Blog Post

Camtasia vs. ScreenFlow: Creating Your First Screencast


If you have need to visually demonstrate your product, and you have the resources, then it just makes sense to produce a screencast. With the release of ScreenFlow 2.0, I thought it’d be useful to perform a real-world comparison review of the screencast heavyweight champ versus the relative newcomer (at least to the Mac), Camtasia.

Getting Started

I started this comparison by creating the same video in both Camtasia and ScreenFlow. Both applications are very straightforward to setup and get going in creating the screencast. Camtasia gets a little bit of an edge for configuration because, unlike ScreenFlow, you do not have to install a separate audio driver.

However, once you get started recording, both applications provide you with a simple countdown prior to recording. As a primer, try to write your script prior to recording. This way, you will have a consistent experience for your customer once you complete production.

Please note, I did not try to record a screencast across multiple displays or using an external microphone. I used what most of us have — a MacBook (or a desktop) and the built-in microphone.

Basic Editing

After I recorded the basic screencast, I was presented with the Editor window within each program:

ScreenFlow main screen

Screenflow Main Window


Camtasia Main Window

Both programs have very similar editing experiences using a timeline. ScreenFlow has the added advantage of separating out the audio from the video portions of the recording. This is a great experience, because you can also add another voiceover quite easily. In contrast, Camtasia merges the audio and video. It wasn’t easily discoverable how to add or change the existing audio recording. With my limited skills, being able to re-record the audio as a separate track was very handy.

Enhancing Your Screencast Recording

Each has a plethora of features to modify your recording.

  • Cropping: Remove extra portions of the video that you don’t need.
  • Trimming: Remove any extra (or bad) audio/video from the timeline.
  • Playback tools: Play, reverse, fast-forward.
  • Import Media: Additional audio, video or images.
  • And a whole lot more…

What’s nice is that as you begin to explore more in ScreenFlow and Camtasia, they both provide simple video tutorials to show you how to use the features. For someone new to creating screencasts, this is very helpful.

Here are a few glimpses of the app once I inserted some text, graphics and transitions.

ScreenFlow - Inserts

ScreenFlow: with additional text box and transitions

Camtasia - InsertsCamtasia: with additional graphics, text and transitions

I did perform a little trimming (Camtasia calls this Delete or Ripple Delete) at the end of each video so that you can’t see me click/end the recordings (there is no way to avoid this, although it would be nice if both tools had this as an option). Both tools make this really easy to do.

Both applications have advanced audio capabilities. ScreenFlow has true audio ducking, or the ability to decrease the volume of one recording while another audio volume is increased. Camtasia offers audio transition effects, which offers some flexibility, but not anywhere near as rich as ScreenFlow.

Unfortunately, neither application has great iLife integration, so I can’t directly insert audio clips from GarageBand. I think this is a missed opportunity for both Camtasia and ScreenFlow.

The Victor

This is a tough call. However, I give the slight edge to ScreenFlow because of its ability to edit audio separately as well as its UI for editing different properties of a recording. I happen to prefer the overall Camtasia UI over ScreenFlow’s as it seems more like iMovie ’09 to me.

Ultimately, you have to decide which items are more important to you:

  • Features/Functionality
  • User Experience
  • Price

ScreenFlow 2.0 is priced at $99 (or $29 for an upgrade). Similarly, Camtasia 1.0.1 is currently priced at $99 (this is a promotional price, the web site shows the full retail for $149).

If you have limited funds, there is the screen recording capability in QuickTime X, a component of Snow Leopard. If you’ve already upgraded to Snow Leopard, then you have this option available. Otherwise, the Snow Leopard upgrade is $29. Please note that QuickTime X is nowhere in the same league as ScreenFlow or Camtasia. However, if you have a new Mac that includes Snow Leopard and iLife ’09 (which includes iMovie ’09), you can make some very simple Screencasts, excluding the fancier features available from either ScreenFlow or Camtasia.

The Videos

Don’t laugh, they’re horrible.



