If you create help files for software including desktop applications and web-based services, you will probably need to prepare screenshots and videos such as screencasts that will illustrate your help file and make it more understandable for the product users including non-experienced users who may be trying to find out a solution for a specific task or known issue.
While some help authoring tools may already provide the possibility to take screenshots, specialized screenshot and screen-recording applications may provide some advanced features such as the possibility to edit the captured image or video, add effects, crop a selected area of the image, change image size, capture multi-level menus, add mouse cursor, finally, add text annotations, and so on.
Below is a list screen capture and screen recording tools that you can consider for your help file creation tasks.
SnagIt allows you to take screenshots of the screen, web pages, and also to create screencasts. You can use this utility to capture and process screenshots of the entire screen or only a selected area of the screen. Also, you can prepare a captured screenshot by adding arrows, blur, callouts, stamps, and customizable effects such as border or shadow.
You can use SnagIt to take and put a screenshot to the clipboard, save it to a PNG, JPG, GIF, or PDF file, or save it to the cloud, thanks to the integration with Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.
SnagIt is available for Windows and Mac OS platforms.
GIMP is an open-source image editor with a rich set of features including the possibility to create screenshots of the current window or the entire screen.
You can use the built-in "Capture by Timer" functionality allowing you to set a time delay after which the screen will be captured, so you can prepare the window by changing its size or opening the necessary menus that you want to show on the screenshot.
Also, using GIMP, you can prepare the screenshot by using the "Crop to Selection" and/or "Auto Crop" tool in order to show only specific part of the captured window. Finally, you can setup the image size, add some effects (for example, you may need "Unsharp Mask" for a sized image), and save it to one of the various supported formats including PNG, JPG, or GIF.
SnapDraw is a free application that allows you to capture the entire screen or active window, or an object under the mouse cursor.
SnapDraw enables you to add annotations, edit transparency settings, reflections, and some 3D effects. Using the utility, you can also add text, lines, shapes, and even other images into the screenshot. Finally, it should be pointed out that the utility produces quality images without artifacts, thank to the antialiased rendering.
The resulting image can be copied to the Clipboard - for example, to paste it then into your help authoring tool, saved to a PNG, JPEG, or BMP file, or uploaded to FTP for sharing purposes.
FullShot is a utility that you can use to capture screen, current window, or document, including screenshots of selective regions. The program also enables you to add annotations, change the image color depth, size and resolution, capture separate window objects such as menus, toolbars, buttons, and also capture screen with the mouse pointer that can be necessary in some case.
You can use FullShot to save the captured image to PNG, JPG, BMP, GIF, TIF and other formats. It is also possible to print the captured image (including the annotations) or save it as Adobe PDF document.
Ashampoo Snap is designed as all-in-one capture tool that allows you to create screenshots of an individual window, full screen, or a specific region of the screen. Also the utility allows you to create screencasts, or grab video from the connected web camera.
As to taking screenshots, Ashampoo Snap lets you edit the image by modifying its size and contents, so you can use different styles, copy object from one screenshot to the other, insert existing images into a screenshot, customize transparency settings, clone objects (for reuse purposes), draw lines, arrows, apply gradients, and so on.
Thus, Ashampoo Snap provides various tools that simplify the process of taking screenshots and recording videos such as screencasts.
Camtasia Studio is a feature-rich tool that you can use to record and edit videos from the screen (or screencasts). The program allows you to record the entire desktop or only a specific region (for example, to demonstrate a specific desktop application).
Using Camtasia, you can produce a good-looking video with different annotations, callouts, scale and other visual effects. Finally, you can use the tool to record and add voice narration to your videos.
The output video can be saved to a file such as AVI or MPEG, or shared on YouTube, Google Drive, Twitter, or other video hosting. Thus, in your help authoring tool, you can add the recorded video as an embedded file, or as a remote video clip located on YouTube.
Wink is a freeware tool that you can use to produce screenshots or screencast by recording video from your screen.
The key features provided by Wink are the possibility to record voice for your video tutorial, the possibility to add text explanations, customizable callouts and shapes, and also high compression for the generated presentation which is optimized for using on the web.
The resulting video can be saved as a Flash file or standalone EXE file. Also, Wink supports export to Adobe PDF.
You can download one of the recommendable help authoring tools that combines a rich feature-set, slight learning curve, and affordable price.