I have to begin the Free Essential series with the one free program that has been the best staple that I have used for the last 4 years in my work as a consultant and business analyst. Wisdomsoft ScreenHunter has been a part of my PC's start menu since I began my second round of delivering setup and training documentation because of its many settings on window selection criteria.
As can be seen in my start menu, ScreenHunter 5.1 is on my Windows 7 system that I am using for this review. It is also installed on my work laptop (against the wishes of corporate IT), my spare desktop computer used as backup rig to my current system, my 4 year old and battle tested consulting laptop, and of course, the Intel Atom powered netbook aka Virtual PC. When launched, it takes a minimal amount of space in the memory so a computer with as little as a meg of ram runs fine without even knowing that it is in the background.
The interface when launched is quite intuitive. From the "From" menu, the single F6 hotkey works well for me, but at times I have needed to change it to a CRTL-ALT-F6 so ScreenHunter would not interfere with another application. Very rarely do I select the Full Screen option in the "Capture What" menu, but I often use the mouse pointer as a tool to point to a feature in the captured image.
Clicking the "To" Button displays another screen that allows the user to pick the type of screen capture image (gif, jpeg, and bmp), color and grayscale, and location to save the files. Just the stuff you need to get the job done.
Even the "Advanced" Button reveals a set of options in which the defaults work very well. Because I very, very rarely capture full screen, I do not use the Hide system tray icon feature although I do see a purpose for that. Although, hiding System Tray icon is not an issue in Windows 7 as the tray icon is not even present until the tray is expanded. As you can see by the image below, you have to click the expand arrow to see the hidden icons.
Once the menu is expanded, then the tray icon is visible.
So in short, that is a review of the most essential piece of free software that I use on a weekly basis. ScreenHunter 5.1 has not found paid option that works any better and I have yet to be convinced that SnagIt is a better option.
ScreenHunter can be downloaded from the WisdomSoft Website and be sure to select ScreenHunter 5.1 Free. If you have a convincing reason as to why to pay for one of the other options, please let me know and I will consider purchasing a better version, but after this many years of not being let down, I doubt if there is a feature that I need.
One side note does need to be made on ScreenHunter 5.1 for those that run more than on monitor and that is this program will only capture on the primary screen. I have tried to capture on the secondary screens on more than one occasions and quickly shifted my image to the proper screen and captured the image. With that being the only caveat, this program is an essential in my book.