Similarly, screen capture and video capture sound complex, but are actually just the act of capturing an image, or series of images, on a computer. These can be used in many ways, such as incorporation into a slide presentation, video presentation, or "screencasting" from a server.
The simplest way to do a screen capture is by using your computer keyboard's "printscreen" key, usually found in the top right-hand corner of a PC, or for Mac, Apple+shift+3 keys, then clicking anywhere on the relevant window. You can then copy the whole screen to image editing software for manipulation. Mac also allows you to print a rectangular part of the screen by doing Apple+shift+4 and dragging the cursor to form a frame, then copying that part of the screen.
Screen capture has gotten more sophisticated in recent years, allowing capture of irregularly shaped bits of a screen, image editing and adding text. A number of image-editing software programs incorporate this function, such as Corel's Paint Shop Pro and Adobe's Captivate video editing software. These powerful programs are usually used by professionals, however, and they cost hundreds of dollars.
Screen capture has also gotten more specialized and more accessible to the amateur. For Windows Users, there's Microsoft's Photo Story 3, a free download that makes elegant slide shows with or without titles, narration and music. It's simple to learn and very useful for producing podcasts.
Downloadable programs from Techsmith are among the best. Like many of the most successful web-based tools, these are loaded with features but very easy to understand and use. The prices vary greatly. Each is available at a discounted rate for education.
Snagit is the original. It allows you to capture an image in a particular shape, such as ellipse or circle, and paste it together with other images to make a poster or presentation slide. You can then send the image instantly, to PowerPoint or to an e-mail message, Skype frame or Flickr for sharing. If your image-editing needs are simple, it can replace the much more expensive Adobe Photoshop. Snagit sells for about $38 to educators, $50 for others. A 30-day free trial is available.
Jing is a next-generation Snagit, allowing still image and video capture and a bit of online storage. Its advantage is its ease of use. Once installed, Jing places a small shining sun icon at the edge of your computer screen, visible in all applications. To use it, mouse over the sun, select the left-most of three smaller circles - the selection tool - and drag it to frame the image or video you want to capture, then select where you want to save or send it. There are a number of options for this, such as e-mail, Skype or to the Techsmith server, where anyone can retrieve it if you send them the link.
Jing is growing in popularity because of its simplicity, usefulness and the fact that it is a free download. No support is available, although there is a blog, which acts as a kind of support group among users, with occasional posts from Jing staff answering questions. The Jing Web site advises that the software will stay free as the product evolves, and that a premium edition will be offered for sale when it's ready.
Those who want more can graduate to Camtasia, a video capture software with professional quality and cost. It has sophisticated image and sound editing tools and can run Flash hotspots, zoom effects and the ability to bring a single small object into focus. The price is about $180 for educators and $700 for others. There is a free 30-day trial download.
All three of these programs can be used with Techsmith's online video hosting, screencast.com. The difference between screencast and Youtube is the annual subscription fee, starting at about $70, which puts the accountholder in charge of who can view the video, and whether it is password-protected. Unlike Youtube, the video remains the property of the account holder.
A caveat when using screen-capture software: remember that although copying the work of others is free and very easy, it is not always legal. Be sure that the product you are making comes under the heading of "fair use", such as for a lesson, rather than for gain. This is a complicated subject, but it's best to make sure that the images you use for presentations, videos and print materials either belong to you or are in the public domain. For more on that topic, consult the US Government's Copyright Office definition of fair use.
Photo Story 3 software (free download)
A Review of Screen Capture Tools from Writers USA (2007)
Yahoo!'s list of screen capture software programs, including those mentioned here