Streaming has become a popular way to make money while offering entertainment to the world.
Some of the most popular streamers have built a community around their performances, offering a glimpse into their lives and personalities. This allows them to build loyalty with their audience, who can then choose to support them by purchasing merchandise or subscribing to premium services like Twitch Prime.
But it’s not just about playing games for fun anymore! As streaming becomes more popular, it’s also become an industry with many opportunities for those who want to get involved. If you want to be a professional streamer, there are several apps that can help you do just that.
Best Apps For Streamers
The first on our list of free streaming software is open broadcast software, or OBS studio, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
OBS studio is a very popular streaming software for live streaming platforms such as Twitch, YouTube Gaming, or Mixer with over two million users.
It is the most popular choice among live streamers because it is open source.
All the features, such as multiple sources, scene switching, chroma keying, image masking, and audio mixer with numerous filters, are entirely free.
Furthermore, OBS studio allows you to make all the necessary adjustments to your stream in real-time through Studio Mode, allowing you to customize any aspect of it as desired.
The setup for this open broadcaster software can be a little confusing for first-timers.
However, for those interested only in simple streaming, without too many plugins, it is fairly simple.
Supports multiple cameras, multiple scenes, and audio sources
Studio Mode for easy edits
Features a stream key that helps you find the best server for live streaming
Variety of scene layouts and transitions
Live encoding to multiple formats
❷ Streamlabs OBS
Streamlabs OBS software
Streamlabs OBS is an upgraded version of OBS studio – free, open-source, and one of the best streaming software for beginners and professionals.
It has many features that make it stand out from the competition: an all-inclusive notifications system with donation alerts, chatbots integration (with the option of customization), the ability to create branded overlays or purchase pre-made ones.
The best thing about Streamlabs OBS is the number of customization options it provides: you can change everything from layout and design to alerts, widgets, overlays, and more.
Streamlabs OBS is available on Windows and Mac and supports streaming for Twitch, YouTube, Home, and Facebook.
Keep in mind that this streaming software doesn’t come with Studio Mode – its functionality is limited to live streaming.
Streamlabs OBS offers a Pro monthly subscription for $19.99, which unlocks all the premium features of this streaming software with an added bonus of free access to its best-selling games on the Streamlabs store.
Supports multiple sources
All-inclusive notifications system
Ability to create branded overlays or purchase pre-made ones
Scene transitions with custom animations
Customizable chatbots for giveaways or events announcements
If you upgrade from a free version to a Pro membership, there are many exclusive features, such as unlimited bandwidth and mobile streaming
❸ Nvidia Shadowplay
Nvidia Shadowplay software
Last but not least on this list of free streaming software is Nvidia Shadowplay, available for Windows.
Nvidia Shadowplay allows you to capture and record your best gaming moments.
Whether it is a single-player game or an online multiplayer match – with this free streaming software, all your best plays will be saved in the gallery, ready for playback anytime late.
Get instant Twitch Views or Followers. A shortcut to your growth!
One of the best features of Nvidia Shadowplay that separates it from other streaming software is that it’s integrated into Nvidia GeForce Experience, which means that you can stream or record your gameplay without having to download any other software.
It is best suited for those who use an Nvidia graphics card and want a simple solution of streaming their games with minimal effort – no need to change any settings, as the NVIDIA Shadowplay technology automatically detects what kind of game is running and adjusts its settings accordingly.
Furthermore, it features Instant replay mode, allowing you to record gameplay without any time limits.
It’s worth noting that streaming gameplay isn’t its greatest strength.
With Nvidia NVENC encoding on OBS, you can create better quality content.
Streams at 1080p 60fps
Can be easily integrated into the GeForce experience
No need to change any settings
Instant replay mode for an unlimited recording time
Top 3 Paid Streaming Software
❶ XSplit Broadcaster
XSplit Broadcaster software
The free streaming software is excellent if you’re a beginner and don’t have any particular requirements, but once your channel grows bigger or starts to bring in some revenue – it’s time to upgrade.
