Camtasia 2021 - A critique
In April of this year I began a contract with OSPRI as a Learning Designer, with a lot of the work focused on the development of micro videos for staff training. The selection of software to use was ultimately my decision, but it was suggested that Camtasia would be the most effective tool.
Never having used Camtasia before, I investigated, agreed and then set about producing the micro videos. The following is a discussion about my experience with Camtasia for the first time over the past few months.
I have to start by saying that I decided early on not to describe this article as a review. The reason being is that I'm not intending to go into the detail of what Camtasia can do (that's demonstrated much more effectively in this superb video tutorial) but instead focus on how I use the software and some of the things I like or don't like about it. And because my belief is that it's important to call out software for how it could be improved, you'll find that a lot of the article is about things that I found frustrating with Camtasia...so I decided to describe the article as a critique.
But let's first look at why Camtasia was selected for use at OSPRI.
Why micro videos?
The system that OSPRI was launching 4 months after I arrived was a new system that will have functionality added to it over a series of minor (point) and major releases. The system itself isn't overly complex to use, but staff within the Contact Centre (in particular) needed to become familiar with it to support farmers making use of the system. The system itself allows farmers to create electronic versions of something called an Animal Status Declaration (ASD) form, which you can read about here and can also be filled out by farmers using printed ASD forms that OSPRI provide to farmers. The benefit of electronic ASDs is that the farmer can retain a copy, whilst simultaneously providing a copy to the receiving farmer and the transporter of the livestock.
The intention was to keep the face-to-face training brief (approximately 45 minutes) followed by 15-30 minutes of self-paced learning in a training environment. To support staff, two fact sheets were created by me, which linked to a series of these micro videos. These micro videos (as Camtasia describes them effectively) were intended to be brief overviews of certain aspects of the functionality of the MyOSPRI system. Here's an example of one of them that focusses on creating a farm-to-farm ASD...
Now you might look at that and immediately think "That seems more from the point of view of the farmer than the staff member" and you'd be right. In starting to plan out the micro videos, it became abundantly clear that the videos focussed on the functionality that farmers could use (as there is little that staff can do in the first release of the system) and so we realised that we could use the micro videos not only for training of staff, but also making them publicly accessible to support farmers. So logically, it was easier to focus each video on the external audience, whilst staff viewing them would also gain an understanding of the system.
I know it seems a bit backwards to be showing you a Camtasia-produced video to then explain why we opted to start using Camtasia, but we selected it because I felt that other software I have used in the past wouldn't work as easily:
- ScreenFlow - I have a personal license for this, but it is Mac only and couldn't be used on my work Windows laptop. It's interesting to note that some of the features in the recent announcement of Version 10 of ScreenFlow (notably titles and cursor smoothing) are features already available in Camtasia.
- Articulate Storyline - I'm not happy with the way in which Storyline captures video screen recordings. In terms of developing interactive modules, Articulate is superb, but I find its screen capture process frustrating and would have proved time-consuming to use.
- Adobe Captivate - Costly and complex for what we were wanting to achieve. I love the fact that in Captivate you can replace any screen capture background or asset with ease, but with the intention for the output to be micro videos, it would have meant spending a lot of unnecessary time 'tweaking' how Captivate is designed to behave, when we just wanted simplicity.
For that reason, and not to belittle it for its simplicity (more on that in a moment) Camtasia seemed the perfect tool.
Getting started with Camtasia
The next step was trying it out and convincing people that it should be purchased for me to use. Once the trial version was installed, I just went straight in and created a screen recording. Camtasia is very intuitive and if you've had experience with numerous screen recording applications and/or video editing applications, you'll feel very comfortable with it out of the box. Within a couple of hours I had a quick demonstration that included cursor highlighting, pan and zoom and more. One colleague commented that she couldn't believe I hadn't used the software before, considering how quickly I had produced my first clip, but I think that says more about how straight forward Camtasia is to use than about my expertise. By the end of the next day, I had taken a branded PowerPoint file that OSPRI staff use and incorporated that 'look and feel' within Camtasia to use as a Theme for all of the videos from then on. Then it was just a matter of getting the purchase approved, whilst I came up with a style guide that I wrote, outlining the do's and don't of using Camtasia at OSPRI.
