After having taken over 1GB of screenshots over the last few years, I thought I’d revisit my first blog post ever and refresh it with based on my experience.
QUICK SUMMARY - MY RECOMMENDATIONS
- Screen captures: Hyperionics HyperSnap
- Screen recording: Techsmith Camtasia Studio
SCREEN CAPTURE SOFTWARE
Windows Vista Snipping Tool
- Free (it comes with Windows Vista and Windows 7)
- If you aren’t willing to pay for one, then at least use this instead of PRINTSCREEN.
UI (taken from Windows 7 Beta build)
Hyperionics Hypersnap (my recommendation)
Current Version - 6.31.01
- This is what I have been using for many years. It’s simple, fast, frequently updated and light.
- I’ve taken about 1GB of screenshots (7000 images in lossless PNG format) over the last few years – all via Hypersnap
- new: 35$ (worth it)
- upgrade: $15
- After installing it – configure it to
- Automatically name and save PNG images to a folder
- Automatically copy any screenshots to the Clipboard
- On Vista and Windows 7, If HyperSnap is running and a UAC prompt appears, I’ve noticed sometimes that this causes HyperSnap to lose its hotkeys and even restarting the app doesn’t always restore the hotkeys. I have been able workaround this problem by always launching Hypernap “as adminsitrator” – this has successfully prevented it from losing the hotkeys.
Techsmith SnagIt (the runner-up) ($)
Current Version - 9.1
- On paper SnagIt should beat Hypersnap – SnagIt has more user-friendly UI, more features, more everything. But that’s also the problem. For *my* needs its too “heavy”. Hypersnap is so simple and so embedded into my workflow it’s hard for me to switch to other applications.
- If you are exploring your options, play with the trial version of SnagIt before making a decision. You may find that it suits your workflow better than Hypersnap.
- Windows 7 Beta: As of 2008-01-19 SnagIt 9.1 will not successfully install on Windows 7 Beta
SCREEN RECORDING SOFTWARE
Techsmith Camtasia ($) (my recommendation)
Current Version: 6.0.1
- You get what you pay for. This is the best. Records pixel-perfect video with good file sizes and great export options.
- Normally Camtasia can record the audio that the computer is playing. On some machines due to the (embedded) sound card (this happens on every Dell I use) Camtasia can’t natively record the audio (the “Stereo Mix” . “What You Hear” sound device will be missing). You can somewhat workaround this problem by connecting an audio cable from the speaker output to the microphone input but the sound quality will not be as good. (This is the reason my next machine will be a non-Dell workstation)
- With really large screen sizes or a lot of motion the recorded video will be a bit choppy – but still good.
- Configure the Camtasia Recorder to “Highlight Clicks” – this will make it easier for someone to follow along in a screencast
- When recording a screencast move your mouse much slower than normal and pause a second any UI element you click on – again this will make it easier for someone to understand what is happening in a screencast
- Because it can get tedious to take screenshots ever few seconds, I sometimes use Camtasia to record a movie, and then take screenshots from the playback.
Beepa – FRAPS ($) (intriguing)
Current Version: 6.0.1
- FRAPS is intended for capturing game video rather than general screen capture – but I sometimes use it to capture the Vista desktop.
- Key differences from Camtasia Studio
- FRAPS does a much better job of capturing large screens and fast motion – the resulting videos are very smooth, but also extremely large
- It seems captures audio on machines that Camtasia can’t
- Don’t think of this as an alternative to Camtasia – it’s more like a complementary, specialized tool used only in special situations requiring capturing video from fast moving sources,
- To record the vista desktop, make sure “FPS/Monitor Desktop Window Manager” is checked.
- As of 2009-01-19 – the current version of FRAPS can’t record the entire Windows 7 desktop but can record specific application windows
Windows Media Encoder 9 Series (the great free choice)
- Thanks to Thomas Plagwitz for reminding me this one still existed.
- Windows Media Encoder 9 Series produces very nice output.
- First key difference from Camtasia and FRAPS: the output is not pixel perfect. That’s OK though because you can make it look very good.
- Second key difference from Camtasia and FRAPS: The default configuration for capturing the screen produces visually unappealing results. You’ll have to configure it correctly to get high-quality output.
- When you create a new session, choose the “high” quality setting
- For your recording session, under Properties / Compression set Destination to File Archive and make sure that Video is set to Highest quality video (VBR 100)
- Save the encoding session as a .WME file so that you can consistently reproduce these settings whenever you need
LiveMeeting ($ comes with Microsoft Office) (explicitly not recommended)
LiveMeeting has a feature to record your screen. But there are problems:
1 - the quality of the recorded video is terrible – incredibly choppy.
2 – it’s maddeningly difficult to export the saved video into a form that someone can use (play in a media player for example)
NOTE: When I am using giving a product demo using LiveMeeting rather than use LiveMeeting’s feature to record the meeting, I use Camtasia Studio instead.