60 Responses to “Camtasia vs. ScreenFlow: Creating Your First Screencast”

  1. Back to Johanna’s post, I too, am thinking about doing it on Keynote and then transfer it over to iMovie, can someone give me a idea on what specifically I’d be missing?

  2. I have used Telestream products for years, and have had good support from them. We have spent thousands on them, and I think they are a good company. I believe C.Price’s story was an aberration. However, I can feel his pain, and Telestream was in the wrong. Hopefully they learned their lesson, though it meant losing a good customer and getting a black eye.
    I don’t think anyone should make their Camtasia vs. ScreenFlow decision based on the above story, though it was important to get it out.
    Base your decision on the technical merits of each product, and your own specific needs. Thanks for posting, Mr. Price.

  3. I just wanted to say that since my posting, Telestream, the company behind ScreenFlow have indeed made a kind offer as way of recompense for the way I was treated.

    Thank you for supportive postings on here, your comments and help were appreciated.

    I think it’s only fair to say that although the company did make an error in judgement, from the correspondence I have received since, I truly believe that this was probably a one off error due to new staff not understanding how to handle a particular situation, and I also believe them when they say they have now addressed this.

    So credit where it is due, they have sorted this out, although sadly we have now bought a competitors product, at least they have had the ‘guts’ to admit when something was handled poorly, and then done everything they could to rectify the issue.

    We will now continue to use the competitive product, but at least as I said in my original posting, I never had issue with how good ScreenFlow was, just in the way I was treated, and I bear Telestream no malice and thank them for rectifying the situation.

    My faith in ‘doing the right thing’ has been restored, so when making a purchase decision, try not to judge them too harshly, it’s not about pointing the finger when an issue arises, it’s how you deal with it and resolve it, and they have pulled out all the stops in the end to take away some of the bitterness I felt.


  4. @C.Price

    well after reading your post on this topic…I sent a scathing email to the company because I felt that your treatment was beyond atrocious and unacceptable…and I just received an email from someone there…that said they sent you complimentary licenses for the products in hope that you will not stop being a customer of theirs in the future…I think it was nice of them to do this…even if they should have done it in the first place…email sent will follow…and then their reply will be after…

    your company should be ashamed of yourselves…

    I just read the lengthy comment that was left on an article about your screen capture product on an Apple Blog site…

    and the way you handled the customer was unacceptable and down right ignorant…

    if your company makes a mistake you should cop to that mistake and make it right…

    instead you gave someone that would have brought you mounds of business a hard time and left them with a nasty taste in their mouth about your company…and therefore have lost him and his huge company as a client all over giving him a simple app that your site was advertising…

    it is not the consumers fault that your web team are idiots and even tho he sent you a screen cap of the site advertisement you still would not MAN UP to your mistakes…

    you do understand that things like that are called FALSE ADVERTISING and could in the future cause you to incur legal action
    but just refunding the guys money for the program and NOT making the situation right…was a wrong move…think about all of the other people that are going to read that story…and not bother to contact you like I am

    because they will never spend their money with your company…you will never have them a customer

    in these days…YOU CAN NOT SCREW OVER PEOPLE…because they will TAKE THEIR MONEY TO YOUR COMPETITOR…it’s just a fact…

    I’m sorry to even be writing this to you…but I really thought you should know how your company looks to me today…and will continue to look that way for years to come…one mistake…straw broke that camel’s back…that’s all it takes in these economic times…

    good luck
    I hope you start treating other people better than you did him…thank you

    Dear Sir/Madam:

    I am the Operations Manager at Telestream and was made aware of this situation today. I agree with you that this is no way to provide customer support. Telestream’s motto has always been “to do good by customers”. We have new technicians in our group and I failed to convey this very important concept to them. Please know that we take customer feedback very serioulsy and are addressing this issue.

    I did send a direct apology to Craig with an offer for complimentary licenses. I hope we haven’t turned him away from Telestream forever.

