Picture-perfect image capture

GCN Lab Review: SnagIt saves a lot of time when you need to capture images

COMPUTER PROGRAMS ARE GREAT, but sometimes you just need to take the information on the screen and convert it to a more portable format. In the GCN Lab, we do that type of thing all the time when we take screenshots of products to go with our online or print reviews. However, we use a much more convoluted process.

Like most people, when we want to take a shot we hit Control and Print Screen, which saves the on-screen image to the Windows clipboard, although somewhat secretly. Then we paste the image into an editor such as Photoshop and make any needed adjustments.

Then we save it as a .jpg or a .gif, open Outlook and mail it to the art department as an attachment.

So when SnagIt promised that all screenshots could be taken, edited and even shipped from one location, we were intrigued enough to bring the program into the lab to run it through its paces. I think this is the way we will capture all screen images in the future.

The SnagIt program, made by TechSmith Corp., is incredibly simple to use. Anyone can be ready to use it in less than five minutes. We have seen these types of simple interfaces on other programs before, but that normally is an indication that there is not much functionality. SnagIt is fairly powerful and can help you capture, edit and send images with ease, exactly as it promises to do.

When you first load the program, SnagIt gives you a window of choices for capturing images, which can be the entire screen, an active window, a userdefined region on the screen or an entire Web page with active links. The last option is especially helpful for Web page designers and people looking at federal pages for 508 requirements because it lets you send an entire functional page to a supervisor or colleague for testing and approval.

Once you decide to capture, a big red button arms the program. When you click that button, SnagIt disappears into the background so you can select the window or page you want to capture. One click captures the image and re-opens the program to dump it inside.

At that point, you can edit the image or ship it. We were a little skeptical about the editing software at first, but it has nearly every tool you might need. It's not as diverse as Photoshop, but most people won't need to add layers and do advanced work on screenshots.

You can crop images; resize them; perform color, brightness and contract adjustments; and add enhancements. The enhancements include a border to help your image stand out, an arrow to point out a feature or even a text caption. There is even a way to make an area interactive, such as linking to a Web page with a click or popping up a metadata caption when the cursor hovers there.

We captured more than 50 images, and SnagIt showed us each time exactly what was on the screen. There was another benefit, although a slight one. When we use the Print Screen and paste capture method, the resulting images are 72 dpi. But SnagIt captures at the actual screen resolution, which for most of the high-end LCDs in the lab is 96 dpi. So we are capturing a slightly more detailed image.

SnagIt's final advantage is that once you have your captured image, it is easy to send it to others. SnagIt integrates into your existing communications programs, and with one click, you can send captured and edited images via e-mail or instant messaging. They can also be printed, saved as an image file or dropped into a PDF.

SnagIt saves a lot of time when you need to capture images, and it offers just about everything you need to edit and share files from one program. The new Version 8.2 we tested also works with Microsoft Vista. And the price really can't be beat at just $40 for a single copy and user license. For large organizations, discount pricing is available.

SnagIt does everything it claims, and it does so easily and for a good price. For that reason, we are awarding the program a Reviewer's Choice designation.

TechSmith Corp., www.techsmith.com

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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