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Review: Camtasia Studio 2 + SnagIt 7

Review: Camtasia Studio 2 + SnagIt 7

Michigan based TechSmith have just released the latest iterations of their popular desktop recording and screen capture software. SnagIt captures static images and Camtasia Studio captures moving images. The previous release of Camtasia Studio (reviewed earlier this year) offered .SWF output for the first time.

What do they do? Desktop recording and presentation software
Platforms: Windows
Manufacturer: TechSmith
Website: http://www.techsmith.com
Price: Prices vary per volume licence. Bundle offer available.

You would expect these products to be pretty similar - one captures still images and the other just captures consecutive still images; right? Well wrong actually. Despite the superficial similarity they actually service very different needs. Both products have been redesigned to improve workflow and its only when you examine them with this in mind that you begin to appreciate the difference.

Workflow
SnagIt is built for speed. Its always easy to get to and you can get the job done quickly. Youll find it easily as it sits in your system tray. If you are running Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office or Adobe Framemaker its even easier as itll add a SnagIt toolbar to each product. The screen capture workflow is kept fast through a one-click capture option and by the definition and saving of profiles.

Camtasia Studio is built for versatility. Every aspect of the suite has been designed to ensure you get what you want from capture to output. The suite now consists of four products: Camtasia Recorder, Camtasia MenuMaker, Camtasia Theatre and Camtasia Player.

Interface
I remember criticising the previous Camtasia Studio interface for having a middle management feel to it. This time round both products have been consciously repositioned to be more designer friendly. They have had a funky graphical makeover and are being re-launched under the tagline The biggest boost to productivity since the double espresso. This burst of life has really has made a big difference. The complimentary livery adorns both products and although its a simple transformation, they just feel a lot more fun to work with.

SnagIt
In addition to the usual capture modes (full screen, region, window etc) there are a few other modes worth mentioning. You can capture images from a DirectX application (read my high score and weep sucka), the contents of a scrolling window, all the images from a web site, and even grab all the text from your screen. Once youve got what you came for you can output it to a file, a printer, the web, the clipboard or send it as an email attachment.

Camtasia Recorder
Although its had a graphical makeover, the user interface for Camtasia Recorder hasnt really changed. Its still simple to use: When you want to record your screen you hit the big red record button (or F9 if youre in a keyboard shortcut kinda mood) and youre off. There are plenty of settings and preferences to tinker with but recording really is that simple.

The option for live video output is still there. This allows your captures to be used as a video source by applications such as web cams, video conferencing and streaming media encoders. Pretty cool. When in this mode you can use the ScreenPad panel to annotate you live video feed. The shapes and textboxes are a little cheesy but they do the job.

Camtasia Player
Camtasia Player will play your presentations or replay your captures. The raw AVI files output by the recorder use an in-house codec called TSCC (TechSmith Capture Codec). This codec is now built into the player.

Back in the Studio application you can take your video captures from the clip bin and place them onto a timeline. Its here youll cut your presentation together. In addition to just editing your video you can add audio narration, screen transitions, callouts, zooms and pans and Flash hot spots. This last item acts like a invisible rectangular Flash button with the option to either stop()/play(), gotoAndPlay() or getURL().

When it comes to output formats you are not tied into AVI. The big news last time was the output of .SWF files. This time round Im pleased to tell you that Camtasia Studio now outputs Flash Video (.FLV) files as well. If youre working with other formats then the production wizard will also output an animated GIF (if youre feeling mad), Quicktime, Windows Media, RealMedia and CAMV (a bespoke lossless flavour of RealMedia).

Camtasia MenuMaker
Once you have all assets created then you have two other tools to help you prepare them for delivery. If you intend to distribute your work on CDROM then Camtasia MenuMaker will build a menu page for you. Its a simple code-free process and theres a new wizard to guide you through it. You choose your assets and sort them into order then MenuMaker builds an autorun file and a single menu page of shortcut links. Your CD ROM isnt going to win any design awards but its still better than nothing.

Camtasia Theatre
If you intend to distribute your work on the web then Camtasia Theatre is a welcome addition to the suite. This takes your Flash .SWF files and builds a presentation wrapper for them. Listing the assets is a simple menu driven exercise and the output is pretty good. The wrapper is a mixture of HTML and Flash and is grey and unobtrusive. You can tweak the XML config file if youre feeling brave but Id suggest using an XML editor rather than notepad as it doesnt contain spacing or formatting.

Overall
The quality of the captures has never been in doubt. What really impresses with this release is the attention to workflow and the huge improvements to the interface of both products. They both do what they do really well, but this time round they look and feel like more confident products.
http://www.techsmith.com

 

About John Dalziel

John Dalziel is a founding member of FlashMagazine and regularly reports from community events in the UK. He has also written for Macromedia, New Riders, Actionscript.com and Ultrashock.com.

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