XSplit Broadcaster is the best paid streaming software available on the market today.
It has all of the necessary features for a live stream and a few extra ones ideal for those who want to take their channel even further.
For example, customization options through XSplit capture card that comes with a built-in streaming encoder that allows you to stream without the need to download any other streaming software or plugins.
Also, you get access to broadcast schedule maker, mobile broadcasting capabilities (iOS and Android), and overlay designer, which can be used to create custom graphics in order to promote your brand.
XSplit Broadcaster Premium gives you the best of both worlds – it’s a cross-platform streaming software that allows you to live stream on Twitch, YouTube, Dailymotion as well as Facebook Live with no additional plugins or applications required.
It supports 720p/1080p HD video output for PC and can also upscale lower resolutions to HD.
Pricing for XSplit Broadcaster Premium is $24.99 per month, or you can save a little money and get it for $149.99 for an entire year.
Broadcast to multiple platforms
Integrated broadcast scheduler
Console support through a capture card
Mobile broadcasting on iOS and Android
Customizable overlay maker with free stickers, animations, images, backgrounds, etc.
Live screen capture & recording
The game-specific version of XSplit is Gamecaster.
It has a more streamlined interface and supports streaming on all popular platforms.
vMix is a powerful live streaming and recording software that allows you to create professional productions with little to no experience.
It’s an all-in-one solution that comes with features such as instant replay, green screen support, virtual sets, chroma key, video editing, and more – making it the perfect choice for those who are ready to expand their horizons.
vMix has a free version, but since it has limited features, it’s best suited for those who stream only occasionally and don’t have any plans on making money with their channel – as there is no support for adverts or donations in vMix Basic.
If you want monetization options, then you need vMix Pro which starts at $59.00 per year and gives you access to features such as live scoreboards, social media streaming, animated titles, and more.
Supports HD video up to 1080p 60fps
Virtual sets and chroma key support
Instant replay mode
Video editing features
Lightstream comes with features such as professional-grade encoding, dynamic bitrate adjustment, and automatic failover protection – ensuring that your stream never goes down.
Also, it offers unlimited storage, so you can save all of your broadcasts and access them anytime, anywhere.
Its major advantage is the Invite Guests option that allows you to include other broadcasters, friends, or family in your live stream.
Pricing for Lightstream starts at $75 per month and goes up to $495 per month, depending on your needs.
Dynamic bitrate adjustment
Automatic failover protection
Live chat moderation
Streaming Apps for Chat Moderation
When you begin streaming, you will quickly realize how hard it is to juggle promoting exclusive content on social media channels, playing a game, and dealing with trolls in the chat.
Luckily, many of the paid and free streaming software come with built-in chatbots that allow you to focus on creating a high-quality video.
There are also numerous apps that can be easily linked with streaming software that do not have this feature.
Nightbot streaming app
Nightbot is a free chatbot that comes with your OBS Studio installation.
It’s available on Windows and Mac, as well as Linux using Wine.
The best thing about Nightbot is its ease of use – it has an intuitive interface that allows you to do almost everything without any configuration or additional software required.
Furthermore, it can be used to moderate chat, set up giveaways, and run polls.
Nightbot supports streaming to Twitch, YouTube Gaming, Mixer, and Smashcast.
One of the best features of Nightbot is its moderation tools which allow you to automatically ban users based on words or phrases they’ve said in chat, as well as their account’s age and location.
There is also a custom Nightbot command feature that allows you to create your commands for moderators.
For instance, by typing !roll in chat, viewers will be able to roll dice and get random numbers between one and six; you can even add the ability of sending images via Nightbot or adding an image as a user icon when they join the chat.
Moreover, you can even use it to track stream statistics and generate detailed reports, which can improve your streaming strategy.
No additional software is required
Supports streaming to Twitch, YouTube Gaming, Mixer, and Smashcast
Custom commands feature
Moobot is a Twitch chatbot that helps broadcasters moderate their chat and keep it spam-free, similar to Nightbot.
