Recording Quick Screencasts on Android

When I’m testing mobile apps, I often create quick screencasts to accompany my bug reports. Screencasts are especially useful for capturing issues that aren’t visible in a static screenshot and for demonstrating the exact steps to reproduce the issue. I try to keep them as short as possible for easy viewing.

Lately, I’ve been using Android Debug Bridge (adb) for these screencasts on my Android test devices. With adb, you can create a screencast on the command line — no need to install any apps on the device or deal with convoluted steps to transfer the files. It also means I don’t have to open up Android Studio just to record my device. Quick and easy!

To get started:

  1. Make sure you have the Android SDK Platform-Tools package installed on your computer. You can install this package from the Android Studio SDK Manager or download the standalone SDK Platform-Tools package.
  2. On your Android device, go to Settings > System > About phone and tap Build Number seven times. This enables Developer options which you’ll now see under Settings > System. From there, you can enable USB debugging.

Once you have that setup done, connect your device to your computer via USB. You should get a prompt to allow USB debugging; you can set your device to always allow it from your computer, or choose to get that prompt each time you connect your device.

Now, recording a screencast is just four easy steps:

  1. On the command line, run adb devices. This isn’t strictly required, but I do it to make sure my test device is connected and authorized for USB debugging.
  2. Then, start the recording with adb shell screenrecord /sdcard/screencast.mp4 (specifying your desired directory/filename). The maximum recording time is 3 minutes.
  3. Stop the recording with Control + C (Command + C on Mac).
  4. Move the recording from your device to your computer with adb pull /sdcard/screencast.mp4. You can also specify a local destination for the recording, e.g. adb pull /sdcard/screencast.mp4 ~/Downloads/screencast.mp4.

That’s it! Your screencast is now available on your computer for you to handle however you need. You can also check out the adb documentation for more screen recording options and other useful actions you can take with adb.

Do you have any favorite tools for creating, editing, or sharing screencasts, especially on mobile devices? I’m always open to trying out something new!

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