Who else is finding it tough going trying to speak to camera whilst reading a text? It’s a big challenge trying to look engaged and natural when you’re having to keep taking your eyes away from the camera to read, then find your way back to the camera again.
One thing we’ve found that helps with this is using an autocue or teleprompter to roll through the text on your screen whilst you’re speaking, and here we’ll review three of the best free online teleprompter / autocues we found.
Like you, we have spent not insignificant amounts of money on equipment and software to improve our online services, so in this blog we wanted to explore how far we can get using only resources we don’t have to pay for. The three online teleprompters / autocues we review here are free to use and do not require you to set up any online account.
As many people have noted, one downside to online teleprompters / autocues is that the interface can be pretty cluttered, this is due to the adverts on the landing page which provide an income for the developers, which is after all what makes the teleprompters free for us to use.
There are of course also many teleprompter apps available for mobile phones and tablets, and we will do a separate review of some of those soon, but today we’re going to be looking at online autocues that operate from your laptop or desktop computer, which you can have running alongside Zoom or your video recording to help us talk like an actual human person on camera!
Like most online teleprompters / autocues, the landing page of cueprompter.com is a little visually cluttered with ads, but once you’re past the initial page, and the autocue itself starts, you have a much less busy screen in front of you.
At the start screen, you find a small box into which you paste your text. You can also choose options such as white text on black background, black text on white background; the size of the text; the size of the screen, and whether you want it mirrored.
We inserted quite a lot of text — 1200 words, and the autocue handled it with no difficulties. It’s worth noting, however, that any italics or bold or other formatting of the text does not translate to the autocue.
Okay, so what happens when you hit “Start prompter”?
The autocue opens in another window. This is your chance to move it around so that you find a comfortable place for it on your screen.
Once the autocue is rolling, you can use the spacebar to stop and start, and you can change the speed. To change the speed, you need to get your mouse cursor to the >> or << prompts on the screen, or use the up and down arrows on your keyboard. It took us a little while to find the right speed, but from then on it was pretty plain sailing. It is also worth noting before you get started that although cueprompter.com says “Press f11 for full screen” this didn’t work on our Mac.
Overall, we thought cueprompter.com worked fine for our needs once we’d played around with the speed and window box position a bit.
ZAcue.com has a very similar start screen to cueprompter.com. You select the speed and the colours of the text; you can also request a countdown to start, which is quite useful when you want a little time to get ready before the text starts rolling.
ZAcue.com’s default setting gave us a nice easy-to-read scrolling white text on a black background. Once you start the prompter rolling, you can adjust the speed using the up and down arrow keys, and you can pause and restart using the space bar.
We liked this autocue a lot because of how “clean” it looked and because we could control things using keyboard keys which we could find easily whilst recording.
promptr.co looks markedly different to the other two teleprompters / autocues reviewed here; it has a much cleaner interface. Another notable difference, is that you are able to use italics and bold type, and you can make other changes to the way the text appears, such as centring the text and changing its colour. promptr.co does not however retain any existing formatting in the text you paste in, but you can make changes to the text once it’s there. This would be useful if you are used to using italics and bold as emphasis prompts in your delivery.
Once rolling, promptr.co acts a little differently to the other two autocues we looked at. The speed of the text needs to be set before starting; you can’t really change it once it is rolling because the text resets back to the beginning if you do.
Another difference is that there are no keyboard controls; the controls to change speed and pause/resume are onscreen buttons, which in our view make it a little less user-friendly if you need to make adjustments whilst speaking.
We loved the way promptr.co looked, but we found it a little tricky to use once we were recording.
- You probably don’t need to pay for an autocue app, the free online versions are perfectly fine for most of what we do.
- Keep in mind that most online autocue won’t retain any italics, underlining or bold type, so if you want to emphasise something, you might want to put that text in capitals.
- Practise with the speed and location of the stop and start buttons (usually the space bar)
- Practise with different locations for the window in which the scrolling text will unroll; we found placing this window directly under the laptop camera worked pretty well because our eyes didn’t have to travel far between the text and the camera.
- Out of the three online teleprompters we reviewed, we like ZAcue.com most because it was the easiest to use.