Screen Recording

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A screen recording or screencast is a narrated video recording of your computer screen. A screencast can comprise anything from still images (for example, slides containing text or photographs) to full motion (for example, the movement of your mouse cursor, drawing or writing on slide, video clips from lab demonstrations, and so on). A range of free basic screen recording tools are available. More sophisticated screen recording tools that offer advanced editing features are available for purchase.

The Centre for Teaching Excellence's Screencasts Teaching Tip discusses use cases, benefits and best practices of screencasts. 


On this page:


Watch Our Recorded Workshops

Relevant pre-recorded video workshops available on our YouTube channel:

Important Tips Before You Start

  • Keep your videos short. This protects against overly large files, poor system performance while you are recording/editing and potential corruption/lost work. Shorter videos can be spliced together later.
  • Test out your microphone levels and video content with a quick 15 second video to ensure you are loud enough, and things are being captured correctly before you record any longer videos.
  • If you intend on posting your videos in LEARN or Möbius, your video should be in MP4 format. MOV (Mac) are generally very large (although high quality) and need to be converted to MP4 format for web-friendly delivery.
  • Screen recordings are not typically accessible. Some students may require an accessible alternative to learning material originally presented in a screen recording. 
  • Instructional Technologies and Media Services (ITMS) provides best practices for video and audio recording.

Choosing The Right Tool

The following table summarises some recommended options depending upon your requirements and technical skill level. More information on each option is presented below the table.

pros and cons of different video editing software
 WindowsmacOSiOS & iPadOSMultiplatform
Suggested technical skill level Novice Novice Intermediate Novice Novice Intermediate Intermediate Advanced
Cost Free Free
Free Free Free for UW faculty and students in Office 365 ~$265 educational pricing (May 2020) ~$20 USD per year subscription (May 2020) Free
Length of recording Unlimited* Unlimited* Unlimited* Unlimited* Unlimited* Unlimited* Unlimited* Unlimited*
Records screen/app
Records multiple apps at once
Edit/trim videos Use with Windows Photos     Use with OpenShot add-on
Splice/join several videos together            
Convert/compress to MP4 (web-ready)    
Overlay text, callouts;
add additional images or audio

*Unlimited: Although you can record as long as you wish, we recommend limiting your recordings to no more than 15-20 minutes at a time, to limit wasted time and effort in the event your recording is corrupted or doesn't meet your expectations. With many tools shorter videos can be joined together later. Recording on iOS or iPadOS is dependant on your device's available storage capacity.

** Requires macOS Mojave or later

Note: iOS Screen Recording requires version 11 of iOS or newer, and some apps may prevent recording.

Basic Screen Recording 

Basic screen recording tools are typically free. They allow you to do simple recording and editing only. Here are some easy to use options on the Windows and Mac platforms:


Windows 10 has a built-in video recorder (Game Bar) that can be launched using a keyboard shortcut, and saves video files as an MP4. Although designed for live streaming games, the recorder allows you to identify most applications as "game" for easy recording. The Windows Photos app can be used to trim or combine recorded videos. 

recording: Game Bar

Ensure the Game Bar is enabled. Open Settings > Gaming > Game bar. Turn on the switch to "Record game clips, screenshots, and broadcast using Game Bar" if it's not already on. The launch the Game Bar, press Win+G.

Combine or edit videos: Photos

If you record shorter videos clips that you want to combine into one video you can trim videos and combine videos using the Photos app in Windows 10. Start by finding one of your new recordings, right-click > Open with > Photos.


Mojave and recent versions of MacOS has a built-in video recorder that can be launched using a keyboard shortcut, and saves video files as an MOV. 

recording: Screen Recorder

In MacOS Mojave or later, pressing Shift-Command (⌘)-5 launches an on-screen menu giving you various options to get started.


iOS and iPadOS

Capture screen recordings using and iPhone or iPad running iOS 11 or later, or iPadOS using instructions provided on the Apple Support website:

Using Microsoft PowerPoint for Screen Recording

Microsoft PowerPoint can be used as a screen recorder. Yes, that's right! It's a little known fact, but you can record other apps on your computer using Microsoft PowerPoint. (Fully functioning on Windows; limited functionality on Mac). PowerPoint is available to all Waterloo faculty and students as part of Office 365.

