When you are developing web sites, having a good idea of how the content will frame itself within various screen resolutions is of utmost importance. Also, if you want to present clean images of a site "mock up" for your prospective clients, which doesn't look like a lousy cut-and-paste job out of MS Paint, you might want to consider a tool that can grab an entire snapshot of any website, per your specifications, and export it as a JPG, GIF, BMP or PNG file for sharing.
- Title: WebShot
- Author: Nathan Moinvaziri
- Supported operating systems: Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8
- Price: Free / $45 for Personal and $85 for Server command-line editions
WebShot by Nathan Moinvaziri seems fitting as a tool up to the task. As the name implies, you provide a URL (or a batch of URLs) to WebShot, define your export parameters, and click the Start button. And, depending on your Internet connection and content, your output images are ready for viewing within mere moments of capture. Opening up any of the exported images reveals how a site looks on the web, without any URL address and page scroll bars.
How does this actually work? WebShot essentially fires up Internet Explorer as a background process, and then uses the browser to scan and save images to your hard disk. It's fairly simple overall, but it doesn't stop right there. As mentioned earlier, you can edit output parameters which consist of browser size, image output size and timeouts.
The settings area for WebShot
Browser size is what constrains the content of the page being rendered for export as if it was being viewed on a kind of screen. For instance, if I wanted an idea of how one of my web pages looked on an XGA resolution display, I set the fixed size width to 1024, and then leave the height box unchecked. Any images that are generated thereafter will look exactly like it would on a display that size with all the content scrolling downwards to the bottom.
Unless you have a special reason to further shape the output into a forced dimension, I would recommend leaving the window size options under the Image section of Settings completely disabled. The quality and grayscale options could come in handy, if you wanted to compress the images further or see how a site could look when printed to a monochrome printer.
Finally, under the Process section of Settings, you can determine how long a URL should take to load before WebShot takes a picture of the site and exports accordingly. This is particularly useful if you have a slow internet connection and need the site to cache entirely to disk, as shorter timeouts could result in an image filled with gaping holes and missing content that didn't quite generate fully in time.
For more advanced users who might want to see the steps taken in a site image capture routine, or to see why a queued process failed, the View Log button can bring forth a record of all the actions performed and any warnings or critical errors, such as attempting to scan a bad or incorrect URL as well as page load issues.
TechRepublic's website rendered nicely to a PNG file
Now, as nice as this tool is, I unfortunately have one nitpick to file. As it turns out, there is no way for anyone to switch the rendering engine that WebShot uses. If you wanted to export a site out rendered in Firefox or Chrome for instance, you're out of luck, as WebShot is Internet Explorer exclusive. Sure, IE has become more standards compliant recently, but that doesn't grant you the flexibility to see the same site from different browsers, back to back. Perhaps the author of WebShot will include this functionality down the road, so here's hoping enough positive feedback comes in.
Other than that, I have to say this utility does a nice job taking clean and precise images of the sites you choose. As long as you are cognizant of the IE render output limitation, you might as well integrate this into your web developer toolset. For the command-line users out there, a personal and server edition of WebShot exists for $45 and $85 respectively, and incorporates additional options that can be called upon via command-line toggles and options, which is great for scripting and massive batch operations.
An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Customer Success Professional for Ultimate Software in Santa Ana, California.