Open Broadcaster Software is a free tool for recording your desktop activities - program windows, games, video capture, more - and optionally broadcasting them live via Twitch TV, DailyMotion, YouTube, hitbox.tv and more.

The program opens with a fairly basic interface. There's no launch wizard to walk you through the setup process, no icon-packed ribbon, no toolbars: just a menu bar, a few buttons and list boxes. A beginner might easily be left wondering, "what now?"

Fortunately it's not difficult to get started. Your broadcast will be made up of one or more "scenes", each of which can have multiple sources: text, an image, a slideshow, a game, a program window (your media player, perhaps), your entire screen (multiple monitors supported), or a video capture device. Right-click in the Scenes box to add a scene, the Sources boxes to choose a source, and select whatever options you need.

There are a lot of configuration options and settings, and so it's probably best to start with something simple, maybe an image slideshow, or a video played by your media player. Whatever you choose, clicking "Preview Stream" displays your stream in Open Broadcaster Software, allowing you to check it's working as you expect. (Right-click a source and select Properties to edit it.)

Once you have the stream you need, clicking "Start Record" will launch streaming again and save the results to disk. Click Stop Recording when you're finished, and File > Open Recordings Folder to view the results.

Best of all, the program supports broadcasting your stream online via several popular services, and this is also relatively straightforward. Sign up for a free account at somewhere like Twitch.tv, choose Twitch and enter your details at Settings > Settings > Broadcast Settings, and you'll be ready to go. Click "Start Streaming" and anyone will be able to view your stream at www.twitch.tv/UserName.

Verdict

The interface could be more helpful, but Open Broadcaster Software is easy enough to use. We were recording and broadcasting within minutes, and the program has an array of configuration options to help fine-tune the results.