Released 7th February 2014
Not long after discovering Gadwin Printscreen, I came across FastStone Capture. This is even better and has now become my screen capture utility of choice. Not that there is anything wrong with the Gadwin utility, but FastStone adds a few extras that I find useful. In terms of ease of use, they are pretty much equal. FastStone uses different shortcuts for capturing different areas, while Gadwin uses one shortcut, but has an option to change the area captured. FastStone Capture is now $19.95 Shareware. The previous Freeware version FastStone Capture 5.3 is available from OldVersions.com. FastStone Image Viewer is still Freeware for Home Users.
The capture tab of the settings dialogue offers options for launching FastStone on Windows startup, automatically minimising to the Windows System Tray is the most convenient and the least intrusive.
The default hot keys are sensible and not hard to remember. Mostly I use PrintScreen or Alter PrintScreen. F12 will bring up the options dialogue when it is the active application. Here you can change the shortcuts to use any modifier keys with PrintScreen. If you want to capture FastStone’s own dialogues, disable the PrintScreen by pressing the spacebar to set “None” as the shortcut to capture the active window. Then the Windows clipboard contents can be pasted into any graphics application for editing.
The filename pattern can be defined for use when saving multiple captures to file, which can also be automatic without showing the FastStone editor for each screen capture. Filename patterns can be saved too, handy when you wish to resume work on a task you started some time ago. If you write program tutorials you will appreciate these sophisticated file naming options.
Choose the default directory for saving files. Choose a photo-editor for the command to open in an external application. Open the output folder or copy to the Windows clipboard (normally, screen capture does not overwrite the Windows clipboard).
Capture images can also be uploaded directly to a server. Enter your upload details and password to automate the process without opening an FTP program.
From the edit menu, rotate the capture left or right, flip it horizontally or vertically, or rotate it to any angle using the slider.
From the effects menu, apply a drop shadow, blur, reflection, oil-painting, sketch, sepia, negative, or greyscale. Blur a selected part of the capture to hide private details.
The Screen Colour Picker displays the colour of the selected pixel in a window with colour values, etc. Clicking on a pixel will open a dialogue where the colour values can be copied to the clipboard as Red, Green, Blue values, or as Hex, or Decimal values. Or it can be set to copy any one of those three values immediately without showing the dialogue.
The Screen Magnifier can be used to zoom in to view details. When capturing a rectangular or freehand area of the screen it enables precise positioning. The magnifier’s zoom factor, shape, size, and negative mode can be changed in the settings dialogue.
The Close button on the FastStone editor Window can be set to close the program or just minimize it to the system tray. By default, the capture editor will close as soon as you save the capture as a file, but you can have it remain open to continue working. FastStone’s capture editor is a mini graphics editor in its own right and files can be opened in it from Windows Explorer or from its own File menu.
Left-click the system tray icon to display the toolbar. Click to select a capture area, or change options. Right-click the system tray icon and select an option from the menu. Large toolbar icons option in version 7.4.
When you save an image from FastStone Capture (I always use PNG because it is lossless), click on the Options button to open the save options dialogue.
The default settings seem to be optimised for saving screen shots of dialogue boxes, but if you’re saving photorealistic images, you may get much better results by using a filter. Click on the Filter drop down to try the Paeth filter. To optimise file sizes for other images, try setting the compression level to Max (the default level is 6). The dialogue shows what the New file size will be so that you can immediately tell if the choice was a good one for that image. The dialogue may take some time to redraw the image previews if you’re taking screen shots of large, photo-realistic images. The wait is worthwhile, however. A 4 Mbyte image saved without filtering may compress to not much more than 2 Mbytes with filtering. Results tend to be better than IrfanView.
Version 6.3 or later includes an option to record screen activity and sound and to save it in a video file. Capture the entire screen, a window, or a rectangular area.
To stop recording, press the F11 key to save the result as a Windows Media Video file. This feature is ideal for making tutorials on how to use computer software.
Version 7.1 includes a pause and resume option, which is very useful for keeping videos short when recording Software tutorials.
Version 7.2 includes an option to edit videos, so that annotations can be added after recording the video. Stop the video at any frame and use the Draw tools to add arrows, text, highlighting etc., to explain the video.
Version 7.3 lets you remove unwanted sections from a screen video, save a video frame to a file or copy it to the clipboard, drag and drop a video file onto the screen recorder's panel to open it in the video editor.
The options dialogue allows the user to:
The FastStone Editor
This is where FastStone excels. You can crop, zoom, pan, print, and save the capture in numerous formats, but before you do that you can also draw on the captured image. You don’t need to open screen captures in a photo-editor to add text labels, arrows, etc. You can do it all in FastStone when you capture the image. The screen capture below shows FastStone’s Quick Help page, on top of which I have added some text boxes, highlighting, shapes, arrows and lines.