Who doesn’t need to take a screen capture of their desktop content from time-to-time? Whether you are working on technical documentation, sharing a web page, annotating requirements ow what have you the windows (Alt + Print Screen) built-in functionality just does not cut it. However if this is just the functionality that you require and you do not have the time or interest to learn, to install, to have another tool here is a good tutorial
With that being said, there are a number of very cool utilities out there that can assist you. For this review I will be covering the following utilities:
Vista Snipping Tool
Feel free to add any additional utilities by way of the comments and we will happily evaluate and review the functionality offered.
Cropper is a very simple application that resides in your system tray. This one is a challenge to capture a screen capture. Attempting to use a screen capture tool to capture another screen capture tool proves to be quite a challenge for this application. The window for Cropper looks like an opaque overlay that has a handle providing the capture dimensions with a border to constrain the image to be captured.
The outputs also include features to send to OneNote, Flickr, Amazon S3, email and TinyPic hosted image. The application also has built-in support for thumbnail generation which can come in handy.
The application also supports plug-ins. To date these plug-ins include Amazon S3, Flickr and send to email.
price: free (open source)
format: .gif, .avi, .bmp, .jpg, .png
Greenshot is a tray resident tool that offers functionality by way of hot keys or the context menu. The default setting for a screen capture results in the opening of the Greenshot image editor. The image editor allows for the printing and saving of the captured image as well as some additional annotation tools. The benefit here of course is that you can make your notes on the image and then save it to it’s final output. The productivity here is fantastic since many screen capture tools in the past have required that you open the image and then resort to some other tool to “enhance” the screen capture. The objects that can be inserted in to the capture include rectangles, ellipse, line, arrow, textbox. In addition to these objects you can also control the object’s appearance through line color, line thickness and object arrangement.
The application contains a number of useful key bindings that enable you to capture the images while you are working. Other screen capture applications require that you activate the application and then perform the capture. By using the keyboard shortcuts, you can capture a region by hitting the “Print” key and choosing the capture region with your mouse. You can also use *window mode* by pressing Alt + Print to capture the active window and finally you have the option of Fullscreen by pressing Ctrl + Print.
If you are cataloging series of screen captures you can bypass the image editor feature. To do this you uncheck the feature to open in the editor and save to a directory. I especially like this feature as it allows you to quickly work through a document or website capturing images and then organize them in your document.
price: free (paypal)
format: .bmp, .jpeg, .png, .gif
SnagIt allows you to capture anything you see on the screen. Edit and combine those captures. Share them via your favorite applications. Organize and find them again later.
Read a comprehensive review
price: $49.95 US
This screen capture application can be an active window or set by way of preferences to be hidden and resident in the system tray. By way of the context menu it offers the same features for capturing a region, window, full screen or repeat last capture as that of Greenshot. The image editor that is provided is quite robust and offers features by way of the settings menu to configure Hot Keys. The image editor contains many of the tools that you come to expect from Paint.Net or Paintshop. There is also extensibility built into the editor by way of the plug-ins option.
Full feature list
price: $38 US
format: .bmp, .jpg, .gif, .png
After spending a couple minutes fiddling with the settings and functionality I was blown away as I was clearly working with the Swiss Army knife of screen capture utilites.
Not only does the application capture the standard formats (see below) using the standard methods but offers a wide array of additional functionality:
- window info – feature provides the left and top position and dimensions of the selected window, window text, window class name, and window handle
- color picker – feature provides the ability to create a palette of 10 color selections with many levels of zoom along with a color information window providing the color values (RGB, HTML, Delphi, System)
- zoom – feature allows you to zoom in on any area of interest
- ruler – feature allows you to measure any object on the screen in pixels either vertically or horizontally
- image viewer – feature allows you to view all of the listed output formats and two additional formats (.wmf and .ico)
- missing feature is the get-a-cup-of-coffee
price: free (paypal donation)
format: .bmp, .jpg, .gif, .png, .tiff
Vista has stepped up the screen capture capability quite a bit. To access the Vista snipping tool, click on the Start Menu and start typing “snipping” into the search box. The Snipping Tool should show up in the Programs list above the search box, and you can click on it to start it.