    Thank you for taking the time to submit your concern. If you would like to contact me directly to discuss further or if you have any other concerns, please feel free to call me at 530/470-1334.

    Best Regards,

    Mary Jo Addiego
    Operations Manager, Desktop Products

  5. @C.Price…

    good for you…don’t allow someone that thinks cuz they are running something that they get to bully you into being wrong when you are not…

    as it stands in the US that is called False Advertising…and as far as I know rarely battled in a court room…but could be…most companies are not stupid enough to put you thru what they put you thru and I hope that doesn’t happen again…

    thank you again for your story…I will NEVER give my money to Telestream

  6. Hi all,

    Just wanted to let you know about my own experience of ScreenFlow 2.0 and Camtasia, I think you may read this with interest, particularly when dealing with Telestream, the company behind ScreenFlow.

    I was recently given the task of selecting some screen casting software for my company, we have over 129 goegraphical sites throughout the United Kingdom and are the largest company in our field. We wanted to allow the managers to produce their own training videos for the many staff we have and reduce the time on the road for our trainers and managers visiting the various sites.

    I realised this could be done by producing a centralised resource of training videos, and so initially I both trialled and then purchased ScreenFlow V2 (SF), having being very happy with the performance and functions available in SF during the trial.

    On the day I purchased SF, on their website they had a banner running which said that when you bought SF, you got a studio version of Flip4Mac as well for free, so price for price this swayed me that SF was a better deal than Camtasia.

    Upon downloading the software I noticed that there wasn’t a link to download Flip4Mac which should have been a free download. I queried this with the publishers and was then told that the free deal finished in December 2009, even though I had seen the banner that morning (Feb 2010) and asked them to honour the deal as this had influenced my purchase.

    Firstly I was made to feel like I was lying about seeing the banner, being asked to provide a screen shot, which I did, then after several e-mails backwards and forwards it became obvious that ‘Telestream’ the suppliers of screenflow were not going to honour their offer, even though it was their mistake by leaving an old banner on the website.

    Anyway to cut a long story short Telestream, promptly refunded the money rather than admit an error and just supply the free software which would have cost them a few cents.

    Instead they decided to lose a previously happy customer who had not only already bought non-studio versions of Flip4Mac at home, but who was also looking to recommend and purchase more of their software for his company.

    We all know the customer isn’t always right, despite the old saying, but in this case I feel justified in saying that the advertising error was on their part and with a smallgesture of good will they could have kept me as a happy customer.

    For really poor after sales service alone, I wouldn’t purchase from Telestream ever again. Perhaps Telestream will learn a lesson from this, notably that you need much more than a good product, you need great customer service, and “Usually the customer is right!”.

    I don’t know what laws apply in this instance, but certainly in the UK where I’m from, if you advertise something incorrectly then you normally have to sell at that wrongly marked price, or incorrectly worded offer.

    The plus side ….

    I did lots of homework and after trialling it decided to specify Camtasia for our large company, and whilst I know it doesn’t do everything ScreenFlow does at this moment in time, it does do things that ScreenFlow can’t, as the old english saying goes “It’s swings and roundabouts”.

    One thing I would say is that I find the workflow using Camtasia for Mac brilliant, our company is loving the stuff being created, and with truly professional looking results.

    The facility to publish your edits as Flash Video, where the software creates all of the html and supporting files for you automatically is also genius, it takes me seconds to export the data and upload it on to our web servers, what a great and useful option!

    As a company I can say without reservation that we are looking forward to future releases of Camtasia for Mac, and our training productivity is at an all time high!

    • C. Price: Your hope, that Telestream would learn a lesson from this, has been realized. This topic was the subject of some heated meetings today, I assure you. I can only apologize, most sincerely, for your unpleasant experience. Our customer service usually receives rave reviews, and it saddens me that your experience was so contrary. While I realize that you have found another solution, I would love to continue this conversation — I would greatly appreciate it if you would contact me directly.


      Christine Porter
      Community Manager
      Telestream, Inc.

