Saturday, February 16, 2008

EasyCapture 1.0 – simple, easy-to-use freeware screen capture utility

When I started this blog, I made the decision to always include a screenshot of the programs that I review. It quickly became apparent that I needed to update my screen capture utility to meet certain criteria. My criteria included the following:

  1. Small, lightweight, easy-to-use
  2. The ability to capture just the active window, without the mouse cursor
  3. The ability to preview the image and save it with a filename of my choosing
  4. The ability to do basic editing, particularly resizing of the image while maintaining the aspect ratio – before saving it

It took me a while to find a freeware program that meets these criteria, but EasyCapture from XYStudio was a perfect fit. It includes all of the features mentioned above, plus some.

EasyCapture is a small download (about 850K) and the install program is straightforward. When you run EasyCapture, it brings up the window as seen in the above screenshot, and installs itself in the system tray as well. Within a few minutes of first running it, I was using EasyCapture capture to do all of the things mentioned above – it's that easy to use.

You can capture the full screen, any open window, the active window, or a rectangular area of the screen that you select. You can perform these functions from within the main program window using convenient toolbar buttons, or by using the assigned hot-key for each function (the hot-key assignments are user-definable, you can change the defaults to whatever suits you).

For my purposes, I minimize EasyCapture to the system tray, then use the hot-key (Ctl-Shift-A is the default for the active window) after selecting the window of the program that I am reviewing. EasyCapture capture makes a neat little camera-shutter-clicking sound, and the main window opens up with a full-size preview of the image. Then I choose Image-Resize from the menu, enter the desired dimensions, click on Ok, and the image is quickly resized. I can choose between Good or Better quality for the image resize algorithm in its dialog box. I then save the image using the Save toolbar button and I'm done.

There you have it. It takes me about two minutes to have a screenshot that meets the criteria for my blog posts. EasyCapture has lots of other features – but they don't get in the way of the basic ones and I am able to do what I need to do quickly and easily. The folks at XYStudio have done a great job on this one.

EasyCapture has some other cool features, too. You can add text to explain your screen capture, draw lines and rectangles in the colors of your choice, and even add cartoon-type “balloon stamps” with text. There are also 8 Filter selections that can be applied to your image, including Blur, Emboss and Mosaic. You can also Rotate, Flip, Invert, and adjust the Brightness, Contrast and Color, to name just a few of the other editing options. EasyCapture allows you to save your captured images in BMP, GIF,PCX,JPEG or PNG format.

A visit to the author's website reveals a basic on line help menu. There's also a contact form for the author and the website states that EasyCapture is compatible with Windows Vista, WinXP, and Win2000. I tested it on my Win XP SP2 machine. I found only one minor issue with EasyCapture, which had to do with some of the tool tips for the toolbar buttons not displaying – I see this quite a bit with new programs – as this is the first release of EasyCapture, I'm sure this will be corrected soon enough.

The bottom line – If you need a good screen capture program, even if you already have one, get EasyCapture and give it a try – I think you'll be surprised at it's capability and ease-of-use. EasyCapture is free for personal use, and can be downloaded here.


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