Instructions on usage are contained in this simple tutorial
price: free (you pay the vista tax)
format: .jpg, .png, .gif, .mht
- Snap a website
- Capture a chat moment
- Screenshot an application
- iSight snap your bad hair day
- Quickly sketch an idea
- Tap into your iPhoto Library
- Re-open images from your Skitch History
Read an existing review
price: free (public beta)
LittleSnapper allows you to take screenshots of an entire webpage, or specific portions of your screen in general, without cluttering your desktop with a ton of icons. It then organizes those snaps into a library where you can tag, rate and comment them.
- Full webpage capture
- Element snapping
- Rating feature
- Library to organize snaps
- Support for annotation
- Flickr and FTP support
Read an existing review
price: $39 US
Fireshot is the 800-pound gorilla of web capture utilities. The capture functions provide the ability to capture the visible area, an entire page or all tabs.
Each of these options allow you to edit, upload, save, print, copy to clipboard, email or open in external editor. To put it bluntly, there really is not anything that you cannot do with this add-on.
As an added bonus, Fireshot supports not only Firefox but also Internet Explorer. This add-on can be accessed by way of the status bar, button on the menubar or the context-menu
Full feature list
price: free (Pro version – $34.95 US)
format: .bmp, .gif, .jpg, .png
Capture Fox is more of a movie maker than a screen capture utility but it is useful if you are looking to capture the flow of a web site for demo purposes or you are looking to see how users use your site. A nice poor man’s tool for usability testing. The basics of this add-on include the ability to capture the entire screen or just the Firefox window. It offers three (3) levels of quality – Low, Moderate (default) and High with the ability to record sound if you have a microphone. Finally, the file output can be edited using alternate video editing software. Records the action from your Firefox screen only or from your whole desktop.
Screengrab is another context-menu driven add-on that is very utilitarian in its offering. The options are to either either copy or save content. It can get much more straight-forward than that. Though that appears to be basic functionality you can do what the name implies “grab a screen”. The options for a screen grab include a complete page/frame, visible portion, selection and finally window.
These options are identical between the copy and the save.
format: .jpg, .png
DashBlog offers you the ability to capture content on the web and forward it along to your blog, vlog, twitter or what-have-you.
Since this add-on offers a very simple to use web page capture feature, it warrants being included in the mix. The utility is very straight-forward and can be accessed by way of the icon in your menubar or the via the context-menu. When using DashBlog you have the options to grab video, screenshot, “text as a quote”, images and mp3. When capturing a screenshot, the page is selected with a gray overlay with a sidebar containing the commands available for capture and manipulation.
Within the screen capture you also have the ability to do some basic annotating of the selected content with the option to “save to disk” or “post”. Available post options include the following services: tumblr, Word Press (this may come in handy), twitter and blogger (may be handy again).
It is truly a challenge to recommend any single tool in this space as each caters to a specific audience and makes sure that their needs are being met. The author has been a big fan of the Cropper tool over the past year but during the process of reviewing the tools and creating screen captures has been swayed to lean on Greenshot quite a bit more. Over time, you may find that you prefer one over the other depending on the type of work that you are doing and like the ability to immediately edit a capture before saving it to its final home on disk or just needing the ability to paste from the clipboard or send to your blog in which case your usage will change. A key point to remember if installing multiple screen capture tools is the potential keyboard mappings getting out of whack. Please keep this point in mind if you do choose to install multiple tools.
For the browser based tools, if you do not mind a little slower load and bit more memory consumption then I’d just recommend installing all four (4) add-ons. However, if you are looking for the single best tool to do the job, Fireshot is the add-on for you.
In closing, the best tool is the one that increases productivity. There are so many tool options out there in this category and the only room to review a handful so below is a list of some honorable mentions. Perhaps over time and as features are added these tools will get some space to tout their finer points to the developer community.