Best Free Screen Capture Tool

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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.

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Related Products and Links

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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 category is in need of an editor. If you would like to give something back to the freeware community by taking it over, check out this page for more details. You can then contact us from that page or 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 Senecakw on 31. May 2012 - 2:32  (94218)

I tried Schirmfoto and uninstalled it. Did not get off to a good start when they asked for my full name and email before I could activate the software. I didn't even complete my first capture before a window popped up saying I had to upgrade to the paid version to complete the capture (I was trying to save to pdf format).

I was initially interested because I thought it might do auto-scroll captures. It doesn't.

Wayne

by Panzer on 11. May 2012 - 7:58  (93344)
by RogeratCCCC on 3. May 2012 - 23:58  (92993)

A handicapped friend of mine needed to be able to print a screen shot on the printer with one hand and one button. First I tried Screen Shot Captor, the top choice, but it was much too complicated, plus the nag screen avoidance was very awkward. Next I tried DuckCapture, the second choice, but it was also complicated, and I never did figure out how to make it work. Finally, I tried Gadwin Printscreen and it was perfect. Easy to set up; easy to choose a hotkey, and no nag screen hassle. I encourage your evaluations to include simplicity and lack of hassle as an important criterion. Thanks for your work !!

by Rick Fithen (not verified) on 4. May 2012 - 1:47  (92998)

@RogeratCCCC

This is excellent to know. I don't have any handicapped friends, but this brings fresh perspective on how easy software should be to use. Perhaps Microsoft should hire some more handicapped developers before they release Windows 8.

Regards,

Rick Fithen

by Alexander (not verified) on 30. April 2012 - 22:45  (92836)

I think people should know that not long after registering for Screenshot Captor I started receiving a bunch of spam email. Not happy about that at all!

by George.J on 11. April 2012 - 8:06  (91897)

This is a personal thank you note from me, for okrick, the previous editor of this article. I am just bowled by how effective and amazing ScreenShot Captor is! It's quite simple to use and at the same time is very powerful and advanced than any other alternative out there. I've tried PicPick and Snapdraw before, but trying out ScreenShot Captor was the best decision that I had made in a while.

by Panzer on 5. April 2012 - 8:38  (91664)
by Rick Fithen (not verified) on 12. April 2012 - 0:36  (91936)

I second snapcrab. Able to post directly to facebook and/or twitter.

by Jojo Yee on 5. April 2012 - 13:09  (91677)

Looks nice to me Panzer. Not many freeware products are able to handle rounded corners of windows with the transparency background. This is one of them besides SnapDraw.

by shalin on 7. March 2012 - 14:27  (90060)

Greenshot does a very good job. It's opensource too. http://getgreenshot.org/

by Anupam on 7. March 2012 - 14:30  (90061)

Already mentioned under the "Other".

by rhl7943 on 2. March 2012 - 18:27  (89817)

I discovered this one (Mgrab) years ago and have been using it ever since.
Performs simple screen captures and is very easy to use.
Run the dll.exe to put it in your system and then run the program.
Very intuitive and have never had any problems with it.

http://www.mnwright.btinternet.co.uk/programs/mgrab.htm

by okrick on 14. March 2012 - 17:23  (90607)

Thanks for the recommendation. I'll look at this one when I do my next review of this category.

by Gorge Diltans (not verified) on 14. February 2012 - 8:20  (88824)

After first launch of Screenshot Captor (version 3) a popup screen informs that the program is free for PERSONAL USE. To be able to use it I needed to either REGISTER or download another free software from their site.
I think these prerequisites should be mentioned in your review as for some users (like myself) this is not acceptable.

by okrick on 15. February 2012 - 0:26  (88876)

Sorry about that. It didn't prompt me this time but that may be because I had previously registered.

Rick

by Anupam on 7. February 2012 - 12:44  (88449)
by Panzer on 6. February 2012 - 12:41  (88395)

Screenshot Captor 3 is out.

by Geert on 7. February 2012 - 9:11  (88439)

... and it is dedicated to this website!

