FlashBack Reviews

Great screen recorder

about FlashBack and HyperCam, Camtasia Studio · · Helpful Not helpful 2 Helpful Report as spam

This screen capture software is amazing, and I am still surprised why it has remained relatively unknown. So far I have only used the free edition, and it is leaps and bounds above any other screen recorder I've tried so far, free or paid.

First of all, the performance is great. I don't know a lot about the technicalities behind screen recording, but I guess it must be down to the proprietary codec used. Other tools, like Camtasia or HyperCam, start having trouble with recording bigger windows, and capturing the full screen smoothly would be pretty much unthinkable. Using BB Flashback, I was able to record at my full desktop resolution with 30+ fps. Apart from recording the desktop, multi-monitor setups, specific windows, or a certain region, you can also capture from a webcam and record sound.

Thankfully this also isn't one of those "dummy user" applications. While the interface is easy enough for newbies to just press the big red Record button and use it, more options are there if you need them. You can customise source options, framerate, scheduled recordings, automatic file splitting, and so on. One cool feature that I haven't seen in any other software yet is the option to also record text. This will capture all the text that is drawn on the screen. Using this you can, for example, search the completed recording for the name of a certain application, and you can jump right to the frame where this application was started (i.e., where its name was drawn into the title bar). Very fancy!

Once your recording is stored (in the proprietary FBR format), you can either export it directly to a standard video file, or open it in the "Player" first, which is the second big part of the application. This will open a timeline-based editing tool, where you can review, cut, annotate and export your recording. The timeline shows additional information to help you navigate the recording, such as in which frames a mouse button was clicked, or where a certain key was pressed. (Combine that with the text recording feature, and navigating even extra-long tutorial recordings should be as fast as possible.)

The editor is where the differences between the free and paid editions show. In the free Express edition, you can select which frames to export, if and how to highlight the mouse cursor, choose regions to crop the video to and follow the mouse cursor, and add sound effects to key presses and mouse clicks. You can export your result to a Flash video file, or an AVI file using any Video for Windows codec available on your system. The Standard edition allows you to add annotations to the video, and adds Quicktime, animated GIF and WMV to the export options. The Pro edition adds more editing effects such as zoom and pan, audio editing, speedup and slowdown, and after-the-fact editing of cursor movement. It also adds export options for PowerPoint and standalone EXE files. All editions also have a direct YouTube upload feature.

I must say that even the free version has an amazing set of features, surpassing all other screen recorders I know. If you don't need a lot of post-processing, or plan to do this in a separate application on exported AVI files, it should offer everything you need. The paid editions should have you covered if you want to record more intricate tutorial sessions, and might even eliminate the need for any other post-processing software.

Note that you need to register an account with Blueberry Software in order to activate the free Express edition of Flashback, otherwise it will stop working after some time. The free license is valid forever, and does not need to be validated online.

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Best alternative for Camtasia ...

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The best alternative for Camtasia Studio users who need support for annotations and an efficient timeline to quickly edit recorded tutorials. I was a Camtasia Studio user for a long time, but little things started to annoy me in the past few years. Annotating videos wasn't as efficient as it can be, for example. Pricing is also a tad high.

My search for an alternative led me to try FlashBack Pro: I downloaded the free version, and the same night I bought the full license.

Things I like:

  • the annotations tool is great! They're easy to copy and paste, adjust and edit. Absolutely love this part.
  • the timeline is effective enough for quick tutorial creation. I work with NLE software (Premiere, Davinci Resolve, etc.) and although FlashBack's timeline obviously can't compare, for quick training video editing it works very well. It is very similar to Camtasia's timeline. Keystrokes are displayed, and the mouse position is shown as well for each frame. What I particularly like is the option to jump from annotation to annotation quickly.
  • a distraction-free full screen mode with timeline is available.
  • annotations text can be exported and edited externally, and reloaded. Such a time-saver, and it becomes easy to translate the annotations too.
  • easy to insert other objects, such as images, picture-in-picture views, texts, etc.
  • support has been very good. A bug I reported was squashed in the latest release.

Things that could be improved:

  • the annotation edit dialog is modal, and locks the program until that dialog is closed. I would prefer a non-modal dialog - or even better: a dockable properties panel that adjusts according to the context (select a text: display text properties, select a text balloon: display those properties, etc.)
  • to edit screen recordings made with an external tool requires a conversion to FlashBack film file format. I suppose this is required to improve editing performance, but it's a pain sometimes. Transcoding takes time away from editing.
  • while the timeline more than suffices for quick tutorial video editing, for longer video tutorials the lack of a zoom in/out slider is at times painful. This is mitigated somewhat by the secondary timeline slider, but it slows down editing sometimes.
  • The GUI isn't very configurable. That said, the full screen option is actually quite nice, and at least the movie display and timeline windows can be separated. I use this to place the timeline so that it spans two of my three screens for a better overview.

All in all, I found it to be a great replacement for Camtasia Studio. I use annotations all the time, and FlashBack Pro does a better job at this than Camtasia. And at a far lower price point.

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Features are being removed

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Edit: This information is outdated as of August 2018, please see the comments below!

FlashBack is still the screen recorder software I would most recommend. However, this is just a quick heads-up that features are now starting to be removed from the free Express version. Maybe the developer has some cashflow problems, with not enough users upgrading to a paid version, so they feel the need to restrict the free version more. And because even the free version requires an online activation, they could theoretically prevent you from using an older, more powerful version (although I saw no indication that they do that).

Most notably, as of version 5.25.0 from March 2017, the ability to export to AVI and Flash video files is gone. The only export container format and codec that is still supported in the free version is WMV, which nobody, nowhere, and under no circumstances should ever use for anything!

Licenses for the Pro version are lifetime (no subscription), so they're still a good deal – a personal license is currently $49. But if what you're looking for is "free screen recording software", than FlashBack no longer is an option, now that the free version no longer offers even a single usable export format. I can only repeat: don't ever export any video to WMV. You'd be better off manually drawing a copy into a flipbook, that's a higher-quality and higher-tech solution than the sad joke that is a WMV file.

[Edited by Anamon, August 23]

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Using version 5.33.0, free version supports export to AVI, MP4 and WMV

Confirmed! AVI and MPEG-4 export are back in the free version as of v5.33. Thank you for the heads-up!
This actually makes me want to get the Pro license now, to show my support :)