The best free screen capture/screenshot tool

2009-03-11_215738 Oh PrintScreen how well you have served us over the years; always there, willing and able, when the need arrived to capture that very special moment in our computing lives. So simple, yet so empowering: press PrintScreen, paste into Paint and go. Life was grand with your help. However your days are numbered.

Lets take a quick count: How many people have taken, or have had the need to take, a screenshot (of a program, window, chat, text, etc.) in the past? How many anticipate taking, or needing to take, a screenshot in the future? How many people have used a method besides pressing PrintScreen and pasting it into an image editor like Paint? I am sure there will be more Vista users that answer in the affirmative to the previous question then other users because of a built-in feature for Vista that Microsoft was generous enough to include: Snipping Tool. Snipping Tool is/was a step above the orthodox PrintScreen method. With Snipping Tool, in addition to the traditional capture-the-whole-screen, one is able to capture individual windows or define specific areas of the screen to capture. After the desired region is captured, it is placed into the Snipping Tool editor where one could use a pen tool to manually write on it or use a highlighter tool to highlight something specific. After the desired edits are made, one can save the snip into JPG, GIF or PNG format. However, being able to do all that with Snipping Tool is good and all, but why stop there? And what about the people who don’t have Vista? Must they suffer and stick to the PrintScreen method? Nahhhhhhhhhh. Ladies and gents, FastStone Capture is here to save the day (actually it has been saving the day for a while now):


FastStone Capture, in my opinion, is the best free screen capture/screenshot tool out there. In fact FS C is the screen capture/screenshot tool that I use to take screenshots of programs for use on this blog. Yes it is the program I use to make those awesome arrows, write text, and outline areas with boxes.

FS C is feature filled, has a very small footprint computer resource wise, and is extremely easy to use. With FS C you can take a screenshot of the current active window, capture a window (does not have to be the active window – you get to chose), capture a specific region (via rectangle or free form tool), capture the full screen and capture a scrolling window (like in a web browser if you have to scroll up/down or left/right on a webpage, FS C will capture the whole webpage). You can do all that by either clicking on the respective buttons on the “capture panel” that you see above, use hotkeys to active a feature, or right click on the FS C system tray icon and chose what you want to do.

Once you make a screen capture the image is sent to the FS C “image editor”:


From this editor you can highlight and select specific parts of the screenshot and save just them instead of the whole image:


You can crop the image:



You can add captions to the image:



You can add a watermark to the image:


You can resize the image:


If you hit capture7 you will be able to do all the fun things that I do for my screenshots:


When all is set and done and you are happy with everything, you can save your image by clicking the capture9 button:

You have the choice of choosing multiple different formats and you since FS C applies a naming scheme to all your screenshots, you don’t have to enter a custom name for the screenshot if you don’t want to; however you can if you want.

Now of course if you are the busy type you may just want to take screenshots and skip the whole “send-to-editor- process. No problem…FS C can do it all:


Now there are still more features to FS C (such as automatically add a watermark, hotkeys support, etc.); so I have not done full justice to this program but I think you get my point: FastStone Capture is awesome. I truly recognized how much I rely on FS C when I had to take screenshots for this post. I obviously could not use FS C to take screenshots of itself, so I used Snipping Tool. I felt like crying.

Before I give you the download link to FastStone Capture there is an important thing to note: FastStone Capture used to be a free-for-home-use program; it is now a shareware program ($19.95 for lifetime license). However you can still download and use the last free version (v5.3) without having to purchase a license. I wrote this review discussing the features of v5.3; newer shareware versions have more features – such as video capturing capabilities – that I did not discuss in this review. I like FS C so much, and I use it so much, that I would buy the latest version if it was within my price range ($20 is too much for me…).

Update: I went ahead and purchased the latest version of FastStone Capture. It is one of the best $19.95 I have ever spent.

Anyway, I am sure you just want me to stop talking and give you the download link now:

Version reviewed: v5.3

Supported OS: Windows 98 and higher

Download size: 1.3 MB

Price: $0 for v5.3 and $19.95 for the latest version with a lifetime license

Freeware-limitations: The latest v5.3 is free for home and non-commercial use only

[FastStone Capture v5.3 download – installer]

[FastStone Capture v5.3 download – portable]

FastStone Capture homepage

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  • Ron Starc

    Better than capturing static images – record video of your screen. My Screen Recorder is one of the best screen recording software. It records your screen and audio from the speakers or your voice from the microphone – or both simultaneously. The recordings are clear and look great when played back on your website, uploaded to YouTube or used in your presentation! It will record directly to standard compressed format that works with any video editor or any tool, no conversion required.


    As a result, for approximately one month we had to work with and accommodate untrained set-up crews that were passing through and working closely to our active construction areas. The collocation of work crews – theirs and ours – also created occasional traffic congestion around the building, which increased the potential risk of a vehicular incident.
    To address this situation, our safety director briefed the leaders of the set-up crews on what would be required of their workers to maintain compliance and adherence with Bob Moore Construction’s safety program and OSHA standards. This included the use of hard hats, explanations regarding safety tape and tripping hazards and other issues. Once the set-up crews began their work, our safety director and site superintendent monitored their compliance and implemented corrective actions as necessary. Our work crews were also reminded during their daily safety briefings to watch closely for the set-up crews and their vehicles.