  7. @Johanna, if the video settings are correct, you shouldn’t get “fuzzyness” with either iMovie or Keynote. However, with both Camstasia and ScreenFlow, the video is very clear and you can hardly tell it’s a video if you pause the player and leave it there. An observer might think he’s looking at a real desktop. ;)

  8. Perhaps the most notable deficiency of Camstasia over ScreenFlow right now, is the inability of Camstasia to record another display. When you do screencasts, you want to read a script, see other movie to follow, etc. Since both programs record all the screen (and not a portion), which you can later crop, it’s sometimes best to do the screencast on a secondary smaller display. With camstasia this is not possible without changing your display’s order and setting the smaller as primary, which is very annoying.

    Both programs offer a good amounts of options. Maybe Camstasia’s UI is a little bit more intuitive at some points and looks more modern(ish) (whatever that means). For what both offer, the price tag on ScreenFlow makes it a winner. Let’s hope both improve and we have to choose like VMware and Parallels :)

    • Telestream, the makers of ScreenFlow, also have a program called VideoCue. VideoCue is a teleprompter like program which also allows you to record video of the person speaking. Many people use it exactly as you describe so they can read the script on a second monitor while they present/capture the first monitor.

  9. Just to clarify – I am hoping to get answers to these questions:
    (1) Will I get a clearer, crisper .mov using either of these products than I do with iMovie.
    (2) Is there a difference in the upload time from either screencast softwares to websites?

    Thanks. I’m new at this.

    • Johanna, video is compressed to make the file smaller. A variety of codecs (COmpressorDECompressor) are available, both for the original capture, and the final delivery. The codecs you use and its settings will determine the size, data rate, upload time, download time, etc., in addition to its quality. Other factors are the capture and final frame sizes…i.e. 640×480, etc., frames per second, and the nature of the captured content. There are many variables to consider. Most are APPLICATION INDEPENDENT. Some apps may make it easier by offering presets for specific delivery, to get you started. Most authors experiment with different codec settings to get what works best for them. Kind of like making chocolate chip cookies…

  10. I’m hoping someone can advise me. I’ve created a few Keynote presentations which I recorded through Keynote and then imported with iMovie and did my editing in iMovie the export the .mov to my websites. It sounds like iMovie has a lot of the features discussed here. Is there an advantage to using Screenflow or Camtasia over iMovie?

    The biggest problems I have with imovie is (1) my presentations don’t
    look like the original recorded Keynote – they are slightly washed-out looking and a little fuzzy, and (2) the download time to my website takes sooooo long.

    Can anyone help?


  11. H.264 MOV (ScreenFlow) is already Flash compatible. There is no need to convert. MOV has been Flash compatible since December 2007 (over 2 years ago)

    Q: Will Flash Player 9 Update 3 support non-FLV files?

    A: Yes, with this update, Flash Player will also support files derived from the standard MPEG-4 container format such as MP4, M4A, MOV, MP4V, 3GP, 3G2 if they contain H.264 video and/or HE-AAC encoded audio.

  12. Thank your for your comparision
    I use Screenflow which is great and powerful. But the screenflow output is in MOV format, so i have to get screencast to my website with Doemisoft video to flash converter for mac to convert the mov to Flash first
    Luckily the video to flash mac converter is useful and not only has the ability to convert video to flash, but also automatically embed the video in an HTML webpage, no need to actionscript. And I can customize the flash video with wonderful flash player, amazing special effect and cool preloader.
    It’s worth to try.

  13. Thank you for the review.
    It is really cool that both Camtasia and Screenflow product post here.
    I ended up getting Camtasia for Mac since I already have it for the PC and it is what my Professor uses for the classes I take.
    Good to see that both products are great.

  14. Is Camtasia superior to post the output on a website using a flash player. It appears that
    “ScreenFlow cannot directly export to Flash (SWF or FLV). We recommend using Episode Encoder media encoding to transcode your ScreenFlow QuickTime export into an FLV or SWF file.

    Any thought on that area?


