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Best Free Screen Capture Tool

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  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide
 
Introduction

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 might 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.

This article's focus is on screen captures. If your priority is editing, after the capture, then check out Best Free Digital Image Editor. Several of the editors listed also perform screen captures.

I've eliminated many products because they can't adapt to my screen settings, eg I have the custom text size set to 150%.  I feel that I should not have to optimize the screen settings for the screen capture tool.  Instead, I should optimize the screen for myself and the item I want to capture. The utility should be able to adapt. As evidence that this is not impossible there are several utilities listed below which meet this criteria.

 
Discussion

Screenshot CaptorScreenshot Captor supports multiple screens, full screen, window, rectangular area, and fixed area captures from either hot keys or from the programs menu. The cursor can be included or excluded. It's the only capture facility that can take a self-portrait. The software can acquire images from a scanner.

Once captured the program can automatically do the following to the image: keep, save, print, move to the clipboard, display in the built-in editor, email, or upload to hosting services.

The built-in editor is rich with features. You might not find it necessary to use an image editor.

Requests for free registration on start up.

 

DuckCaptureDuckCapture supports snapping a region, window or object, scrolling window and fullscreen. You can choose which snapping mode you like with a hot key or by mousing over the program icon in the system tray.

With this program you can choose to select an image outline, set output target to the clipboard or auto-save to a file.

I found this program easy and intuitive to use, but it lacks a simple built-in image editor and a setting for a delayed capture.

 

ScreenShotSnapDraw is a screenshot capture, editor and annotation tool.  It only supports window or full screen capture, but the image can be cropped with the built-in editor. There is no delayed capture setting. Operates from either a hot key or the notification icon.

Where it excels is in the built-in editor. There are many tools available such as callouts, magnifying lenses, 3D perspective, and reflections.

Images can be saved to clipboard, file, email or FTP. There is no direct to printer option.

 

JingLightscreen captures screen, window and area from hotkeys or tray icon. It supports screenshot delay, cursor and multi-monitor. Auto-saves its outputs to file or clipboard. No other output functions are supported.

 

CropperCropper makes it fast and easy to grab parts of the screen from either a hot key or from the notification icon. Fullscreen, active window and rectangular area are supported. No auto-save, auto-scroll, or delayed capture. A screenshot and a thumbnail can be created simultaneously. 

Output can be directed to the clipboard, printer or an image file.

 

Snipping ToolMicrosoft's Snipping Tool comes already installed in Windows Vista and Windows 7. A capture must be initiated by first launching the program. From there one can select a screen capture type or press Escape and the PrintScreen button hot key. Full screen, active screen, rectangular area, and freehand area seletions are supported. No auto-save, auto-scroll or delayed capture.

Output is displayed in the editor window and sent either to email or an image file. The editor is limited to two tools--a freehand highlighting tool and a freehand line drawing tool. There is no printer output function.

 

Screen Grab ProScreen Grab Pro features one-click grab of desktop, active window and region from the main interface or hot keys. It also allows for timer operation and copies images to the clipboard or external editor. 

I liked that it had an option to automatically open the external editor after saving the file.

Lowers screen resolution when attempting to capture a rectangular region so nealy half of the right and bottom sides are unavailable.

Requires an email address for registration. 

 

JingJing only supports rectangular screen captures.  However, it can also capture a video of activity within the selection.  Delayed capture, hotkeys, auto-save, and scrolling windows are not supported. Output to clipboard, file, and Screencast.com.   Includes an image editor but not a video editor.

Requires registration with Screencast.com.

To be reviewed:

SnapCrab: http://www.fenrir-inc.com/us/snapcrab/

 
Other

The following screen capture tools were brought up in comments here or noted from other sources. Some tools don't properly handle the text size setting thereby effectively cropping 225% of the screen with a 150% text screen setting. They may work fine if your text setting is normal (100%).