I quote:
"Also, I'm going to dedicate this version 3 to Gizmo's Tech Support Alert website, which gave Screenshot Captor its "Best in Class" award for screenshot tools. Gizmo has always been super supportive of this site, and I can't express how honored I feel to have Screenshot Captor receive that award. It motivated me to double my efforts to improve the program."

by Anupam on 7. February 2012 - 9:22  (88440)

Wow... awesome! Thanks for posting this here :).

by Rob (not verified) on 3. February 2012 - 8:47  (88202)

Regarding problems when text size is set to large.
Here is my advice to those that have changed that DPI setting -
Change it back to Normal.
MS should never have provided such an option.
For those that say 'I must have it', please choose a cleaner solution -
- Buy a bigger monitor
or
- Change Windows Screen Resolution
or
- Get a decent full screen magnifier.

The one that I use, can be set to have no border, and can be turned on with a keyboard shortcut.
You use the same keyboard shortcut to turn it off.
When on, it makes everything twice the size, so you are only seeing 25% of the screen. You move your mouse to see other portions of the screen. It is a live magnification, so you can click and type, and fully interact with the running applications.
I won't mention the name (unless there are requests for it), as it is not freeware.
I believe Win 7 has one built in, but I have not tried it, as you have to have Aero etc, turned on (I don't).

by okrick on 4. February 2012 - 6:14  (88272)

Thanks Rob,

I'm trying your last suggestion.

When I changed to a flat screen monitor I got one that was twice the screen area of my ten year old clunker. The default font size was about half the size of the old monitor with the default screen resolution. Instead of 12 point I'm now trying to read a 6 point font. I could read 6 point fonts when I was a third of my current age.

So I tried changing the screen resolution. Now some things don't fit on the screen in many of my programs. Several programs now complain that the screen resolution is not high enough to suit them. The programs don't always have horizontal or vertical scroll bars for some menus--it's as if they think the screen resolution is much higher that it actually is.

As you recommended I'm trying the Windows full screen magnifier. You're right, that solution works but the screen interaction takes some getting used to. I'll leave it on for the next few days to see if I like it better than the large font setting.

However, there are several capture programs which figure out the font setting and resolution and adjust to it. I don't feel I should be recommending a screen capture program which requires specific screen settings in order to operate properly. I feel I should be optimizing the screen for the program that I want to take a screen shot of rather than optimizing for the capture program.

by Rob (not verified) on 4. February 2012 - 8:00  (88274)

Hi okrick,
The magnifier I use is Magnifying Glass Pro

I love it.
If I was sent to Mars, and could only take a few things, that would be one of them.
I am 70, and I am turning it on/off (that is, showing and hiding with Ctrl *) at least every 5 minutes.
I haven't tried Win7's, but I doubt that anything could be better than Magnifying Glass Pro.
It is a joy to use, and my 2004 PC handles it well.
It's default settings are not full screen, so you have to change a couple of settings (eg no border, and get it to show full screen)
Yell out if you want my specific settings.
I believe they have a fully functional trial.
Regards,
Rob

[Moderator's note : Edited out link to commercial software]

by CynthiaD (not verified) on 24. January 2012 - 16:07  (87703)

I've looked at LightShot page and downloaded and tried Screen Capture Software by InformUp. Seems both want to upload to a server? I just want to be able to save the screen capture to my hard drive as a jpg. I have not read thru all posts. Is there something just for that? The latter program did not work for me because it it said I did not have a remote server connection and had no idea how to resolve that.

by Anupam on 24. January 2012 - 16:14  (87704)

Please try the ones suggested in the main article review. The links to their home sites, and downloads are in the Quick Selection Guide.

by Joel (not verified) on 23. January 2012 - 15:51  (87658)

Gadwin PrintScreen was the top dog earlier in this category and is deserving of better treatment as it is functional, lightweight, and has enough options to satisfy the average users. I have found it more functional than commercial products in the same space.

by guy test (not verified) on 1. December 2011 - 18:57  (84248)

another simple free application for screen capture http://www.informup.com/free-screen-capture-software.aspx

by okrick on 16. December 2011 - 0:12  (85094)

Thanks for your recommendation.

Any updates to screen captures will have to wait until late January. I also do the income tax reviews and want to finish that before tax season starts.

Thanks for your patience.

by grams79 (not verified) on 27. November 2011 - 18:59  (84005)

Everyone seems to be overlooking Kazam Screencaster.
It should be added to this page.
https://launchpad.net/kazam

by okrick on 29. November 2011 - 17:55  (84128)

This program requires Python. I'll take a look at it in a couple of weeks.

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