  15. That’s not perfectly true. Camtasia uses SoundFlower, but ScreenFlow also depends on SoundFlower. They just don’t call it “SoundFlower”. They call it “Special Audio Driver”. SoundFlower is an audio driver. It’s possible to use the SoundFlower engine, rewrite it and install a new audio device which then can be used to capture system and software audio.
    The application just automatically re-routes system audio through their custom SoundFlower device. (That’s what I think is possible with SoundFlower…)
    BTW: Audio Hijack Pro and almost any audio capturing utility uses in some way SoundFlower.

    • Zettt,The developers of ScreenFlow wrote their own driver. Please don’t use conjecture as if it were fact.

      Please read my tag below. I communicate with the developers regularly as I provide online support for ScreenFlow.

      Telestream ScreenFlow Support Forum Moderator

  16. ScreenFlow installs an audio driver whereas Camtasia requires you to use a third party free app, SoundFlower. Installing and setting up SoundFlower involves additional steps. It also makes that app reliant on a third party developer for a mission critical function.

    I do love and use SoundFlower for many things and it too works with ScreenFlow. An example of what the dependency issue can mean was when OS 10.6 came out SoundFlower was not yet compatible. It was updated within days but having to depend on a third party app is a risk in my opinion.

    You’ll also see the ScreenFlow does a great job capturing at full frame rate. Try something demanding like a Hulu TV show for example. Reviewers have noted that. In addition many have reported that ScreenFlow uses lower CPU% which can be important when capturing in some CPU demanding situations.

    The current version of ScreenFlow is 2.0.1 which fixes a few things some may be alluding to.

    Telestream ScreenFlow Support Forum Moderator

  17. great article…nice comparisons…new to this blog but like what I see so far

    question…what about iShowU and iShowU HD?

    are these products not in the running any longer or what?

    thanks guys

    • Alexis, I did not include iShowU/iShowU HD in this particular head-to-head. If I had done a broader review, it would have been more informative (for example, here are all of the screencast tools available) vs. comparative (what you see now).

  18. Love ScreenFlow 2. No problems. Easy to set up. Great new features. No brainer of a choice for me. I have two computers where I do screencasting and I could never get Camtasia for the Mac to work on one of my machines. After 7 weeks of work with tech support at Techsmith I had to ask for a refund. But in my limited testing, I found that I actually preferred the ScreenFlow interface over Camtasia.

    Overall it’s nice to have the competition between these 2 products—especially since SnapzPro has been dead for a few years now (officially they are “actively developing” the product, but it’s hard to find someone who believes them).

    It’s not clear to me that Camtasia will end up being the better product in the end. I really have no idea if one will end up being significantly “better.” For now I need to make a fair number of screencasts in the next 12 months—so I have to go with the best product at this time for my needs. If that changes in 5 years then I’ll change products.

  19. I’ve been doing a lot of research on ScreenFlow and Camtasia and this is by far the best review of both and best discussion I have come across, thanks.

    I’m trying to decide which to go with. I was (am?) leaning towards ScreenFlow but Matt’s comment above of “…as Camtasia is enhanced, it will surpass ScreenFlow. Further, it’s discomforting to see the feedback here as well as on Twitter the # of folks having issues with the 2.0 upgrade.” Makes me think that long term Camtasia may be the better choice to go with.

    Hard decision to make for me right now, I was planning to purchase one or the other next week.

    I’ll be checking back here daily to help me make my decision.


    • troy stein

      Hi Brian,

      they are both great apps. I would download em and give em a try. One advantage of Camtasia:mac is that the output is not watermarked, so you can use it for work while you are testing it.

      Troy Stein
      Camtasia for Mac Product Manager

  20. DJ – I did not try recording video at the same time, so I am unsure.

    Everyone – it turns out that there is a mistake in this post. Camtasia:Mac does in fact separate audio from the video. It just isn’t discoverable unless you right-click the combined stream and tell them to separate.

