Collaaj for iPad – An Impressive New Screencasting App to Rival Explain Everything

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 3.24.09 PM Since I first saw Explain Everything I have been a fan – sharing it with teachers everywhere I go.  In my opinion it has long been the clear winner in the iPad screencasting space, which is also occupied by Educreations and ShowMe.   In my opinion, price aside, Explain Everything is better in almost* every way than Educreations and ShowMe.

Now… there’s a new kid on the block, turning heads – and recording it!

Collaaj’s compelling feature.

Collaj lets you record your webcam video at the same time as you record the screen!  As far as I know, no other screencasting app (on the iPad) allows this.  Explain Everything, ShowMe and Educreations allow you to record your iPad’s screen and your voice narration, but students can’t see you speaking to them.  in Collaj If you tap the camera icon in the sidebar, voila! your face appears in a little window on the screen.  This can be repositioned if it’s not in the place you want it.  You can even move it during the recording – if you want to write on the part of the screen occupied by the webcam video.  That is pretty cool.   I love this feature because I think one of the shortcomings  of the ‘flipped learning model’ is that video explanations can loose a little bit of humanity.   Our brains are hard-wired to respond to the human face.  Seeing the face of the person speaking to you somehow makes the experience of listening to an explanation more personally accessible.Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 5.03.42 PM

That is Collaaj’s  winning feature.  It’s a very compelling one.   But in most* other respects I think Explain Everything is still ahead.  The two possible exceptions to this are in the price, and in the video sharing options.  The school context will influence your choice here.

Note: since posting this, a reader has pointed out to me in the comments (see below) that it is, in fact, possible to record your webcam in Explain Everything.  The process is a little more convoluted but it certainly works!  Thanks for that Reshan!

*Sharing your screencasts.

Explain Everything is great if you want to share your video via YouTube, Vimeo, etc as you can easily do this right from the app.  Collaaj, ShowMe and Educreations allow you to upload the video to a private server provided by the app, and then share a link with your students.  Personally I prefer to use YouTube, but in some schools YouTube is blocked and so the “in house” option may be preferable there.  Once you have recorded your video and saved it, it goes into the Collaaj library within the app and from there you can upload it to the Collaaj server and then share a link with your students.

Slide Number

Explain Everything allows you to make multiple slides and navigate through them while you are recording – much more like using an interactive whiteboard.  Educreations, ShowMe and Collaaj each allow you to record just one screen at a time.

Laser Pointer

One feature I really like about Explain Everything is the laser pointer tool.   When I am explaining a concept, and using a diagram or graph to do so, I don’t necessarily want to write on the graph – and doing so always feels just a little bit clumsy.  Oftentimes, I just want my viewer to look at a part of the diagram.  I find the laser pointer a much more efficient tool for this than simply a pen tool.  None of the other three apps have a laser pointer tool.

Zoom

Another great feature of Explain Everything is the zoom tool (indicated by a magnifying glass).  It lets you pinch-to-zoom on part of the diagram so that you can focus on just one feature, then zoom out to look at the whole diagram once more for context.  I really like that feature and wish that Collaaj would implement it.

Fit and finish

When it comes to polish, Explain Everything is still far and away the best of the three.  Educreations and ShowMe just look a bit to plain and basic, and lack functionality in comparison.  Collaaj is kind of buggy.  You can tell it’s new in this space.  As an example, while importing images from DropBox is apparently supported – I can’t get it to work for me.

Price

All these apps are free, except Explain Everything which is $2.99.

The Verdict?

I’m torn.  I love Explain Everything.  I love the finesse with which the tools work, I love the fact that I can upload my videos straight to YouTube,  I really love the laser pointer and zoom functions.  If only it had the ability to record my webcam video like Collaaj does there would be no question as to which to use!  in the meanwhile I’m really liking Collaaj because it brings something to the iPad that has been missing.

Edit: Again, thanks to Reshan’s helpful contribution, I’m back to Explain Everything.  :)

25 thoughts on “Collaaj for iPad – An Impressive New Screencasting App to Rival Explain Everything

  1. Hi in Explain Everything if you do Insert Object -> Insert new Video, and then flip to the front facing camera, you can record yourself while screencasting.

  2. Great article Andrew. We are a school in (urban) India and have tested almost all the apps mentioned here, but put both Collaaj and Explain Everything at the top. We finally went with Collaaj because of their server setup and infrastructure choices. Explain Everything has an excellent user interface, so we did love that. But in the end, it came down to a team of users publishing content to a common video channel, privacy options for video sharing, hosting choices as opposed to youtube, ability to use Collaaj on PCs as well. I also like their editing features, especially the ability to add animated titles & credits to videos.

  3. Thanks! I’m a huge fan of Explain Everything. I’ll be checking out Collaaj. My number one feature request on all these type of apps is to include the option to record the iPad’s Home screen. Hopefully the guys at EE will get that out soon. Btw: have you tried out TouchCast? Would like to hear your input if you have.

    Cheers Michael

    • I have TouchCast and have played with it a bit – it’s interesting and clearly a lot of time has gone into it’s development … but I struggle to feel comfortable using it. The workflow just doesn’t feel very intuitive to me. What are your thoughts on it? Maybe I just haven’t spent enough time with it – all I can say is that I didn’t find myself gravitating to it the way I did to EE or Collaaj.