PowerPoint can also of course be used to record and edit narrated slide presentations, using pen and highlighter tools to draw and signal during recording. Using blank slides can simulate a whiteboard; Excel spreadsheets can be embedded within PowerPoint and form part of your recording. CEL provides a detailed guide on Creating Narrated PowerPoint Presentations including how to use the annotation tools during recording.

How to use PowerPoint as a screen recorder

On the Insert tab, select Screen Recording.

Insert ribbon showing the Screen Recording button.

On the control dock, Click Select Area and select the third-party application you want to record.

Screen recording settings including record button, select area button, record audio, and record pointer. Option to record audio and pointer is turned on by default.

PowerPoint automatically records the audio and the mouse pointer, so by default those options are selected on the control dock. To turn them off, deselect Audio (Windows logo key+Shift+U) and Record Pointer (Windows logo key+Shift+O).

Click Record (Windows logo key+Shift+R).

Recording controls when the recording is in progress. The record button becomes a pause button.

Unless you pin the Control Dock to the screen, it will slide up into the margin while you record. To make the unpinned Control Dock reappear, point the mouse cursor at the top of the screen.

To control your recording:

  1. Click Pause to temporarily stop the recording (Windows logo key+Shift+R).
  2. Click Record to resume recording (Windows logo key+Shift+R).
  3. Click Stop to end your recording (Windows logo key+Shift+Q) (shown below).

Once you stop recording, the recording will be embedded on the slide where you started the recording.

Right-clicking on the recording will give you additional options to trim and style your video. These options appear either above or below the context menu.

Controls for trimming and styling videos in PowerPoint.

To reduce the file size of your screen recording and improve playback performance you can compress your media files. See Reducing the File Size of Presentations.

You can save your PowerPoint Presentation with the embedded video on the slide by going to File > Save. To save the recording itself as a separate file on your computer, right-click the picture on the slide that represents the recording and select Save Media as. In the Save Media As dialog box, specify a file name and folder location, then click Save. This will save your presentation as a video file (mp4).

For additional information, see Record your screen in PowerPoint.

Full-featured Screen Recording with Camtasia

Camtasia is a popular full-featured screen recording and editing tool. More sophisticated screen recording tools, like Camtasia, allow you to enhance your recording with on-screen features and effects, give you the ability to zoom and pan around the screen, create transitions and more. 

Full-featured Screen Recording with Screencast-O-Matic

Screencast-O-Matic is an easy-to-use, fully-featured screen-recorder with a subscription payment model of around $20USD per year (as of May 2020), providing you full screen-recording, editing and overlay features. The free version of the software is limited to 15-minute recording, and adds a watermark to your video, so it is recommended you opt for the Deluxe plan.

Full-featured Screen Recording with OBS

Need something a bit more robust to capture multiple inputs at once? OBS (Open Broadcast Software) is a free multiplatform option that allows you to create more sophisticated videos. Videos recorded with OBS can be edited using OpenShot. OBS and OpenShot are recommended for advanced users only.


Free and open source OBS Studio (Open Broadcast Software) is a high performance app capable of capturing and mixing multiple video and audio sources at once.


  • Record in the same resolution as your monitor (up to 1920x1080 or 1080p), at 30 fps.
  • Audio quality should be set between 124 kbps and 160 kbps.

Convert and Compress Videos for Web Delivery

Video too big? MOV format won't work online? Use a media converter to reduce file size and get your video in a web-ready format (H264 or MP4).

  • Miro
    • Drag your video onto app, press Format > Video > MP4, the press the Convert to MP4 button.
  • HandBrake
    • HandBrake Documentation 
      Using HandBrake to convert your video to MP4:
      • Opening a video source (select your non-MP4 format video)
      • Selecting a preset (Fast 720p30 should be sufficient for most purposes)
      • Adjusting quality (Video encoder: x264, frame rate: 30)
      • Previewing your settings
      • Starting encoding


Apple Inc. (2018, September 24). How to record the screen on your Mac. Retrieved from

Apple Inc. (2020, February 6). How to record the screen on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Retrieved from Apple Support: