Sooner or later, almost everyone needs screen captures—images of all or part of a computer screen—to use in presentations or Web pages or printed documents, and writers for PCMag.com typically make hundreds of screen shots a year. Our favorite screen capture, for a very long time, has been SnagIt, which combines traditional image-capture with video-capture functions. The latest version, SnagIt 11, preserves all the ease-of-use of the earlier versions, while adding features like the ability to capture audio output when recording a screen video. Once again, SnagIt snags our Editor’s Choice award for its unrivalled flexibility, power, and ease of use.
What I like most about SnagIt is its quick, intuitive, no-nonsense way of performing simple tasks like getting screen shots into a software review like this one, combined with its enormous range of options that I can use when I need special effects like grayscale images of full-color screens or when I want to add borders to images. And I like the way its built-in image editor lets me add text or arrows to images, and make other basic modifications, without pretending to be a graphic-designer’s tool like Photoshop. I also like the way its video-recording feature lets me include sound input from either a microphone or Windows’ own audio-output, for example, from an MP3 recording on disk or a YouTube video.
When you start up SnagIt it displays a dialog with a big red button for taking a screen shot and smaller buttons for settings options such as a timed countdown before capturing an image, whether or not to include the mouse pointer in the image, and whether or not to open the image immediately in SnagIt’s image editor. Other buttons let you select whether SnagIt will capture an image in the traditional way, or “scrape” text from Web pages or any other document, or start recording a screen-cam video. The text-scraping option, by the way, only works with documents with actual text data, such as web pages, not with scanned images of printed pages. The big red screen-capture button is only one of many possible ways to start a screen capture; by default, SnagIt also lets you press the PrtSc key (or any other key that you prefer) to start a capture.
I use SnagIt’s timer feature, so that I have a few seconds after clicking the Capture button or pressing PrtSc to open drop-down menus or anything else that I want to appear in a screen shot. If you’ve tried other screen-capture apps in the past, you know that it isn’t easy to find an app that can capture drop-down lists and other Windows features that tend to disappear when you press a key. SnagIt is the app that I can rely on to capture almost anything on screen, and it’s far better than anything else I’ve tried over the years.
SnagIt comes with a small set of capture “profiles” which determine exactly what gets captured when you take a screen shot. The default profile displays a brightly-colored pair of cross-hairs on the screen, and you maneuver these with a mouse until you’ve selected the part of the screen that you want to capture. The cross-hairs automatically snap to enclose a window, toolbar, menu, or other screen element as you pass over it. Just double-click or press Enter, and your selection gets captured. Other profiles include one that inserts the screen capture into Word with a border, or records a video and sends it to ScreenCast. Similar profiles can be downloaded from inside the app itself, so you can use a profile that sends a screen capture to Twitter or Facebook, or posts a video capture to YouTube. A built-in feature lets you save images or videos to an FTP site, but this feature doesn’t support Secure FTP so it won’t work with any of the sites I use.
By default, after capturing an image, the image opens in SnagIt’s editor and gets saved in SnagIt’s image library. From the editor, you can save images to disk in any standard format, including PDF and Flash. The editor also lets you apply borders, add arrows and text call-outs. If you save an image in Adobe .SWF format, you can add hotspots that act as hyperlinks. One essential feature for anyone making screenshots of Internet applications is the Blur tool which lets me mask e-mail addresses or any other personal detail that I don’t want to publish in a screen shot. Earlier SnagIt versions recorded video in AVI format, but SnagIt 11 uses the more efficient and up-to-date MPEG-4 format. You can preview captured videos in SnagIt’s video editor, and capture individual frames from a videos, but you can’t make any modifications to the video itself. You’ll need a separate video editor if you want to trim a video or add titles or apply special effects.
SnagIt assigns some keystrokes for its own features, such as Shift-F9 and Shift-F10 to start and stop video capture. If you use those keys in any other applications—for example, Microsoft Word uses Shift-F10 as the equivalent of a right-mouse-click—then you may be puzzled when those keystrokes seem to stop working the way you expect. The solution is to go to SnagIt’s Tools menu and change or disable these keystrokes in the app’s Program Preferences dialog.
A Little Room for Improvement
Our only serious complaint when we reviewed SnagIt 10 was the lack of a Revert feature that would let you undo all your modifications to a saved image, without pressing Ctrl-Z repeatedly until you’re back where you started. That’s still my one complaint about the current version. You can close an image without saving, then reopen it, but it would be easier to have a Revert feature. Other than that, SnagIt is beautifully-designed, reliable, and efficient app that does just about everything a screen-capture app should do.
Beats the Competition
Rival screen-capture products include FastStone Capture ($20 direct), FullShot ($49 direct), PicPick (free for personal use), and ScreenShot Magic ($20 direct), but none matches SnagIt’s flexibility and power. Of course, if you’re using Vista or Windows 7, you can find a built-in Snipping Tool under Accessories in the Windows Start Menu, and use it for fast-and-easy screen captures, but that won’t be enough for most serious screen-shot creators. For me, and for many of my PCMag.com colleagues, SnagIt is our personal choice, and it’s also our Editor’s Choice.
More Utility Software Reviews:
|OS Compatibility||Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7|
|Type||Business, Personal, Professional|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc