Best Open-Source Screen Recorders

Edited by Ben Jacklin

March 25, 2021

There are many reasons why you might want to film your screen rather than taking a screenshot. Sometimes a still image isn't enough, and what you really want is a video showing the action on the screen. To achieve this, you will need specialized open-source screen recording software.

As with most software, screen recorders are not created equal. While there is free and open-source video capture software, they generally lack the flexibility and options of paid video editors.

Fortunately, we've helped you gather 12 open source software for different OS that you will no doubt fall in love with. These include OBS Studio, ShareX, CamStudio, VirtualDub, Simple Screen Recorder, Record My Desktop, Captura, UltraVNC, ScreenCam, Freeseer, Kazam, and XVidCap.

List of Best Open-Source Video Capture Software

Best for: Professionals

OS: Windows

Rating: 4.6/5 stars, 465 reviews

OBS Studio is open-source software that is not really intended for beginners. However, it is primarily aimed at those who want to stream on YouTube or Twitch. However, it can also be used to film what is happening on your Windows desktop. You can control the program via customizable hotkeys and use the built-in audio mixer to create excellent quality videos. OBS comes with live streaming capabilities that you won't find in native programs of major operating systems, in addition to screencast options. You can find help on their site, but to save you time, when using OBS Studio for the first time, click + in the Sources area and then select Display capture.

You will then see your desktop appear; you can specify the monitor if you have more than one. It will happily shoot games in full screen with game capture, which a lot of software refuses to do. OBS is powerful software, especially for a free product with so many features. It is a comprehensive tool for live streaming and recording.

Pros:

  • Connects easily to streaming services
  • Switchable from one source to another during the broadcast
  • Easy to edit and design with

Cons:

  • The user interface could be better

Best for: Users of Windows 10, 8, 7

OS: Windows

Rating: 4.8/5 stars, 60 reviews

ShareX is an open-source video recorder for Windows users. There is no watermark or time limit; you can use the completely free recorder to record the entire screen, window, or selected area. It is an excellent alternative if you don't want OBS but want an OBS-level quality. The source code of the project remains hosted at GitHub's code development and code-sharing platform. The software is available for Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 7. There are no advertisements, and it is lightweight.

Pros:

  • Allows you to customize recording size, such as a full screen
  • You can save video as GIF
  • You can directly edit the recording image
  • Light, free, and ad-free

Cons:

  • Cannot get the game screen to full screen
  • The interface is not intuitive

Best for: HD screen recording

OS: Windows

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

CamStudio is open-source software that is wholly made free for personal and commercial projects. It has not been updated since 2013 and only produces videos in AVI and SWF format. However, it can be used to record part of your screen and add captions if you are creating for Facebook or if you just don't want your voice. Best of all, it doesn't add a watermark. However, we regret that CamStudio does not have the post-capture editing tools that you will find elsewhere.

Pros:

  • Available for free
  • No watermarks

Cons:

  • Only SWF format available
  • Not updated
  • Prone to malicious software

Best for: Professional video editors

OS: Windows

Rating: 4.2/5 stars, 79 reviews

VirtualDub is an open-source screen recorder that works with 32-bit and 64-bit Windows systems. What's more, it's also a powerful video editor so that you can fine-tune your screen recordings in the same app. It is a lightweight and lag-free screen recorder. It offers advanced features, such as noise reduction.

Pros:

  • Set the frame rates
  • Monitor the input level in real time
  • Use shortcuts and a keyboard to control it
  • Support for MPEG-1 and Motion-JPEG decoders

Cons:

  • The video editor is pretty basic
  • This open-source screen recorder is only available on PC

Best for: Linux users

OS: Linux

Rating: 4.5/5 stars, 11 reviews

The Simple Screen Recorder is open-source software that is used for recording games and other running applications on your display screen. The open-source screen capture software is simple to use yet very powerful with rich features and a user-friendly interface.

Pros:

  • Can record screen partially or entirely
  • Offers pause and resume functions
  • Preview supports during recording
  • Shows video recording stats

Cons:

  • Only for Linux

Best for: GNU/Linux and FreeBSD

OS: Linux, GNU

Rating: 5/5 stars, 8 reviews

RecordMyDesktop is a basic command-line tool for screen recording on Linux. There are two GUI versions which are based on GTK and QT4, from where users can select a window and start screen recording. The open-source recording software is a lightweight screen recording tool that doesn't take up much disk space. You can record from the user interface or with a command line. It also lets you save video recordings with audio in OGG Theora and OGG Vorbis.

Pros:

  • Light screen recorder
  • Single window screen recording supported
  • Two ways of recording
  • Simple installation

Cons:

  • Only makes recordings in Ogg Vorbis

Best for: Game recording

OS: Windows

Rating: 4.8/5 stars, 21 reviews

Captura is open-source recording software whose source code is available on GitHub under MIT license term. Captura is free, and you wouldn't need to pay a dime. It is available in more than 30 languages that are easily translatable. Asides from being free, the software doesn't display ads.

