offers a Magnification option, which significantly increases the size of the content in the area being captured. Even the size of the area to be magnified can be defined in a separate dialog. Countdown, Showclick, and Showkey functions round off the options for the recording. The software applies the selected options without the need to save them separately.

In the second tab, you define the basic options for your existing audio system. Vokoscreen works with both the ALSA and PulseAudio sound servers. Unchecking the Audio box lets you disable audio recording.

Vokoscreen was the only screencast application in the test to detect a headset connected to the computer via Bluetooth, although the microphone, a Sennheiser MM 100 headset, still failed to cooperate with Vokoscreen. If you choose the ALSA sound server instead of the default PulseAudio server, you can specify the correct audio system from a selection list.

In the third tab, you define the output format and set the frame rate of the video recording. Several high-quality alternatives can be selected as the video codec, depending on its availability on a particular system; the H.265 codec even supports 4K resolution. Vokoscreen can also create Ultra HD footage, and in addition to the H.264 codec, MPEG4 and the slightly exotic free HuffYUV codecs are available. The screencast program offers the MKV, MP4, and GIF container formats for saving data.

In terms of audio, Vokoscreen does not offer many alternatives: The default is the MP3 codec, but also offers OGG Vorbis and AAC encoding. In contrast to the other candidates, you cannot adjust the sample rate for the audio codecs, although the frame rate for video recordings is definable. Vokoscreen also offers the option of not recording the mouse pointer in this dialog.

In the fourth tab, you define the storage path for the screencasts and specify the player on which to play back the recordings. The software selects a playback program used on your system, although you can change the default if you want. The audio framework is also defined in this dialog, and you can determine whether the program is shown in the system tray. Unfortunately, the icon display in the system tray did not work reliably: Although I had no problems in the test under Linux Mint 18 with the Cinnamon desktop, the icon did not show up in the system tray on Rosa Linux R6 and R7 with the KDE desktop and with version 2.4.18 from the Rosa repositories – which makes it difficult to control the software – although the error did not occur with the portable version of the program.

Integrated Webcam

The fifth tab lets you can activate and control a webcam so that you can integrate the camera recording into the screencast. If no webcam supported by Linux is present on the system, the corresponding dialogs in this tab are grayed out.

When the webcam is switched on, right-clicking on the webcam image calls up a context menu that offers options, such as defining the size of the webcam window; one option specifies that the webcam image remain in the foreground, even if you have several desktops.

Vokoscreen provides a useful function in the form of the log display, which tells you – in a way that is understandable even for non-experts – about the root cause of any problems and provides information on the program's various actions. The log display can be enabled and closed in each tab by clicking on the info icon at the bottom right of the main program window (Figure 9).

Figure 9: The log display helps you solve problems in Vokoscreen.

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