  • Ashraf

    @corno: Yes

  • corno

    What interests me: does the last free version run in W7 64bits?

  • Robert

    Ashraf turned me on to FastStone Capture, but I guess I missed this article even though I have been reading dotTech for quite a while now (I’m thinking a couple of years on and off). I did try the newer version that I would have to pay and really love it. I will buy it when I get the chance, and I’ll be buying the Family License since the price for that is reasonable for the amount of computers we have.

    I am very happy to use FastStone Image Viewer to do the things I need to do in the articles I write here. I actually just got here from another post so I’ve got the portable one so I could enjoy using this via my flash drive. Thanks Ashraf!

  • Janet Berg

    I lost the ability to print directly from FastStone–I have to save and then print from that….I think this problem started with my upgrade from XP to Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit. I wrote to them several times, but never got a reply……Any ideas…?

  • GeorgeIbiza

    I have been using FastStoneCapture for some years and I agree 100% with Ashraf…
    I just wanted to say that FastStone have four really excellent programs, all are free.
    They are uncomplicated and get straight to the point.
    Well worth the time to check out their webpage…..
    ….and Happy New Year to everyone!!

  • Steven Meyer

    Have been using Faststone Capture for 3 years now, love it, much prefer it to snagit, very fast, and good editor and other options, bought a license because it is worth it.  I use it every day.

  • Jyo

    This is truly a gem, considering all of its features in a small portable package. Thanks for sharing!!

  • Adrian

    As a matter of fact. you can use FSC to take screenshots of itself! Just use the portable version and the installed version together.

  • Paul

    just used Fastone Capture to convert a scribd ipaper document to pdf using the capture scrolling window feature. Wow, very impresive!

  • @Casey: Most screen capture programs in Windows do not grab video from the hardware overlay. You should be able to disable the hardware overlay in your player (or graphics card) settings, thereby allowing your screen capture to include video.

    I haven’t tried this software, but they claim to be able to capture the overlay areas:

    @ Ashraf: although I’m happy with Greenshot for most of my screen capture needs, you should check out another open source capturing program, ZScreen.

  • Casey

    AGAIN! I can’t find any mention of overlay-parts of the screen.
    Have tried a zillion of printscreen pgm’s.
    They all end up with a black field where an overlay is.
    If I use the term correctly (?) Overlay = e.g. where my TV-card plays the TV program. Also e.g. where GomPlayer plays a movie-file.
    This pgm???????????

  • Rob

    An update.
    As I mentioned, the only thing missing from picPick, is the ability to Autosave all the open Tabs from the editor.
    To ‘fix’ that problem, I have MWSnap running as well.
    It is free, and is not too shabby.
    It’s hotkeys are very flexible, and I have settled for this –
    Ctrl Shift Q to grab the full screen, and autosave it.
    Ctrl Shift W to grab a Window, and autosave it.
    After pressing Ctrl Shift W, you just hover the mouse, and a border appears around the Window it will capture. Usually you would hover over the Titlebar of the app, and then click it.
    You can set it so that it’s form does not appear (just get a wee chirp sound).
    You can pre-choose the naming convention for your Autosaves. I don’t bother with a prefix, and just let it assign the Date & Time to the saves.
    You may have to turn off some picPick Hotkeys.
    Rob (Robert)

  • RobCr

    David and Dex,
    I have tried both.

    Horizon33 does not require the Print Key, but it does need some improvements. I have written to it’s author with suggestions.

    Greenshot is better than Horizon33. It only allows the Print Key, but can be used without it.
    I like that it can autosave (aka directly save) in my pre-chosen format, to my pre-chosen folder. With the choice to either let it choose the name, or pop up a dialog asking for the name.
    Those were some of the suggestions I sent to Horizon33 author.

    If neither of you have tried picPick yet, trust me, you should give it a try. I will still be using that for my main captures.
    I will use Greenshot for my 2nd dream (to place a companion jpg, next to my saved .MHT file.)

  • RobCr

    Hi David and Dex,
    I have a 2nd dream (whilst the 1st dream for highlighting web pages prior to saving as .MHT is still slumbering).
    It would involve the use of another capture program, like one of your suggestions.
    My question is –
    Can either of those be configured to NOT use the keyboard’s Print key ?
    (I want to continue allowing picPick to use that key)

  • Greenshot is a nice, open source screenshot program w/ a number of great features.

  • dex

    i use horizon33 , i find it easy and fast capture tool , .

  • Rob

    I agree 110%
    PicPick is fantastic.
    It does everything that I could want, and it does it so simply.
    I can be doing something(s), and can merrily be hitting the Print keyboard button, and continuing with what I was doing.
    Love it.

    PS One wee enhancement I would like is the ability to save all, and exit. It would ask for a prefix eg dog, and just automatically save –
    dog_image1 dog_image2 dog_image3 etc.

