When it comes to producing professional-looking movies and demos from your computer screen, TechSmith's Camtasia Studio is known for striking the right balance between a powerful toolset and ease of use. Version 8, released today, adds even more useful features that encourage end-user interactivity without making the app any more complex to use.

The feature-packed screencast app, which includes HD production settings, does have a learning curve, but the user-friendly interface and front-and-center icons for most-used tools go a long way toward lowering the intimidation factor a notch. Plus, TechSmith provides a useful online help center that includes several video tutorials that do a nice job walking users through the main functionality of the software.

Even better, when you first launch Camtasia Studio 8, you're greeted with an integrated tutorial video that helps get you acquainted with the software. The main window features a content area in the upper right that showcases a variety of options. Here, you can view the clip bin, access your content library, and tweak features such as callouts, zoom-n-pan, audio, and transitions. TechSmith provides a variety of templates, music, and outros supplied from a third-party vendor known as Digital Juice, with additional content available for purchase.

As for feature updates, Camtasia 8 offers plenty of reasons to upgrade. A new TSC2 codec replaces the old TSCC codec found in previous versions, making captures exponentially smoother at 30 frames per second. The app now includes Quizzing, a feature that lets you get instant feedback as users watch your screencast. You'll now be able to add "Hotspots" in your screencasts so users can click an area on screen to open up a link for more information. Techsmith has enhanced the performance of the editor in general and in multitrack editing, you'll now be able to use as many tracks as you want. The Library now includes tons of themed assets that are designed to work together seamlessly. All of the new features make it easier to create screencasts, and Techsmith is clearly working towards making screencasts more interactive so users are an integral part of the experience.

Recent versions of the app added the capability to record system audio, as well as automatically resize windows during recording. Plus, they added the option to "smartfocus" on key frames and add closed captions to your presentation. The app still allows you to auto output to several formats, such as the iPad; and also the capability to overlay text and search within Flash video.

Beyond these additions, Camtasia Studio remains the same powerhouse for creating and producing screencasts for the Web, mobile phones, tablets, and DVDs. Well-rounded production settings continue to present presets for novices; additional applications, like an audio editor and the CD MenuMaker, round out the features.

At $300, the price of a creative screencasting license is steep, but if the 30-day trial leaves you wanting more, Camtasia Studio 8 is an even more worthwhile investment for frequent screencast producers requiring a lush feature set and smooth screencast output. Users looking to develop skills with prolonged use should start here, too.

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.