A quick comparison of iShowU HD Pro and Screenflow

I recently discovered that, utterly without fanfare, a new version of iShowU had been released: iShowU HD Pro (and iShowU HD, a less feature-rich version of the software). Looking at the screenshots it looked like it was a clone/competitor to ScreenFlow. However, aside from some obvious mimicry in the interface, iShowU HD Pro approaches screencasting from a completely different angle than ScreenFlow and will appeal to a different set of users.

ScreenFlow, for those who aren’t aware, is an all-in-one screencasting solution. The general idea is that ScreenFlow captures positively everything that happens on-screen (while simultaneously recording audio, of course) and after you’ve recorded everything you can go in and highlight certain mouse interactions, add iSight video clips, change what part of the screen has focus, etc. If you are using ScreenFlow, then you are almost certainly intending to do a fair amount of post-production work on your screencast from within ScreenFlow before you share it with the world.

iShowU HD Pro, on the other hand, has no post-production capabilities whatsoever but enables you to post a finished screencast in the shortest amount of time possible. Unlike ScreenFlow, once you finish capturing a screencast iShowU HD Pro compresses it down (very quickly, using your graphics card to accelerate the process), and then provides you one-click access to post the video on YouTube (presumably more upload options will be provided in the future). Depending on the length of your video and amount of compression you can have it online and shared with the world literally seconds after you finish recording.

Unlike the original iShowU, iShowU HD Pro also allows you to visually highlight mouse clicks and keyboard events, or record from your iSight simultaneously while recording your desktop. Aside from the iSight recording, however, these features are all or nothing. When you start the program (and before you start recording) you can toggle mouse and/or keyboard capture on or off, and then for the duration of your video you’ll either have highlighted mouse and keyboard events or you won’t. You can also position an image over some or all of your recording area if you want to, say, have your website address displayed along the bottom of the screen. Sadly, this too will last throughout the entire movie.

iShowU HD Pro and ScreenFlow are doing very similar things from a technological standpoint (allowing you to capture high definition video or your entire screen), but the programs are obviously catering to very different crowds. iShowU HD Pro will be perfect if you need to record screencasts as quickly and easily as possible. It is one of those wonderful programs where you can be completely comfortable with the program within three minutes of launching it just by playing with the interface. If you need to record screencasts to share with your friends, or are a software developer who just wants to show users how to use a small feature without spending hours producing a video, then iShowU HD Pro will be an excellent choice. (It’s worth noting that iShowU HD Pro also supports drag and drop export to Final Cut Pro, so it likely has an audience with those people who like ScreenFlow’s capture capabilities but who feel limited by its post-production features.)

ScreenFlow will be much more appealing to the crowd who want to disseminate their screencasts a bit more widely and don’t mind putting in the effort to first learn the program and then do post-production on their recordings.

I’m pretty surprised that iShowU HD Pro hasn’t made more of a splash on Mac news sites and so forth; the program has a few issues and feels very much like a 1.0 release, but is still obviously a good contender in the screencasting software arena. Sure, it isn’t as flexible as ScreenFlow, but for some people who just want to get a good-looking screencast up as fast as possible, iShowU HD Pro at its cheaper price point will likely be the perfect solution.

2 responses to “A quick comparison of iShowU HD Pro and Screenflow”

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  1. Patrick says:

    The one thing to consider when using either Screenflow or iShowU HD Pro is the kind of Mac you have.

    On MacBooks iShowU HD Pro is significantly slower the Screenflow. Despite the fact that Screenflow records the whole screen it always records at 30fps without too much strain on the CPU, iShow HD Pro on the other hand needs a “real” graphics card to function “properly”.

    This statement is taken from the changelog:

    “While the X3100 no longer crashes, it’s much slower than we would like.”

    And the GMA950 isn’t any faster.

  2. Ian Beck says:

    That’s a very good call; for the record, I ran both apps on a MacBook Pro with ATI X1600 graphics card.

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