Techsmith Jing - Reality Capture System for Mac and Windows
Techsmith's Snagit has been the premium Screen Capture program in Windows for the past 5 years. Now Techsmith has created Jing - a free program for screen image and video capture that works on the Mac as well as Windows [no Linux version yet]. There is a Jing Pro that adds advanced video and other capture features for $15/year. But the free version of Jing holds its own with top notch features that just 2-3 years ago would have won the screen capture market hands down.
Jing holds up the Techsmith tradition of having a very easy to use interface and super reliable operations. The interface needs to be simple because the help system is dependent on an online connection to the Web. This is a departure for Techsmith who generally have superior desktop as well as online help; but when you are getting all this capture firepower for free who is going to argue?
Lets look at what Jing brings to the table. Here are the major screen capture features:
1)Do image captures of any screen region using simple drag and click;
2)Annotate the image capture with color highlights, colored rectangles, and text captions;
3)Save the captured image in .png format to local disk or clipboard or screencast.com or Web server via ftp;
4)Do video capture also by marked screen region;
5)Dub audio narration directly while doing a screen video capture;
6)Save video as Flash swf file to disk, screencast.com or ftp site;
7)Keep track of all image and video captures through the History window;
8)Customize the layout and operations of Jing through an Admin option.
This is a super feature set for anyone describing or documenting computer apps or systems. 90% of the work is simple drag and click operations. It is equally simple for screen video captures. Developers and designers will love Jing because not only will they be able to document a system live but also debug problems with captures of screen or video images at anytime. And Jing brings another big plus - it keeps a thumbnail history of all those captures ready for review, edit or other action. Jing enables real live test, debug and idea Capture for the best price of all, free..
What makes Jing so attractive is its simple activations and capture sequence. It runs as a bright yellow half-sun at the top of the screen. Hover a mouse over the Jing sun and it pops out 3 icon options: Capture on the left, History in the middle and Admin on the right. Click on Capture and yellow crosshairs appear on screen. Move the mouse cursor around and the bullseye of the crosshairs follow the mouses movement. Bring the cursor/croshairs to the upper lefthand corner of the image you want to capture. The screenshot below shows this intial positioning of Jing's crosshairs:
Now click and hold down the mouse button as you drag it to the lower right hand corner of the screen image to be captured. To complete the capture just release the mouse button once you have the crosshairs lined up properly.
Note that Jing helps in lining up the image by dimming out areas outside the capture area. Also the yellow crosshairs help to line up the capture. When you are satisfied - just release the mouse button and Jing makes the capture and displays it as seen below:
Next you decide whether to accept or redo the capture. Or if you are planning to do a video capture, then choose that option [be sure you are satisfied with the size and alignment of the windows for all your video-taking requirements]. Jing also gives you the choice of completely redoing the capture selection - pick this and the yellow crosshairs reappear. Finally, the last option is to just cancel any capture - Jing disappears into its waiting Sun at the top of the screen. If you accept or confirm the capture by clicking on the first icon, then Jing puts the image into an editor where you can add captions, pointers, etc; or simply save the image right away. The next tab panel describes what edit and save options are available after accepting a capture.
The previous tab panel showed how to do an image or video capture. This tab will summarize the image capture editing options but will spend the balance on all the various image save options that are available for users.
If you chose to accept the image capture then here is the the edit and save screen presented by Jing:
You have a range of 4 editing options on the left side of the screen. Along the bottom there are a series of save options. You don't have to make edits and add captions to the screen capture immediately - you can save the screen and then edit it later using the History option. This is a very useful workflow choice when doing multiple screen captures.
Jing Image Save Options
Users have 4 save options. The first option saves the capture at Screencast.com. This can be done for free and has the virtue of making the capture available online to a team or friends. See Screencast.com for all the options available. Click the second icon, the floppy disk, to save the image capture on your local file system. The file will be saved in .png format. Note that just above the Save options is a Jing-generated name in date-like format. You can type over replace this name with a more meaningful one.
The next button, the icon with two overlapping screens, allows the captured image to be transferred to the clipboard - you then can insert the image into any application that accepts images from a clipboard - think word processing, DTP, photo editors, etc. The fourth button labelled FTP allows you to transfer an image up to a Web server via ftp transfer. The image can be directed to a specific directory on the Web server. The Jing Admin option allows the user to set this up.
The last two save option buttons are simple. The first transfers the Screen Capture to Snagit for the full range of editing possible in Snagit Editor [this is only available in Windows and only if you have a registered version of Snagit]. The last button with the circled x icon cancels any save and the image is NOT added to Jing's history of captures. The next Tab panel shows the editing that can be done in Jing.
