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Who knew taking screen shots\captures could have so many options?

Oct 3

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Wednesday, October 03, 2018 8:04 PM  RssIcon

imageAre you taking screen shots for logging a bug? Do you need to get that “picture is worth a thousand words” screen cap? How hard could it be?

When I started doing Windows back in Windows 3.0 days (hey don’t judge me! LOL), I was completely astonished a coworker could grab the entire contents of the computer screen to a BMP file. Holy smokes, how do you do THAT magic? Turns out it was easy, hit the PrtScn button, paste into PBRUSH.exe (paintbrush if you’re too young to know what pbrush is) and then INSERT that file into something like WinWord. Simple right?

Well, fast forward to today, and we can easily draw a rectangle on the LCD and save it to the clipboard, goto your JIRA bug or TFS bugs and paste it into your browser to help with the “picture is worth a thousand words!” But how did we get here?

I mentioned above about the print screen, PBRUSH, and attaching that file. Next I fell in LOVE with TechSmith’s SnagIt. The good about it was it was fantastic, easy to use, easy to customize to launching with custom key shortcuts, and EASY to save screen caps to files OR clipboard. BUT, it wasn’t free (yes, I’m cheap). As I moved companies, they had differing appetites for spending money on screen capture tools (ie, they didn’t). Currently it’s selling for $65.13 (US I believe, that’s about $85CA).

Thankfully that was around the time Windows Vista came out, and the beautiful under appreciated utility that came with it called Snipping Tool. It gave all the advantages of SnagIt, save the ability to add text and arrow lines. Although it didn’t have ellipses\rectangles, you could draw them freehand. That wasn’t perfect, but it did give your bugs a bit of authentic hand-touched element to your awkwardly drawn circles and non-perfect lines and arrows.

Most recently, a coworker (thanks Ibrahim) showed me the NEXT evolution in screen capture options, LightShot from Skillbrains. I’m really warming up to this tool. First let me go over key points I look for in a screen capturing tool (yes, I’ve over thought this, sorry, but you can take advantage of it LOL).

Key considerations

  • imageeasy to start
    • ideal if I can shortcut it, FANTASTIC if you can reuse the keyboard’s native PrtScn button
    • second option is to use some other key on your keyboard
  • fast, Fast, FAST loading times
    • NO waiting around for anything at anytime!!!!!!
  • minimal memory impact
  • short lifetime
    • ideally it’s only loaded, used and then completely gets out of your way (including memory)
  • able to lasso (rectangle) around specific area you want to grab
  • able to save to clipboard and\or file
    • for file, needs to let me pick png or jpg
  • able to draw over the screen grab
    • ideally with ellipses\circles or rectangles to help draw reader attention
    • even better if you can pick a high contrast attention grabbing color for annotations
    • even sweeter if you can have lines with arrowheads
    • even sweeter if you can have text annotations
    • even sweeter yet if you can record vids!
      • this one is very elusive
    • and the ultimate sweetness is all these things available with keyboard shortcuts!

Ok, back to LightShot. The pros are,

  • imageI’m able to reuse the Windows print screen button (awesome) which lets me reattribute my MS 4000 Keyboard’s third favorite key to open the directory where its pngs\jpgs are stored
  • it’s fast, like really fast to start up and take screen shots!!!!
  • I’m able to draw lines with arrows in high contrasting color as well as as text if I want
  • next I’m able to quickly save a file OR copy to clipboard
  • then it automagically gets out of my way!


Although it’s not perfect, here are some cons

  • once loaded, it’s always loaded
    • Look in your TaskManager, it’s listed in there even though I’m not using it
  • the drawing tools (rectangle, arrows, text) do not have keyboard shortcuts
  • the tool selection color is hard to discern between selected\unselected and disabled
    • this is a minor grumble I know, but it’s caught me a couple of times with trying to pick a disabled tool

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand….that’s it. Seems like, so far, this is the tool is miles…uh..kilometers ahead of SnippingTool. Let’s see how long this lasts for.

So, how hard is is to grab a screen capture and share it? Turns out it’s not very hard at all given the right tool!

PS Dishonorable Mention, OneNote Clipper

The Problem I disliked about OneNote is the amount of time it took to startup and recall\use. It just seemed to slow me down where there were plenty of other tools without that negative aspect. It also was parasitic in it’s ability to NEVER SHUT OFF! It was like a cockroach, it NEVER died!!!!! And even when I WAS able to remove it from memory, it would mysteriously reappear, very much like a virus. I disliked it very much.


TechSmith SnagIt =

OneNote Clipper =

Microsoft Snipping Tool =

Lightshot =

Lightshot Download =

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