Articulate, a company that is best known for developing e-learning software, has just launched ScreenR (short for Screen + Recorder). It’s a free web based screencasting tool that lets you create digital recordings of your computer screen from any web browser without requiring software [*].

With ScreenR, you can record desktop movies of up to 5 minutes and, if you have a microphone, you can also add voice narration to your screencasts. Once the video is recorded, you can upload it to YouTube (as 720p HD) or save it locally for further editing in the popular MP4 format.

Online Screencasting Tools – A Comparison

So how does ScreenR compare with other web based screencasting apps that have been around for a while like Screen Toaster, Screen Jelly or Screencast-o-Matic?

Supported platforms – You can create screencasts on both Mac and PC using either of these services. Screen Toaster “officially” supports the Linux platform as well.

Screencast duration – The maximum length of screencasts in Screencast-o-matic is 15 minutes, 3 minutes in the case of Screen Jelly while ScreenR allows recording of up to 5 minutes per screencast. There’s no set limit in Screen Toaster but the recorded video should not exceed 20 MB in size so you can record video of longer duration if you keep the dimensions small (and vice-versa).

Recording Dimensions - Screenjelly will always record the entire desktop screen but other services let you pick the desktop area that you want to record. They also provide standard size presets (like 1280x720p incase you want High Definition video) so you don’t have to waste time adjusting the size handles.

Webcam & Microphone support – While all web based screen recorders allow you to record audio with your screencasts, Screen Toaster can also incorporate your webcam video into the screencast.

Downloading Videos - Video recorded with Screencast-o-matic can be exported as QuickTime (MP4), Flash Video (FLV) or in Window Media (WMV) format. ScreenR offers videos in MP4 format while ScreenToaster can render in MOV as well as SWF format (which I think is great for embedding screencasts in PowerPoint slides).

Video Quality – It’s hard to explain that in words so I captured the same screencast video using all these service and here’s the final result. The quality of screencast videos produced by ScreenR turned out to be the best in this test.

YouTube HD support – Except Screenjelly, all other services allow you to publish screencast videos directly to YouTube and that’s awesome because your recordings automatically get exposed to a wider set of audience.

That said, the YouTube upload function of Screen Toaster was broken at the time of writing this post and the big problem with ScreenR is that it will always upload your videos to YouTube in “public” mode – you can of course change that setting from the YouTube website but it would have been great if such an option was available at the ScreenR side itself.

Support for Mobile Devices – Screencast videos created in ScreenR can be watched directly on an iPhone or an iPod Touch while you need a mobile browser with Flash Player to watch video from ScreenJelly or ScreenToaster.

Unique features – ScreenR records great video and sports the most pleasing interface of them all. Screencast-o-Matic is the only service that can automatically highlight mouse clicks in the screencast or you can completely remove the cursor from the final recording. And if you want to record webcam video, the only option is ScreenToaster.

Related: Review of Screencasting Software

[*] You need the Java runtime environment on your machine for any of these screencasting tools to work. Open the command prompt and type “java -version” to make sure that you have Java.