10 December 2006

#8. A Few of My Favorite Things

Welcome once again to my Tool Bar & Grill, where I bring you the best utilities and Web sites that have won my heart. Today, my favorite things are some free screen capture and WiFi tools.

Free Screen Capture #1: Screenshot Captor

SnagIt is widely regarded as the best screen capture utility (www.techsmith.com). But even if you can’t afford $39.95 for SnagIt, you can certainly afford $0 for Screenshot Captor. This open source program offers the expected capture options, including window, object, region, fixed region, and even scrolling window. The real excitement begins after the capture, when Screenshot Captor offers an impressive set of image manipulation and file management tools. You can even link it to other file- and image-handling tools for even more sophisticated jobs. It saves files in many popular formats, including PNG and even PDF. Screenshot Captor can be a bit intimidating, but after you make it over the learning curve you’ll appreciate its broad functionality. You can download it at www.donationcoder.com/Software/Mouser/screenshotcaptor.

Free Screen Capture #2: FastStone Capture

This is another great free screen shooter, but with a different approach than Screenshot Captor. FastStone Capture goes for simplicity and ease of use. It also captures windows, objects, fixed or dragged regions, and scrolling windows, plus freehand (irregularly shaped) regions. However, like SnagIt, it displays a magnified preview window while you drag the cursor around. FastStone Capture can leave a small floating tool bar on your screen, or can retreat to the system tray like Screenshot Captor does. It offers fewer editing tools, but they might be all you need. It also saves files in the most popular formats, including PNG and PDF. FastStone Capture works as dependably as Screenshot Captor, and costs the same for “home users.” Try it and some other cool utilities at http://faststone.org.

Free Screen Capture #3: MWSnap

Don’t write me angry e-mails touting MWSnap, another free tool with functionality similar to FastStone Capture. MWSnap (www.mirekw.com/winfreeware/mwsnap.html) also has received accolades from some users, but I have not tried it yet. Do feel free, though, to let me know about any other favorite utilities.

Stumble Your Way Into the Net

Even if you’re not a war driver, NetStumbler can be useful, and at least fun. NetStumbler is a wireless packet sniffer, a utility that seeks out and identifies WiFi networks. NetStumbler locates every WiFi network in range of your computer and tells you all about it. If the WiFi network is not secured, you can log on and use it. You might be surprised at how many of your neighbors have set up wireless networks, and at how few of them are secured. NetStumbler also is invaluable for business travelers who need to hook up with the office or the Internet from various locations. Or load NetStumbler on your laptop and roam the streets for kicks (that’s “war driving”). Get it absolutely free at www.netstumbler.com.

Remember, if you like a shareware utility and use it beyond the trial period, please pay for it. I also urge you to send donations, however modest, to publishers of free utilities that are distributed as "donationware" – including all the utilities above.

Thank you for your attention. As always, your feedback is welcome. And check back here again for another roundup of helpful tools. That’s right, I’m always on duty at the Tool Bar & Grill!

This column first appeared at http://www.elephant.org.il/jonathans_tool_bar_grill.