Tools we use – Screen Captures

Have you ever found yourself writing an email (or a blog post!) and wished you could just show what you mean instead of having to try to describe it? We often find that being able to quickly capture what’s happening on a computer screen is invaluable for saving time and communicating more clearly. There are a few neat tools from a company called Techsmith that we use all the time!

Image Capture:

Sure, you can press the Print Screen button on your keyboard, open an image editor, paste, crop, edit, save…but aren’t there better tools?

When we need to do a lot of consistent screen captures (documentation is a prime example), our tool of choice is “SnagIt.” It basically replaces the Printscreen button on your keyboard with a completely customizable capturing solution. What we like about it:

  • Set a fixed region to capture if you need multiple screenshots with consistent sizes
  • Click and drag to select a screen region to capture
  • Set a delayed capture so you have time to open menus, position the mouse, etc
  • Automatically saves images to a chosen format
  • Basic editing options to quickly add arrows, text, etc
  • Organization and tagging assistance to find your screenshots later
Configuring Snagit capture options
Configuring Snagit capture options

Video Capture:

There are fewer options when it comes to recording an actual video of what’s happening on your computer screen, but Camtasia Studio (also made by Techsmith) is terrific.

  • Set recording regions, or record full screen video with narrated audio
  • Simple video editing with customizable text and graphic callouts
  • Easy survey and quizzing options that can manipulate the flow of the video (Windows only)
  • Intuitive export options for web or mobile devices
The Camtasia recorder interface
The Camtasia recorder interface

Video and Image Capture:

Techsmith also makes a completely free tool called Jing that’s not as full-featured as it’s commercial products, but is really fast and easy to use.

  • Record videos (limited to 5-minutes each) or images in just 2 clicks
  • Save to your computer or uploaded immediately to your free screencast account (up to 2 GB)
  • Share web URLs, showing what’s on your screen as an instantaneous supplement to text chatting
Capture images or video with Jing and upload them immediately
Capture images or video with Jing and upload them immediately

How WPI members can get these tools:

WPI staff and faculty can obtain SnagIt or Camtasia through our campus license agreement. WPI students can use SnagIt or Camtasia on any WPI classroom or lab computer.

We have put together a set of help and how-to pages for the WPI campus:

Also, check out Techsmith’s pages:

What else is there?

We use the Techsmith products because they are fast, intuitive, and work really well. But here are some alternative ways to capture images and video on your computer.

Just a quick note–we’re aware of the stuff below, but these aren’t the tools we use every day, so we’re probably not the best to talk about them!

Operating system shortcuts:

  • The Print Screen key on Windows keyboards captures the whole screen, Alt+Print Screen captures just the active window. The image goes to the clipboard and needs to be pasted elsewhere.
  • Search for the “Snipping Tool” in Windows Vista or later for a lightweight tool that captures the whole screen or a selectable region and allows you to save to either an image file or the clipboard.
  • On a Mac, press Apple key ⌘ + Shift + 3 and then click to capture the full screen, Apple key ⌘ + Shift + 4 to select and capture a region, and Apple key ⌘ + Shift + 4, then spacebar to capture a specific window.

Other Tools:

  • Try out CamStudio on Windows (free) if you only need to record your screen (no editing, online sharing, export to web formats.
  • On Mac, check out CaptureIt (shareware), SnapZ (commercial, demo), or iShowU (commercial, demo)

What did we miss? What do you use? Let us know!

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