 
Have Your Say

You are invited to share and discuss your views in our freeware forum.  To post in the forum you need to register first but that's quick and immediate. Alternatively, anyone can leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

Please help us by rating this review

 
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 
Quick Selection Guide

Screenshot Captor
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Supports snapping a Multimon (multiple monitors), Desktop, Active Window, Region, Windows Object, and Scrolling Capture using a hot-key or from the system tray. Editor. Delayed Capture. Output to clipboard, editor, printer, auto-save to a file, or automatic or on-demand uploading of screenshots to image hosting services. Scanner acquisition tools and scanner image correction. Capture Windows 7 partial transparency effects.
Requests for free registration on start up
3.08.01
7.9 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Win9x/ 2k/ XP/ Vista/ Win7/ Win8 Metro

Save resulting images as PNG, JPG, BMP, GIF, TIF, PDF, etc.

DuckCapture
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Supports snapping a region, window or object, scrolling window and fullscreen using a hotkey or from the system tray. Output to clipboard, editor, printer, or autosave to a file.
No delayed capture. No simple image editor
2.7
5.9 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows, Microsoft Visual C++ Redistribution Package.

Save resulting images as PNG, JPG & BMP.

SnapDraw
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Fullscreen or active window capture using either a hotkey or system tray. Outstanding editor and annotator. Supports clipboard, email, and FTP. Autosave to file.
No rectangular region, auto-scroll, or delayed capture. No direct print function.
3.20
16.5 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows XP, Vista, 7

Save resulting images as JPEG, PNG, BMP or JNG

Lightscreen
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Capture full screen, active window, and rectangular area using either hot keys or program. Delayed capture & autofile name. Output autosaved to file or clipboard only.
No auto-scroll, or editor. No printer output.
1.01
5.0 MB
Open source freeware
Windows

Save resulting images as PNG, BMP, JPG

Cropper
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Capture full screen, active window, or rectangular area with either a hotkey or notification icon. Output to clipboard, file, or printer.
No auto save, delayed capture, or auto-scroll. No editor.
https://cropper.codeplex.com/
1.9.4
439 KB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows .NET Framework 2.0

Save resulting images as PNG, JPG & BMP.

Snipping Tool
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Capture full screen, active window, rectangular area, and freehand region after launching program. Output to file or email.
No hotkeys, auto save, delayed capture, or auto-scroll. No printer output. Editor only allows highlighting and freehand line drawing.
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Pre-installed with Windows Vista or 7

Save resulting images as PNG, GIF, JPG, & MHT

Screen Grab Pro
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Capture full screen, active window, and rectangular area from hot key or program. Delayed capture. Output to clipboard or auto save file. Can open file automatically with default image editor.
No auto-scroll or editor. No printer output. Lowers screen resolution when capturing rectangular area so most of right and bottom sides are unavailable.
1.7
1.3 MB
Feature limited freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows 95 to 2008

Save resulting images as JPG, BMP, ICO & PDF.

Jing
2.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Capture rectangular area fro hot key or program. Capture video of activity within rectangular area. Output to clipboard, file, and Screencast.com.
No full screen or active window capture. No delayed capture, auto-scroll, auto-save, or editor. No printer output.
2.4.1031
7.7 MB
Feature limited freeware
Windows XP to 7, Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later

Save resulting images as PNG & SWP

 
Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Ian Richards. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

 
Tags

capture screen, print screen, free screen capture, screen shot, screenshot, thumbnail, capture screen tool, capture screen utility

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Comments

by Mike C on 10. July 2014 - 23:23  (117258)

Just thought I'd comment briefly. I use IrfanView for snapshots. Works really well for me. I set it up to take a shot (i.e. internet receipt for online store) using Ctrl + NumPad 4. Has cropping and other edit features that I use only occasionally.

by Panzer on 13. June 2014 - 7:35  (116756)

XSnap is a lightweight application that enables you to take snapshots of your desktop, applications and games:
http://2xdsoft.de.tl/XSnap.htm

by George.J on 21. May 2014 - 4:08  (116317)

So I've been using ShareX for a month now. It's been simply incredible. I'm using the portable version of the product and v9 has been released. The program has received 5 stars from Softpedia

Apart from it being extremely feature-rich, it allows instant upload to Imgur, and 30 other file hosting sites, separately for image, text and files. :D

You can also capture screenshots in various ways, rectangle, triangle, polygon and various different shapes. You can add image effects, watermark, annotate. It also has a screen recorder with audio.

by sicknero on 25. June 2014 - 21:20  (116924)

I found that the other day while randomly browsing Snapfiles or some such site.

