One of my jobs as a system admin for Macs, Linux, and far too many Windows PCs is to show users how to accomplish certain tasks.
For Mac users I prefer to create a simple on screen video to show ‘n tell a series of tasks. One video, many users, less work.
My tool of choice is iShowU, a simple, elegant and very effective Mac screen capture utility, now in three lovely flavors.
What iShowU does is rather straightforward. It lets a Mac user record, both video and audio, whatever they’re doing on their Mac’s screen. Think of it as a movie camera inside your Mac which records what you do on the Mac’s screen.
Everything you click, everything you type, wherever you scroll around on your Mac’s screen, in whatever application you happen to use, iShowU records the whole thing and saves it as a QuickTime movie.
What’s the advantage of being able to do that? I spend quite a bit of time showing Mac users how to use various Mac applications—from the Finder to other OS X utilities and various Apple software.
Since there’s always someone new switching to the Mac these days, instruction has become a time consuming part of my day. iShowU makes life easier.
For example, I use iShowU to capture Safari’s screen. As it records my mouse clicks and text entry, it also records my voice, so I can narrate a simple instruction video literally on the fly, in real time.
One five minute instruction video can be created in not much more than five minutes, sans all the credits, fancy graphics, and cool digital effects and transitions.
The benefit is that the video, a simple QuickTime movie, can be placed on a web site so new users can click and begin learning right away, stop and back up the video to see important points, and learn something new when they have time, rather than when an instructor or system administrator shows up.
Think about the importance of that. By walking through a few steps in a Mac’s application and having all my movements recorded into a video, including my own voice narration, I save lots of training and instruction time.
It’s not a classy commercial production with a professional introduction or scrolling credits at the end. It’s cheap. It’s fast. It’s effective.
iShowU comes in three flavors these days, each with different features, each with a different price tag.
The base iShowU is $20 and does realtime video capture from your Mac’s screen, pause and resume, records both system audio or microphone audio, will follow your mouse around the screen, and comes with custom presets to save your movies.
The newer versions of iShowU are iShowU HD and HD Pro, both of which do all that the regular iShowU does, and more.
Both HD and HD Pro versions do on the fly scaling, depending on the power of your Mac’s graphics card. Custom backgrounds can be added. You can also use your Mac’s iSight or any good webcam to record a personal introduction.
A couple of very valuable features found only in the HD and HD Pro versions include the ability to upload the movie to YouTube, and get full screen movies from any Mac app using OpenGL, such as Keynote.
The HD Pro version differs in that you get the ability to embed a watermark in your movie, record all your keystrokes in real time, record audio using other sources beyond the built in Mac mic, and export video directly to Final Cut Express or Final Cut Pro.
The Pro version also has a low CPU usage mode which can be very handy if you’re not using a high end iMac or a MacPro.
The HD version of iShowU is $30 and the HD Pro version is $60.
How does iShowU compare against other Mac video screen capture utilities? Favorably, and maybe the easiest to use of all, using less system resources than the popular SnapZ Pro, and less expensive than others.
I have one nit. The basic iShowU version has a feature to let you capture a full window of Mac application. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. The window can still be selected by setting the capture area to the dimensions, though.
iShowU is a very good tool to help Mac users record video of what they do, while they do it on their Mac’s screen, including audio recording of narration, live, in real time. The uses are many and varied and quite valuable as instruction aids.