Review: DemoCharge

DemoCharge 2004
Las Vegas, Nevada
(888) 241-7338

There are a batch of applications out there that are designed to help you capture movies of other applications for demonstration and training purposes. Here's the latest to cross my desk, from the makers of CodeCharge Studio.

It's easy to make a recording with DemoCharge. Just decide whether you want to capture the full screen, a window, or a region of the screen, and away you go. DemoCharge offers two capture modes, animation and presentation. Animation mode captures everything that's going on, including all screen repaints, while presentation mode takes screenshots when triggered by user events such as mouse moves. The former gives you smoother animation, the latter smaller files, so you can choose your own tradeoff.

End recording and you're in the DemoCharge window. You get a bunch of frame thumbnails down the left (think of the way PowerPoint does its main window), an editing area in the middle that uses tabs to let you work on multiple slides at the same time, a properties window, and a timeline. The editing here is quite powerful and intuitive, and has some features that many similar products lack. For example, you can change the path of a mouse movement on a frame by grabbing either end and pulling it around. Or, if you've got an effect (such as a highlight) in a frame, you can drag its edge in the timeline to make the effect last longer. It's easy to add balloons, captions, pictures, and highlights to the captured frames.

When you're satisfied with your demo (which you can check with a preview mode), a couple of clicks will export it as either a DemoGIF (animated GIF file) or an AVI; a promised Professional version will add Flash and Java animations as well. You can adjust parameters such as dithering and frames per second to control the size and quality of the output files, but the default values seemed to work pretty well for me. The nice thing about using GIF format, of course, is that it can be rendered pretty much anywhere that you can show HTML content; the DemoCharge help file, for example, makes extensive use of what I presume are DemoGIFs recorded with this very product.

The pricing here is worth mentioning as well. Though DemoCharge lists for $99.95, you can buy a co-branded license for $49.95 as long as you don't mind having the output stamped "Created with DemoCharge". The Professional Edition, which I presume will add more features, will be $199.95. You can also download a trial to get started. If your business involves creating tutorials or manuals, it's worth a look.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.