This chatbot can be used to issue Moobot commands to generate polls, song requests, and giveaways, so it helps improve audience engagement.
Moreover, it also provides insights about the viewers, including their location, age, and interests.
Moobot is available as a premium and free version.
Provides info on the viewers (location, age, interests)
Generates notifications when channels go live and offline
Wizebot is a chatbot for Twitch that offers broadcasters a wide range of features and commands for moderating their chats.
This chatbot can be used to automatically greet new viewers, manage bans and approvals, as well as setting up giveaways and contests.
It also can track user stats such as how long they’ve been watching, when they joined the chat and more.
Wizebot has both premium and free versions.
Auto greets new viewers
Manages bans and approvals
Integration of social media accounts
Set up giveaways and contests
Track user stats
StreamElements is a popular streaming software that offers a wide range of features for live broadcasts, including chat moderation, overlay tools, and analytics.
This software also has the ability to connect to other apps such as Nightbot or Muxy, which can be used for additional functionality.
StreamElements allows broadcasters to integrate music requests, chat games, and donation goals into their live stream with its’ Modules’ feature.
One of the best things about StreamElements is that it’s free to use.
Modules for song requests and mini-games
Integration with other apps
Botisimo is a chatbot for Twitch that allows live streamers to moderate their chats, control giveaways, and set up polls.
It can also be used as an overlay tool that shows viewers’ activity in the channel’s Discord server, such as follows/unfollows of users or new messages on voice channels.
Furthermore, it offers advanced analytics that can track viewers’ activity, detect the best times for giveaways, and more.
In addition, Botisimo also provides streamers with a chatbot that they can use in their Discord server outside of streaming time.
On the downside, there is no free version available now; users have to purchase the Botisimo Pro version, which comes with a one-time payment of $39.99 for lifetime access.
Giveaways and polls
Overlay tool to show activity in Discord server
Advanced analytics such as best time to giveaway or start streaming, best times based on viewers’ activity, etc.
Chatbot for Discord server
Paid Pro version with $39.99 one-time payment
Phantombot is a chatbot for Twitch that allows streamers to moderate their chats, manage giveaways, and run polls.
As you can see, it is quite similar to Botisimo.
Besides standard chat moderation tools, it can also be used to keep track of the activity on the Discord server during the live stream and shows new follows/unfollows.
Also, it comes to great analytics, which helps organize live events and prepare for the stream ahead.
Phantombot doesn’t have a free version, so users have to purchase one of its plans (from $19/month) to use it.
Giveaways and polls
Integration with a Discord server
Paid plans from $19/month
Streaming Apps For Audience Participation
Keeping the audience engaged is an important aspect of streaming.
Interaction throughout and after the stream is crucial to keep people coming back.
There are several apps that allow for audience participation, and here are some of my favorites:
Discord is a free voice and text chat app designed specifically for gamers and Twitch streamers.
The best thing about it? It’s also built for streaming!
It has an option of creating your server, which can then be linked to the in-game browser or Twitch channel, so viewers know where the conversation goes after your streaming session.
It’s best suited for those who stream online multiplayer games, as it allows you to communicate with your audience in real-time and help them through the game.
You can also use channels for chatting or commenting on a specific subject – something that is great when playing single-player games or during event streams (just look at how popular Twitch chats are!).
Create your server and invite people to it
Link the server to an in-game browser or Twitch channel for easy access
Use channels for chatting and commenting on specific subjects
❷ Dare Drop
Dare Drop is a social media app that allows audience participation and engagement.
What’s great about it is that streamers can use it to increase interaction with their viewers while keeping the chat organized.
It also has a voting system that lets people vote on various topics, giving them a voice in the conversation.
Dare Drop is best suited for those who want to increase interaction with their viewers, as it has other features that allow them to take part in the conversation and vote on various topics.
It’s also great for keeping the chat organized!
