Capturing your computer screen is a terribly handy trick in all sorts of situations, ranging from creating tutorials to capturing web moments for posterity. Take a peek at the five most popular screen capture applications.
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Snipping Tool (Windows, Free)
Included in Windows 7, Windows Vista, and the Experience Pack for Windows XP Tablet Edition, Snipping Tool fits into a perfect niche for many users. For those of you who don't need high-powered screen capture tools, the basic functionality of Snipping Tool allows you to capture the whole screen, individual windows, or user-specified capture areas. Snipping Tool also has extremely basic editing functions, like the ability to highlight and write on your screen captures. It lacks the more advanced features included in other screen capture tools, but it does a great job filling the gap between the frustrating Print Screen and Paste style screen capture in earlier versions of Windows and more advanced applications. Snipping Tool is a solid choice if you've already got it on your system and your screen capture needs are minimal and far between.
FastStone Capture (Windows, $US20)
FastStone Capture lives up to the fast in its name; this application is lightweight and extremely responsive. It doesn't have a large interface, but within the tiny user interface is a screen capturing workhorse. FastStone Capture can capture multiple windows, regions, and multi-level menus. You can set it to automatically upload screenshots to an FTP server, send them by email, or embed them into a Word or Power Point presentation. In addition, this flexible tool includes a basic but very effective screencasting tool that supports audio input. FastStone Capture can be set to automatically prompt you for a caption with preset options, which makes bulk-producing screenshots a snap. Another small but handy feature is the built in colour picker for easy colour sampling.
Jing (Windows/Mac, Free)
Jing is the spartan baby brother of another screenshot tool, Snagit, both of which are products produced by software company TechSmith. Jing fills a niche in the screen capture crowd, allowing folks who want to share their screen captures to do so as quickly as possible. When you install Jing and set up an account at Screencast.com, you can also set Jing to upload to your Flickr account or YouTube account. Once you've set it up, going from capturing a screenshot or screencast to sharing the URL for your hosted file takes a matter of seconds. Jing has basic annotation tools, but the real draw is speedy sharing. Upgrading to Jing Pro for $US15 a year removes the Jing branding from your images and video and adds in a few features, like the ability to record your screencasts in MPEG in addition to Flash.
Skitch (Mac, Free)
Skitch is a screen capture tool in the same vein as Jing. Skitch the application is closely tied to Skitch.com, the screen capture hosting site. Skitch captures your screen, annotates it, draws on it with swanky graphics, and when you're ready, sharing it online is as easy as saving it to your desktop. If you don't want to use Skitch.com to share your screenshots, you can just as easily use your own FTP, Flickr, or .Mac account. The interface of Skitch is particularly user friendly; nearly all the editing functions are laid out in a ring around your screen capture, making it easy to find the tool you're looking for.
Snagit (Windows, $US50)
Snagit is as far removed from the classic Print Screen school of screen captures as possible. Snagit helps you capture both still images and grab frames from video. You can capture your entire screen or regions of it, and thanks to a robust profile system, you can create profiles for all manner of capture techniques. Whether you only want to generate a screen capture after a menu is activated or you want every screen capture to be automatically uploaded to a server, you can create a Snagit profile to fit your purpose. On top of the highly customisable feature set, Snagit offers a built in editor for annotating your screenshots and adding basic effects. Finally, the app's screenshot organizer keeps your grabs in order with date, name, and tag-based searching. Snagit also has the ability to easily capture images from objects that are larger than the screen.
If you have your own favourite screen capture tool that didn't make the list or a tip about screen captures, sound off in the comments below to share the wealth with your fellow readers.