Why Choose Screen Capture Software
The top performers in our review are Snagit 12, the Gold Award winner; Ashampoo Snap 8, the Silver Award winner; and FastStone Capture, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing screen capture software to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 programs.
Screen capture software is a useful tool you can use in a number of situations. Whether you're an aspiring YouTuber, experienced educator or professional trainer, this software can help you produce quality videos and images. You can use this versatile software to compile training documents, user manuals, educational videos or as an easy way to store projects and images on your computer.
The difference between this type of software and the Print Screen key on your keyboard is the editing suites that screen capture programs include. The best screen capture software allows you to capture or record your screen, as well as add elements like comments, shapes and step-by-step instructional guides. For more information about what these programs can do for you, check out our articles on screen capture software.
What is the Right Capture Software for You?
Screen capture software is your best option if you need to record and edit images from your computer screen. If you're looking for the very best solution to create video tutorials for your company or capture your best gaming moments, screen capture software may not be the best solution for your needs.
If you want to produce the high-quality videos, control video formats and record high-quality audio from your computer video capture software is worth considering. This type of program is very similar to screen capture software but with some notable differences. Some of the biggest differentiators are the overall quality of the end product and the video length you can record. With video capture software, you can make production length high-quality videos, which isn't necessarily true of screen capture software. While video capture software is designed for professionals and hobbyists who require high-quality video and audio, it is not the best way to film and share video game footage.
If your main goal is to capture your best gaming moments and share them across the web, check out our reviews on the best video game recorder software. This software is made specifically for recording your gameplay and includes game-specific features you can control, including integrated live streaming, custom recording resolutions and custom frame rates.
Screen Capture Software: What We Tested, What We Found
We evaluated and ranked screen capture software by testing each program to determine the best from the rest. As a result of our testing, we found that the best programs create small files, don't use a large portion of your computer's processor power and are easy to install.
One way the best screen capture programs stand above the rest is the size of the files they create; in this case, smaller is better. This is because small, less impactful images and video files don’t take up a lot of space on your hard drive. During our testing process, we created several files types using each program and averaged the resulting file sizes to determine how much space they took up on the hard drive.
We also recorded how much impact each program had on the computer system as we created videos and images. These tests helped determine how system intensive each program is, which can affect the overall performance of your computer.
Average file size and system impact data were compiled in an overall system performance grade. Look for screen capture software with high system performance grades, as these programs take up less space on your hard drive and have minimal or no impact on your computer's performance.
We also tested how easy it is to install each program. We gave each program an installation grade to help you determine how easy it is to download, install and start running. Look for programs that are easy to install and allow you to start capturing screen content moments after you purchase the software.
What Should You Look for in Screen Capture Software?
As you're looking for the best screen recording software for your needs, there are a few things to keep in mind. The most important points to consider include the program’s capture and editing tools, ease of use, compatible file formats, and available help and support.
Capturing & Editing Tools
One of the first things to consider when shopping for screen capture software is a program’s ability to capture images and video off of your screen. Since there are so many reasons to use the software, the best programs offer a wide variety of capturing tools to meet versatile needs.
Some of the top capturing features to look for in screen capture software include menu, scroll, video game and scheduled captures. Menu and scroll capturing are great for software tutorial documents because you can capture an entire page, even if most of the content is off screen and requires scrolling to view. If you plan capturing some video game footage but don’t want to use this software primarily for gaming, look for software that includes the ability to record games or DirectX applications in general. Finally, scheduled capturing allows you to record your screen at set moments in time, so you don’t have to be at your computer to capture images and video.
One of the biggest differences between screen capture software and freeware is the ability to edit your captured images and videos. Look for programs that allow you to add comments, bubble captions and draw shapes. These tools help you create step-by-step instructions, notes or highlights, which can be incredibly helpful.
Ease of Use
Screen capturing should be a simple, pain-free process. Look for programs that include a quick-to-access toolbar you can use to start recording. A quick toolbar conveniently allows you to record without opening a separate program. Rather, you can simply click the record button on the small toolbar to the side of the screen.
As you search for the best screen recorder, you should also consider its ability to share your captured images or videos on social media sites, like Facebook and Photobucket, directly from the program. This is a great way to reach family, friends, coworkers or followers quickly. Software with this function allows you to share your content at the push of a button.
File type is another important factor to consider as you look for screen capture software. If you want to create videos and share them online, you need a program that can create files that are optimal for the web such as MP4s. If you need to share images online, look for programs that can create high-quality small images. You may also want a program that can support scanner or camera imports, allowing you to pull images directly from these devices.
Help & Support
If you're on the fence about purchasing a program, you can often download a free trial or demo version to check it out. Although every screen capture application we tested offers a trial or demo version, the trial time varied significantly. Look for programs that allow you to test out the product for at least a couple weeks before making a final decision.
The best programs have tutorial sections or FAQs pages to guide you through each step of the process. Also, look for programs that allow you to contact customer support through email or over the phone should you need help while using the program.
Screen Capture Software: Our Verdict & Recommendation
After evaluating a number of screen capture programs, we found that Snagit 12, Ashampoo Snap 8 and FastStone Capture are the best applications on the market today. Snagit is the single best program we reviewed and earned our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award because it has a full set of capturing and editing tools, is easy to use and offers a numerous avenues for help and support should you need it. However, it does not offer as many video file formats as our Silver Award winner, Ashampoo Snap, which offers the most versatile file formats of any program we reviewed.
FastStone Capture, the Bronze Award winner, doesn't offer quite as many ease of use features as the other top screen recording programs but does have a 30 day trial, which is longer than many other software options we reviewed. Overall, these programs earned their top-three rankings because they are adaptable. Each of these programs allows you to create an end product that can be used for whatever you may need.