Free screen capture tools

June 20, 2009 at 11:12 PM • by John Lueders

I often need to capture a screenshot or a part of a screen when I write emails or work on a help file.  This post is dedicated to two different ways to capture a part of your computer screen.

Free methods

1)  The ‘Print Screen’ button is on everyone’s keyboard and not widely used or known.  The ‘Print Screen’ button is towards the top right of your keyboard.  When you press the ‘Print Screen’ button, your entire computer screen is captured and saved in memory and ready for your use.  You can paste (Ctrl+V) the image into a Word document just to try it out.
Below is my image obtained by pressing ‘Print Screen’…click on it to see the entire image.

1a) Often, ‘Print Screen’ in itself is too much…you do not usually need the entire screen captured.  That is why I recommend using the ‘Alt+Print Screen’ key combination.  This captures only the active window.
Below is my image of the active window (Windows Live Writer which I use to write this blog)…click to see the image.


2) If you have Vista, you have a free screen capture tool called ‘Snipping Tool’.  This tool lets you capture any part of your screen by using a selection rectangle.

To find it…Click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Snipping Tool, if you do not see it there…

To activate it…Go to Control Panel and open Program and Features. In the task pane on the left, click Turn Windows features on or off. If necessary, click Continue when prompted by User Account Control. Scroll through the list of features, check the box next to Tablet PC Optional Components, and click OK. This adds a new folder under Start, All Programs, Accessories, named ‘Tablet PC’ that contains the ‘Snipping Tool’ as well as other Tablet PC programs.  I then add the ‘Snipping Tool’ shortcut to my ‘Quick Launch’ bar on the bottom by dragging and dropping a shortcut to the bar on the bottom.



Here is my ‘Snipping Tool’ on the my ‘Quick Launch’ bar.
The image below was captured using the Snipping Tool…just to show that is truly helpful.  I even did the blue highlight circle…it truly is a helpful and easy tool to use…and it is free with Microsoft Windows Vista.


Outside of these free methods above, there is a program called Snag-it by TechSmith that is truly excellent and costs $49.95.

There are others, but the free screen capture methods above, plus the purchasable Snag-it should provide you with a good starting point in the screen capture world.

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