Two open source desktop recording tools


A picture might be worth a thousand words, but a video demonstration can save much talking. I’m a visual learner, so seeing how to do something has been very helpful in my education. I’ve found that students benefit from seeing exactly how an application is configured or how a code snippet is written. Desktop screen recorders are great tools for creating instructional videos. I’ll examine two free, open-source desktop screen recorders in this article: SimpleScreenRecorder and Kazam.


SimpleScreenRecorder lets you easily record desktop action. It has an intuitive interface and can record in MP4, OGG, Matroska, or WebM format. SimpleScreenRecorder is released under the Gnu Public License and runs on Linux.

After installing and launching the program, you can easily configure it to capture the whole desktop, a specific window, or a select area. The latter is my favorite because it focuses the learner’s attention on exactly where I want them to look. You can record the cursor or not, adjust the frame rate, scale the video, and adjust the audio backend, which includes three options: ALSA, JACK, and PulseAudio. The video frame rate defaults to 30fps.

Because SimpleScreenRecorder uses libav/ffmpeg libraries for encoding, it supports various file formats and video codecs. Different profiles can be used (faster profiles mean bigger file sizes), including YouTube, LiveStream (1000kbps), LiveStream (2000kbps), LiveStream (3000 kbps), and high-quality intermediate.

Top of configuration input profile.Choices to record the entire screen or other options.
This is an option for a YouTube profile, one of many you can choose.

After you’ve configured your system, recording is easy. You can click the Start recording button or use a selection hotkey.

Use this section at the bottom of the ‘preferences’ to choose a ‘hot key’ to initiate recording or click on the ‘start recording.’ button.

Sound notification can also be enabled, a nice feature that lets you know when the recording begins and ends. Once the recording is completed, the file can edited or uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo, or an educational learning management system.

SimpleScreenRecorder’s website has great documentation, including tips for configuration, recording, and uploading, as well as installation instructions for various Linux distributions.


The Kazam desktop screen recorder is also released under the Gnu Public License, and, like SimpleScreenRecorder, it is easy to use and offers an intuitive interface. After you install and launch the program, you can configure it to capture the whole desktop, a specific window, or a select area. Recording a select screen area can come in handy because it focuses the learner’s attention on where you want them to look. You can capture the mouse pointer movement, too. I like that Kazam can also delay the capture, which can be useful when recording tutorials.

Configuring preferences is easy under the File | Preferences menu. Audio capture sources can be selected to include speakers and a microphone. The countdown splash can also be turned off.

Kazam preferences are where you can choose input and output.

The second tab of preferences is for selecting video preferences. The frame rate defaults to 15fps. The default recording is set to H264(MP4), but other formats, such as VP8(WEBM), HUFFYUV, LosslessJPEG, and RAW AVI, are available. Automatic file saving is enabled by default, with the self-selected directory where videos are saved and a default file-name prefix that is user-configurable.

This is the second panel of the preferences where you can select framerate and encoding and where the file will be saved.

Configuring the screenshot is easy. The shutter sound is on by default, and the shutter type can be self-selected, including the default Nikon D80 or Canon 7D. File saving is automatic unless otherwise selected.

The final panel is where the shutter type and sound effects can be chosen for your screenshot.

Screencasts can be easily saved to a directory of your choice, and the file is ready to upload to your favorite sharing site or learning management system.

Here’s to flipping your classroom and instruction using a Linux computer and either of these excellent desktop screen recorders!