Allows for audience participation and engagement
Keeps the chat organized
❸ Voice Modifier
One way to increase interaction with the audience is by using a voice modifier.
This can be anything from a simple microphone effect to something more complex, like an AI chatbot, and it’s a great way to add some fun and excitement to your stream.
Did I mention it is entirely free?
There are several voice modifiers out there, but the best one I’ve found so far is Voice Modifier Bot.
It’s a free voice mod chatbot that can be used to change your voice during the stream or for making custom sounds and effects on in-game Twitch chat- just what you need when looking for ways on how to improve streaming!
It can be used as a chatbot or a microphone effect
❹ Sound Alerts
That’s right; you can get alerts when your audience votes on something or someone in the chat mentions you.
Sound Alerts is a Twitch extension best suited for those who want to stay engaged with their viewers and make sure they don’t miss anything that happens during a stream session.
Also, it has other features, such as sound effects for bits.
Effects can be chosen from the library, or you can add your own.
All participants are registered, and viewers can earn badges that will motivate them to keep playing bits and engage in Twitch chat.
Notifications of people talking about you
Notifications for donations
Notifications when people vote on a topic
❺ Snap Camera
Snap Camera is an extension best suited for streamers who want to show their viewers how they play.
It’s a screen recorder that allows you to take screenshots of your game and live video and add a microphone or webcam commentary over it, which can be saved as GIFs.
You can also choose between different overlays and stickers, making streaming more fun and engaging for your viewers.
Records gameplay with commentary
Saves as GIFs
Different overlays and stickers to choose from
❻ Twitter TimeLine
You will quickly learn how important it is to talk to your viewers when Twitch streams end when you begin streaming.
That is when Twitter TimeLine steps in!
It is an extension for streamers who want to connect with their viewers on a more personal level.
What it does is allow you to see the latest tweets from your followers in real-time, so you can quickly reply or favorite them.
Allows you to see the latest tweets from your followers in real-time
Easily reply or favorite them
Usher is a live streaming app that lets broadcasters interact with their viewers in real-time.
Its picture-in-picture feature lets you show your face while talking to the viewers in chat, which makes it best suited for streamers that want their audience to see them as real people.
Also, in case some of your viewers missed any of your live streams, Usher features on-demand broadcasts, so they can catch up on anything they’ve missed.
Usher offers a free plan for one stream per month with up to 100 live viewers and an all-inclusive $29/month package that includes five streams and unlimited chat.
The same team behind Streamlabs Chatbot created Usher.
A moderated chat room to keep the conversation flowing and on topic
Picture-in-picture so you can view your chat while you stream
Automatic archiving of past broadcasts for on-demand viewing
❽ Serpent.AI Schedule
If you are looking for the best apps to stream with, Serpent.AI Schedule is a must!
It’s an app that lets your viewers know when the best time to tune in is (especially if they’re not located in the US or Europe) because it finds out what times work best based on how many viewers you have and how active they are.
It also sends you notifications before your live stream goes live, so you’re always prepared.
Notifies you when the best time to stream is
Sends you notifications before your stream goes live
Top Streaming Apps For Merch and Monetization
One of the ways to earn money while live streaming is through merch and sponsorships.
You can use a variety of apps to produce products on demand without having to buy large quantities that may not be sold.
Here are my top choices that let viewers contribute in ways traditional donation systems do not:
Teespring makes it simple to monetize your live streams and establish your brand.
If you doubt its quality or influence, just check out the merch of popular live streaming channels, such as Ninja and Dr. Disrespect, that are already using it.
It lets you design and sell custom t-shirts without hassle or upfront costs.
You simply create a campaign, set your price and target audience, and Teespring will take care of the rest.
They also have a wide range of products that you can choose from, so there’s something for everyone.
Teespring also has partnerships with companies that can promote your design and help you reach a larger audience if you need extra exposure beyond live streams.
No upfront costs
Wide selection of products
If you’re looking for the best apps to stream with and want to sell merch as well, Crowdmade is a great option!