      Regarding recording the iPad home screen that is something that many people want. I wrote a blog post about an app that lets you do exactly that (DispRecorder) and it has been by far my most viewed blog post ever. But the app is no longer available on the App Store. If you have it it still works great – but you can’t get it if you didn’t download it when it was available. More recently another app called xRec did the same thing – but it is no longer available either. I think Apple does not approve of such apps – for some reason it goes against their policies. It’s obviously possible from a technical perspective but I doubt we will see it built into EE any time soon – unless Apple’s position on sandboxing changes.

      • Hello all, I work in the customer support team at Collaaj.

        Michael,
        Generic screen recording, such as recording the iOS home screen, is not permitted/documented by Apple for privacy and security reasons. Imagine an app running in the background and silently recording what the user is doing with his other potentially sensitive apps like banking apps. There have been some apps that have, from time to time, either used undocumented/unsupported APIs to perform generic screen capture. However, as Andrew mentioned, they keep getting booted from the iTunes app store for these reasons.

        At Collaaj, we do create tutorials such as this – https://collaaj.com/9P6vrZ7 – using a combination of Reflector (http://www.airsquirrels.com/reflector/) and Collaaj For PC/Mac. So you basically use Reflector to present your iPhone/iPad onto your PC/Mac screen, and then you use Collaaj app for PC/Mac (Collaaj isn’t just for iPad, it works on PC & Mac too…simply signup on collaaj.com) to create and upload the recording. Its very easy. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to live chat with us on collaaj.com, or write to customersupport@collaaj.com.

        Andrew,
        Thank you for the blog and thanks everyone for the kind words, and the feedback. We are actively working to continue to make Collaaj better, and this feedback is certainly extremely valuable.

      • Hi Andrew sorry for the late reply, I gave TouchCast a try and I’m still testing it—but you’re right, I feel the same way. Although I really like the idea and concept in its current state it doesn’t flow for me. One huge turnoff is that you can’t embed a video on a post—yet.

        Like yourself I too have collected and used all the screencast type apps that have appeared on the App Store (and on Cydia). The most current one being xRec but outside of some minor flex-abilities I still find using Reflector on my Mac and the iPad the best workflow for iPad screen casting.

        As for Collaaj the app looks like its got great potential. One of the reasons why I’ve taken this long to reply is because I wanted to work with the app before writing anything. My biggest gripe and maybe it’s an isolated case, but I felt that when I use the pen tool the tracking was too slow. Just wondering if you or your readers have experience this? I’m sure the rep will chime in here so please understand that I’m not trying to say anything negative about the app but just an observation when I use it.

        Cheers Michael

      • Thanks Michael – I’m sure the developer of Collaaj is delighted to get your feedback. He’d have to be the most responsive developer I’ve ever known. He rang me from California the other day to spend 20 minuted discussing some of my issues and wishes. So I, pretty confident that great things will be forthcoming. :)

      • RMiguel,
        Thanks for trying out Collaaj. We’d love to get to the bottom of the issue you are facing. Based on our engineer’s notes, this kind of ‘slowness’ could be attributed to memory consumption on the iPad, generally dependent on the number of apps running and the number of days gone without reboot. So, a reboot of the iPad (long press of the top button) could likely address it. If it doesn’t address the issue, could you please write to us at customersupport@collaaj.com. We’d be happy to chat with you as well as help make the product better for everyone.

        Andrew,
        Thank you again for the kind words. Excellent customer support is an area we focus heavily on, and that has certainly given us many friends, well-wishers, and happy customers.

  4. Thanks very much Andrew for your helpful review, we are right now looking at core apps for our students next year! cheers Jonathan (Faith College, S.A.)

  5. One of the great things about recording video from the camera into Explain Everything is that you can draw over the video recording as you go – if you want to of course!

  6. Dear all, I am trying to record the camera with EE and it seems to crash everytime. Using iPad 3 with iOS 6.1.3 and I get a crash everytime. Is the recording functionality in EE just buggy or am I an exception! Any help is greatly appreciated.

    Or another option for me is to dump EE altogether and go to Collaaj.

      • Thanks! That makes my move to Collaaj easy. With Collaaj, the recording, editing and uploading seems pretty simple and quick. I was only looking at EE because I like their ability to insert an image on the drawing board and resize it. Do you know if Collaaj will have something like this? If they can do that, I’d pick Collaaj over EE.

      • Hello Marc;

        Yes, we will be having the option to insert and re-size the image (as opposed to just having it as background image). Our product team is testing it internally. We hope to release it in the next update cycle. (update cycle is typically a month).

        Please don’t hesitate to contact us directly in case of bugs or new feature requests.

    • Thanks Andrew. It works now, although the ‘compressing phase’ is taking forever, and I’ve only recorded a 30s video.

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  8. Thanks for letting us know about this great app. I’ll be having a look at it. Does anyone know of a screencasting app for iPad? I want to be able to record myself showing how to use a particular app. I know there is one that will record from iPad to computer, but is there one yet that will do it directly on the iPad?

    • Jenni, I work for Collaaj (collaaj.com), and am happy to answer your question regarding screencasting on iOS. Apple doesn’t allow 3rd party apps to record the screen for an iPhone/iPad. There are apps that come up on the iTunes App Store from time to time that claim to do this, but get quickly taken off the appstore. We, therefore, either stick to recording videos using documents/PPTs/drawings/cam within the Collaaj iPad app, OR we project the iPad/iPhone screen onto a PC/Mac using applications like Reflector (reflectorapp.com) and then record screen using the Collaaj app on PC/Mac (sign up & download from collaaj.com). Hope that helps!

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