by Anthony 

January 19, 2020

There are a multitude of free screen recorders out there, either as browser extensions or as standalone applications. Unfortunately, the vast majority are rubbish, producing stuttering, jittery video or they are limited to only recording in full screen or the active window. They don't allow users to set the area of screen to record.

This is more true of Windows than it is of Mac. Mac owners have the very capable, albeit limited, QuickTime Player, which comes pre-installed with Mac OS. However, for Windows users I recommend ShareX from the Microsoft Store.

Some Windows users might argue the built-in Xbox app has a screen recording capability. This is true but it's designed for recording games at full screen. Asking it to do anything else is a bit of a hack.

Neither ShareX or QuickTime has the ability to edit videos once you've finished recording. All is not lost, however,  as both Mac and Windows come with pre-installed video editing applications and I'll show you how to import your videos to those in the steps.

The Premium Option...

If your work involves a lot of screen recording, as mine does, I highly recommend purchasing a professional application. I use Techsmith's Snagit and Camtasia, which are available for both Windows and Mac. Camtasia is for professional screen recording with a suite of post-production tools. Snagit can be used to take quick captures that require minimal editing. They are each one-off purchases (rather than subscriptions) and definitely worth a look. Later in this article, I'll show you how to use Snagit to record a section of the screen, just as an alternative to the free options I'll demonstrate now.


How To Install and Record Using ShareX on Windows 10

ShareX will let you record full-screen, the active window and, crucially, any area of the screen you wish. It uses FFmpeg, a versatile open-source framework for recording audio and video. It means ShareX should be able to perform admirably whether being used on a brand new high-end PC or an old clunky laptop.

Open up the Microsoft Store by either clicking the link on your taskbar or typing 'store' into Windows Search bar.

Then type 'ShareX' in the search field of Windows Store. The app should appear, or it will be displayed after clicking on the magnifying glass, to the right of the search field.

Click Get to download and install ShareX. Once installed, click Launch.

The interface displays a list of features and options down the left and useful shortcut keys.

Before starting your first recording, it's worth taking a look at the Task Settings. Click on Task Settings and Select Screen Recorder under Capture.

Here I have the frame rate to 30 and the option 'start recording after' setting to 3 secs.

Screen recordings start as soon as you've defined the area so allowing a delay saves you from having to trim the start of your video later on. Very useful if, like me, you're not entirely ready to begin recording.

Click on the 'Screen recording options…' button. I'd recommend leaving everything unchanged unless you have some knowledge of audio and video codecs. The only change I make is to set Audio source to None since I don't wish my recording to have audio.

Close the Screen Recording Options window and the Task Settings window when finished.

To start a recording either use the shortcut keys Shift + PrintScreen or click on 'Workflows' and 'Start/Stop Screen Recording Using Custom Region.'

A cross-hair cursor appears which you use to set your region. ShareX recognises when you hover over an application or a region within an application and adjust the size of the recording area automatically. You can click and drag the crosshair to select the section of the screen as you see fit.

Once the recording has started you can either stop or abort. ShareX is very quick to transcode the video, which is displayed in the main interface window. The actual location of your video file is in Documents\ShareX\Screenshots\{date}\

Right click on the video thumbnail and choose Open > Folder to go straight to the saved video file.

To edit your recording, sticking on the free theme, I recommend Windows built-in Video Editor app. Type' video editor' in the Windows Search bar to find the application.

Create a New Video Project and give the project a name. Click on Add > From This PC and navigate to the video file's location, or simply drag and drop. Drag the video to the Storyboard along the bottom of the screen to begin editing. You can trim your video, add intros and background music, or add an audio voice over.


How To Record a Section of Screen using QuickTime Player on Mac

Open QuickTime Player from the Applications folder or by clicking CMD + Space and typing 'quicktime'.

Click on File and choose New Screen Recording.

The recorder app will appear. Before pressing the record button, click on the little drop-down menu icon to the right of the recorder button.Here you can set whether you wish to display the cursor in your recording and whether you want to record audio.

When happy with the setting, click on the red record button.

Click once anywhere on the screen to begin recording the whole screen. To record a section of the screen, use your mouse to click and drag over the area you wish to record. Click Start Recording to being recording.

An icon is displayed in the menu bar acknowledging that the recording is in progress. Click the icon to end the recording. QuickTime Player will play the video after the recording has finished.

Use the File menu to either save your recording as is, or use Export to change the resolution and save using HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding).

Ticking HEVC reduces the file size of the video but can be slow to export. Depending on the area of screen you’ve chosen to record, you can export to 4K, 1080 and 720 albeit maintaining  your Mac’s 16:10 aspect ratio. If you only choose a small area to record these higher pixel resolutions will be greyed out.

Once saved, you can edit your video in iMovie. Click on the plus to create a new movie in iMovie.

Click on Import Media and browse to your video file to add it to your project. Alternatively you can simply click and drag.

To start editing your video, drag it on to the timeline, running from left to right along the bottom of the screen. From here you'll be able to use features such as Trim, overlay audio and increase the speed of your clip.


Snagit for Windows & Mac

I'll quickly demonstrate the same process as above using Snagit. It should be noted that recording videos are not Snagit's primary purpose. Snagit is used for capturing screen images and overlaying them with visual aids as a learning tool. However, Snagit is a cheap alternative to free solutions that comes with a ton of features, support and updates.

Open the Snagit capture window by using either clicking on the icon in the menu bar or in the Snagit Editor.

The Snagit capture window has several settings. For our purposes we want to set the capture to Video and Selection to Region. Click on the red Capture button to select the area to be recorded.

As with ShareX, a crosshair cursor allows you to select the region to record, or it will automatically size itself to a window or area of focus. The record and stop buttons are located under the selected area. 

The recording will open in Snagit's Editor window. From here you can trim and save the file.


Final Thoughts

Share X and QuickTime Player are very capable free screen recording tools that will suffice for one-off jobs. When paired with Window's Video Editor and Mac's iMovie applications, you should be able to achieve the results you where hoping for. However, if you're in it for the long-term and looking for an app with more features, Techsmith's Camtasia and Snagit are well worth the money. 


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