23 Things for Archivists

Thing 31: Screencasting

Based on Minnesota’s 23 Things on a Stick, with updates by Kathryn Otto

Screencasting is a way to capture what you see on your computer screen and turn those screen shots into a tutorial or other online show.

Screencasts are recordings of actions taking place on a computer screen. Free software like Wink, Jing, Screen-O-Matic, and others let you record mouse movement, windows opening and closing, menus activity, forms being filled in and so on. Just about anything that happens on the screen can be recorded. Depending on the program, the recordings can be edited to delete sections and to add arrows, text, and other graphics. In some programs, you can add audio (if you have a microphone) to add more explanation of what’s happening on the screen.

The final product is a video that users can view on a web page or download to their computer. Do your archives patrons have trouble using your website or finding things in your catalog? Do they not know what a finding aid is and how to use it? You can create a video explaining any of these things using just screen shots and text, or using screen shots and audio. Then put the video on your website and/or on YouTube and link to it.

There are many free and commercial screencasting products. The commercial products like Camtasia and Captivate have many more features; if you really get into this you should consider one of those. For most of us though, the free tools will work and will definitely give you a good introduction to screencasting.

Here are some examples of screencasts. There are hundreds (thousands?) more on the Internet:

Screencast Tools to Explore

* These commercial products have many additional features, like quizzes, branching, video integration, sophisticated controls, and more.


  1. Check out one or more of the following:
  • Jing:  Watch the video tour (the link is at the top/left of the page) and decide whether or not to download Jing to your computer (it is free, quick, and easy). Once you download it, a yellow spot appears in the upper part of your browser. Hover your cursor over the spot to select which Jing function you want: Capture Images, Record Video, and more.
  • Skitch: Watch the demo and then download it for free. Reading the personal testimonies will help you see the value of Skitch.
  • Watch this Screen-O-Matic screencast on how to make a screencast. Then watch this one on how to how to embed your Screen-O-Matic screencast in your blog. Lots more tutorials.

2.    Using your preferred tool, create a brief screencast and drop it into your blog. It doesn’t need to be longer than 15-30 seconds. Ideas:

  • A How-To:
    • Post to your blog
    • Embed a video in your blog
    • Navigate your archives web site front page
    • How to search for something on Ancestry (or HeritageQuest, etc.)
  • Show us your holiday/birthday/vacation photos
  • You get the idea–anything goes.

Blog Prompts

  1. Which of the services did you explore? What made you choose the one you used?
  2. How easy was it to use? Intuitive? Too hard?
  3. Can you see using this for your archives? Personally?


  1. […] Thing 32: Customized Home Pages Thing 33: More Photo Sharing Thing 34: Google Maps/Mashups Thing 35: Screencasting Thing 36: Online Scrapbooks Thing 37: Clipmarks Thing 38: Sound Effects Thing […]

  2. […] are not included on the library list; they are Thing 35 on the archives […]

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