Cooking with Linux - Let Me Show You How It's Done with a Little Video

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. As videos could be 25 pictures per second and might last several minutes, how many words is that?

The next item on this star-studded menu, is John Varouhakis' recordMyDesktop, a desktop screencasting program that includes both a command-line tool and a graphical front end, gtk-recordMyDesktop. You can pick up a copy of gtk-recordMydesktop from For the purpose of this demonstration, I concentrate on the graphical client rather than the command-line version.

When you start gtk-recordMyDesktop, a simple recording dialog appears (Figure 3). On the left-hand side of the program, there's a preview pane with a button labeled Select Window directly underneath. Before you begin recording, click the window you want to capture. You'll see it outlined in red in the preview pane. To record the whole desktop, click on an empty (or shall we say, uncluttered) portion of your desktop. Adjust video and sound quality using the sliders on the top right. To begin recording, click the red Record button. When you do that, the dialog vanishes.

Figure 3. Creating a screencast with gtk-recordMyDesktop is as easy as clicking the Record button.

If you are paying attention, you might notice something that looks a little like Istanbul here. It's that little red circle sitting in your system tray. This similarity isn't entirely accidental. Parts of Istanbul are in gtk-recordMyDesktop. Incidentally, another way to start a recording is to click the red system tray icon. It then changes to a gray square while you record your session. When you click it again, the recording stops and you return to the gtk-recordMyDesktop window. Although there's no preview of your recording, you can save it by clicking the Save As button.

Let's take a closer look at another part of the interface, the Advanced settings. Clicking the Advanced button brings up a more comprehensive settings dialog with four tabs (Figure 4). In Figure 4, I've highlighted the Performance tab, which controls frames per second, on-the-fly encoding and more. Changing settings here makes higher quality screencasts possible, but keep in mind that doing this impacts system performance, and you may require more horsepower to achieve good results.

Figure 4. Depending on your system's power, you may want to adjust some performance-related settings.

The Files tab has two functions. It allows you to define your working directory (/tmp is the default), and it lets you decide whether you want to overwrite files as they are recorded. The resulting videos are saved to out.ogg. Subsequent writes will use out.ogg.1 and so on. If you would rather have gtk-recordMyDesktop overwrite the file each time, check the appropriate box on the Files tab. Under the Sound tab, you can change the number of audio channels, the frequency and the audio device location. Finally, under the Misc tab, you'll find primarily visual settings, such as the appearance of the mouse cursor in your videos.

For the KDE users out there, Marios Andreopoulos has created reKordmydesktop, a feature-rich and fantastic front end to recordMyDesktop. This program is a single Kommander script, and as such, it doesn't require a complicated installation, but you do need to have Kommander installed. Save the file to your desktop (or any location you please) and click on it. The reKordmydesktop dialog (Figure 5) appears, ready to do your bidding.

Figure 5. reKordmydesktop provides a rich, easy-to-use interface for creating screencasts.

As you can see, the GUI does add some great flexibility, starting with a definable location and name for your OGG file. Everything you need is covered under these three tabs, although most of what you'll want is on the Common Settings tab. Let's look at a few of those, starting with sound. To record audio, make sure you click the Capture Sound check box. You can specify a time delay to your recordings—you can screencast reKordmydesktop, so you may want to minimize it first when capturing the whole desktop—or set a time limit on the recording (look in the Chrono section). By default, reKordmydesktop captures the entire desktop. To select a window, click the Grab Window button on the left, and click on the program window you want to capture (again, you even can click reKordmydesktop if you choose). To start recording, simply click the Record button.

One thing I like about this program is that you can pause a recording, change things around, then continue by clicking Pause again. When you are done, click Stop, and the OGG file is written to disk.

Let's have another look at that three-tabbed interface. Under the Encoding Settings tab, audio and video settings can be changed and tweaked to give you a recording that balances your system's performance to provide the best quality possible. This might include dropping frames, selecting multichannel audio or choosing a higher sampling rate. The Advanced Settings tab allows you to select an alternate cursor (or none), change the working directory and more. If you think you've gone and changed things for the worse, there's a handy Restore Default Settings button here as well.

And that, mes amis, is what we call a wrap. The system clock, sadly, does not lie, and closing time is nearly upon us. I invite each and every one of you to try your own screencasts. Post them to your blogs, Web sites or even YouTube. Show others how much fun Linux and open-source software can be. In the meantime, perhaps François will be so kind as to refill your glasses once more. Until next time, please raise your glasses, mes amis, and let us all drink to one another's health. A votre santé! Bon appétit!



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website home question

Anonymous's picture

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To see these tools in action, visit Marcel's site at

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