Windows

Five versatile screen-capture apps for Windows

When you need a bit more functionality than Print Screen and Paint offer, one of these screen capture tools will come in handy.

Screen captures aren't just for tech writers anymore. If you support users, you probably need to capture screen shots occasionally. When needs are simple, you can probably get by with Print Screen and Windows Paint. If you're using Windows 7, try Snipping Tool. But if you want serious control or more polish, you need something more powerful. Any of the following apps should fill most needs.

1: FullShot

Inbit's award-winning FullShot has been around for a long time. (I was using it back in the early 90s.) It's probably one of the more comprehensive packages, offering a number of flexible capturing scenarios and hotkeys. Its interface generates a bit of a learning curve, but it's worth it. You can easily control size and resolution. Effects are adequate and easy to add. For instance, the tear effect shown in Figure A requires only a single click before the capture, and you can adjust its attributes. Capture tools let you shoot the entire screen all the way down to a section of a toolbar. You get what you want, and this software supports a large range of image formats. You can set defaults that accommodate your needs and use hotkeys and SWORD buttons, which are probably its most appealing feature.

Figure A

FullShot's interface has a lot of options, and special effects like this one are easy to add.

FullShot is priced reasonably, from $49.99 for the standard version to $149.99 for enterprise licensing, and Inbit offers a 30-day trial. FullShot 9 is a 32-bit app, but it's compatible with both Windows 7 and Vista 32- and 64-bit systems (according to the publisher). It works in almost every version of Windows, from 7 to 98.

2: SnagIt

SnagIt by TechSmith captures full screens, partial screens, or an entire scrolling area (which is really cool). Its freehand capture tool is impressive. Region capture is a bit awkward at first, but it's easy to use once you get the hang of it. Besides traditional screen shots, SnagIt can copy Web sites, text, and even video. You can record your screen's action using AVI format, annotate, resize, change coloring, and more. Editing and effects tools are more than adequate for the average user. Figure B shows a curled edge effect, which required a single click. Like FullShot, there's a bit of a learning curve, which is complicated somewhat by the interface. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's not as intuitive as you might like.

Figure B

SnagIt offers adequate capture settings and special effects.

The help system isn't terribly useful, either. For instance, a search on "shadow" turns up nothing. That's because shadows are an edge effect. The help's there, but if you don't know the shadow attribute is an edge effect, you might wander around for a bit before you find what you're looking for. Also, SnagIt usurps your system's Print Screen button as the default hotkey. You can go into Program Preferences to change that if it's a problem for you.

SnagIt is compatible with Windows 7, Vista, and XP, and there's a Mac version. At $50, Snagit is comparable to FullShot. TechSmith offers a 30-day trial.

3: CaptureWizPro

CaptureWizPro from PixelMetrics is extremely popular with users; you can capture or record just about anything on your system quickly and almost effortlessly. Simply drag the mouse to select an area and choose an appropriate output, which includes saving in a traditional format, sending to the printer, or initiating an email with the capture as an attachment. You can also let the predictive capture tool capture the entire window or individual components, even extended scroll areas. You can capture audio and video -- it's a comprehensive capture package that's easy to use. If you need special effects, however, skip this one. Effects are limited and it uses Windows Paint as its editor.

The toolbar, shown in Figure C, sits on the desktop ready to use and supports hotkeys. For simple screen captures, it's perhaps the easiest of all five to use. This software also lets you capture multiple regions at once, which is a helpful capability for the right users.

Figure C

Click this program's icon in the tray to launch its toolbar and start capturing.

The $39.95 price tag is a good value and there's a 30-day trial. This tool is compatible with Windows 7, Vista, and XP.

4: HyperSnap

Another easy-to-use capturing program, HyperSnap from Hyperionics, offers super-precise capturing control and cropping capabilities. The interface is simple and there's a full set of options for working with color and resolution. It isn't as robust as FullShot or Snagit, but its interface is friendly. A single click converted the image shown in Figure D to gray scale. And via the capture settings, you can specify capture shapes other than the basic rectangle.