Here's a couple of screenshots of that document that runs to 5 pages in total. It outlines the intention of the videos, but also gets into specific settings when using the software.
Why do I do this? First, because I'll forget otherwise :-) Secondly, consistency...and third, I've always taken an approach with the work that I do, that someone should be able to pick up my work easily if I move on. If I finish my contract or move on to other work, people shouldn't be dependent on coming back to me in order to take over that work. I also develop a document like this as a way of getting sign-off on the look and feel of the videos before I start making them. You don't want to be half way through your videos, only for someone to say that the look and feel or overall approach needs to change.
And finally, because this consistency pays off in ways you might not even realise it will! Check the section later on about "Copy properties" to see why having such a consistent approach to my recordings proved astoundingly useful.
Before the critique, some positivity
First, I found Camtasia very easy to use. It has quirks (everything else I'll be talking about later) but in terms of producing micro videos, that process was exceptionally easy. I could produce a first draft of a screen recording rapidly. For me, the significant work isn't really about the screen capture...it's the preparation for that screen capture. You want to have a script or storyboard of what you are going to record. I found myself writing down all the text that I was going to enter in fields etc so that when it came to the recordings, I was all set to go. I also found that it meant that I wasn't afraid to take my hand off the mouse at times when recording, review my script and then carry on...knowing that editing out that pause in the video would be easy. This result is a recording that just needs pauses removed, typing sped up in places and then a simple zoom and pan added where it's needed. Stunningly simple!
One tip if you have to use a test/development environment for your recordings. There were some typos with system text that we had spotted in the dev environment that hadn't been fixed yet. I have to say that I found correcting that in a Camtasia recording challenging at times. In one instance, I ended up using Firefox's ability to inspect and edit live web code as as way of correcting a typo on the page and simply recording that part of the process again.
Using the Inspector tool in Firefox you can adjust a web page to say virtually anything you want before you using it in a recording. Here's me playing around with the main page of Amazon.com
Replacing video with a new recording is a breeze, but unlike Adobe Captivate (where a whole screen image can be easily replaced or Photoshopped) replacing a graphic within a recording in Camtasia was challenging. This was because of the need to try and get the graphic to matching with the panning and zooming that I was doing at the time. If you were to look closely at some of the work that I did first for the MyOSPRI system, you might pick up the occasional visual glitch as I superimpose a graphic over a screen recording where the development environment had an issue.
Does this mean that I think Adobe Captivate would have been better because of how easy it is to swap out a static background image in Captivate screen recordings (Captivate's recordings are effectively comprised of a series of screen captured images)? No. Captivate would have been too complex for the body of work that I was doing and wouldn't have produced a free-flowing micro video in anywhere near the time that it took to do with Camtasia...or with the same simplicity.
Good professional development and certification
One of the things I hadn't noticed when the organisation purchased a Camtasia license (with 12 months maintenance included) was that it came with access to a Certification program! I was over the moon about this...as I like to learn and I like to have things to add to my CV that show I've engaged in professional development. I would describe the course as very comprehensive...very, very comprehensive! OK, what I'm trying to say is that I think there was too much content within each of the courses, but you were (as I did) able to skip a lot of the recordings and just go straight to answering the questions for each section. Here's a screen image of the certification course and the various topics that are discussed and you are quizzed on...
And at the end of it all, if you've passed all the quizzes, you get a lovely PDF certificate that you can share with others if people want to ensure that you received certification. And like any clever company, TechSmith makes the certificate valid for 2 years because (of course) they want you to come back and do the certification all over again at some stage.
Some new and hidden gems - Media Matte
In preparing this article, I watched some videos on YouTube and confess I hadn't even noticed the introduction of this new feature. It's great! And if you watch the following video, you'll see that it's mentioned and demonstrated early on - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Np8R0zEbPU
You can do amazing things with it
Camtasia is more powerful than you think. And if you're one of the very clever people out there (like this chap) you're able to do amazing things with it. This is a superb example of thinking outside the box and using Camtasia in a way I would have never had thought of - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=df7y-pzDat0
Auto-animate is amazing!
