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by Chris Taylor

When writing articles for the newsletter, I often include screenshots which illustrate a particular operation or configuration on the computer.

Windows includes a function for taking screen captures, but it is pretty rudimentary. You can press the Print Screen button on your keyboard to capture the full desktop, or Alt-Print Screen to capture just the active window. You can then paste the screenshot into any application that can handle a graphic.

Over ten years ago I went looking for a free program that would be a bit more capable. I came across Printkey and it did a nice job. Unfortunately, they switched to a commercial model and new versions are no longer free.

A couple of years ago, my search for a replacement found Greenshot; a free and open source program. This review is based on release candidate 2 for version 1.1.

Greenshot is available in many languages and has been downloaded more than 2 million times. Currently, there are over 100,000 downloads per month, so it seems many others find the program useful as well. The program is tiny; the installer is 1.2MB and the installation takes under 3MB. The .NET Framework v2 or greater is required. The installer will check and install it if required.

Greenshot loads as an icon in the system tray when you start Windows, so it is always available. You interact with it by clicking on the tray icon or through user-definable hot-keys.

Tray icon menu


To capture any rectangular area on the screen, select Capture region from the menu or press the hotkey (default: Print Screen) and cross hairs will appear on screen. Move the cross hairs to a corner of the region you want to capture, click and hold the mouse button, and drag out a box defining the area you want to capture. As you drag, the capture area appears as a teal-shaded box, making it easy to see what will be captured. As well, two other visual cues help. First, there are numbers that appear above and to the left of the teal box showing the dimensions of the box in pixels. Second, there is a circle offset from the box which shows a highly magnified image of the area currently under the cross hairs. These two cues allow you to be very precise in capturing exactly what you want.


Capture area


Another common capture method is window mode. It allows you to easily take a snap of a single application window or a sub-window such as a toolbar or an edit field. Once activated, as you move the mouse around, the teal box will show what will be captured when you click the mouse button.

Window mode capturing a toolbar


If you ever wanted to do a screen capture of a web page but the web page is too large to be seen in its entirety, you will appreciate the option Capture Internet Explorer. It will grab an entire web page as a single image, even portions that you would normally have to scroll to see.

Once a screen capture is completed, you can: send it to the printer; save it to a file (supported graphic formats are BMP, GIF, JPG, PNG, and TIFF); copy it to the Windows clipboard; send it to a program such as Microsoft Office programs, Mozilla Thunderbird, or Microsoft Paint; or open it in the Greenshot Image Editor. If you send to the printer, there are options to expand or shrink the image to fit the page, rotate the image and add elements such as the date and time.

The Greenshot Image Editor is very slick. If you open your screenshot there, you can manipulate the image in many ways such as cropping, rotating, or adding highlights, rectangles, ovals, lines, arrows, and text. You have control over fill colour, and line thickness/colour. You can even choose the colour by pointing anywhere on screen, allowing you to easily match colours. There is also a button to create a drop shadow on any element you add.


Greenshot image editor


If parts of your image contain sensitive information, such as a password or bank account number, there is an obfuscate tool which can pixelate or blur parts of the image. You can control the degree of obfuscation.

Greenshot added a new feature in release candidate 2 that I find very useful. If you use the Image Editor to add elements to the screen capture, you can now save the image as a *.greenshot file. Then, you can reload it later into the Greenshot Image Editor and all your customizations remain fully editable.

Greenshot has quite a few program options; You can delay a screen capture to allow you time to do arrange things such as opening a menu to capture it as part of the image; capture the mouse pointer as part of the image; play a camera sound when the screen capture is taken; hide the magnifier; and more.

Besides the full installer package, there is a portable version available, so if you want to do something like run it from a flash drive, this is doable.

Greenshot is a small, powerful, flexible screen capture program. If you have an occasional need to grab a screen image to insert into an email or document, Greenshot can expand greatly on Windows’ native capabilities. For those who document computer programs or operations, Greenshot is a program you really must try

Bottom Line:

Greenshot v1.1
System requirements: Windows XP/Vista/7/8, .NET Framework 2.0 or better
Price: Free and open source (GPLv2)

Originally published: November, 2013

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