You see something online you want to explain. You could instruct others to go there and explain when they are looking at it. It is easier just to take a screen shot and include an explanation right there. The problem is finding a tool that does this job well. There isn’t many. I get why there are so few good tools. Screen capture tools is not a huge market. It is fairly niche so I completely understand why business wouldn’t want to sink massive amounts of money into it.
Yet, it is a tool that is only going to grow in importance and use as more teachers deliver their content online. If you are looking to annotate what you see online, here are the some of the best free screen capture tools I could find for teachers.
In fact, a screen capture tool can make every teacher more efficient and effective at developing their online content. I use it to annotate screenshots of things that students and staff need help figuring it out. Because the screen capture tool exists above the content rather than in it, screen shots can do a lot to explain certain content or steps.
There are ways to capture screen shots without having to find and try out additional tools. On a Mac, simply hold down Command+Shift+4 and it will bring up a screen capture tool. On Windows, it is even easier, just hit the “print screen” button on your keyboard. On an iPhone hold down the Home and Sleep/Wake button. On an Android, hold down the Power button and the Lower Volume button. All options get the job done but are not the best screen capture tool for teachers.
What Makes Up The Best Screen Capture Tools?
There are some really easy ways to take screen shots to help your students. If you can so easily do it without a tool, why even bother using one? When I looked for a tool, I was looking for a solution. I wanted something that could quickly take a screen shot, annotate it, and then send it over to my Google Drive or Evernote for filing. I wanted to use a tool that would allow me to also blur out private information in the case that most of these screen shots would inevitably make their way online.
The trouble is finding a decent, free, screen shot tool that does what I need it to do and easily. I already use enough technology in my life that I didn’t want a screen capture tool fighting me as I try to take a helpful screen shot of said technology.
My list of needs certainly might not be the same as yours so I put together a list of 4 of the best screen capture tools for teachers I could find in a hurry. My hope is that this list can save you some time in trying to quickly build your instructional material.
So here that are!
The Best Screen Capture Tools For Teachers
-Works on Windows, Mac, and the Chrome browser
-Syncs with Google Drive
-Easy to capture using some annotation tools
-Can immediately grab a link or download the saved image right from the tool
-Can capture quick video as well for some really fast screen casts
-Full version costs $50
-Free version doesn’t include the blur annotation feature
-Annotation colors are pretty limited and are rather dull looking
-Video capture works well for shorter clips but I tried one that was about 5 minutes long and it just kept on syncing without saving.
-Cannot specify the resolution of the video capture. Depending on the screen, this can make some pretty blurry screencasts.
-It wasn’t immediately clear on how to save the screen capture to my Google Drive. I looked around for a save button or something that would send it over but nothing. All I could do was download the image and then X out of the window. To only then go to Google and re-upload the image. Not exactly a time saver.**
** After a couple of minutes, I checked my drive again and all the images did appear in there. I still don’t know what button I pressed to get them there.
For basic screenshots with no need for a blur annotation, this tool will probably work best for you. All images are saved directly to your Google Drive and you can quickly capture images with your comments. Everything seems to work together nicely. For me, I needed the extra functions and $50 is simply way too expensive for this type of tool. If your needs are few, I would highly recommend
-Really, really fast screen capture.
-Multiple options for screen capture.
-Ability to immediately download the screen capture as a pdf or image file
-Loads as a browser extension. Works on Firefox, Chrome, Opera, or Internet Explorer (not Edge).
-Cannot save directly to Google Drive*
-No immediate annotations available. That means you need to load up the screen casting software in a different program to edit or annotate the images.
-All advanced features only available on Windows
-No screen-casting. Meaning you will need another software like Screencast-O-Matic to do your screen capture as well.
*A workaround is to choose “print” and then from the Chrome print box, selected “Save To Drive”. But this is simply one more step
Fireshot is a pretty decent free screen capture too if all you wanted to do was quickly save screenshots and easily convert them to PDFs. That is about it. With most of the functionality on Windows I didn’t get to really play around with the tool’s potential. But having a tool that could live across as many platforms as possible was something I didn’t need, but would have definitely liked. After all, Skitch is a tool that only lives on MacOS but I still love it. Overall, I think it was the lack of features and lack of a direct save to Drive feature that really limits this tool’s ceiling.
-Most colorful annotations tested
-Has the precious blur feature. Long live privacy!
-Can set resolution and file type when saving the screenshot.
-Loads as an app on MacOS so you can use it offline.
-Only for MacOS. Yep.. Only for MacOS, not even iOS. Evernote shut down the software on all other platforms in January 2016.
-Can only directly save to Evernote through the app**
-No screencast software.
-Loads as an app on MacOS. No browser extension means you need to load the app to take screenshots.
I discovered a kind of workaround. At the bottom of Skitch there is a rounded button with the file type on it. This lets you drag the annotated screenshot to the desktop. If you have your Google Drive open you can also drop it immediately in the folder you want it saved it. Not exactly a direct line, but it would work enough for what you might need it to do.
Skitch was definitely my favorite tool. It is free and has a lot of features. There are many good paid tools out there but I was primarily looking for a tool that would do the most for the cheapest amount of money. With Skitch though, there is a real question of its longevity. It is concerning to see its cousin apps killed off on Windows, Android. How long will MacOS Skitch be around for? Don’t worry about losing any screenshots. Skitch doesn’t natively save any of your screenshots. It is simply the time you may invest (and love for the app) might be limited by platform and by Evernote’s commitment to keep it running. If you have the MacOS and need a screenshot tool, I would recommend you use it, love it, and savor every moment as the Skitch ship verges on sinking.
-Free for all features
-Easy to use capture tool
-Annotations are really high quality and some of the best I have seen for a free tool
-Used as a browser extension
-Images are hosted on their servers so you need to go to their website to download or link them afterwards
-Free accounts are limited to 30 captures
-Not directly sharable or savable to Google Drive
-Only exists as a browser extension
Awesome Screenshots is a pretty robust free screen capture tool. It has all of the great features you would need to quickly capture and annotated a screenshot. The drawbacks are the absence of video capture, the small number of free screenshots, and the separate server space. One of the key items I wanted was a tool that could quickly send annotated screenshots to my Google Drive. Having a separate space didn’t much fit into my overall goals. If you don’t mind having them in a separate website, I would highly recommend Awesome Screenshots as the go-to tool.
When you are planning out your tutorials and lessons, make your life a little easier by making sure your tool does everything you need it to. All of us have too much to do to be disappointed by a loot that doesn’t meet all your expectations.
Questions: What features do you need to quickly capture tutorials for students or staff? What tool are you using now that you love?