I'd love to be able to point you to more details about auto-animate that is available in the Mac only version of Camtasia, but I've struggled to find mention of it on the Camtasia website. In fact the only reason I noticed it was that it's mentioned in the following video. If you click the following link it will jump straight to the point at which the auto-animate feature is discussed - https://youtu.be/gtQNOkTHDPw?t=138
Amazing! It is Mac only at the moment (a lot more on Mac and PC differences to come) but I do see in the Camtasia Mac Change-log that it was introduced in April of this year. This is a massive time-saving feature for Mac users, but the fact that so little has been said about it is curious...perhaps they don't want to promote it so much because PC users won't be happy? But you think there would be at least one auto-animate specific tutorial on their website by now?
Even more positivity - Copy properties
One of the feature that I just thought was "useful" proved later to be even more so. "Copy Properties" is basically like the format brush within Word. It's a way to copy the settings for how a video clip is set and then paste (or apply) those properties to another clip. This is a massive time-saver! And without it, you'd end up having to look quite closely at zoom and placements values on one clip, in order to apply the settings across other clips.
Here's how it works. You place the play-head at the point at which you want to copy the properties of a clip and simply right-click and choose "Copy Properties"...
Then you go to the next video clip, place the play-head at the spot you want to apply the same values and choose "Paste Properties"...
Now, when I first used this, I just thought "OK, so that's a nice time saver". But when I got to the point where I needed to do a complete re-recording of some of the videos I had created, it suddenly became a godsend! Remember how I had previously talked about creating a document that outlined my approach to screen recordings? And that a consistent approach would pay off in the end? Here's where it did!
Take a look at the following image. This is a project where I had completely edited my recording, applied custom animations at various points and changed the properties of the video clips. What I've done in the image below, is move the previous version of this recording up to Track 3....and then, months later, I had to completely re-record this video as the layout of the MyOSPRI website had changed. What I realised quickly was that I could place this second recording into the existing project and then just work through copying and pasting the custom animations from the old recording (Track 3) to the new recording (Track 2)...and then, rather than have to spend time trying to figure out what zoom or placement settings I had used previously, I could literally "Copy Properties" on the old video clips and "Paste Properties" onto the new! Because my recording environment was so consistent, I saved an incredible amount of time by basically applying the old editing decisions I had made, to the new recording!
Was it perfect? No...not quite. But it saved a heck of a lot of time. The one issue I did come across (but this was my own doing) was when a recording had been done on my iMac Retina 5K initially and was now being replaced by a recording from my work PC. In that instance, with such drastically different resolutions, it was understandable that I would need to make some adjustments to the new clip.
Speaking of Mac and PC...one of the benefits that I thought that Camtasia would provide me was the fact that it was able to be used on both a Mac and PC. Given that Monday and Friday of each week is spent working from home on my Mac, I thought this was going to be fantastic. For those a bit confused at this point, typically most contractors don't walk into an organisation with their own laptop. I in fact don't own a laptop...and buying one for contracting would be semi-pointless. The past 2 years I have worked in organisations that wouldn't have allowed me to use my own laptop.
So, you go with whatever you are given, which usually these days is a PC laptop and (usually) 2 connected monitors. And you stick with what you have at home, which for me is a 5K iMac that I prefer to use instead of sitting at the tiny screen of a PC work laptop all day at home.
So I thought that using software that was available for both the PC and the Mac was going to make life amazingly simple. Instead, what happened was that swapping between Mac and PC so often made some surprising differences between the Mac and PC version of Camtasia become very apparent...and has created a lot of extra work that I have to carry out, that I wish was unnecessary.
Two operating systems...and not quite one application
So I need to stress why this is a big issue for me. As mentioned, I typically work Monday at home on my Mac, Tuesday to Thursday at work on my PC, and Friday at home on my Mac....although that can often change. As I type this, two weeks ago I did Tuesday and Friday at home and this week I did Monday to Wednesday at home.
Given that Camtasia is both a Mac and a PC application, I thought this would be fantastic experience of jumping between systems seamlessly. What I found instead, is an application that is not only inconsistent across platforms, but that has duelling file formats that aren't really the same for both OS's...and that astounds me.
