One of the most popular screen capture programs is SnagIt. Somewhat confusingly, programs like SnagIt can do much more than capture the image on your screen. With SnagIt you can capture a window, the entire screen or an area that of your choosing. Once you’ve captured the image, you can edit it using the built-in tools.

This type of software is great for blogs and system administration because as they say a picture is worth a thousand words. And, moreover, if your a systems administrator and you’re dealing with a new piece of software, or working with a Level 1 support tech, who lacks basic communication skills, you can just email a picture of what you’re seeing on the screen.

All that said, there’s one glaring problem with SnagIt; it’s $39.95. Sure, you can demo it for 30 days and capture till your heart is content, but eventually you will face the judgement day when you have to decide whether this newfound functionality worth 40 bucks.

I decided it wasn’t. So I went trolling the netherworld of freeware and found two (actually three) decent alternatives to SnagIt.

MWSnap is my favorite freeware replacement for SnagIt. MWSnap was written by Mirek Wojtowicz. It is a small executable that will do all of the image capturing that SnagIt can do. It doesn’t support image editing, but it’s extremely useful and in many cases, particularly when I outline the area to be captured, I find that I don’t need to edit the images.

Another program that is useful, but less functional, is HoverSnap. The great thing about HoverSnap, created by Hover, is that it can run off of a USB device. The downside, and one which I’ve not yet been able to fix, is that it saves all image captures under the same name. As a result the user has to go in and rename the captured image to prevent it from being overwritten the next time they perform an image capture. That said, the ability to capture and store images on a flash drive is quite handy.

Neither of these screen capture programs has the capability to edit images that SnagIt features. “So are we out 40 dollars now?” you might ask. Certainly not! For this, there are a number of freeware (and commerical) tools that allow you to edit an image once you’ve captured it. One of the freeware programs is Image Analyzer. Image Analyzer will let you resize, crop, rotate, retouch, or draw on the image. The program is as easy to use as most programs of this kind and it doesn’t deliver the kind of overkill that you would find in Photoshop. [n.b. Image Analyzer also supports cameras, scanners and printers (and provides features like red-eye removal, which isn’t necessary in most screen capture images).]

So, there you have it. Save yourself $40 and go get a drink. Or go to Pricewatch and buy a 1GB USB key. They’re getting cheap!