Extras - Product Review - SnagIt by TechSmith (v. 4.1)

By Susan Charkes, Published on July 1, 1998

Susan Charkes is a Systems Librarian, Dechert Price & Rhoads, Philadelphia, PA

The Internet trainer's worst nightmare. After spending hours preparing a smoothly orchestrated presentation with just the right sites, the Internet connection you are using to demonstrate will fail ... the sites will be unreachable ... the Webmasters will have changed the key pages so they no longer illustrate the points you want to make. You're stuck with a browser and no place to go. The best preventive medicine for this headache is to fake 'em out: prepare a series of screen shots that conjure up the experience of using the Web, without the real-life risks.

SnagIt is an advanced screen capture utility that enables you to create canned Web pages that look like the real thing to your audience. I've successfully used SnagIt to produce GIF images of the Web pages I want to demonstrate. For each GIF, I create an HTML document that contains only that image. When I open the page in my browser during the demo, it looks like I am at the Web site, but I am really just viewing a local file. I can link the image to another demo page using HTML, thereby enabling me to create the illusion that I am clicking on links on the Web, when again, it's just a local link. (This also makes it unnecessary to worry about precision clicking during the demo.)

SnagIt allows you to create scrolling images, so you can capture the whole window rather than just the visible screen, which increases the realism of your illusion. You can capture text that you type into a form, which helps when you are demo-ing search techniques. Set SnagIt to capture only the Active Window, in order to exclude from your shot the Windows taskbar and other extraneous areas of the screen. It can also restrict the shot to just the menu, to a pre-set region, or an ad hoc region. DOS screens can be captured as well.

SnagIt is full of options for output. The simplest one is to output each screen to a separate file. Image file outputs include not only GIF but also BMP, JPG, PCX and TIF formats. Alternatively, you can also create a "catalog" that you use to organize your project and view each image in a thumbnail version. I found this format to be extraordinarily slow once I had accumulated more than a few images. It is useful for collecting a few alternative images to comparing which one would be the best screen shot for your training session. Ultimately you will want to select one and convert it to a GOF file for use in the HTML presentation.

You can output your captured screen shots in multiple formats simultaneously. For example, save the images to a file and print them out at the same time. You have instant documentation of your presentation. Other output formats include email and the clipboard.

If you want to create a fully animated demo, SnagIt will create AVI video files of all screens, cursor movements and the like. I have never used this feature since it creates huge files, but it could be used to create asynchronous learning materials.

SnagIt is available in a free 45-day evaluation version from TechSmith at http://www.techsmith.com. TechSmith produces both 16- and 32-bit versions. Cost of the registered product is $39.95 - a terrific price for a utility that makes life much easier.