Jing Image Edit Options
There are 4 basic editing options provided in Jing as seen here:
One can add colored arrows and rectangles onto a Jing screen capture. Both the arrows and rectangles are easy to move about, rotate, and resize. Also adding a text caption is easy just click the Text button and start typing. The font for the text can be enlarged or shrunk; and its color changed. With the Color chooser button on the bottom of the edit options, it is trivial to change the color of any of the objects added to the screen. Just click on the object and then click the Color Chooser and it is done. In comparison to Snagit this is a very limited range of edits; hence one save options transfers the captured image over to the Snagit Editor for a much more robust range of editing possibilities. Finally, see the previous tab panel for the Jing Save options.
Jing Video Options
Jing's video capture capabilities are surprisingly robust. As we have seen in the previous tab, all one has to do is draw the Video Capture Window on screen and then choose the video record button. A special recording control pops up around the window as in the screenshot below:
By clicking on the the microphone icon the PC's speaker is turned on and one can narrate the video screen capture. Using the pause button, one can stop the video recording and restart it as necessary. The first square icon button stops the recording [there is no option to resume]. And the user is presented with identically the same save options as for an image capture - save to screencast.com, save to disk, save via FTP to a Web server or transfer to Camtasia Studio [6.0 or above] if the user has the software on their machine. If the user has bought the Jing Pro option [at $15US/year] there are a number of additional choices available for storing including direct connect to You Tube and optimizing the video file size.
In our tests we found the default video capture to Flash .swf to be pretty effective. A 700 x 500 pixel screen area resulted in capture cost of 1/2MB per minute. The following shows typical video screen capture results:
One of the best features of Jing is its History Dialog. Jing keeps a complete history of all the screen and video captures that you have made including a copy of whatever you have captured. So you really don't need to save to disk except for convenience and extra back up sake. Only when you delete a capture from the History dialog is it wiped out of Jing's memory. But even better, Jing provides a dialog with several options for searching for the particular capture you are looking for. Very nice.
Jing History Dialog
Jing maintains a history dialog that is a chip off the Snagit block, see below:
The History dialog allows users to filter by image or video captures or both. It then displays thumbnails of the images and/or videos sorted by date or size of the file. This makes finding a capture fairly simple in most cases. Big brother Snagit adds on advanced date and tagging searches. But the important point is that as a Jing user you can find all of your past captures and know that you will be able to retrieve the original, make edits in the case of image captures, and then deliver/save using the broad set of Jing save options [screencast.com, disk, clipboard [for images only], FTP, or appropriate Techsmith program]. These are the latest in screen capture features. But wait, Jing brings you more!
Jing's Admin or Control center allows the user to customize how Jing works for you in five ways. First, users can change the hotkey, CTRL+J, which triggers Jing capture. Second, users can change their account information for talking to screencast.com. Third, users can change the startup options - hide/make visible the Jing sun on startup and have Jing load/no load on computer start up. Fourth, users can choose the video format .swf or .mpeg4 [this choice only applies to Jing Pro users] - Jing's default is .swf format. Fifth, users can customize and add to the Save Option keys including setting up which Web server the FTP automatically transfers files to. Again, these choices are not as broad as those available in Snagit; but they are welcome additions to making Jing work well for you.
Jing is one of the more powerful screen capture programs available. That it works on Mac and Windows make it even more attractive. But perhaps Jing's two stand out features are 1)the program is simple to learn and easy to use and 2)maintains a database of all the image and video captures you have made including a back up copy that you can edit and/or save/redirect to other uses long after the capture was done.
True Jing does not have all the image capture savvy of a Snagit which can time delay [in order to setup dropdown menus or combo boxes, etc], do multi captures, or capture offscreen areas of browser pages, etc. Jing cannot save to GIF or JPEG, or TIFF like Snagit and others. Jiff does not have all the image editing facilities of Snagit Editor. But what Jing does have is the ability to do high quality image and video captures for free. And so I hate to say it this way ... but by Jingo this is bargain hard to pass up.
Techsmith is the leading source of screen capture facilities on PCs. It now has a Mac version with Jing. Snagit is the top image capture tool for Windows PCs. Camtasia Studio is the leading Windows PC screen video capture tool. Both Snagit and Camtasia offer not just screen capture but also sophisticated post-processing features.
Jing as a free program sets a new standard. Jing provides image and video capture on Windows and Mac. Jing does not have all the features available with Snagit or Camtasia. But Jing has easy to use image and video capture, a history file of all captured images/videos, and nifty customizations. Jing Pro provides a broader array of video recording and saving options - all for $15 annual fee. Jing for idea capture is hard to beat.