Most people do not have many occasions when they need a screenshot, but there is always one here and there. For those of us who write about technology the need is much greater. For that reason, many writers I know use a professional program such as Snagit – which is very powerful and has countless options.
However, I prefer to budget my technology spending as much as I can and, to that end, I always look for free software alternatives. Of course, this also gives me some insight into what an average user would look for.
For grabbing screenshots, a task I do daily, I have been using PicPick for sometime. It is free for home use, so it fits the mold of real-world use, but it is powerful enough to handle what I need as a writer. Personally, since I use it professionally, I paid for a license, but I am not an average use-case either.
Pick a Task
On first launch you will receive a very basic screen that prompts you to “pick a task”. There is New and Open, screen capture options and a few basic graphic options.
You can, of course, begin here, but the easiest thing to do is simply minimize PicPick to the system tray and go about your business until you need to take a screenshot. Unless you wanted to edit an image — then by all means, get started. We will discuss the options for doing so in just a bit.
The Ribbon Interface
Users will find a rather familiar interface — well, if you have used a newer version of Microsoft Office it will be familiar.
The interface is an almost exact replica of the ribbon made popular in Office and, most recently, brought to the Explorer program in Windows 8. This means that the top menu bar is very simple — just File, Home, View and Shapes. The real action, like in Office, is below these simple commands where the ribbon resides.
Screen Capture Options
The app resides in your system tray and springs into action when you do a screen capture — this can be PrtSc, Alt-PrtSc or Shift-PrtSc. All of those options will prompt PicPick to grab the image and pop up on your screen ready for you to begin editing. By default, those options capture what is intended from each. I won’t go into that here because most of you likely know the differences, and if you don’t then they are readily found online.
However, if you are looking for something a bit more, then don’t press any of those buttons. Instead, head down to PicPick in the system tray.
Click the icon and you will get a pop-up menu of options, the most important of which is “Screen Capture”. This menu gives a number of options.
- Full Screen
- Active Window
- Window Control
- Scrolling Window
- Fixed Region
- Free Hand
- Repeat Last Capture
Working with Images
Once you capture a screenshot then there are quite a few options at your disposal for how to edit the image. Options are contained under both the “Home” and “View” menus.
View contains only a few options, including Zoom In and Zoom Out (both of which are also available under the Home ribbon). However, it also contains a Thumbnail option and options to view multiple screenshots by arranging or cascading them.
The Home ribbon is where you will find the vast majority of what you are looking for. There is a lot here and it would take a manual to cover all of it, but I will try and touch on some of the highlights for those that most customers will find useful.
Under Home you will find many of the usual options like Copy and Paste, as well as the aforementioned zooms. But, more importantly, you will find ways to crop and rotate images. Cropping is carried out by using the “Select” icon and that is an important one because it is useful for several other things as well.
One of the most useful things when it comes to screenshots, especially those being posted to the web like mine are, is the ability to obscure personal information. To do this, select the area and then click the “Effects” drop down menu. For obscuring info you will find options for both Blur and Pixelate.
Full list of Effects
- Gray Scale
- Brightness / Contrast
- Hue / Saturation
- Color Balance
There is also a number of shapes, for instance the program makes is easy to point an arrow at something you wish to highlight or draw a box around it. You can even use an eraser to remove certain areas of an image. And there is a full-featured color palette as well. Of course it also includes the ability to add text to any image.
PicPick has become my number one app for grabbing screenshots. It sits in my system tray and then whenever I hit the Alt-PrtSc buttons it grabs that image and opens automatically.
More importantly, the app is free for home users. If you need to pay for a professional license then it will set you back $21.99 U.S. For home users it is a no-brainer and for those who need it for work it was one of the better deals available. It has a solid list of features to recommend it.
- Full featured screen capture
- Intuitive image editor
- Color Picker
- Color Palette
- Pixel Ruler
- Screen Magnifier
- Screen Protractor
The fact that I use it for my job is the best recommendation that I can give. It is also compatible with all versions of Windows from XP through Windows 8, and even Windows Server.