It's absolutely brilliant! Easy to set up, very fast and light, supports more sharing and storage sites than I've ever even heard of and on top of all that, supports basic file upload to Dropbox and Google Drive etc.

For ages I've wanted some way of interacting with Dropbox/Google Drive from my desktop without having to install the whole lot (and the syncing folders) and ShareX does it excellently. It even has options for Send To and Context Menu entries so you don't need to have it running all the time. Great stuff, one of my favourite finds in quite some time.

by crombierob on 11. May 2014 - 11:14  (116157)

PicPick is about the best so far, because of it's simplicity.
I would like to recommend it to some business friends, but it is not allowed for commercial use.
I tried some of the others recommended here, but they are too complex (too many choices after you do a grab).
Anyone know a free one that can JUST do this -
We do a capture, either by hot key (say PrintScrn), or by clicking the SysTray Icon.
It immediately opens up it's editor, with the image in our face, waiting for us to edit it, or just save it.
Of the ones I tried, Faststone capture was the closest, but it still appears to want to place some window (Form) in our face with it's Toolbar along the top. You then have to click the 'Draw' button to get to the screen that I wanted to appear in the first place.
Anyone know how I can get FS to do what I want ?
Or, know of another free one (including use by commercial people), that knows what 'KISS' means ?

by Misty27 on 9. July 2014 - 18:18  (117243)

PicPick (portable from PortableApps.com) will do what (I think) you want.
I'm not sure if it's allowed for commercial use, but apparently the portable version contains NO adware, addon toolbars, etc.

Per the head guy at PortableApps.com, John Haller, these types of addons & extras aren't allowed under their portable apps licensing.
http://portableapps.com/node/41924
"Our installer and format are licensed in such a way that installer add-ons are not permitted. PicPick Portable has no such offers included."

After the editor opens (take screens w/ hot keys or select style from tray menu), everything is right there. Very intuitively laid out, if you've used any image editors. Sorry, it doesn't have jagged edge screen capture. :) I like FastStone's 5.3 simplicity, but it & some like Greenshot are child toys compared to PP.

As to how well PicPick does what it's intended to do or implements its features, it seems very well thought out. It seems very "forgiving / flexible," compared to many similar apps. I'm sure some others do certain functions as well as PicPick.

But when I consider all of its features - incl. EASY scrolling capture, how well it does the all the features (consistency, quality), advanced capabilities of native image editor (works on any imported image) & the overall ease of doing some of the more complex functions, it would seem to be near the best.
I don't have nearly as many "Oh, crap" moments using PicPick as W/ several others.

I'm not sure if it's left out of the review because the installer version from picpick.org now contains "adware," or if the installer version isn't entirely free (dunno - don't use it).

But I've used the portable version for a few yrs & it's been pretty much flawless. Fast & doesn't crash (like some others did, that are rated as best in this latest review.

Being portable hasn't affected my use in the least. It still places optional tray icon when started. Still has hot keys to take screens w/o clicking icon (or open menu from icon), etc.

In fact, for Windows, I usually prefer portables. Only time I don't is when I absolutely need a context menu entry / function.

by crombierob on 10. July 2014 - 3:23  (117249)

Certainly for my use (non business) PicPick is simply the best.
Regarding portable apps, I don't like having to conform with their controlling suite.
I just like to create a folder such as C:\PGMS_NoInstall and then have sub folders for each portable program.
Can I download ANY of their portable app programs, and just place it into my folder scheme ?

Thanks,
Rob

by Misty27 on 10. July 2014 - 4:21  (117250)

Re: Portableapps.com - I've never used their "platform."
I just extract the apps to a folder & send a shortcut to desktop, from the main executable file.

As I understand it, some (all?) of Portable Apps offerings may make temporary changes to Windows' registry when in use, then remove them when closed down. At least that's what John Haller told me at one time.

by sicknero on 10. July 2014 - 9:58  (117256)

That's right, and some also create folders in AppData etc which are deleted on exit. PAF programs aren't necessarily "stealth" portable.

