Snagit for Windows and Snapz Pro for Macs are both superb.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Fancy screen captures are easy on Windows and Macs

Aug. 19, 2007

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   You don't need fancy software to save a simple image of whatever you see on your computer screen.
   Windows does this with the Print Screen (or "Prt Scr") key and the Mac does it with Cmd-Shift 3 or 4. You even have a few options built into both Windows and Macs to make these simple methods more flexible, such as holding down the Alt key while doing the Windows key presses (to capture just the top window) or pressing the spacebar after Cmd-Shift 4 on a Mac to get the same effect.
   But if you create newsletters that use screen shots, called screen captures, or if you need to send someone an e-mail attachment containing a quick snap of something on your screen, you just might need that fancy software. And you'll definitely need the special software if you want to capture a video that's playing in a window on your screen.
   I've used two exceptional programs for fancy screen captures, one for Windows and one for Macs.
   The Windows software is SnagIt Screen Capture, from TechSmith. Go to www.techsmith.com to download a trial copy or to buy it online. It costs $39.95 and works with Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows Vista. Unfortunately, you must be using Internet Explorer 5.5 or later, according to TechSmith. (This might dissuade Firefox partisans from using the program.)
   The Mac software is Snapz Pro X, version 2, from Ambrosia. Go to www.ambrosiasw.com for a trial download or to buy the program. It costs $29 and works under Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.
   Both programs are widely used by computer professionals to document problems and to illustrate manuals and books. They're both superb at staying out of the way while being ready to pop into action instantly.
   SnagIt, the Windows capture program, justifies its higher price by including functions that are handy in Windows but not needed on Macs. An added touch I've always liked is SnagIt's built-in image editor. (Mac users have Preview, the image-display program that comes with all Macs. It does the same sort of simple editing that SnagIt's editor does.) A cool additional feature in SnagIt is a catalog that stores your screen shots.
   Both programs can capture menus in action -- great for illustrated manuals -- and each one can save captures in an image format that maintains the quality of the capture. (JPEG captures, for example, would be a bad idea, since JPEG is a format that degrades the image. TIF, PNG and PDF are ideal.)
   Because I don't want to deal with viruses and spyware, I do all my serious work on my OS X Macs. When I despaired of finding a converter for a rare (and discontinued) video format in which a priceless old video was encoded, I dredged out the old playback software and set up Snapz Pro to create a new QuickTime movie from the video being played on the screen.
   The result was a perfect conversion. After looking in vain for more than three years for the proper conversion software, I was able to turn the video into a DVD using the Mac's iDVD software.
   If you like to hunt through file download sites, you're probably aware of other screen-capture programs. I've tried many of them and found none that compare with these two. Download the free trial version of your choice and see if you don't find it perfect for captures.