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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 Panzer (not verified) on 14. September 2011 - 9:14  (79581)

http://captureitplus.codeplex.com/

by Amarjitr (not verified) on 14. September 2011 - 15:10  (79596)

I usually use ScreenHunter and have found it pretty good over the years even if it does lower screen resolution.
Anyway with a new laptop I decided to give DuckCapture a go. It worked pretty well. Only drawbacks I found were:

(1). No hotkeys for screen capture - this was annoying as I was trying to capture a window where I had moved the mouse over an icon to show the icon description - I wanted to capture the icon description. Without hotkey this is not possible
(2). When hilighting an area of the screen capture I wanted to draw a circle or elipse around an area of interest. This was not possible, you can draw a square, line, freeform polygon.
(3). Does not automatically save to clipboard, you have to choose that option after capturing screen.

I'll probably go back to ScreenHunter as a new version was released a few weeks ago.

by MidnightCowboy on 14. September 2011 - 15:17  (79598)

Beware of the unwanted toolbar bundled with the free version unless you opt for the portable.

by Panzer (not verified) on 15. September 2011 - 7:23  (79639)

The antivirus on public comp I use puts DuckCapture in quarntine if I try to download it from Cnet. So, if you have the same problem, download from here instead:

http://www.ducklink.com/p/whats-new-in-duckcapture-2-6/

by steveorg on 26. September 2011 - 19:22  (80375)

Screenshot Captor should be the Editor's Choice. It has every feature listed in the article and comments, including the features the Editor's Choice and top picks are missing. (How did DuckCapture become Editor's Choice without an image editor?)

Screenshot Captor also has several other features. My favorite is direct upload to Dropbox, Flicker, Image Shack, Photobucket, etc., etc. with auto creation of URL shortner links through most of the main URL shortner sites such as goo.gl and bit.ly.

I have never encountered the multi-monitor and screen resolution issues that were mentioned, so I suspect they are due to unusual and obscure bugs.

Given all the features, intuitive use and high level of configurability, it should have been named Screenshot Kitchen Sink.

by okrick on 26. September 2011 - 21:09  (80381)

Thank you. Added it to list of programs with the larger text bug.

by okrick on 5. October 2011 - 4:36  (80903)

The latest version of Screenshot Captor corrected the text size bug. Consequently I've rerated this category and you're right, it is the best.

by Lowndes (not verified) on 5. October 2011 - 11:19  (80917)

What ever happened to Screen Capturer?? It may not have a lot of bells and whistles but it is very handy, small and quick. I found it here several years back after having probs with Pic Pic, also found here.

screencapturer.com

Features:

Capture screenshots
Capture animations (screencasts)
Capture full screen
Capture active or selected window
Capture selected area of the screen
Capture screenshots to clipboard, image file, e-mail or printer
Screenshot image files can be saved in such popular formats as .png, .gif, .jpg, .bmp and .tiff.
Capture screencast animations to highly compressed video files (WMV), with an option to instantly attach them to e-mail
Capture screencast animations with sound
Support for multiple monitors

by Tennessee (not verified) on 5. October 2011 - 12:28  (80921)

Gadwin PrintScreen is the BEST!

I have used it for years and never had any of the problems you talk about.

by Seahound (not verified) on 5. October 2011 - 13:06  (80922)

On reading the latest reco on Screenshot Captor as No 1 selection, I uninstalled Pickpick and installed Screenshot Captor. I like to change the size of screenshots using the percentage change method. Screenshot Captor does not have this, so it is back to PicPick for me.

by Ton (not verified) on 5. October 2011 - 13:07  (80923)

I use the screen capture resource of FastStone Image Viewer. serves me quite well, has diferent capture options and can send to file, viewer, clipboard. Also freeware.

by jason on 5. October 2011 - 13:48  (80925)

SnapDraw *DOES* support capturing only the active window - you just need to setup the hotkey for it - and select that option in the menu - or select the function from the "Capture Now" menu. Either way you can select to capture

- Current Window/Object
- Current Window
- Current Monitor (Desktop)
- All Monitors (Desktops)

I do rectangular selection by capturing the current Window/Object - and then cropping.

