Best Free Screen Capture Utility

On the standard Windows operating system, pressing the Print-Screen key will copy an image of the entire screen to the clipboard, holding the Alt key and pressing the Print-Screen key will capture the currently selected window. Vista and Windows 7 come with a screen capture utility pre-installed. Other operating systems may also offer a similar utility for screen capture.

As an alternative to the utilities that come with the OS, the freeware products in this review cover most of the following useful features and functions which users may find they need.

  • Capture full screen or freely selected screen areas.
  • Auto detect windows and control objects such as button, box, toolbar, tab, etc.
  • Snap scrolling windows, allow delayed captures.
  • Re-size screen shots or create thumbnails and other extra features.

PicPick is a powerful and user friendly screen capture tool with a plethora of features.

The program works straight from the tray icon to capture full screen, active window, window control, rectangular, fixed or freehand region. Auto-scroll, dual monitors and sound effect are supported. No delayed capture setting is probably needed as users have a chance to make, for example, a window current before pressing the Print-Screen key.

The screenshot can be saved into a file with an auto-save option, copied to the clipboard or directed to PicPick Image Editor included in the program for resizing or editing the image right away. In the Editor, drawing objects are flattened and not movable though.

This program completes with extra functionalities which include color picker, screen ruler, protractor, crosshair, whiteboard, etc. Upon installation, it installs a Bing Toolbar but it’s optional.

FastStone CaptureAn older product FastStone Capture is also found user friendly and full of features for screen capture. It gives the choice of working via a floating capture panel (right), a tray icon or hotkeys. You can use any of these to capture an active window, window object, rectangular or freehand region, full screen or scrolling window – there’s a delayed capture setting. Other extra features such as screen magnifier and color picker are also included.

You can save a captured image to the clipboard, auto-save to a file, print or email it, or send it to a built-in image editor for cropping, proportional resizing, adding text or symbols and so on.

On the flip side, this software has turned into a commercial product since after the version 5.3, which has been free for home users but no more supported by the developer.

Screenshot CaptorAs an alternative, Screenshot Captor is a good choice for screen capture with context-menu or hotkey access. It detects desktop, multi-monitor, active window, region and window object with delayed captures.

It allows for setting transparent background (untick ‘flatten background’) and saving in png format with the alpha channel, good for capturing a window with round corners or in non-square shape (as tested on XP). Auto scroll is supported but performs slower than PicPick.

The program has a main window including a thumbnail browser and an image editor with comprehensive tools for resizing, cropping, adding text, border, shadow, frame, arrow and highlight, etc. Creating a pre-defined thumbnail is just one-click away and image files can be saved in various formats.

A lot of options and settings including full object-editing tools and clipart library are available to the program for more advanced users. Moreover, external tools can be accessed from this program with proper configuration.

Upon running the program, the user is required to register and get a free license key to remove a nag message.

EasyCaptureEasyCapture is another easy-to-use screen capture software, accessible from the system tray, main window or hot keys.

It snaps full screen, active windows, control objects, fixed size or selected regions. Scrolling windows is featured but it does not work well with Firefox and Chrome when tested.

It has a tabbed image viewer and editor, allowing for cropping, resizing, text annotations, arrows, stamps, highlights and other drawing tools, and saving images in various formats.

DuckCaptureDuckCapture (or DuckLink Screen Capture) supports snapping a region, window or object, scrolling window and fullscreen. You can choose which snapping mode you like with a hotkey or mousing over the program icon on the system tray.

With this program, you have a good choice to select an image outline, setting output target to the clipboard or auto-save to a file.

I see this program easy and intuitive to use, but it lacks a simple image editor built-in and some other features such as capturing a freehand region and setting for a delayed capture.

GreenshotGreenshot, a simple and easy-to-use screen capture tool with a small download. It allows for capturing a region, active windows or objects, and full screen with setting for a delayed capture, but no snapping a scrolling window or freehand region is available.

It has a built-in image editor which is easy to use as well. You can add a textbox or draw a floating arrow or symbol with a shadow, obfuscate a selected area, then save your file in jpg, gif, png or bmp format.

It’s convenient that you can crop an image with the editor but that has no resizer.

ZScreenZScreen makes snapping and uploading screenshots easier. It captures full screen, windows, objects and rectangular areas and uploads screenshots with the custom image uploaders.

The program supports optional delayed snaps and periodic screenshots via Auto Capture, but it does not allow for freehand captures and detection of scrolling windows.

The captured images can be added with text or image watermarks, and edited with the built-in image editor or pre-set external editors. Some extra features include a color picker, language translator and drag-and-drop window.

Looking for a screen capture tool for Linux?

Shutter (previously GScrot) is like a swiss army knife for all screen capture tasks in Linux. It works better than Gnome-screenshot and KDE’s KSnapshot. The program allows for capturing whole desktop, rectangular area, window or child window with a specified delayed time and setting to activate or deactivate the window border and cursor.

The captured screenshot can be edited with a simple inbuilt DrawingTool for adding text, highlights, floating arrows, etc. and executing the included plugins such as resize, 3D rotate, watermark, shadow, soft edge, torn paper, jigsaw piece and other special effects.

Shutter can also be linked to an external editor such as GIMP Image Editor for advanced editing. It supports upload or autosave in various formats. On the down side, Shutter does not feature auto-scroll capture but relies on Gnome Web Photographer to generate full-size image files and thumbnails from web pages and html files.

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