It’s an online marketplace that lets artists and designers create and sell their products.
Products include t-shirts, hoodies, phone cases, mugs, and more.
Popular live streaming channels and content creators that trust Crowdmade include Luke Davidson, Martin Walls, and Steve Zaragoza.
Large selection of products
Easy to use design tools
If you’re looking for the best apps for live streaming, Streamjar.tv is a must!
It’s an analytics app with multiple advanced features that lets you see how your viewers are engaging and which parts of the video they watch most often.
The most important feature of Streamjar.tv is tip jar.
It lets you see how many people have tipped you, what they’ve donated, and even allows you to tip them back.
Furthermore, tips can be customized with sound and animation.
Analytics of your live streaming performance
Statistics on best times for best audience engagement
❹ My Wishlist
My Wishlist is another must-have extension for live streamers.
This can be very useful if your viewers want to find the best gifts for their friends or family but haven’t decided on anything yet.
Also, they can purchase something that can improve the quality of your video content.
You could also use it as a way of getting suggestions from your audience while they’re watching.
Social media sharing tools
❺ Streamlabs Merch Store
Streamlabs Merch Store
Twitch streamers don’t hesitate to invest money in Streamlabs OBS Pro as it is one of the best live streaming software with a lot of advanced features, and one of them is their Merch Store, which can assist you in growing your brand.
You can create a store and customize it with your logo, name of the brand, and color.
Another best thing is that you can use multiple payment options: PayPal, Amazon Pay, or BitPay.
Every purchase is completed as soon as it is placed, and Streamlabs OBS handles customer service, shipping, and related tasks.
Also, it has built-in analytics tools, so you can track which products are the most popular.
Multiple payment methods are available
Automatic order fulfillment by Amazon (Merch by Amazon)
❻ Design by Humans Merch Store
Design by Humans Merch Store
Design by Humans is a print-on-demand service that lets you create and sell your designs on products like t-shirts, hoodies, phone cases, and more.
It has an easy-to-use interface with a wide range of design tools.
You can also track sales and commissions in real-time.
All purchases can be made without leaving your live broadcast, so one viewer may influence another to purchase something for your store.
Easy to use design tools
Large selection of products
Top Graphics and Emotes Apps for Live Streams
High-quality visuals will improve the quality of your video content significantly.
As streamers aren’t graphic designers, they rely on different apps and extensions with pre-made graphics.
best streaming software for gaming
The right free streaming software will give your videos a professional edge with, custom logos, well mixed audio, high resolution – everything that sets the pros apart from the amateurs. Thankfully, the software you need to create a great looking stream doesn’t have to be expensive – and some of the best is free.
It can be tricky to pick the right free streaming software for you. Streaming is a growing market, and developers are fighting for your attention with claims of better performance, ease of use and quick setup – so how you do choose?
Some of the key features to look out for are supported platforms, choice of input sources, user support, and supported games (some streaming apps make you choose from a list of titles, while others let you record anything). With that in mind, here’s our pick of the best free streaming software you can download today. Alongside one of the best routers or the best Wi-Fi extender, you’ll be rolling out pro-level videos in no time.
If you’re not interested in broadcasting live, take a look at our guide to the best free screen recorders.
- A YouTube downloader for PC will let you save your YouTube playlists on your PC.
The best free streaming software at a glance
1. OBS Studio
You won’t find a more powerful free streaming tool
Operating system: Windows, macOS, LinuxTODAY’S BEST DEALSVISIT SITE
REASONS TO BUY
+Completely free+Twitch, YouTube, Mixer and more
REASONS TO AVOID
-Steep learning curve
Open source, powerful and flexible, OBS Studio is easily our top pick when it comes to free streaming software. It’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux, and receives regular updates from an enthusiastic team of contributors.
It has something of a reputation for being complicated to set up, but if you’re only interested in simple streaming then there’s no need to plunge into the more sophisticated capture settings.