It does take a few minutes of playing with the settings to get it right - can seem to be a little confusing because it works differently to other screen capture apps. Once you see how it works - it's very nice (and I believe one of the best apps for annotating screenshots).

by steveorg on 5. October 2011 - 14:28  (80930)

Screenshot Captor's editor has a rich set of image resize options, including simple percentage change.

by dalmas (not verified) on 5. October 2011 - 14:57  (80932)

About Lightscreen negative points: To AUTOMATICALLY copy to clipboard go to Advanced folder, and then set the "Copy to screenshot to clipboard" option.
Regards

Marco

by craigjh on 5. October 2011 - 15:13  (80933)

Thanks for removing PicPick from the recommended screen capture tools. I completely agree with the move, as I couldn't have been more unhappy when I realized that I'd gotten the Bing toolbar due to their surreptitious installation process.

by George.J on 5. October 2011 - 15:27  (80935)

Kudos! Great job with the review and plenty of choices. It would be helpful if the links to portable version are also mentioned in the quick selection guide.

by CuriousJM (not verified) on 5. October 2011 - 15:36  (80939)

Ever since I installed "Screenshot Captor" few hours back, my searches in url bar of Opera (my default browser) are being redirected to ask.com.

Restoring to earlier time didn't help.

I wonder if other's are also facing this problem. Presently I have totally removed "Screenshot Captor" from my computer and have also removed ask.com from the list of search engines options of Opera.

by Aram Iskenderian (not verified) on 5. October 2011 - 15:52  (80940)

I am surprised that http://www.fiastarta.com/PrtScr/ did not even make any of these lists/reviews so far. In my opinion, it is one of the best, if not the best. Free, stable, efficient, a portable version is very easy to produce, capture, annotate, save to disk, email, print, send to clipboard, auto file name/comment, zoom/quality controls, hot keys, ...etc.

by MikeC (not verified) on 5. October 2011 - 16:01  (80941)

A VirusTotal scan of the download exe for ScreenshotCaptor showed three hits:

ClamAV....0.97.0.0....PUA.Packed.PECompact-1
eSafe.......7.0.17.0....Suspicious File
Jiangmin...13.0.900...TrojanSpy.Delf.gon

A single hit by VirusTotal I generally ignore. But three hits out of 44? Is this download guaranteed virus free?

by MidnightCowboy on 5. October 2011 - 16:06  (80942)

Nothing can be guaranteed virus free. Like you, I always make my own checks and then decide whether to install or not.

by okrick on 5. October 2011 - 17:27  (80945)

Suffers from the same large font bug as many of the others.

by okrick on 5. October 2011 - 17:44  (80947)

Sorry to hear of your issue. I didn't have this problem in Firefox (default), Chrome, or IE9 with Screenshot Captor. Also Ask.com didn't appear in my search engine list.

by okrick on 5. October 2011 - 17:53  (80949)

Thanks. This program also suffers from the large font size bug.

by jaska (not verified) on 5. October 2011 - 18:53  (80950)

Screenshot Captor extracts, then stops with "Access denied" -box => Installation stops. Same happened with 2 different XP SP3 machines. Both running the same firewall & virus protection sw, though

by okrick on 5. October 2011 - 19:07  (80953)

Thank you. I've corrected my comments.

by okrick on 5. October 2011 - 19:11  (80954)

Thank you. I updated my comments.

by catester (not verified) on 5. October 2011 - 20:27  (80957)

The best free screen capture utility is still PrintScreen from Gadwin. It's at the bottom of this page: http://www.gadwin.com/download/

Works without complaint on everything from XP to Win7, including 64-bit versions.

by Paladin2 (not verified) on 5. October 2011 - 20:37  (80959)

I'm not in need of anything super fancy but Gadwin has met all my needs and even has the super fancy stuff some feel they need. Regardless of how good any other capture utility may be I still can't see any reason to change and I wonder why Gizmo has all those 3 1/2 star programs listed and no Gadwin. So I'm with you on that. Now if Gizmo would wake up and ditch the three and a half star stuff.

by Anupam on 5. October 2011 - 20:57  (80963)

Your other comment about Gadwin has been deleted. Please do not make unnecessary repeated posts.

by Cecil Ledbetter (not verified) on 5. October 2011 - 21:26  (80967)

I have really enjoyed a screen capture tool that I have it is not a stand alone screen capture tool but a photo editing tool. The product is Photoscape @ www.photoscape.org. Screen capture is one of many tools that can be found in this package. The capture is by region, window, and full screen. Since it is also a rather powerful photo editing package it is immediately loaded into the edit window once the capture is completed. The file can be saved in multiple formats including all the standard image formats but most useful to me is saving as PDF which can easily then be marked up with any of the freeware PDF editing packages. I like PDF X-change Viewer this package is easy to use and has all the tools I need for marking up the screen capture.