Mar 21, 2006

Screen capture with Snagit 8

Ever wanted to take a screenshot of your desktop and didn't know how? Well the basic thing you can do is to use the built-in screen capture utility included in Windows:
1. Press that Print Screen button from your keyboard. Now everything that was displayed on the screen is captured in a bitmap image. Next we have to paste that image.
2. Press Start->Run and type in there mspaint (or go to Programs->Accessories and click on Paint). Ms Paint will start, and to see the captured image press Ctrl+V. The image will be displayed in Ms Paint where you can do some basic edits to it.
3. Save your image in the desired format (default is .bmp, you can also choose others by clicking File->Save as and using the drop-down box you can select them).
That's it. You have now a screenshot of your desktop. Unfortunately, the built-in screen capture utility is very basic and it captures the entire screen. This is a problem when you use 2 monitors for instance.

This is where other screen capture programs are useful. One of them is SnagIt, and I must say that it's very impressive, considering the plethora of features it has and how easy it is to use. SnagIt is developed by Techsmith (creators of Camtasia) and it reached recently version 8. You can download a trial version from here: SnagIt 8 (direct download, about 14 MB). The trial version works without limitations for a period of 30 days. If you decide to purchase it after, it will cost you $40.

Once you have installed SnagIt, you'll be able to easily create your screenshots. After it starts, the main window displays some pop-up callouts with messages that guide you through the basic steps of creating your screenshot. After you select what type of screenshot you want to make (region, entire window, full screen, scrolling window, web page) you just have to push the Capture button (it's the big red one).

Snagit main window

After that the fun part starts. Because you get to choose what type of effects to apply to your screenshot. In the Screen Capture Preview window that launches, you'll see what you've captured and you can play with it until you have what you wanted.

Snagit capture

First set of effects you can choose are the Edge Effects. I mainly use and like the Drop shadow effect and the Torn edge one.

snagit edge effects
Edge effects you can choose

drop shadow
Drop Shadow effect

fade effect
Fade effect

Torn effect
Torn effect

Wave effect
Wave effect

Saw effect
Saw effect

Sharktooth effect
Sharktooth effect

Beveled effect
Beveled effect

These are nice, told you so. Beside the edge effects, there are plenty others. Another sweet one is the Spotlight and Magnify effect, that gives you the option to magnify one region of the screenshot, and eventually put it in a spotlight.

Spotlight and magnify in SnagIt

You can also add a dim or blur effect to the background, to emphasize the region you magnified.
Perspective and shear is nice too. You can apply horizontal or vertical rotation angles, but what's best is that everything will be displayed from a perspective, not frontally. The shear effect will allow you to make it look like you've just got a piece of paper from the trash.

Perspective and shear

Getting tired already of the features? There are lots more. Another one is the option to add a watermark to your image. For this you'll point to another image that will be part of it.

watermark in snagit

Adding a border to the screenshot is useful too, especially when the margins are white. It borders the image this way creating a picture effect.

Border effect

If you plan to create lots of screenshots, adding a caption to each will allow you to better handle them.

Caption to screenshot

There are also the Paint tools in the left panel, that give you the option to add callouts (they are useful, custom text, stamps and also erase portions of the screenshot.

Paint tools in Snagit

Once you've added the effects you want, you can finish the capture by pressing the Done button from the SnagIt toolbar.

Snagit toolbar

I know that there are a lot of screenshots in here, but trust me that I didn't even expose a quarter of the features in SnagIt. This program does it all. Of course, if you don't want to go through the hassle of these effects, you can define profiles and do everything automatically, capture, edit and share them. Visit the techsmith website for more tutorials and other information.