Is There Any Good Screencasting in Ubuntu? 12/09/09

One of the things I’ve personally found frustrating in Linux is the development status of screencasting applications, or lack thereof. Some projects remain in beta, never coming to fruition, and eventually being abandoned. Others have quirks that seem to cause different issues based on what system they’re installed on.

Why am I posting about this? It’s very difficult (at times) when new Linux (Ubuntu) users ask me how to do something and I cannot show them. Sometimes I’m far away, at other times it’s difficult to talk them through the necessary activities on the phone, often I do not have remote access to their systems (so they can watch what I do), and at other times there would be too much to write. Often the person I’m trying to help might not be technically savvy enough to follow my direction, but they do know how to use a web browser.

That’s where screencasting comes in!

I think many of us are aware of some of the commonly mentioned packages:

Istanbul – Every time I’ve tried it, it’s broken. Is it even in development anymore? Last news post on the site is in 2007.

Xvidcap – I often encounter problematic output (maybe a codec issue?). Is it in development anymore?

Wink – While Wink does work on the systems I’ve tried, I find it just looks horrid, especially the note explanation boxes you can add. They look cheap and tacky, not something I would use for a business (or personally). One issue that may effect Open Source enthusiasts, it that the source is closed.

recordMyDesktop – I often get sound problems with it. What is happening with development? It appears the developer bowed out in January 2009, and a new one took the reins in May 2009, but are there any changes, updates or fixes?

ffmpeg – I did try the solution presented by Embrace Ubuntu (where ffmpeg was patched), and while it did work, I found that ffmpeg (in this case) did not provide as stable an output as I expected.

Screenkast – I could not get it to work properly. Is it under development anymore? (Last update was in 2007).

As I mentioned, the above (I think) are the common tools that many of us may already be aware of. I also think the above tools are listed and discussed at length on several other sites, that’s why I chose to not go into any detail, discussing them – Been there, done that, we’ve seen them all before…

Suffice to say, I felt that I was at an impasse, I just wanted something that will work. Something that could save a screencast in FLV format for streaming across a web site. Granted the FLV format is proprietary, I wanted that because it’s a current web standard. Also, I did not want to have to manually convert the video file (as an extra step).

There are online tools such as ScreenToaster (which a reader suggested to me), but I prefer to do the work myself because the PCs I use sometimes don’t have a web connection. After asking around someone suggested vnc2swf, which I found has since moved on in development to the newer vnc2flv. It seems to me to be much more promising. I’m not suggesting that this is the ultimate solution, but it does have some great merits (and it works too).


Without reading the installation notes, I tried a quick sudo aptitude install … command, but it’s not in the repositories (8.04, Hardy), and the developer does not seem to host a repository either.

I found there are a couple of requirements:

1) x11vnc

2) Python (2.4+)

The install itself is not too difficult:

Download the package from the developer at extract the archive and (as the developer explains on his site), use python to install the app as:

python install

After which the installation script will run.

Currently this application is run off the command line. I tried this on an older test box (it has an earlier version of Ubuntu on it) and it seemed to run quite well. I should add that the developer indicates (I think) that the sound aspects are handled by a different application, using a script that automatically joins the video and audio.  Here’s the original video from the developers site:

While I’m mentioning the developer’s site, you’ll also get a lot more information (usage info) from it. I plan on installing this on my primary Ubuntu workstation after I’ve played a bit more with it on the test box. – Hopefully, this will result in some good screencasting…

Hopefully there’ll be a full GUI at some point? Either way, give it a try and tell us what you think.

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11 Responses to this article

Vadim P. December 9, 2009 Reply

I use gtk-recordmydesktop. I didn’t have it record sound at first, but making it use pulse as the sound driver and configuring the output sound in sound preferences made it work, so I’m happy with it.

But yes, the development ceased – if anything better comes along I’ll switch.

That VNC solution looks too messy for me personally.

UbuntuLinuxHelp December 9, 2009 Reply

@Vadim P.

Yes, agreed, the install is “fiddly” to do (or at least I think so).

Oh crap yes, Pulse!! I’ll set that, and then I bet it will be smoother – Thanks!

lefty.crupps December 10, 2009 Reply

KDEnlive can record the desktop, edit the clip, and render the file to a variety of formats, including FLV. But just like with (gtk-)recordMyDesktop, it seems to miss the majority of my screencast, jumping all around with the frames that it does capture. It may be my Intel graphics, or maybe its KWin from KDE 4.3.x, or perhaps its based on recordMyDesktop and thats why the issues are there.

But I am with you, I can not seem to get a clean desktop recording, ever. (Running Debian Sid and KDE 4.3.2, fwiw)

Steven December 10, 2009 Reply

I’ve had problems with Istanbul on Ubuntu but not in Fedora. Also on Ubuntu I’ve had problems with gtk-recordmydesktop sound. I’ll try the Pulse driver as well to see how it works. I often have to make presentations and end up either doing it on fedora or recording my laptop via a handheld video recorder. Thanks!

eldarion December 10, 2009 Reply
Vadim P. December 10, 2009 Reply

Well, for proof, the screencasts done here: are all on gtk-recordmydesktop…

kernel_script December 10, 2009 Reply

My favorite is gtk-recordmydesktop. I also have sound issues with it, but after reading your article, I tried to change the sound from DEFAULT to pulse (I’m using Ubuntu 9.10), and it worked. I have the sound seted up to 2 channels and 44100 of frequency.

Vadim P. December 11, 2009 Reply

Oh, and works too. Though it’s a bit of resource hog, being java+flash-based.

Antonio Roberts February 4, 2010 Reply

I was in the same situation as you in that just about all of the screencasting programs for Linux suck. I really don’t like that some people on the ubuntu forum go on to point blame at the users’ computer for the software not working when any computer made after 2007 will more than likely have enough power to record something at at least 15fps.

Anyway, the only working solution that I’ve found is recorditnow, which gives me at least 15 fps and it’s under active development

d-virus December 9, 2010 Reply

hey!!! i write a post in about 8 tools for screencast in linux.

Math August 4, 2012 Reply

I had this question for a long time too, and I recently found the solution to the sound problems with recordmydesktop.

Here is a video i’ve made to show you how to do this:

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