When it comes to screen capturing, Techsmith’s products Camtasia and SnagIt are probably the best, but there are good free alternatives. It would appear if you know where to go (links at the bottom), you can get a legitimate free license for Camtasia and SnagIt (earlier versions at least, that are eligible for a discounted upgrade.)
Camtasia is a screen video capture tool. It produces a video (animated GIF, SWF, AVI, etc.) from a series of screen shots over a period of time, usually with audio. It has a lot of nice extras and a good editing system. DebugMode’s Wink is a great tool for free. While Camtasia is more like a video editor, Wink is more like a slide show editor. It will take a screen shot at a keypress, mouse click or automatically at specified intervals. Then the editor is based on individual screen frames instead of a sequence of video. While it some regards it competes with Camtasia, it serves a different purpose as well. Worth checking out, especially at the price.
SnagIt is a single frame screen capture tool. Typically I just use [Print-Screen] or [Alt] + [Print-Screen] to capture the whole screen, or just the current window respectively. Then I paste it into IrfanView (a great quick image viewer, editor and converter) to make any changes necessary. Honestly though, SnagIt offers a number of additional features that are worthwhile. However I have found that MWSnap has most of the features I need available free. I haven’t done a side by side comparison of the tool, but I imagine MWSnap would hold up quite nicely.
With free versions of SnagIt and Camtasia though, that provides some stiff competition to the other free versions. Granted these are previous versions, which is risky on Techsmith’s part, since the biggest competitor to most products is its previous version – why pay the upgrade fee when the old version still works? If you want an older version of many freeware / shareware titles, check out OldVersion.com.
Camtasia Studio 5 (the version I have) is $300 and has a lot of nice feature upgrades from version 3. You can still download version 3 and then get your free license straight from Techsmith. It appears it was a promotion offered to PC Plus Magazine readers in the UK, but the form lets you specify any country and I don’t see anywhere it says “only” a limited group. Not sure how long the promotion is good for either. [Source]
Check out Digital Inspiration Technology guide for the details on downloading and getting a free license for SnagIt 7.2.5 (current version is 8). It appears to be a free promotion for UK .NET Magazine.