The best screen capture software 2016

Screenshot tools with custom hotkeys, built-in image-editing, annotations and webcam support for better grabs

The best screen capture software

Snapping a screenshot is rarely as simple as just taking a picture of your desktop. There's usually a reason behind every screenshot - posterity, demonstration, preservation - that means each particular case needs something special. That's why we've selected our top five tools for doing more with your screenshots, like adding annotations and fancy adornments, using custom hotkeys, or even accurately capturing specific screen regions without the need to resort to additional software to get the job done. The days of hitting [PrtScn] and pasting your shot into Microsoft Paint are over.

We've covered Windows apps almost exclusively here but don't feel left out if you're using a different operating system. On OS X/macOS, there's absolutely no need for a separate screenshot tool – you can do everything with keyboard shortcuts. [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[3] captures the whole screen, [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[4] captures a region, and there are many other edge cases described on Apple's support pages.

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Download Screenshot Captor free

Screenshot Captor is a real overachiever, with extra webcam and document-scanning tools, plus a host of editing options

1. Screenshot Captor

Multi-purpose capturing software that does much more

Screenshot Captor seems to have ideas a little above its station. Far from just being a screenshot app - and, rest easy, it does do that - it'll grab images from your webcam, and it even includes a full suite of scanning tools to make sure your documents look their best.

But those advanced features don't stop there. Ever wanted to capture the contents of a scrolling window? It'll do that automatically, and even trim the margins for you. Need to capture a screen region of a fixed size? Piece of cake. Splicing areas out of screenshots, annotating, interfacing with advanced image editors, blurring areas you don't want seen? It's all here.

Download Screenshot Captor free

If there's a downside, Screenshot Captor is a little esoteric in terms of its general interface, but the important bits are all well explained and easy to grasp. It's donationware, so while it's free to use, make sure you chip a little bit into the pot if Screenshot Captor is something you use regularly.

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Download SnapDraw Free

With SnapDraw Free, there's no need for a separate image editor - it can annotate, crop and edit images captured from your screen or webcam in any way you see fit

2. SnapDraw Free

Feature packed grabber with pretty post-processing effects

If you're capturing screenshots for something that needs to be well presented - a user manual, perhaps - it pays to put in a little effort. Or at least you would if SnapDraw Free didn't do absolutely everything for you: borders, backgrounds and even awesome-looking fading reflections are all available by simply clicking a check box. What's more, you can dig down when it comes to capturing, taking shots of everything from multiple monitors at once all the way down to a single object within a window.

It's not quite a fire-and-forget screenshot tool, but that's not a negative. There are ton of annotation features, you can layer individually captured windows and elements on top of a single screenshot, and there are even 3D transformation tools available to give your shots some action.

Download SnapDraw Free

Oh, and you can even automatically upload your images to an FTP server or email them. That's a lot of features.

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Download Gadwin PrintScreen free

Gadwin PrintScreen is simple to use, and so convenient you'll wonder how you ever managed without it

3. Gadwin Printscreen

An install-and-ignore screenshot tool that's easily extendable

Gadwin PrintScreen is the screenshot app we regularly turn to here at TechRadar, and for good reason. It's streamlined and extremely convenient, sitting quietly in the system tray until you need it. When you do, it's either bound to a hotkey of your choice - handy if you need the mouse cursor in shot - or accessible from a handy auto-hiding control panel that disappears when you fire off a screenshot, capture a window, or snip a rectangular area.

Annotation and image editing is sadly locked away in its paid-for Professional edition (US$24.95, about £18.94, AU$33.35), but Gadwin Printscreen doesn't leave you entirely stranded; it can automatically add shadows or watermarks to your images, save them in a number of formats, resize them automatically, or run an image editor of your choice immediately after capture.

Download Gadwin PrintScreen free

The latter ability means you can effectively extend its abilities - point it at Microsoft Paint for rudimentary sketching and cropping, or a more powerful free image editor if you wish.

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Download Steam free

PC gaming platform and marketplace Steam has its own screen capture tool that works with any game you're playing

4. Steam

Capturing games – any games – made easy and free

Don't be too baffled. Yes, Steam is primarily a way of buying and downloading games. But it also applies its own overlay when you're playing games, one which (amongst other things) allows you to take screenshots.

If you've ever tried to take game shots using Windows' built-in tools (or even some of the other software we've listed here) you'll know why this is important - the advanced graphics modes that games apply usually leave you with a grey image and the moment completely lost.

You're not restricted only to games available through Steam, either - just about everything you own can be added to your Steam library manually, and as long as you launch it through Steam you'll get the benefit of its overlay, which defaults to using [F12] as a screenshot key.

Download Steam free

Shots are usually saved to an obscure folder which differs for each game, so check up on them through Steam's View >

Screenshots menu, then right-click and select 'Show on disk' to find out where they are.

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Try Windows Snipping Tool free

Windows has its own built-in screen capture tool. It has fewer features than the downloadable alternatives, but might be all you need for simple tasks

5. Windows Snipping Tool

The built-in grabber you might not even know about

Included with the majority of Windows systems since the XP days, the Snipping Tool is an oft-ignored app tucked away in the deepest recesses of the Start menu.

It's simple, but it has the power to take useful screen captures. Not only can you grab fullscreen images, rectangles and the current active window, it's also capable of performing free-form snips: drag your mouse around the area on screen you're interested in highlighting and it'll bring in only those pixels within your sketch.

You can scribble on your shots with rudimentary pen and highlighter tools, set a delay on captures if you need to set something specific up, but that's literally it: the Snipping Tool is very, very basic when it comes down to it, and most of the time you'll be better off using Windows' built-in screenshot tools unless you want to capture a very specific region.