Pros:

  • Available for free
  • Completely ad-free
  • Available in up to 30 languages

Cons:

  • None

Best for: Windows 7, 8, and later

OS: Windows 7, 8, and 10

Rating: 3.8/5 stars, 5 reviews

UltraVNC is a screen recorder that looks similar to CamStudio.

This screen recorder is built from the old source of Rendersoft CamStudio. It wasn't written from scratch by the developers. They just added and removed some codes to make things faster. The software even gives an acknowledgment to its original creators. But it still has its uniqueness.

Pros:

  • It can be connected over most browsers
  • Has text chat
  • You can make file transfer

Cons:

  • It doesn’t support remote printing
  • Router changes required on server's network

Best for: Windows and Android

OS: Windows and Android

Rating: 3.6/5 stars, 10 reviews

ScreenCam is a Windows-based screen recorder that is designed for Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 8. There is even a version for Android. It offers a virtual camcorder which you can use to record everything on a Windows desktop. It adds quality interactivity to the elegant package.

Pros:

  • High-performance recorder
  • Easy to use
  • Videos can be exported to the internet
  • Makes videos available in CD, DVD, email formats
  • It doesn’t require root access

Cons:

  • Problem working on Windows 98

Best for: Presenters and conference staff and instructors

OS: Linux and Windows

Rating: N/A

Freeseer is an open-source project made in Python/Qt4. It's aimed at recording screencasts on Linux and Windows platforms (Mac not yet available). It allows the recording of a specific region of the screen, recording by software or hardware, setting different resolutions, or even streaming.

Pros:

  • Can record with command line
  • For Windows and Linux
  • Records partial and the entire screen

Cons:

  • Not for Mac

Best for: Ubuntu

OS: Linux

Rating: N/A

Kazam is a powerful but straightforward screen recorder that can be used on a Linux desktop. With this, you can capture screen content, record video files, and also audio (optionally) from a compatible input device. It is available in the repositories of Universal Ubuntu. You can also make use of any stable PPA due to delays on Ubuntu repository versions.

Pros:

  • Simple to use
  • Support for the delay timer
  • Simple user interface
  • Support for various video output

Cons:

  • No support for Webcam recording

Best for: Recording PPSSPP

OS: X-Windows

Rating: N/A

XVidCap is a small tool for capturing everything on X Windows. It makes videos available in MPEG.

Although it has a lot of bugs, due to its open-source nature, any developer can make a contribution to the software to improve it. The software has an audio recording option, and you can record the entire screen.

Pros:

  • Supports audio recording
  • Open to developers
  • Can record your entire screen

Cons:

  • Poor GUI control interface
  • No prompt for the project folder

Comparing Open-Source Screen Capture Software

Below is how the software above compares to each other in terms of operating system compatibility, pros, and cons.

Software

OS

Pros

Cons

1. OBS StudioWindowsConnects easily to streaming services. Easy to edit and design withThe user interface could be better
2. ShareXWindowsRecording size customizable. You can save video as GIFCannot get the game screen to full screen. The interface is not intuitive
3. CamStudioWindowsAvailable for free. No watermarksNot frequently updated. Prone to malicious software
4. VirtualDubWindowsMonitors the input level in real time. Support for MPEG-1 and Motion JPEG decodersThe video editor is pretty basic. Only available on PC
5. Simple Screen RecorderLinuxCan record screen partially or entirely. Offers pause and resume function. Preview supports during recording. Shows video recording statsOnly for Linux
6. Record My DesktopLinux, GNULight screen recorder. Single window screen recording supported. Two ways of recording. Simple installationOnly records in Ogg Vorbis
7. CapturaWindowsAvailable for free. Completely ad-free. Available in up to 30 languagesNone
8. UltraVNCWindows 7, 8, and 10It can be connected over most browsers. Has text chat. You can make file transferIt doesn’t support remote printing
9. ScreenCamWindows and AndroidHigh-performance recorder. Easy to use. It doesn’t require root accessProblem working on Windows 98
10. FreeseerLinux and WindowsCan record with command line. Records partial and the entire screenNot for Mac
11. KazamLinuxSimple to use. Support for the delay timer. Simple user interface. Support for various video outputNo support for Webcam recording
12. XVidCapX-WindowsSupports audio recording. Open to developers. Can record your entire screenPoor GUI control interface

How to Choose Open-Source Screen Recording Software?

Do you want to make video tutorials on your computer or on smartphones and tablets to share with other people to show them the use of some software or applications? If yes, you've seen the 12 best software that can perform this function.

In this section, we'll see how to choose an open-source screen recorder. But first, what is open-source screen recording software?

Open source screen recording software are often free video grabbing software that allows users to share and contribute. With a screen recording program, you can capture what happens on the display of your PC, laptop, or mobile device.

You can even record the taps you make on the screen with your fingers, cursor movements, or the moment you type a URL in the browser bar.

You can usually also record audio and, with some tools, make annotations on the screen.

Next, we're going to look at the things you should watch out for a while looking for open-source screen recording software.