Figure D

Converting this image to gray scale required just one click.

HyperSnap costs $39.95 and there's a 30-day trial. It's compatible with Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7.

5: FastStone Capture

FastStone Capture offers a full set of tools and capturing capabilities. You can capture anything -- windows, objects, menus, scrolling windows, and freehand regions. Like CaptureWizPro, it starts with a simple toolbar and displays an interface that's easy to use. Editing tools allow annotating with text, adding arrows, highlighting, resizing, cropping, applying a few special effects, and more. Figure E shows a faded edge effect, which required just a couple of clicks. You can also record screen actions and sound. All these features are easily managed by hotkeys. The one capability I require that's unsupported is the ability to resize images to specific percentages. You can resize, but you're limited to preset standards.

Figure E

Choose a capture from the toolbar and go.

This tool costs $19.95, and it offers a free trial. Considering everything FastStone Capture can do, it's a bargain at that price.

Other options?

Do you have a favorite screen capture app that didn't make this list? Share your recommendations with other TechRepublic members.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

33 comments
Johanna614
Johanna614

Maybe you could try to use Free Screenshot Capture, it allows for taking screenshots of whole screen or any selected area. Besides, it also comes with other features like making annotations, uploading and sharing images.

JohnnyUtah21
JohnnyUtah21

Great article, these are great tools for screen capturing. But when I want to annotate and talk with others about a screen capture I like to use Snapzen.

gjschaub
gjschaub

For video capture I have worked with the free Microsoft Expression. The only problem is using the included Encoder to save in the format of choice. Lots of encoding options for quality. I have used this to record some stubborn videos that the usual video download tools don't work for. If you can view it, you can record it. I didn't see anyone mention that alt-printscreen captures only the selected window instead of the whole screen for standard captures.

8087
8087

Given that it's free and given that after several years of use, I have yet to encounter any issues, it's proven to be reliable.

luismatoso
luismatoso

Jing, SnapShotter, Webinaria, BandiSoft, SMRecorder, Expression Encode Screen Capture, Office One Note, Cam Studio Recorder, LightScreen. They are all free and great ScreenCapture tools.

Kieron Seymour-Howell
Kieron Seymour-Howell

I will say that Snagit is probably the most powerful for the resources used. http://www.techsmith.com/snagit.html Evernote is the most useful in general. https://www.evernote.com Lightshot is the best for sharing and providing tech support. It has a feature where it uploads to a temp server then you can send a client or a friend a link instead of a huge file. Many other simple features also. http://lightshot.skillbrains.com/ Personally I like Corel Capture for my personal use.

sojrner
sojrner

I use Wisdomsoft Screenhunter...free app but you can buy for $19.95 if you want to get full capability. All you have to do is press F6 key and it will take the shot of exactly what you are selecting. It uses an x-y axis that you use the mouse to select. Really great app!

greywer
greywer

I agree with lionbose that Snap 5 (or the earlier versions) are excellent utilities that allow you to capture and edit just about anything on screen (including videos, scrolling windows, menus, freestyle areas, etc.) and should be included in your list,

leonbose
leonbose

Snap4 or the newer Snap5 by Ashampoo is a fullfeatured application that should be included in your recommendation.It has a unique and easy to use interface.Everybody i showed it too were very impressed.

David J Taylor
David J Taylor

I'm surprised that no-one has mentioned IrfanView. Can save with a keystroke (Ctrl-F11), will name and date files, can save in PNG and other formats, and it's free. Of course, it does a lot more than screen capture, so likely you will already have it installed.

rmazzeo
rmazzeo

...try Gadwin PrintScreen - does what you need it to do, & it's FREE!!!

keith_eves
keith_eves

If your organisation uses lotus notes/lotus sametime, there is a neat little tool in sametime to capture parts of screens and you can annotate them as well. I've used when producing documents.