The PortableFreewareCollection website is very good for discussions on exactly how portable a portable program is.

by Panzer on 17. March 2014 - 10:18  (115068)

SnipDock:

Features:

* Snip Screen: snip whatever portion of the screen interests you.
* Dock: This snipped image will be docked on a screen edge or as a floating popup.
* Whatever be the size of the image, the dock will automatically adjust its size. When docked, no other program can encroach the space used by SnipDock, even if they are maximized.
* You can zoom in or zoom out of the image by scrolling your mouse on the image.
* Any image snipped will be automatically stored in your Pictures folder. So you could also use SnipDock just to snip screen and store the images.

http://rahul003.github.io/snip-dock/

by sicknero on 24. February 2014 - 23:08  (114629)

GIMP is excellent but I wouldn't want to load it up every time I want a screenshot of something.

FS Capture is my favourite tool for that, very light and fast.

by BillR on 14. January 2014 - 23:47  (113594)

1. Please add a CHANGE LOG section. I find the extent of changes very useful information: whether the update is a complete rewrite, an addition/deletion/reevaluation of one product, a crapware warning, a download link and version update, minor format cleanup, etc.

Note applicability to all other reviews as well.

-----
The remaining comments are basically the same as May 2012 comments #1 and #2.

2. The long additional list would be much nicer if it INCLUDED ANNOTATION such as PROBLEM with multiple monitors, problem with text size, etc. (when known). Clearly more research has been done than has been reported. You also might include any UNUSUAL FEATURES or advantages or user profile orientation (when known).

3. These tools have two or three quite DIFFERENT USER PROFILES. Each program should be evaluated from the standpoint of a frequent power user and also that of an intermittent or infrequent user. If I'm doing documentation or testing several hours per day for months, I want one kind of tool: richly featured with lots of flexibility. If I just need to send stuff to tech support periodically or contribute a few pages of draft documentation this week for one particular project, I want a different kind of tool: little/no learning curve, simple, basic. Of course an "ideal tool" would be both. (Can't wait for "UI" to transition to "MI" [mental interface].)

by George.J on 6. January 2014 - 12:57  (113420)

ShareX and HotShots are simply brilliant.

ShareX allows Fullscreen, Active window, Window list, Active monitor, Monitor list, Rectangle, Rectangle + Window, Rounded rectangle, Ellipse, Triangle, Diamond, Polygon, Free hand, Last region, Screen recording (Supports animated gif), Auto capture methods for capturing the window.

by Panzer on 26. November 2013 - 9:51  (112545)

qSnap:

Capture Single or Multiple Webpages

* With a simple click “snap” a shot of a webpage
* Continue to click if you have multiple webpages to capture
* qSnap stores snapshots to your tray for editing

Edit Images

* Edit your snapshots with the built-in annotation tools
* Create a rich digital dialogue through your notes

Share/Save Your Snapshots

* Save your snapshots locally
* With a free qSnap account you can:
o Store your snapshots on our free hosting service
o Share a link to your snaps to Twitter, Facebook, G+
o Email your snapshots or links

https://qsnapnet.com/

by djj01 on 26. November 2013 - 9:47  (112544)

Having used Duck Capture for a couple of years, I thought it was fool proof...I was wrong.
Recently, I was compiling a list of names and details of friends and was going to use Duck Capture to copy the list. Unfortunately I hicupped and hit the icon with a hidden label of 'share simply by min.us' This then immediately appeared to upload my list.....To where????...Who can now access it???....This sounds like a pontentially dangerous link that's virtually hidden until too late...
I've sent the Duck Capture people 2 e-mails so far asking details about this icon and what exactly it does. So far they have ignored both e-mails.
I now have reason to believe that Duck Capture should not been included in the list of 'best screen capture programs'.
Can anybody help on this case.

by meetsangvikar on 27. November 2013 - 13:42  (112570)

Hi, thanks for the information. I have had no time in the last few months. I will review duckcapture again and update the article if needed.

by sicknero on 26. November 2013 - 10:40  (112546)

It sounds as if Duck tried to upload your pics to Minus.com but I was just reading a thread which says that the function was removed some time ago and as I understand it that button shouldn't be in the latest version?

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/ducklink/QdKdEiFP35k

If it did upload it will be on Minus.com as an anonymous user and I don't know what you could do about that. Perhaps contact their site admin and see if they can help?

