Monthly Archives: September 2013
I have been working on video tutorials for general and organic chemistry since the start of 2013. Recently I have been trying to take advantage of my iPad for this purpose, but found very few good quality screencapture or whiteboard apps. The app I have chosen to review, ScreenChomp for iPad, is in my opinion the best option currently available.
ScreenChomp is a free app developed by TechSmith, the same people that have brought us the industry standard screencasting software Camtasia, and the free screencapture program Jing. ScreenChomp is a whiteboard app, which means it can capture drawing and writing on its whiteboard surface, but cannot capture other programs like a screencapture program. It is also able to capture surprisingly good audio, allowing you to chalk talk effectively. You can insert pictures as the background, allowing for explanation of diagrams or talking through individual powerpoint slides. Once you are finished recording, the video is uploaded to ScreenChomp’s server and can be shared as a link, or tweeted to your followers. The feature that really sets this app apart from its competitors is that you can also download your video file as an .mpeg4 file. This enables you to edit, combine or otherwise modify your video, however you like, in a separate video editing software.
The main drawback to using this app is that the pen tools do not allow for optimal fine control, making my already messy writing appear even more childish. At least several colours are available to try to pretty up my writing. For an example of a video made using ScreenChomp, view my ‘Drawing a cyclohexane chair’ tutorial (link below). Video was captured with ScreenChomp, audio with Audacity, editing in Adobe Premiere Elements:
I recommend using ScreenChomp for quick explanations or chalk talks at ‘low resolution’, but for longer/complex purposes use a pc or mac based screencapture software like camtasia or active presenter.
Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for this review.
A major update has just been released for the ChemDraw app. It seems the folks at PerkinElmer really listened to the feedback they received from users and reviewers because they have addressed most of the major issues I ranted about earlier.
The app has gone from a mediocre novelty to a truly useful product that I can recommend to students or colleagues with a straight face.
Sharing capabilities are now excellent, you can save your drawings as images, .pdf’s or as .cdxml. Dropbox functionality is now included, and you can even tweet or post on facebook directly (although I don’t foresee myself posting a reaction scheme on facebook very often)
Text can now be placed into your drawings, allowing for the inclusion of reaction conditions. You can even change font, colour and size.
The choice of arrows has been expanded to include most typical arrows like resonance arrows and equilibrium arrows.
The overall style has changed to the industry standard ACS style sheet, but it would be nice if additional styles could be used as well.
Finally, a series of templates has been introduced including bicyclics, Fischer and Newman projections and chair conformations. This new feature is really ideal for students taking introductory organic as they learn about stereochemical relationships and representing organic molecules.
My one remaining complaint: I would really like to have the align and distribute objects options, as they really help to make clear, professional documents. Maybe this will be included in a future update, but as it stands I now recommend this app for both instructors and students.