Free Macintosh Screen Capture Utilities
Although the Mac OS has a built-in screen capture utility (just press command-shift-3 or -4) that I use from time to time, it has a drawback that bit me today: when capturing, the cursor is missing from the screenshot. This was annoying, since I wanted the cursor to appear in some documentation I was writing. So, off I went in search of a replacement.
I headed over to MacUpdate.com, where I found 13 screen capture utilities. I pared the list to eight free products which, in keeping with my guidelines for software that goes on my system, I further pared to six which appear to be actively supported.
(Apologies to Ambrosia Software, publishers of Snapz Pro X, the premiere screen capture tool for the Mac; I just don't use screen capture enough to warrant paying for their utility.)
ScreenCaptureX captures the cursor and lets the user configure the destination folder and image format for screenshots, but the interface was underwhelming. And it was apparent from the developer's description that Capture Me wouldn't have the cursor capture feature I needed. But that still left four tools.
SnapNDrag [2.1] has a couple features that are helpful for anyone taking screenshots. Besides being able to capture the cursor in a timed screenshot, you can define a filename prefix and the number of digits in the numerical part of the filename. But the program doesn't allow you to change the image format it uses and hot keys can only be set if you pay $5 for the Pro version (which also gives you image scaling and removes a fairly innocuous ad for other products at the bottom of the window). SnapNDrag also suffers from an image preview so small that it's unusable.
GrabMac [2.2] allows you to define a screen region, then capture that region with a series of timed screenshots. It adds features like image format, file naming, and destination folder, as well as image resizing. However, it seemed to me to take much too long to setup GrabMac to take a single screenshot.
Screenshot Plus Widget [2.3 modified], not to be confused with an application with a similar name, is not something I would have normally given a lot of thought to. I've disabled Dashboard on my Mac; I'm opposed to having a number of widgets taking up memory on my machine when I'm not using them. However, I was looking for an excuse to buy Amnesty Singles, which converts Dashboard widgets into stand-alone applications.
At first launch, Screenshot Plus simply failed to act when I clicked a button, but I was able to see that its features included setting a destination folder (although it's limited to the folders in your home folder) and image format; sending captures to iPhoto or Preview; and showing a large, usable preview. A later trip to the developer's website revealed that the current version is incompatible with Mac OS X 10.4.7 and above, but a modified version (with a minor loss in functionality) was available and worked well.
Capture [0.7.9] is another widget that I ran through Amnesty Singles. That actually proved to point up a flaw in the process: neither Capture nor Screenshot Plus can hide themselves as an application, which they would normally do as a widget in Dashboard. This isn't as much of a problem for me in Screenshot Plus, which—with its timed screen grab—allows me to get the screen ready, but Capture doesn't wait before the screen capture occurs.
Even so, it has features similar to Screenshot Plus, with destination folders (drag a folder to the widget to change -- not sure how that works in Dashboard) and image formats. It even has the ability to resize the image, unlike Screenshot Plus, but it cannot preview images, send them to iPhoto, or capture single widgets (yes, I did test it in Dashboard).
Well, I found my excuse to buy Amnesty Singles, because I chose to go with a widget. Screenshot Plus edged out Capture, due to its timed screen grab and other features. Its slick interface didn't hurt, either.