The nearest comparison I can think of when I've experienced something like this before, is when Microsoft was phasing in the .docx extension for Word. There was a time when (if you didn't have the most recent version of Word) and someone sent you a .docx file, you needed to use a converter to open it as a .doc file. I can remember the frustration of sending someone a .docx file, only to find they weren't able to access it...and then having to either take them through the process of how they could convert the file, or what typically happened..."dumbing down" the document by saving it in the old format, to then send them a revised copy. I can just remember that for quite some time, I simply refused to use the new format, because of the grief that it kept causing when I sent it to people using older versions of Word.
It's kind of like that with the Mac and PC versions of the file format for Camtasia. You can't just think of it as using Camtasia at home and at work...you have to think of it as using "Camtasia for the PC" or "Camtasia for the Mac".
Now...to clarify. Yes, I do have Bootcamp on my iMac, but I don't want to spend two days a week working in the Windows environment on my iMac...and yes, do also have Parallels also...but I have never come across an application that I have felt happy enough to run in Parallels under Windows. I actually really don't like the fact that the makers of Articulate try and suggest that you can use Articulate Storyline on a Mac, only to find out that the means running the PC version through Parallels.
So how much of an issue is it? Well buckle up...it's going to take some explaining...
- The file on the PC that you create, may or may not contain all the media that you've used for that project. That decision is yours. It is possible to create a project file and for all the media to be stored automatically in a completely different location on your PC. This could lead to issues if you pass the project on to someone else and when they open the file, it reports that all the media is missing.
But thankfully, that's not how a default project works any more and that issue should gradually fade away.
Now, when you create a project file on a PC, the software is set to create what is described as a "standalone project". Whilst it looks like you are creating a single file, you'll see later than you're not really.
The one benefit that this does have is that you are less likely to experience this message in Camtasia, where the project file is struggling to locate the recording that is used within it...
...although I do have to say, I love the graphic that is used on the timeline when a recording appears to have gone missing...
- Even when you set up one file on a PC that contains/includes all the media, it isn't really one file...even if it looks like it. It's more of a folder disguised as a file...
...containing the media used in your project and (this is where it starts to get confusing)...another Camtasia project file by the same name, with the same extension...
- The standalone project file (not the file in the file but the standalone file...and yes, I'm being confusing on purpose) can (in theory) be shared with a Mac user 'as is', but you end up with an odd looking folder with an extension on it (which is very un-Mac like)....
And a folder that contains files such as a "desktop.ini" file that simply isn't needed...
- Instead, what you need to do on the PC, is export a version of this project ready to be used on a Mac...
OK, that seems fair. You can keep everything together in one file (actually a folder...but ignore that) on a PC as a standalone project, so that when you make recordings, it stores them in that folder. Great! Then you can package up that standalone project, ready to be used on a Mac and send it to the Mac user...great! Then the Mac user can unzip that package containing the standalone project and if they need to add some more screen recordings to it on the Mac, those recordings will end up in the same standalone project folder as everything else, right?
Just because you've brought over (from the PC) a "standalone project", doesn't mean that Mac treats it as a standalone project. The Mac treats it like a series of files and keeps storing recordings to the application's default location...not where this standalone project wants its files to be stored.
The only way to get those files all together in a folder again, is to either move the recordings into that folder manually, change the default recording location on the Mac every time you work on a PC folder, or package up the whole project for a PC at the end, so that finally, everything ends up in once place again.
Creating on the Mac
So if the PC has a specific "standalone project" file format...then everything is the same on the Mac, right? No, of course not...although maybe I should actually say "yes it is"...because what I really mean is that there are as many frustrations going from Mac to PC.
- The major difference is that the Mac does allow you to create one all-encompassing project file that contains everything you're using in your project...all media, everything...in just one file. Awesome. But note that the file extension is different to the PC...
- That one project file can be shared with a PC user 'as is', but you end up with an odd looking folder with an unusual extension on it....
And the folder contains some odd files that simply aren't relevant (like "bookmarks.plist" and "docPrefs")...