    I do believe that both apps are quite close in functionality and expect that as Camtasia is enhanced, it will surpass ScreenFlow. Further, it’s discomforting to see the feedback here as well as on Twitter the # of folks having issues with the 2.0 upgrade.

  21. I think Screenflow is the one for me because of its better audio edits.

    But can it record video that is playing live onscreen?

    And can you crop your Screenflow image to include just the video, or a small part of the screen around it?

  22. Almost anyone of us at Mac OS X Screencasts uses ScreenFlow.
    It’s interface is just beautiful to use and the implemented callouts are much more usable than Camtasia. I am one of those lucky ones who have both applications installed. Recently I did a screencast for Audi and was forced to use Camtasia. Camtasia is great, the editing is much better than in ScreenFlow, but the callouts and how the callouts are actually “called” is horrible. ScreenFlow has a function to zoom in on the mouse cursor or the foreground window. Camtasia has the same functionality, but it’s 100% unusable in my eyes.

    I have to admin that SF2.0 is currently bugging me like **@#45!!! I was recording a screencast of Blogo and MarsEdit yesterday. Both screencasts have been edited (with zoom and callout and everything), but when I added my custom intro and outro movie to the screencast SF2.0 crashes on save and sometimes corrupts the file in a way that it can’t be opened anymore.

    • troy stein

      Hi Zettt,

      If you’d be willing, I’d love to get more details about how we can improve the zooming functionality of Camtasia. I’m the product manager for it. Feel free to post your comments (good and bad– all are welcome) here or email me directly at t.stein at

      Troy Stein
      Camtasia for Mac Product Manager

    • Hi Troy,

      May I send you a screencast on that feature?

      I was only mailing with your (I suppose) marketing team (Betsy). Didn’t know that Techsmith is interested in our/my feedback.
      That thing should be ready tomorrow.

      Thanks for your offer. It’s much appreciated.

  23. rickdude

    Thanks for the tips on how to find this blog through Google!

    I like Screenflow, but I’ve had problems upgrading. I downloaded version 2, overwriting version 1 (not a good idea, I know), and now Screenflow takes over my whole system, slowing everything to a crawl, to the point where I can’t even launch Activity Monitor to quit it. And it won’t let me upgrade my licence. Anyone else have similar problems?

  24. Barry – I don’t recall this in v1.0.1. I will try to reproduce with a clean install. Either way, the separate audio driver should be packaged up in an installer and/or with more explanation as to why it needs to be installed. It’s an odd user experience to install bits post “install” aka “drag-and-drop”.

    Dan – thanks for the feedback. Both apps really are excellent. I think Camtasia would really take the lead if it was more in parity with its Windows sibling. I don’t expect Techsmith or Telestream to rest on their laurels, which means only great things to come for us users.

  25. Matthew, thanks for the comparison. I used to use Camtasia (and TechSmith’s Jing) on Windows, but after switching to Mac two years ago I eventually started using ScreenFlow 1.0 when it became available and have been extremely pleased with it. I have not yet upgraded to SF 2.0, so this was interesting to read. I’m pleased to see ScreenFlow has added text overlays and transitions, which were two very glaring omissions in the 1.0 product.

    Like Toni, I’ve not had *any* problem with ScreenFlow and audio drivers on either of two Mac systems (a MacBook Pro and an iMac). I just installed it and started recording right away using both the computer audio and the internal microphone. Again, though, this was ScreenFlow 1.0.

    Thanks again for the comparison.

  26. Thanks for the comparison, Matthew, very interesting. I personally use ScreenFlow, for many of the reasons you stated. I was surprised that you said ScreenFlow required you to install a separate audio driver. I’ve NEVER had to do that (neither with my original installation, or my just updated version 2.0). And I have several colleagues that use SF, that have not had to install an audio driver… I wonder if that is something specific with your set-up?

    As for the incompatibility with GarageBand – I agree, that’s one area that could be improved. But the way I get around it is to record (with ScreenFlow) a separate audio track of my GarageBand music playing. Then I just drag that into a new ScreenFlow project to use as background music.
    thanks again!