What is Screencastify and How Does it Work?

(Image credit: Screencastify)

What Screencastify is can be summarized in a few words: an easy screen recording tool. But what it can do is far more wide spanning and impressive. 

Screencastify is a powerful app that allow teachers to capture important moments online that can help save time and enhance learning in the long run. Since Screencastify is an extension it's easy to install, use, and run across most devices.

Screencastify lets you record video from your device to playback later and share. You can even edit the video to perfect it before you put it to good use. That means being able to give a presentation across multiple websites, with highlights on the screen and your face in the corner via webcam, to name just one option.

Of course this can also be used by students, so it can make for another tool in the teacher toolbox that enables students to expand their digital abilities. A great way to add in more media to projects, for example.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about Screencastify.

What is Screencastify?

We have already answered what Screencastify is on a basic level. But to provide more clarity – it is an extension that works using Google and, specifically, Chrome. That means it can, technically, record a video of anything going on within a Chrome browser window.

But it does more. You can also use Screencastify to record your desktop, so recording something such as a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation is an option.

Yup, there's more. This platform will also allow you to record from a webcam. Thus, whatever you're doing on camera can be captured, showing your face in a small cut-out window as you talk through what's happening on screen.


(Image credit: Screencastify)

How to get started with Screencastify

To get started with Screencastify you'll need to download the extension from the Chrome Web Store while using the Chrome browser, and have it installed by selecting "Add to Chrome."

Once installed, you'll see the Screencastify icon in the top right of your Chrome browser next to the address bar. This is a right-pointing pink arrow with a white video camera icon within it. 

Select this to get started or use the keyboard shortcut on PC Alt + Shift + S, and on a Mac, Option + Shift + S. More on useful keyboard shortcuts below.


(Image credit: Screencastify)

How to use Screencastify

Once you've selected the Screencastify icon in the Chrome browser it will launch the app in a pop-up. This allows you to pick how you want to record from three options: Browser tab, Desktop, or Webcam. 

There are also tabs to turn on a microphone and to embed a webcam if you want your image in the corner of the video over the top of the screen in use. Then hit record and you're up and running.

How to save videos with Screencastify

One of the great features of Screencastify offers is its easy way of recording and storing videos. When you end a recording you'll be taken to the Video Page, where you're then able to edit, save, and share the recording.

You can also easily share to YouTube. On the Video Page in the Share options, simply select "Publish to YouTube" and you can connect to your account. Select the YouTube channel on which you want the video to appear, add privacy choices and a description, hit "Upload," and you're done.

You can also save to Google Drive, but more on that below.


(Image credit: Screencastify)

One really nice option is the ability to link this to your Google Drive. By doing so, your recordings can be automatically saved to your Drive without having to do anything extra.

To do this, open the Screencastify Setup page, select the "Sign in with Google" icon, then select "Allow" to give camera, microphone, and drawing tools permissions, and then select "Allow" from the pop-up. Then each time you finish a recording, your video will be saved to a newly created folder in your Google Drive called "Screencastify."

Use drawings and annotations in videos with Screencastify

Screencastify allows you to draw on the screen to better clarify what you're talking about, such as within a browser tab. For example, you might have a map up and want to show a section or a route, which you can do using a virtual pen.

An option allows you to highlight your cursor, adding a bright circle around the icon. This can help students better see what you're drawing attention to as you move the cursor around the screen. It's a bit like a laser pointer on a real-world blackboard.


(Image credit: Screencastify)

What are the best Screencastify keyboard shortcuts?

Here are all the Screencastify keyboard shortcuts you could want for both PC and Mac devices:

  • Open the extension: (PC) Alt + Shift + S (Mac) Option + Shift +S
  • Start / stop recording: (PC) Alt + Shift + R (Mac) Option + Shift + R
  • Pause / resume recording: (PC) Alt + Shift + P (Mac) Option  Shift + P
  • Show / hide annotation toolbar: (PC) Alt + T (Mac)  Option + T
  • Focus spotlight on mouse: (PC) Alt + F (Mac) Option + F
  • Highlight mouse clicks with red circle: (PC) Alt + K (Mac) Option + K
  • Pen tool: (PC) Alt + P (Mac) Option + P
  • Eraser: (PC) Alt + E (Mac) Option + E
  • Wipe screen clear: (PC) Alt + Z (Mac) Option + Z
  • Return to mouse cursor: (PC) Alt + M (Mac) Option + M
  • Hide mouse when not moving: (PC) Alt + H (Mac) Option + H
  • Toggle embedded webcam on/off in tabs: (PC) Alt + W (Mac) Option + W
  • Show / hide recording timer: (PC) Alt + C (Mac) Option + C

How much does Screencastify cost?

The free version of Screencastify provides many of the recording options you might need but there is a catch: Videos are limited in length, and editing is limited. That could be all you need, and in fact, is a good way to keep videos concise so students can stay focused. But if you're planning to do more, such as an entire lesson, you will need to pay.

The premium version means your unlimited recordings don't have that logo on the screen. More complex video-editing tools such as cropping, trimming, splitting and merging, to name just a few, are also available.

Pricing starts at $49 per year, per user. Or there are educator-specific plans that start from $29 per year. For true unlimited access, however, it's $99 per year - or $49 with that educator discount - which includes as many teachers using the software as needed.

Luke Edwards is a freelance writer and editor with more than two decades of experience covering tech, science, and health. He writes for many publications covering health tech, software and apps, digital teaching tools, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and much more.