- Which means...you guessed it....to use your Mac project on a PC, you need to export a version that can be sent to a PC user...
So? Why is this an issue once you understand the process?
Can you understand how frustrating it is, when the person at the other end of this process...a person on a different type computer platform...is me the next day? From day-to-day, I have to consider where I will be working the next day and export versions of my projects to continue using them on a different computer. In 2021, that's insane!
Can you imagine having to do that with Word documents? This isn't exporting from one type of application to another application format...this is the same piece of software.
Virtually every day, I have to follow a process of saving a version for the other operating system, in case the next time I use that project, I'm on a different computer. Heck, even when I wrote this sentence, I had just spent Monday at home on my Mac, Tuesday at work on the PC, Wednesday and Thursday at home on my Mac and Friday on my PC at work. I absolutely applaud TechSmith for the fact that they have an application that runs on both platforms (come on Articulate!!) but you shouldn't have to spend time thinking "Wait, where am I working tomorrow?".
And god forbid if I get called in the morning and told "Hey, we need you in the office today" or I forget to do this. Typically that means having to dash to my iMac, export a PC-happy version of the project and upload it to OneDrive, before I can even consider going in to work.
Exporting projects for an alternate platform has just become an unfortunate daily norm.
Packaging up a version of each project at the end of the day (for the same software on a different operating system) isn't something I thought I'd find myself doing in 2021.
Mac and PC - Consistently Inconsistent
Those that work with me, know I love the ironic phrase "consistently inconsistent"...and I'm going to use it here when talking about Camtasia. First, I want you to take a look at the following image....it's of four options (2 Mac and 2 PC) that you have in Camtasia related to exporting. Specifically, they are the options to export from the top-right area of each application and the options to export from the export menu of each application...
See anything unusual? Notice any inconsistency? Well, here it comes...
- First column - The 'Export' options in the left menu and top-right of Camtasia in the Mac version are NOT THE SAME as each other
- Second column - The 'Export' options in the left menu and top-right of Camtasia in the PC version are NOT THE SAME as each other
- Top row - The 'Export' options in the top-right of Camtasia Mac and PC versions DO NOT MATCH
- Bottom row - The 'Export' options in the left menu of Camtasia Mac and PC versions DO NOT MATCH
None of this is consistent...and if you're jumping between desktops, it's so frustrating. Heck, even creating a cut in a video involves tapping 'S' on the keyboard on a PC, but requires 'Command-T' on a Mac! Even the keyboard shortcuts aren't the same! How have TechSmith not seen this as a usability issue in this day and age?!
Don't get me wrong...I'm quite OK with a Windows-only feature like the PPT add-in or the aforementioned auto-animate being Mac only (for now) but when the same feature appears to exist on both platforms but is implemented in a different way or with different menu options or keyboard shortcuts, that's crazy!
As you start to compare the two version of the program, there are just some strange decisions in layout or even missing functionality. Take a look at the following image...a side-by-side comparison of the PC interface (on the left) and the Mac interface...
What strikes me first is that the order isn't even the same between the same application on different systems. The layout isn't the same! I know this might seem like nit-picking, but these are modern applications and I'm surprised by the inconsistencies I've been finding.
You'll note that the PC also has an option for Captions, but this is for dealing with captions on the PC only. Again, you'll start to see significant differences between applications if you look at the different ways to do captioning.
But look at that final Mac option..."Gesture effects". Let's look at what they are on the Mac version...
As you can see, on the Mac you have the ability to add in a double-tap, pinch, swipe, tap or tap and hold effects, like your using a tablet or an iPhone. But you can't add these gestures so easily to your recording when using the PC version of Camtasia! Why? Does TechSmith assume people editing on a PC don't want these add these gestures into a recording? Or that PC users don't need to edit recordings from iOS devices? Why is there such a difference between applications? Is it simply that TechSmith haven't figured out how to do this on the PC side? I'm just going to have to assume that's the reason.
