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SnagIt: The Ultimate Screen Capture Program

by Ron White

Need to capture a screen in Windows? Forget about the built-in Print Screen function, which has to be the most underachieving feature in all versions of Windows. Print Screen, of course, should really be named "BMPScreen," because it doesn't print what's on the screen, but instead creates a bitmap graphic file of the display.

So what to do? Get SnagIt, the best tool you'll find for capturing and printing screens. It can create both a printout and graphic, in your choice of formats, and delivers the screen image as a file on disk, in email, as part of a catalog, or as a web graphic. All of that, however, is tiny taters compared to its full range of tricks for capturing what you see on the screen -- and even what you don't -- in ways that let you polish, hack, trumpet, analyze, and explain what's on your monitor and in any program you're developing.

The latest edition of SnagIt, version 7, triples the number of ways you can capture screens. It's also become much easier to use, thanks to a new interface, new wizards, and a peekaboo menu to launch different "profiles" -- combinations of screen areas, filters, and output choices that go into creating a screen shot. For aficionados of earlier versions of SnagIt, the hot keys still work, and there's a resort to a classic version that looks like a direct ancestor of DOS clunkiness. But trust me. In this case, new is better.

Figure 1
Figure 1. SnagIt 7's new and vastly improved interface leads to a new wealth of features that avoid being mere clutter.

The new interface divides the program in three modules. The first is the bread-and-butter part of SnagIt. You set up a combination of input and output for a one-time use or as team that you can use again and again. On the input side, choose from the entire screen, a window, menu, or an area you draw on the screen, including handy rectangles, polygons, triangles, ellipses, or any free-form blob that strikes your fancy. You can also capture wallpaper, DOS screens, video, a DirectX game, scanner input, clipboard contents, editable text, and even menus and windows that scroll off of the sides and bottom of the screen. SnagIt can even suck out any icons, bitmaps, or cursors hidden in a program file. The short version: if it can be displayed anywhere on a computer screen, SnagIt can capture it.

Once SnagIt has captured the most elusive screen element, it then can send it to a file, a printer, email, a web site, the clipboard, or all at the same time. SnagIt can send its captured prey to any computer output device short of the speakers. On the way, SnagIt can pass the shot through a number of filters to change colors, annotate, add borders, or crop.

Of course, rounding up screen images in one thing. Actually doing something useful with them is another. That's where SnagIt's Editor and Studio adjuncts come in. Actually, both of them are graphic editors, with the one claiming that title officially doing the duties of any modest paint or drawing program. Editor's not Photoshop by any means, but for touching up screen shots with airbrushing, fills, crops, rotation, and the like, it contains all of the tools you need. Except for those that are in Studio.

Studio's graphic tools are specialists, a collection of shapes, arrows, call-out boxes, word stamps ("APPROVED"), and simple clip art for annotating screen shots. Any person more comfortable with code than words and graphics will find Studio rounds out a suite that makes documenting software a breeze. The only flaw in SnagIt is that text requires using the Editor while the call-outs and snazzier arrows you'd want to use with the text are in Studio. The people at Techsmith, makers of SnagIt, should probably create a little combination of screen shots, arrow, and words to explain that.

Snag-It is shareware, and available from

Ron White is a longtime technology journalist and author of numerous books, including How Computers Work.

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