CoastTop
CoastTop

ScreenshotCaptor From http://www.donationcoder.com/ And there is MiniCap, ScreenshotCaptor's little brother. Been using it (and other great software) from them for some time. They are free but a donation to them would help.

ft6146
ft6146

There is also the option of Jing, which is free to download and use. Features are limited but it does a decent job for the price!

jackmiller
jackmiller

I use free Evernote to capture long articles. Otherwise, Greenshot works well for me. Will check out ZScreen. Thanks for the tip!

spdragoo
spdragoo

This is a utility we use at work. It's apparently an old one (the support page for the 4.00 version we use lists a [b]Geocities[/b] site, http://www.geocities.com/~gigaman). But it works great on our WinXP machines, and I'm considering trying it at home as well. Nice features it has: [ol]*100% freeware. Per the About screen, it's available "For Free Use of an Individual or Company", so the price is hard to beat. *Easy keystrokes. By default, just use the existing [u]PrintScrn[/u] key on your keyboard, & it will automatically take a screenshot of the visible desktop. If you don't like that, you can change it to CTRL+5, CTRL+F12, or specify a specific CTRL+key that you want to use. You also have the choice of adding [u]ALT[/u] to just capture the active window -- say, for example, if you're trying to write a walkthrough with screenshots, but only want the particular program to show up. *Easy use. By default, the program is minimized in the system tray, & only pops open when you hit the designated hotkey. The main window gives you menu & shortcut buttons to: [ul] *save the screenshot as a picture *load a picture into the program *copy the screenshot into the Windows Clipboard for pasting into another program (or load the Clipboard) *use a drawing-style tool to select a rectangular section of the visible desktop *edit the screenshot in your default picture editor *print the screenshot to your default printer (or select a different printer) *make adjustments to the screenshot before printing [/ul] [/ol] Only caveats: [ol]* Closing the app. By default, hitting the red "X" minimizes the app (or use [u]Esc[/u]). That's good, because you can use it again; unfortunately, that's also the only method (short of using the rectangular selection tool) to be able to get a fresh screenshot. Right-clicking the icon in the system tray closes the program completely; unfortunately, so does right-clicking on the app's name in the Taskbar & selecting "Close". * Getting fresh screen shots. As I said, the only way to get a new screenshot is to minimize the app, or use the manual selection tool. However, since my agency uses this to print from remote-access mainframe apps where the built-in print functions only print to their on-site printers (i.e. off-site for us), we mainly use it in "screenshot - print - Esc - redo as needed" mode. [/ol]

markp24
markp24

I have also found Snagit to be the choice from my users and I also found the sipping tool builtinto Windows good enough for most everything. But I have really found the PSR.exe (problem steps recorder ) a really good tool when i need information about what someone is doing ona computer.

Craig_B
Craig_B

Built into Vista/Win 7 Snipping Tool is nice for basic screen captures. Includes highlights and a pen tool.

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

error messages, but a lot of my customers have vast needs and Snagit is their tool of choice, quite useful they say, so I will give it a thumbs up on their behalf.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

It's old, but it's reliable, and it suits my needs. And it's free. (Yes, it's adware, but the ads are unobtrusive). It's available on download.com and sofotex.com Unfortunately, I don't think it's actively supported any more; the developer's website is parked on Google.

tatroc
tatroc

I agree with Anthony, Greenshot is the best, opensource and free.

Anthony Rice
Anthony Rice

I manage over 300+ user computers. After trying many of them I have found Greenshot is by far the best app as it is flexible in its application and just works. It's also free. http://getgreenshot.org.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Press Print Screen and paste to MS Paint.Snipping Tool is real good too.

rhand20
rhand20

Free program with hot keys and the ability to do full screen, multiple screens, active window, or even crop shot. Awesome tool!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

My preferred capture utility, 20/20, is no longer supported.

Michael Jay
Michael Jay

that is a screen capture of a different kind.

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