This really hit me when I was asked (at work) to quickly create a video that highlighted the use of our website on both an iPhone and an Android mobile device. First, recording the iPhone at home on my Mac would have been much easier (Camtasia for Mac and an iPhone work nicely together) but I just used the inbuilt recording feature on iOS to make the iPhone version. The Android phone (which was running Android 10) needed an app installed. Once recorded though, it was easy to get the videos into Camtasia on the PC. The problem is, I then couldn't use the gestures that I wanted to on the videos of the phone screens...this is a Mac-only feature and I was stuck at work. TechSmith offer no real advice on a workaround, either in the PC application or on their website. They're possibly in denial.
So, I decided to complete the project at home on my iMac. I then knew that I needed to (as always) package up this version, to continue working on it on the PC...so I went to the option to create a project of the PC and was presented with this warning...
So what do you think "Partially Supported" means? Well, if you asked someone "Hey, what does a feature being partially supported mean?" I'm pretty sure they wouldn't say back to you "It means it's not supported at all"...and yet, if you click the question mark icon in the dialogue, you're taken to a page that tells you just that...
It means that you are left in a situation where you have a piece of software on your Mac and PC, but you have to make decisions as to not only what you want to do, but where you are going to do it. Or I guess stop using an iMac at home and buy screens just to use the PC laptop that work gave me...or move away from my iMac and buy a MacBook just so I can take it into work and use it there also?
It's like you're actually working with two completely separate applications, but they just happen to have the same name and are made by the same company. There's actually a lovely page that mentions Gesture Effects on the TechSmith website, but it just avoids ever mentioning that they're not available on the PC. Yep, that's denial.
PC and PC - Consistently Inconsistent...on the same computer!
But it gets even more confusing. Take a look at this screenshot that shows the PC interface for Camtasia, showing the tools that are displayed on the left of the application, versus the drop-down "View" --> "Tools" menu....
So the first tool you have is "Media"…umm, or is it meant to be "Media Bin" like in the drop-down menu? OK, that's being really fussy.
Then the next option is "Library"…umm, hold on, it depends where you are looking…this is so confusing?! The tools listed on the left of the interface aren't in the same order as they are in the drop-down menu...despite the fact it's the same list of tools in the same piece of software! In the tools left-hand column it's "Library" followed by "Favorites"…but in the drop-down menu, the order is reversed!
Then there’s "Zoom-N-Pan"…wait...no, sorry, that's not there...only it's listed in the "Tools" drop-down, but it doesn't show in the left-hand Tools column! Why? Well it's actually part of the "Animations" option, but TechSmith seem to have decided to single it out as something to list in the "Tools" drop-down menu on the PC…even though they haven't done this with other options available within other Tools. This is so inconsistent!
Now in case you're wondering, is the issue the same on the Mac? No. Except for "Media" being "Media Bin" everything else is in order and things like "Zoom-N-Pan" aren't there at all. One point to the Mac :-)
Embarrassing confusion and UX oddities
So this one is embarrassing for me, but at the same time highlights some odd quirks with Camtasia. One day I was working at home on the Mac and I added the rings effect to a cursor click in a recording. Great! I get to work the next day (of course after exporting the project to use on a PC) and needed to add another cursor rings effect to a different cursor click.
Only there was no "Rings" effect in Camtasia. I couldn't find it. It was gone.
Well I thought "I sometimes swap my mouse from my right hand at home, so maybe it's just under a different button tab on the Camtasia interface"? Nope. I know that made no logical sense, but I was struggling at this point to figure out what had happened.
I could see the rings effect I used the day before, but now it appeared to be missing from the PC interface? Odd...and yes, even as I'm typing this, some of you may understand what I had done. Maybe it was a Mac-PC thing that I hadn't picked up on...but that didn't make sense. Maybe the project file was corrupt (as sometimes happens with Articulate)? So I tried a new project and a new recording. Nope...still no cursor rings effect available on the PC...even though I had used it before. Was I going crazy?
At this point I spent some time on the Camtasia site, but all I could find were links on how to create a rings effect...not why they might be missing. Eventually, as embarrassed as I am to say it, I put in a support ticket to Camtasia (and kudos for a relatively quick response time...although I have to say, Articulate still win for responsiveness to any customer)....and when they replied, I was told to simply reset the preferences for the application, which resolved the issue (you might realise a this point that there was an easier way to fix the problem).
