Any GIF Animator 2.0

Clip, crop, and convert any video to an animated GIF for free.

Animated GIFs -- short sequences of images that act like tiny moving pictures -- have been around since Netscape Navigator 2.0 (!), but thanks to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and particularly Tumblr, these little slices of Internet hilarity have exploded in recent years. By this point, even your mom knows what they are (see Jennifer Lawrence at the 2013 Oscars for a major mainstream-media example), but it's not too late for you to get in on the craze. One of the best things about animated GIFs is that they're easy to make, especially with tools like Any GIF Animator. It creates animated GIFs and avatars from images and videos -- including directly from DVDs or YouTube -- with scads of editing options.

As with most freeware these days, installing Any GIF Animator involves a few extra steps, mostly due to an associated media codec pack. There are two installation options: Easy and Detailed. Choosing the Detailed option let me decline an extra toolbar and also choose which codecs to install (you may need to reboot after installing any). I could also configure the audio-output options, including multichannel surround sound, Dolby decoding, and digital formats.

Wait a minute ... sound with clips? Most free GIF makers don't do audio, let alone Dolby audio. Score one for Any GIF Animator. The program's user interface resembles a beefed-up media player, with nearly all the settings and controls you need close at hand under tabs labeled GIF Settings, Clip & Crop, and Effects, including Advanced Options like looping a musical track. Clicking Open Media let me easily load video files, DVDs, images, YouTube pages, and other content for GIFing. My future animation played in the preview pane with a selection frame overlaid. I simply dragged the frame over the area to clip, set the start and end points, and then pressed "Convert to GIF." The converted GIF was huge, but Any GIF Converter offered suggestions for reducing the size. All clips looked and played great.

One notable annoyance is that it's not possible to skip updates. The software either downloads the new version or closes the program interface. Regardless, Any GIF Animator is among the best free tools for animated GIFs I've found yet.

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