If you do want more granular control, it’s all there. You can create scenes from multiple sources (windows, images, text, webcams, capture cards – the list goes on), mix audio and adjust pretty much every aspect of your streams. The options are extensive, but clearly laid out and explained.
OBS Studio can stream straight to Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, Facebook and many other platforms – a much wider range than you’ll find in other streaming software. It’s even possible to stream to multiple platforms at once.
OBS Studio is also our top pick if you’re looking for a top quality free screen recorder. Other tools might be simpler, but whether you want to capture games or anything else on your desktop, you won’t find a more flexible tool for the job.
Read our full OBS Studio review
2. Streamlabs OBS
A friendlier face for the superb OBS Studio
Operating system: WindowsTODAY’S BEST DEALSVISIT SITE
REASONS TO BUY
+Auto optimization+Simple to use
REASONS TO AVOID
-No studio mode
As the name suggests, Streamlabs OBS is built on the same foundation as OBS Studio, putting a friendlier face on the powerful streaming software. Streamlabs offers claims to offer improved performance via automatic optimization, though the difference in our tests was negligible.
Its cleaner interface makes Streamlabs a reasonable choice for first-time streamers, but if you’re already happy using OBS Studio, there’s little advantage in switching. It’s currently in beta, so it’ll be interesting to see if it diverges further from OBS Studio in the future, but for the moment there’s little difference between the two.
It’s worth noting that Streamlabs currently lacks a studio mode – a feature that came to OBS Studio two years ago. It’s an advanced tool that many users won’t miss, but worth bearing in mind.
3. Nvidia Shadowplay
The game, the whole game and nothing but the game
Operating system: WindowsTODAY’S BEST DEALSVISIT SITE
REASONS TO BUY
+Little impact on game performance
REASONS TO AVOID
-Better for recording than streaming-No picture-in-picture
If you have a GeForce graphics card, Nvidia Shadowplay is bundled along with the drivers. It has a major advantage over most streaming software: it encodes in the GPU rather than the CPU, meaning it has negligible impact on performance, but it’s far less flexible than OBS Studio. There are no overlays or multi-sources scenes – just the game itself.
If you’re only interested in streaming gameplay then Nvidia Shadowplay will get the job done, but if you want to create something more sophisticated then you’ll be better off with OBS – particularly since you can set OBS to use Nvidia’s NVENC encoding.
Shadowplay’s video recording and screengrab tools are excellent, but streaming isn’t its strongest suit.
4. Xsplit Gamecaster
Excellent software, but premium features come at a steep price
Operating system: WindowsTODAY’S BEST DEALSVISIT SITE
REASONS TO BUY
+Facebook, Twitch, Mixer and YouTube
REASONS TO AVOID
-Higher resolutions are watermarked-Chromakeying is a paid extra
Unlike most of the free streaming software in this roundup, Xsplit Gamecaster is a free, cut-down version of a premium application. As such, it looks sleeker and benefits from premium support online, but several features are locked behind a paywall.
Gamecaster is a game-specific version of Xsplit Broadcaster, with a more streamlined interface. It supports streaming to Twitch, Mixer, YouTube and Facebook, and is incredibly easy to use – just start your game and hit a keyboard shortcut to bring up the overlay and begin streaming.
The biggest drawback is that streams at 720p or higher will carry an Xsplit watermark – not ideal if you want your stream to look professional. You’ll also have to open your wallet if you want chromakeying (green screen), in-game Twitch chat, console support via a capture card and custom logos. Commercial use also requires a license.
Prices start at US$4.17 (about £3/AU$5) per month for a 36-month license, through to US$199 (about £150/AU$250) for a lifetime license.
- Find out how to download YouTube videos
Software & Downloads Writer
Daryl had been freelancing for 3 years before joining TechRadar, now reporting on everything software-related. In his spare time he’s written a book, ‘The Making of Tomb Raider’, alongside podcasting and usually found playing games old and new on his PC and MacBook Pro. If you have a story about an updated app or one that’s about to launch, drop him a line.
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