For people who like to share pics online there is an ImageShack desktop uploader which I use in conjunction with FSCapture. Very simple to use, just save the screenie and drag it onto the uploader, job done.

by Andreas Th on 18. October 2013 - 11:01  (111558)

It looks the list misses 1 great FREE and VERY EASY program,
which I've been using for 2 years or so.
The prog is called SnapaShot:
http://nicekit.com/screen-capture/best-free-snapshot.htm

by dkravets on 17. August 2013 - 1:23  (110166)

I'm disappointed in SnapDraw. First off, it is buggy -- on the first screen and I got "Access Violation" error. Second, the help and some functionality are less than clear (or are buggy) -- cannot get the Capture Key Settings to function as expected.

The annotation functionality IS amazing. I just wish the simple stuff within it worked.

by texastechy on 14. August 2013 - 19:30  (110114)

Many of these screen capture tools seem to use a lot of processor power or something because my PC noticeably feels and acts slower while capturing the screen. It's great to have all those additional features but when I want to capture to PDF quickly and easily Screen Grab Pro works really well and feels snappy. Then I do a quick Ocr on the pdf making it searchable. The other one that I like is the last freeware version of Faststone Image Capture.

by Luciftian on 31. July 2013 - 8:33  (109804)

How come PicPick has been omitted?

by Panzer on 17. June 2013 - 9:09  (108569)

HotShots is an application for capturing screens and saving them in a variety of image formats as well as adding annotations and graphical data (arrows, lines, texts, ...):
http://sourceforge.net/projects/hotshots/

by Loya on 8. June 2013 - 23:45  (108391)

Mr.Shot 1.53 include a battery level indicator. Comes handy for laptop users, I guess.

http://verifive.com/MrShot.html

by Panzer on 5. June 2013 - 7:38  (108290)

Free Screen Capturer:

Features:

* Capture Full Screen, Current Window, Selected Window, Region
* Save captured images in BMP, JPG, GIF, PNG and TIFF formats
* Saves captured demos in the popular WMV (Window Media Video) format
* Creates new email with captured image attached
* Allows pasting captured images directly into email body
* Easily and instantly accessible via [PrtScr] button
* Pleasant and modern interface

http://www.extensoft.com/?p=free_screen_capturer

by Panzer on 27. May 2013 - 8:35  (108064)

Screen Sniper is a fast, simple, and reliable program designed to take bulk screenshots easily and instantly:
http://sourceforge.net/projects/ssniper/

by Loya on 8. June 2013 - 2:48  (108380)

They is nothing "Sniper" about it. You are better off using the Windows built-in PrtScn button.
Only takes full screenshots, no window or part of the screen.
Skip it.

by Panzer on 29. April 2013 - 8:30  (107378)

Screen-Shot.me - take screenshots instantly and save them in album style (still in beta):
http://screen-shot.me/Screenshot/Home

by Jaex on 19. April 2013 - 22:02  (107207)

ShareX:

ShareX is an open source program that lets you take screenshots of any selected area with a single key, save them in your clipboard, hard disk or instantly upload them to over 25 different file hosting services. ShareX can capture screenshots with different shapes: rectangle, rounded rectangle, ellipse, triangle, diamond, polygon and also freehand. It can upload images, text files and all other different file types. It is able to capture screenshots with transparency and shadow. The program also supports clipboard upload and drag-and-drop.

https://code.google.com/p/sharex

by Loya on 27. March 2013 - 9:24  (106576)

Snagit 11.2.0 Build 102. 64.1 MB. Really? No, Thanks.

by Panzer on 27. March 2013 - 8:40  (106571)

Screenshot Captor 4 is out:
http://www.donationcoder.com/Software/Mouser/screenshotcaptor/

New:

# - Full set of scanner acquisition tools and scanner image correction.
# - Perfect capture of Windows 7 partial transparency effects.
# - The most powerful scrolling capture tool in the field.
# - Easy automatic or on-demand uploading of screenshots to a wide variety of image hosting services (imageshack, flickr, ftp, etc.); easy emailing of screenshots to your friends and colleagues.
# - Great special effects, including automatic active window enhancement, ragged edge splicing, pixelation, smart text removal, and many more.
# - Take snapshots from webcams; record video with the ESR addon.