So let's look at what the issue was for those that don't quite get what happened or don't use Camtasia. It's this...on the main interface of Camtasia, it's possible to delete effects that you might use in your day-to-day work.
I’m going to type that again...on the main interface of Camtasia, it's possible to delete effects that you might use in your day-to-day work. Wow!
Here's the evidence...
First, notice how the "Delete" option is very close to "Add to Favorites" in that pop-up menu? No, I didn't either...until I clearly deleted this effect rather than adding it to my favorites and hadn't realised that I had. So when I next went to use Rings again, it was gone!
The concept of being able to delete an effect from the interface astounds me! To me, it's like being able to remove "Gaussian Blur" as an option in Photoshop...or "Subscript" from the fonts menu in Word. OK, I know that some software allows you to go in and customise menus...but it's not something that is done so easily. In other applications you clearly have to know what and why you are doing it.
Here's it's amazingly easy to delete the effect from the Camtasia interface whether you intended to or not. But why would you want to delete what is basically an inbuilt effect, from the interface? Well it's safe to say some of you will feel that you think it's reasonable to be able to remove it from the interface if you're never going to use it. You just want to have it hidden and out of the way.
But hold on...I've just used two words that are a lot better than the notion of "Delete". Why is this option "Delete" when you can (as I would later discover and are amazed that Camtasia didn't suggest I try this first) right-click in this area and restore all the options...
The decision to use the term "Delete" escapes me. Surely "Hide" (my preference) or "Remove" would be better than "Delete"? After all, you can easily get the effect back (in case you weren't aware, he says sarcastically now that he knows) by restoring it.
The ability to delete major effects and behaviours from the main interface, and to be able to do it so easily, is surprising. The fact that someone might choose to do it and be faced with "Delete" as the option is also confusing. "Delete" often implies destruction in computing, when "Hide" is more analogous to what you are actually doing here.
Other quirks or frustrations
So without spending too much time on the following, here's a list of other frustrations that I have come across...
- There is no ability to spell check text boxes that you have used across a project. I published a video for staff to review with a spelling error in the title and hadn't noticed it at all
- No simple way to preview your recording in fullscreen. This is astounding. You either have to separate the preview window and move it to the another monitor (which I couldn't do as the second monitor was where I was doing my recording) or you spend time having to resize the project to review your output. Surely TechSmith can come up with a function button combination that simply hides everything and plays the entire project at fullscreen on the monitor for you to view?
- Interactive questions (which I've not discussed at all) have to have an answer. You can't ask an open-ended question and collate the responses.
- Video Review (similar to Articulate Review) - loading the same video with the same name (for review) does not overwrite the existing video. I stopped using this service because of how I couldn't replace a video simply and instead used Stream video internally in the organisation. It's a shame, as I liked the review facility that TechSmith offered.
- In Adobe Captivate, if you need to fake a scene where you are clicking on something, you can replace the background of the slide (which is always just an image) and add a new cursor path....literally laying down a line that a "fake" cursor will then travel across. In one recording in Camtasia, I found that I had missed an entire step somehow and there was no easy way to fake a cursor path and action on screen. In the end, I took an entire fullscreen screenshot of my computer, Photoshopped a bit of it and literally just clicked on the fake image whilst recording it with Camtasia. That way at least I got the background looking correct and a cursor click being recorded.
Eeek, a bug!
I have no idea why I feel proud when I find a bug in a commercial piece of software....I guess it means I'm paying attention? This one was trivial...the values I was using to create a Gesture preset on my Mac weren't being retained. I had created a preset with set colours, Size and Ease In and Ease Out values...
...but the next time I used the preset, the Size, Ease In and Ease Out values had reverted to their original state.
I put a ticket in, got a follow up within 24 hours (always a good sign) confirming the person responding to me was also getting the same result...and then got final confirmation a few days later....
Great outcome, great response. It was such a trivial bug and an easy one to workaround, so I asked for the ticket to be closed at that stage.