Type of Software

The million-dollar question remains: which tool or app to use? You can find many on the market, and they all offer different features. There is desktop software that works with Windows PC or Mac.

Some are online services that can be accessed by virtually all devices and computers. Some are web extensions that are installed in a web browser. Meanwhile, some are programs that have to be downloaded and installed.

Software or Online?

In our list of screen recording programs, you've found online sites, browser-based software, and desktop applications with essential functions.

The fundamental difference between programs and online sites to record the screen is that with the former, you can work offline, while with the latter, you cannot.

For obvious reasons, if you want to use a site, your PC or laptop must be connected to the network. With desktop software, on the other hand, you can record your screen wherever you are and at any time, with or without the internet.

For example, if you're looking for a program to record gameplay, browser-based software is probably not the best option. If you want to create a tutorial instead, it might be the right solution.

Watermark

Watermarks are unsolicited ads automatically inserted into videos made with freeware or software used under trial. However, the best open-source screen recording software should come with no watermark. There are many top free screen recording programs that do not leave any watermark on their videos. These include OBS Studio, ActivePresenter, QuickTime, Screencast O-Matic, TinyTake, Debut Video Capture, Apowersoft, AZ Screen Recorder, and more.

Software Features

Some software offers several recording modes, including full screen and selectable area. Some allow you to annotate video in real time and apply callouts, lines, text, and more without pausing.

Thanks to the intuitive and smartphone-specific functions, all you have to do is connect your PC and smartphone to the same WiFi network and start casting.

You can use some of this software for both screen capture and webcam video.

Others allow users to zoom, draw while adding overlays on their video files. These features are very convenient because they allow you to share your recordings on YouTube with no need to download any desktop program.

Some are capable of saving videos in just a couple of formats, while others can export the files for use on popular platforms like YouTube. Still, others, however, cannot record in HD.

That is why it is essential that you do some research and compare the various features of each program before downloading or installing one on your device.

Of course, your choice will directly depend on your goals. Maybe you don't need to record in HD, or you recently bought a video hosting plan and can do without exporting to a YouTube-compatible format. The best tool is simply the one that best suits your needs.

OS Compatibility

Perhaps the most crucial criterion, if you choose software that is not compatible with your computer or device's operating software, then it's all a waste of time and effort. While some are only compatible with Windows, some are compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux. Others only work with the Android operating system or iOS. So, ensure you're getting software that works for your computer or device's OS.

Format

This recording software should allow you to convert and save your recordings in all popular video formats, such as MP4, MOV, QT, and API. Other software will allow you to save to AVI, WMV, and the Flash formats, the FLV and SWF.

Saving and Sharing

The software must allow you to capture videos and let you save them into your computer's drive, phone memory, or an online cloud system. For easy upload on YouTube and other video hosting platforms, the software should allow you to share recordings.

Either way, the option you choose must meet these essential criteria:

  • It must be easy to use
  • It should be able to record both full screen and a specific area or window
  • It allows the user to make notes
  • It has a built-in audio and microphone system
  • It can record video from external sources
  • It is capable of exporting to various formats

Keep in mind that many of this software can record HD videos, but uploading them takes a long time; if your goal is to upload standard quality videos to the web, HD is not essential.

Meanwhile, we'd also advise you also to try out Movavi Screen Recorder. It's not open-source, but it's free and includes many features that will interest you.

Conclusion

Screen recording programs are much more intuitive today, and you can use them to do a variety of things with minimal effort. Many are available for free with the source code available publicly, allowing you to use, share, and contribute.

If you need to create tutorials or product descriptions, offer or request technical assistance or make video calls, whether you are looking for a more precise way to record your screen or just want to capture part of it, your PC or laptop screen recording program is not powerful enough. Then the listed software will help you out in sharing your gameplays, tutorials, or other video contents.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that Movavi Screen Recorder does not allow capture of copy-protected video and audio streams. Learn more

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best open-source screen recorder?

We've researched and found a couple of other open-source recording software which are also free and easy to use. These include:

  • Simple Screen Recorder
  • VirtualDub
  • CamStudio
  • ShareX

Still, OBS Studio is regarded by many as the overall best open source screen recorder. It is a free desktop screen recording program with which you can capture streaming video in high definition, with no time limit. You only need to select only the area that interests you or record the whole screen.

What is the alternative to OBS?

We already mentioned that OBS Studio is the overall best video recording software available on the market. However, if because of one reason or the other, you couldn't choose OBS, then programs such as ShareX, CamStudio, VirtualDub, Simple Screen Recorder, and Record My Desktop are great alternatives to OBS.

Meanwhile, you can also check our list of the 10 best OBS alternatives for more options.

How to choose an open-source screen recorder?

To choose an open-source screen recorder, first, ensure it is compatible with your operating system. You can decide whether you want a program that will be installed on your PC, browser, or a service that can be accessed online. Steer clear of ad-loaded programs or those which insert watermarks on videos.

Also, ensure the software makes videos available in the formats that you can access. Finally, an open-source screen recorder software must be open to contribution, with the source code made available publicly.