Screencast recording and screenshot capture is an interesting space in the application world. There are a lot of selections that accomplish a variety of different things and many of the same things. You have the super robust, every feature you can think of type of application all the way down to the native OS X tools which are very basic.
Screeny is an application that finds itself somewhere in the middle. I think this is the area where many of us would place ourselves so a solid option in that area is definitely welcomed. We’ve checked out Screeny before and after the recent major version release we thought it was worth another look.
Screeny isn’t going to provide you with every feature imaginable with a screenshot capture and screencast recording application. What has been attempted is the pulling of the most used, important functionality of applications in this category and packaging them in a beautiful, Mac-like application.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time with a handful of other applications in the space. I’ve actually reviewed a free option, Jing as well as Apple’s own QuickTime. I’ve also spent a fair amount of time with Skitch as well as LitteSnapper. I’ve even done some work with the Windows versions of Camtasia and SnagIt.
I have a problem of liking certain features from certain applications and I end up bouncing around and back and forth. There are definitely situations that call for specific applications for their specific functionality, but I’m looking for that app to turn to for basic screenshots and great screencasts. It’s looking like Screeny might be just that application.
Screenshots are a basic function in OS X, but because of the fact that it is basic there are a couple features missing with the native functionality.
Defining some of the controls
Two main buttons control the core functions of the application. A slightly smaller button with a camera icon is what will snap the screenshot (this can also be done via a keyboard shortcut). With the Screeny controls open you’ll see a semi-transparent window on your screen. Preset sizes can be chosen from the drop down. This is a quick way to get some standard sized screenshots. As with the original version you’re able to adjust the size using fill handles as well as manually entering in your exact custom height and width.
Setting the recording window size
An addition to screenshot functionality is the ability to select an entire application window. The button between the custom dimension fields can be toggled on and off. When it is active Screeny will highlight whatever window you hover over as well as provide you with a camera record or screenshot snap option right on that window. This is a pretty cool feature and I can’t say I’ve seen it executed quite so elegantly before.
Ready to record this Safari window
A couple other additions that I’ll talk about more with screen video recording deal with activating your Mac’s camera. A switch at the bottom will toggle from screen view to camera view. Here you can snap a screenshot of whatever your camera is seeing if you’d like. There’s also a small toggle button next to the sizes drop down that will add in a picture in picture view so you can snap a screenshot of your screen with your head in the corner if you’d like. Probably more useful on the video recording side for most, but it is possible with screenshots as well.
This is where Screeny really shines. It works well snapping screenshots, but screencast recording is the real reason to purchase this app.
The same controls are used for both snapping screenshots as well as recording screencasts. The major difference is that you’ll be using the giant record button to initiate the recording.
All of the same capture window functionality is available here as we talked about when taking screenshots so you have an almost infinite amount of customization. The added features in this version make setting up your screencast recording area even faster and easier.
Recording a screencast
Recording can also be started and stopped with a preset keyboard shortcut adding to the speed of use even more after you get used to the application.
When recording you’ll see the menubar icon for Screeny has changed to a red color and also includes a running clock for the recording. Screenshot functionality is also maintained while recording so you can snap some screenshots along the way if you want to be even more efficient.
Showing the options available from the menu bar
It’s possible to activate and deactivate (with a keyboard shortcut) a mouse highlight while you’re recording option. I’m sure you’ve seen this in a screencast before. A red ripple will appear wherever you click. This is a new feature in this version of Screeny. There are some external applications that can add this functionality, but having it wrapped right inside the same application is great. It’s a handy feature for producing easier to follow screencasts.
I've got the mouse highlight option turned on
Screeny can now be used to record video from your Mac’s camera and it does so in a fashion where the image isn’t mirrored. So your “Matt Rocks” t-shirt won’t read “skcoR ttaM” on your recording (what, you don’t have one of those?).
It’s also possible to utilize the picture in picture functionality that I mentioned earlier. This is a really cool feature and allows you to produce those fancy tutorials with the teacher in the video window and their computer screen in the main window. It can’t be turned on and off while recording, but can simply be dragged in and out of the recording window as you see fit. In an ideal situation a keyboard shortcut would toggle this on and off, but even without that this is still a pretty killer feature.
Produce and Share
More than likely you’re not making screencasts and shooting screenshots all for yourself. You will like to share them with others from time to time. Screeny has some new built in functionality and we’ll talk through another method of sharing as well.
Arguably the biggest new feature with Screeny is the addition of CloudApp integration. Once you connect your CloudApp account you’ll be able to upload screencasts and screenshots in an either automatic or ad hoc manner.
Checking out the CloudApp set up in the Screeny preferences
A setting can be turned on to allow for automatic uploading and it can also be activated and deactivated on the fly using a keyboard shortcut.
This is a feature I found really handy with Jing. The application connects to a Screencast.com account and you’re able to upload to it right away. You’re ready to share really quickly. With Jing being free there are some frustrating limitations, but I use it often still largely because of this feature.
I should mention that CloudApp is free with some limitations as well. You’re restricted to 10 uploads per day with a max size of 25mb per upload. The paid versions scale up quickly to accommodate about any situation. For my usage the free CloudApp account is still sufficient. It works perfectly for that quick one-off screencast to show that less tech savvy buddy how how to change the font type in Pages. Record the screencast, upload to CloudApp, paste the link in an email. Simple.
Screeny doesn’t have any other “share-to” type integration but there is a little trick to speed up this process. QuickTime does a pretty solid job of sharing to YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook as well as iTunes, Mail, and iMovie. A Screeny preference can be turned on to open the recording immediately in QuickTime upon completion. This allows you to take advantage of QuickTime’s compression and sharing services. Why not just do the whole thing in QuickTime? Screeny records at a lossless quality which is higher than is possible with QuickTime. That on top of it just being easier to use are reasons enough to use Screeny and QuickTime in this situation.
Screeny will store all screenshots and screencasts in automatically created ‘Screeny’ directories in your Pictures and Movies directories. This wasn’t completely obvious to me having not used the previous version so I thought it was worth mentioning. The default store areas cannot be changed. This used to be possible in previous versions, but as I understand it changes with Lion throw a hitch in that functionality so it was removed for simplification purposes.
I don’t really have a problem with it. I think those to locations make about as much sense as any and this version of Screeny does add a little icon on the control window to open up the Screeny folder in the Movies directory for quick viewing. I haven’t had any problem with storage locations.
Folder icon that will open the Movies/Screeny directory
I had aspirations when beginning my review of Screeny that it would be that perfect screenshot and screencast recording application for me. While I’m not sure it hits that spot exactly for me just yet, I can say that it comes as close as any application I’ve tried so far (and I’ve tried many).
It lacks some features and functionality of the more robust and more expensive applications (that is actually a plus in my book) and it adds in just the right additional functionality lacking in more basic applications. There may still be situations when I’d love some additional Camtasia-like features, but with the additions made in this version I think they’ll be few and far between. And even with the additions Screeny is still dead simple and super fast to use.
As a bonus the app still maintains it’s price of $14.99. That seemed like a valid price with version one and it is definitely a valid price for version two. I haven’t found a better application in this space that has just the right amount of functionality while still being the prototypical, beautiful, easy to use Mac application at this price point. It’s definitely worth a try.