Moving from ScreenFlow to Camtasia
Just as I was finishing off this article, a superb video was posted on YouTube called Why I Switched From ScreenFlow to Camtasia — And What I Love About It. It's a superb video and I wanted to post it here to counter balance what I have been saying. Steve Dotto goes into tremendous detail about why he has moved away from ScreenFlow and I completely get what he is saying. But he's also being a little too complimentary for my liking at times. And here's why...
- He compares ScreenFlow with a swathe of TechSmith tools that all tie in together superbly. OK, but ScreenFlow has never suggested it can do all the things that these myriad of applications can do as one single application.
- Next, I actually don't like the fact that Camtasia doesn't offer screen image capture built in. For TechSmith to say that you can do these things if you go and buy one of their other products is, for me, the reason Camtasia wouldn't be my first choice. Don't get me wrong...I'm not saying ScreenFlow is...I'm just saying I don't want to be using multiple apps. I'd much rather use something like Adobe Captivate instead.
- Steve demo's how simple it is to transfer an image captured by SnagIt and have it appear in Camtasia. Awesome...and yet if TechSmith created a share sheet extension for the Mac, then you could easily do exactly the same thing from the built-in screen capture on a Mac, into Camtasia. I do think Steve makes the saga of going from screen capture to Camtasia sound very drawn out for those of us not using SnagIt. I get by just fine without it and it's not the saga he suggests it is.
- I also think Steve simplifies the notion of 'packaging up' things (which I think is how he describes it) to get ready to send to a Windows user. Packaging in Camtasia is about assets, settings and templates...it's not about content. You still need to go through the process of exporting for a PC or Mac.
- His workflow is superb...although oddly, I thought his diagram seemed back-to-front...he started at the end, and ended at the beginning...but his workflow isn't that complex. If like me, he was dealing with people working on different environments on a daily basis, he'd be packaging up content multiple times throughout his editing journey. Instead, I love the way his workflow works and he makes fantastic use of the Review system from TechSmith, but that's because his workflow is simple.
Interestingly, one of my initial reactions to the video was the same reaction I had before I first installed Camtasia...I just wish there was a Windows version of ScreenFlow!
Summing it all up
Having read through this article, I release that I have been quite harsh at times on TechSmith's product. I guess that's why I decided to call it a critique. I'm also aware that as I use Camtasia more often, I'm finding the speed at which I can create recordings rapidly improving...whether it's new recordings or re-recordings due to the need to update videos, I'm getting better and becoming more familiar with Camtasia on a daily basis.
Would I recommend Camtasia to people? I have to give the answer I always give at this point…it depends what you are needing to do. I'm glad that we selected Camtasia for the work I am doing at OSPRI. It's proven invaluable and relatively straightforward to use to create amazing micro videos from screen recordings. It absolutely was the right choice for what we needed.
If you stick to using Camtasia on one operating system, it is going to be a joy to use...with some exceptions...such as items missing from one platform that are on another (Gesture effects for example). Or if you are like Steve Dotto and handing off significant content to someone on another platform, Camtasia holds its head above both ScreenFlow and Articulate Storyline, because neither of those products allow you to do that. What it doesn't have, is the ease at which you can move Adobe Captivate projects between Mac and PC...and if you're jumping between systems often (like me) Camtasia feels frustrating. When you are working like that, the joy of working on multiple systems diminishes immensely because of the extra effort and the need to remember to package things up frequently.
At the same time, trying to get used to an interface that is not only inconsistent in and of itself, but inconsistent across platforms, creates (getting fancy for a moment) a lot of unnecessary cognitive load. I'm constantly having to think "What platform am I on?" and "What menu do I go to, to find more options?"...and that staggers me.
Would I like to have to the opportunity to use Camtasia in future contract work? Yes, absolutely! But I say yes in the same way that I love every opportunity to use any instructional design technology...I am after all, a geek. Is there a chance I might recommend its use in future contracts? Again, yes! Because as I've said, you shouldn't pick the technology and then try and figure out how you can use it in the work that you are doing...you should get a clear image of what you are wanting to achieve and what technology will best support you in achieving those outcomes.
As I type this, my contact still has a number of weeks to run and there is the possibility of an extension...so I'm looking forward to continued use of Camtasia for some time...despite the frustrations, but including all the amazing things that you can achieve with this software.