Killer Download: Top free screen capture utilities

The Print Screen key is adequate for taking screen shots of the entire desktop, but if more functionality and convenience is needed, try one of the three programs in this weeks Killer Download.

Killer Download

Every computer user needs a good screen capture utility at one time or another. Whether doing a Web research project, getting a slick new desktop background, or just adding to an image collection, the flexibility of these utilities make them much more useful than the full-screen capture in Windows. As a reviewer of software, I often need to take screenshots of programs I'm reviewing. A screen capture utility lets me capture the whole program, or just a section of the screen depending on what I want to call out.

Windows comes with the Print Screen function which saves a full screen shot of the desktop to the clipboard. However, to crop or edit the image in any way, an image editing program is needed. Even worse, with Print Screen, once another screenshot is taken the previous capture is lost forever.

For more flexibility with screen captures, check out one of these programs. They each have their advantages and disadvantages.

ScreenHunter Free
Users can set all preferences before hand, so they can capture images one after the other (Credit: CNET Networks)

ScreenHunter Free is the simplest of this group. It is perfect for users who need to capture several images and save them to the same folder. The ScreenHunter interface lets users set up a hot key for captures, choose a destination folder, designate a file-naming convention, and choose between full screen captures, a rectangular area, or whatever is in the active window. Once done with the set up, users can choose a hot key to capture screens quickly.

Choose a screen capture type from the left sidebar (Credit: CNET Networks)

MWSnap lets users capture all, or part of a screen using hot keys just like ScreenHunter. However, it adds a few other useful features. Users can designate a fixed capture size for all their shots, add stylized frames or make buttons from images, they can also save all images to a specified folder. MWSnap also offers an on screen ruler for precise captures, a simple color picker tool, and rotate and flip image features.

Gadwin PrintScreen
Use the change destination button to set which image editor to use (Credit: CNET Networks)

Gadwin PrintScreen is my favorite of the group, and is best used in tandem with a free image editor, such as FastStone Image Viewer. First, set the type of screenshots that are to be taken, file format, and folder to save the images to. Just like the others, users will be able to set hot keys, and designate naming conventions. What makes Gadwin Printscreen useful is the capability to automatically open the image in an editor. That lets users immediately crop or make changes to the screenshot.

Using the Print Screen key is limiting. Rarely do users need a full-screen shot of their desktops, and saving to the clipboard requires too many steps to save and name the files. One of these screen capture applications may make taking screenshots more convenient and useful. As always, let us know in the comments if there is a better application for taking screenshots.

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.