  • Robert,

    I admit I really wish FastStone also had that new-tab-for-each-screenshot feature. Great feature imo.

  • Robert

    First of all, I have to congratulate you on the work you have done commenting on GOTD giveaways and reviewing software applications – much appreciated! I’ve clicked through some of the Google ads, so I hope they add a few cents to your account!

    Up to now I have been using snippy (, a free, portable utility to capture areas of a screen. However, based on suggestions here, I’ve tried FastStone and PicPick and I have to say that for me the feature in PicPick that makes it win for me is the ability to take multiple snapshots, each on their own tab in the viewer. This means that you can do all of your snapshoting, then work on your documentation pasting as you go instead of having to keep switching back and forwards.


  • Did someone link to this review somewhere? Insane amount of traffic to this page today.

  • Thanks Taz; I think they dislike me linking directly to the download link.

  • Taz

    I currently have both Version 8 and version 9 of Snagit. Version 9 was a major upgrade and it has not been well received – by me and many others. Interface is completely changed, it is very complex and hard to work with and is a resource hog. I mostly fall back on version 8. I’m sorry I paid 20 bucks to upgrade.

    Even Version 8 is probably overkill for someone like me. It’s probably a great tool for professional use though.

    I’m going to download FastStone Capture and try it out. I really like the idea of the portable version. I’m just starting to build a USB drive with portable apps I can use when I help out friends/family on their PC’s. (not that I’m some sort of expert – probably just a little above the “average” PC user).


  • Taz

    Got 403 Forbidden at your link for Fastone Capture 5.3. Maybe it changed? I found it at:

    Also here is a link to more info on the portable version:


  • Dave

    I agree completely. I’ve been using Fastone Capture 5.3 for a couple years now and love it.

    And thanks so much for the work you do. I just discovered your site a couple weeks ago and really appreciate your reviews and tips.

  • Rob

    I have been using PicPick for a wee while now and love it –
    – Does everything I need
    – Does it very well (hard to think of any needed improvements)
    – Has Tabs (see below)
    – Can minimize to Taskbar or the Sys Tray
    – Does not require installation
    – And is free (FastStone is $20 US)

    It just grabs image, when you press the Print Screen key of your keyboard, and can be set to save as jpg (and remembers it). And can be told where to Save (a default that it remembers). Those last two were my main major irritation with Paint.

    Lately I am using it as a reference tool.
    When I am programming, I often have to look up other parts of the program, or into the DB design (using MS Access). AND I have to get back to those, to get the names or spelling, etc of things.
    Now I am just hitting the Print key, and merrily proceeding with what I was doing. Then when needed, I can just bring up PicPick, and choose the relevant Tab


  • Anonymous,

    I am not going to lie: I did not know holding Alt + PrintScreen would take a SS of your just active window.

    However I don’t recall making any such state about Vista being able to take screenshots of a single window without an external program while XP can’t. I did, however, talk about Snipping Tool which is Vista only.

  • Anonymous RSS User

    Typo: “keyboard” should be “clipboard”. Lack of sleep does that to you.

  • Anonymous RSS User

    Ashraf, you are a little wrong with your statement that only Vista is able to take screen shots of single Windows without need of an external program. In Windows XP (and some previous versions of Windows I believe), you can hold Alt + Print Screen to only copy a single window to the keyboard. However, it only copies the active window, so is still inferior to the various programs you have recommended.

  • Hi there guys:

    Here it is a really free, improving-all-the-time alternative to the above:

    Hope you like it or that it somehow suits your needs of such a tool.

    Regards from Brazil


  • Jean,

    I disagree. I find Paint.NET to be much better, and more lightweight, for more simple tasks. GIMP I reserve for more advanced work (which I usually never do anyway).

  • @liam K:
    I use PrintScreen + GIMP.

  • I use PrintScreen and Paint.Net :D Seems to be good enough for me. I’ll try this out if I get around to it.

  • Ozzie

    Thanks Ashraf! Much appreciated! I guess I’ll stick with PicPick then. Better the devil you know, as they say ….

  • Ozzie,

    PicPick is an excellent tool. The differences between PicPick and FastStone Capture are really only in the ‘bells and whistles’ category.

    In my opinion, it just comes down to personal preference. If you use PicPick and are used to it, by all means stick with. I personally like the floating window of FS C thus I use it.

  • Ozzie

    Hi Ashraf. First off let me say I love your reviews! In regards to this section on screen capture utilities, I was wondering how you rate PicPick (another freeware offering)? I use this one and find it a great little program. Is Faststone a better tool? I’d love to hear what you think.

  • Janet,
    FastStone Capture is undoubtedly the better software for screen capture/screenshot.

  • x

    West Coaster … you [Removed by Ashraf. Reason: Lets play nice =)].

  • It may be old but its free. v6.3 costs $19.95.

  • West Coaster

    This link is for version 5.3 that is OVER TWO YEARS OLD!

    Go to the website and get the latest 6.3 release dated 18 Oct 2008.

  • janet

    Hi Ashraf!

    How does this compare to Irfanview’s screen capture, in your opinion?