Tool Talk: Capturing Web Pages

If you ever need to capture a web page for posterity (or for analysis), consider one of the following tools, especially if you want to annotate the image or schedule regular captures of a specific URL. These tools (many are free!) add functionality as well as the ability to share the image with the world.

Whether you use a Mac or a PC (sorry Linux folks), read on!

Iterasi
iterasi_logoThe best tool for scheduling web page captures is Iterasi (currently in beta). I met these folks at Gnomedex in 2008, and one of our PhD students is using the tool to capture data for her dissertation.

There is a bookmarklet and Firefox extension, which allows you to move from “I want this page” to having a copy (on the Iterasi servers), without actually leaving the browser window. And the scheduler will save pages automagically for you. Pick the url and the frequency, and you’re done. Highly recommended!

Jing
jing-logoThis free tool (Mac and PC), allows you to make a screen grab or record screen video, then easily share it with a link. Jing provides 2 GB of storage and 2 GB bandwidth (free) a month at Screencast.com. But you can also upload your images and videos to your own server.

Upgrade to JingPro for $14.95 and get an automagic “share with YouTube” button. JingPro uses a premium video format (MPEG-4 AVC); the Jing logo is stripped from files produced with JingPro. Go pro in the hosting service — upgrade to 25GB storage space, 200GB monthly bandwidth for only $9.95/month or $99.95/year.

My first attempt to share via Screencast.com was a bust. Jing told me that my file was ready to share and that the URL was in my clipboard. When I pasted it, it was missing the domain name. I (unthinkingly) added screencast.com to the string and got a 404. Then I logged into Screencast.com and manually uploaded the file. I discovered that the path to the file was nothing like the path that had been pasted in my clipboard! That’s when I realized that the path pasted was to my hard drive – that initial local copy.

Lesson: you can’t save a copy to your hard drive and one-step share at the same time.

Pluses: Screencast uses an internal link shortening algorithm (think TinyURL or Tr.im) to manage their incredibly long (and not human-friendly) file names. Also, the ability to upgrade bandwidth and storage is useful for anyone who doesn’t have alternative hosting options.

Skitch
skitch-logoT.A. McCann showed me this neat tool last year, and I’ve discovered I’m addicted to it. It was the first utility I installed on my new MBP (long story!).

Skitch (OS 10.4.6 and later) is in public beta, is free, and makes it really easy to capture all or part of a screen. Like Jing, Skitch makes it easy to annotate a screen shot.

Skitch screenshot Launch Skitch with Apple-Shift-5 (cmd-sft-5). I love keyboard shortcuts, so this alone makes Skitch my fave. There is a quick 3-minute video that explains how easy Skitch is to use. It’s easy. Very easy!

Unlike Jing, it’s also really easy to keep a copy (simply drag to the desktop) -and- share (then click WebPost and Skitch uploads the image to your account on Skitch.com).

Make the image public (can be seen by anyone on WebPost site), make the URL private (anyone can access the image but you give them them the link) or make the image private. The private URL is the default, so Skitch is (kinda) trying to protect us from accidentally going too public!

Skitch also makes it easy to post images to Twitter! And they have enabled OpenID, so you don’t have to create yet another login/password combo.

Plus: you can upload images via FTP or SFTP to your own server, to Flickr or to a MobileMe account. This means that you can avoid monthly charges if you have large files and a lot of traffic.

Pay To Play
If you want features not available in free applications or want “paid” support, consider one of these tools.

SnagIt
snagit-logoFor PC users, SnagIt may be the most versatile (and oldest) screen capture tool. Capture what you can see on the screen or use SnagIt to make a picture of a long web page (it stitches the pieces together) — one of its coolest features.

For Firefox users,  install the FF plugin afterwards and launch SnagIt from inside the browser window. Free trial; $49.95; $37.95 educational price. SnagIt is a product from TechSmith, which also brings us Camtasia Studio (PC) and Jing.

SnapZ ProX
snapzprox-logoFor Mac users, SnapZ ProX may be the most versatile (and oldest) screen capture tool. Take stills or make movies, with or without audio (not your voice but machine sound). Developed by Ambrosia Software, SnapZ ProX is $69; $29.00 for still capture only; free trial.

Live preview is a great feature when you are trying to copy only part of the screen. However, there are no annotation options with this tool. SnapZ ProX makes it easy to save your files locally, to your iDisk or to another remote server.

Tried and True
Of course, the easiest way to take a screen capture with a PC is “Print Screen” (or “Alt-Print Screen” to capture the window currently in focus). That keyboard action copies an image into the PC clipboard, so to use it you’ll need to paste it somewhere — a Word doc, PPT slide, Photoshop, etc.

With Macs, the default capture is “Apple-Shift-3” (cmd-sft-3) — which saves the full screen as a PNG image (sans file extension) to the desktop. “Apple-Shift-4” (cmd-sft-4) gives you a crosshair cursor that allows you to select which part of the screen you want to capture. To copy the capture into your clipboard memory so that you can paste the image into Keynote, for example, simply add “Control” to that keyboard combo (yes, four keys is a PITA and, for me, involves both hands).

adobe pdf converter screen shotYou could also use Adobe to create a PDF of a web page. Adobe will email the document or you can download it after conversion. But to share it, you’ll have to attach it in an email or upload it to your server.

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