Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 131 / JULY 1991 / PAGE 75

Stalking the perfect Windows capture program. (Windows utility program) (column)
by Robert Bixby

If your want to write a how-to guide for using a Windows program or if you're creating a presentation based on a Windows program, you'll need to make screen captures of Windows 3.0 screens. There are several ways to capture text and graphics on your PC, but Windows 3.0 presents a bit of a challenge. It's different enough from earlier versions that the Windows capture program you used in the past probably won't work with 3.0.

Microsoft was generous enough to provide a built-in capture system to suit your needs some of the time. Command-3 combination on the Macintosh, which saves the current screen as a MacPaint file--although the Windows version isn't nearly as convenient as the Mac's.

Pressing PrintScreen while Windows is running saves the entire screen to the Clipboard. (To capture only the currently active window, press Alt-PrintScreen.) You can then paste the graphic into Paintbrush and save it as a BMP or PCX file.

This means that each time you capture a screen, you'll have to call up Paintbrush to deal with it, which isn't a very efficient process and will tire you out if you're making more than two or three screen dumps. Furthermore, the Paintbrush canvas is slightly short. It isn't tall enough to paste the entire Windows 3.0 screen, and you'll always end up chopping about a quarter of an inch off the bottom.

In my search for the perfect Windows screen capture, I discovered Hijaak (Inset Systems, 71 Commerce Drive, Brookfield, Connecticut 06804-3405; 800-828-8088; $199) and Collage Plus (Inner Media, 60 Plain Road, Hollis, New Hampshire 03049; 800-962-2949; $129), both recently released with Windows 3.0-friendly capture programs. Hijaak is primarily a graphics conversion program that's just what you need for converting Macintosh and Amiga graphics to PC format or for transferring images among PC programs. It includes a simple program for capturing screens.

I got my start capturing Windows screens while editing a book on Adobe Illustrator for the PC. The program I used then was HotShot Graphics (SymSoft, 924 Incline Way, Call Box 5, Incline Village, Nevada 89450; 702-832-4300; $249). To signal the Windows portion of the program to capture a screen, I pressed two keys. The graphic was then captured and saved to disk in the HotShot native format, HSG, which could then be converted to TIF or PCX. HotShot would even autoincrement the filename, so I'd wind up with a list of easily managed files like GRAB001.HSG, GRAB002.HSG, and so forth.

On problem I had with HotShot was that when it converted its native format to TIF, it was incompatible with most other programs. In order to use its output with most other programs, I had to convert it to either PCX or IMG format.

Hijaak follows a similar convention, grabbing the file at a keypress and saving it in a native format, IGF, which can then be converted to PCX or another format at the end of the session. Not only is the screen capture a convenient feature of the program, but Hijaak is also the best solution if you find yourself converting files frequently. It offers both a conversion environment and a quick and easy command line converter. Unfortunately, Hijaak lacks an autoincrementing feature. It pauses in the screen-capture process to give you the chance to enter a filename before the screen is saved to disk.

I was even more impressed with Collage Plus. Rather than simply hiding in the background, this program's Windows 3.0 capture program features an onscreen window that disappears momentarily as the screen is captured. Collage Plus also offers a series of options for the capture file, including color, monochrome, and dithered grays. If you choose grays, you're given the option of a fine, medium, or coarse dither, and a slide bar for indicating whether you want a lighter or darker picture. These options won my heart.

Collage Plus even provides a chart in the manual to help you decide which screen-capture format should work best for your particular application (certain dithering schemes work better for scaling operations than others).

But the best news about Collage Plus is that it provides a countdown. The countdown feature means you can set it to snap a picture up to 99 seconds after the command is given. Usually only five to ten seconds are required to call up the dialog box you want to illustrate, but the long pause adds immeasurably to the program's flexibility.

Collage Plus will even capture in the format you prefer, whether it's PCX, TIF, or the BMP format used by Windows itself, which eliminates the extra step of converting files to the format you want. Collage Plus also autoincrements for you, so there's virtually nothing to do with the screen capture once you've requested it.

The screen-capture utility also lets you "flip" the image or reverse colors. There's an option that will let you capture the active window rather than the whole screen, and it can display an indicator that will show you how much of the screen has been captured.