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Linux Mint – Recording your desktop

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Some may find the need to record their desktop in order to make an instructional video. The VLC application, which comes bundled with Mint, is capable of recording the screen, but it doesn’t do the best job. In fact, these days, screen recording is one of the weaknesses in terms of software availability in Linux, since there is no application available that is equivalent in quality to popular software packages such as Snag-It and CamStudio.

One application that does come somewhat close to these popular software packages is known as recordMyDesktop. It is an application that can be used in a terminal window via shell commands, but it does have a graphical frontend known as GTK recordMyDesktop, which is a bit easier to use. Although recordMyDesktop seems to work fine, it lacks certain features that are very common. For example, you simply can’t save your recorded files anywhere other than the root of your home folder. There’s no way to change it. The following screenshot shows the recordMyDesktop application used for screen recording:

Other screen recording programs in Linux are of varying quality. Some very usable applications to record your screen have come around from time to time, only to disappear into obscurity after a short period of time, and most are largely unmaintained. GTK recordMyDesktop is one application that has stuck around for quite some time.

Using recordMyDesktop is anything but simple. Video recording itself seems to work fine enough on most systems. To record your desktop, you click on the Record button, and when done, click on the Stop icon, which will show up in the notification tray on your panel. By default, recordMyDesktop will record your entire screen. This may not be what you want, depending on your configuration. For example, if you only want to record a specific window, click on Select Window first before starting your recording. This is especially important if you have multiple monitors, as the default settings will grab your entire screen, no matter how many monitors it’s stretched across.

The main difficulty with recordMyDesktop seems to be recording the sound along with your video. In the settings, there is no listing of devices you can choose to record from. The recordMyDesktop application chooses what it thinks is your default microphone on your default sound card depending on your configuration, but it may (be and often is) wrong. If you open the settings for the application, you’ll notice a default device named DEFAULT in the sound tab. This is the device from which recordMyDesktop will try to record sound. If you have a USB headset or more than one microphone installed, this may not be what you want.

To list the devices available to record on your system, execute the following command:


arecord -l

Determining the recording device that you want from the output of the arecord command may take some interpretation. When in doubt, experiment. On my system, my USB microphone shows up on Card 0 Subdevice 0, so I enter hw:0,0 into the device field of recordMyDesktop in order to access it. The following screenshot shows the example settings used in an instance of recordMyDesktop:

Other software packages exist for screen recording, but some of the available ones have been unmaintained for a very long time and may or may not work. Some of them are stable, but others crash constantly and cause you to lose work. When starting out with screen recording, recordMyDesktop is most likely your best bet.

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