Ashampoo Snaps for the Fourth Time
key review info
- Application: Ashampoo Snap 4.0
- Reviewed on:
- Capture windows with off-screen content
- (6 more, see all...)
Screen capturing software is far from being a hot topic when we talk exciting programs. Many users simply use the Print Screen button on the keyboard, followed by a Clipboard paste into an image editing software in order to customize the snapshot of the screen. The procedure is one of those old habits that die hard for many users. It is also a more comfortable approach, especially if used with MS Paint, because no additional software needs to be installed on the system.
It all sounds pretty simple – and it is – but so are the results. If you want a cooler output result, more energy has to be spent, unless you go for a different method to capture still screens. Ashampoo Snap has just reached a new version that promises plenty of improvements and new features. The full price of the application is $19.99.
When installing Ashampoo Snap, the company’s toolbar is also pushed on the system, unless you opt out of it and want to benefit from its services. Once you get past this bump, installation will continue smoothly until the process is complete.
The interface of this application has never been a standard one, in the sense that it consists of a toolbar called Capture Bar that conveniently hides in the upper part of the screen and won’t intrude on your work at all. That is the command center from where you can initiate screen capture activities, be they video or images.
The moment you start the application you’ll be welcomed by a help window, which is designed to give beginners a hand with understanding the way the program works. It is very useful for first-timers, as it accompanies you through the various tools and screens of the application explaining how each instrument can be used in a thorough manner. Should you find this wizard too annoying (and you will once you get the hang of the application), it can be turned off. What comes in very handy is the fact that although the tutorial is available throughout the entire application, you can disable its display section by section, as you learn the ropes of it.
Video capture option is the first present in the Capture Bar. When choosing the type of the capture, the options include single window, entire desktop, a rectangular region of your choice or a fixed region. For the latter, multiple presets that cover a wide range of video rendering devices are available, but there is no possibility to customize the size of the region yourself.
In order to obtain the best results when recording desktop movement, Ashampoo Snap offers the possibility to configure audio and video settings to best suit your needs. These include two presets (one for capturing a typical Windows applications and the other for snapping video or similar content) and custom configuration options. In the latter case, you pick the codec, FPS, video bitrate and record format.
Depending on your preferences and computer skills in this area, you can opt for finer tuning and granular control by setting up the codec yourself. We used ffdshow for the job, so the list of encoders and options was more than generous (of course, you can go with a different choice as the app supports all installed codecs for AVI format).
More options under video capture window include encoding method. You can opt for “on-the-fly” encoding, which processes the frames as they are captured, or for “disk cache” method which saves all the frames on the disk and encodes after the capture has been stopped. The difference between the two consists not only in CPU load, with the latter being gentler, but also in quality.
We tested this against two machines at the opposite end of the performance range: a 2GHz dual core system with 3GB of RAM and a 2GHz quad core with 8GB of RAM. In both cases, “disk cache” method showed better results than “on-the-fly” encoding while capturing in-game frames. Also, we had a better game experience with “disk cache.” As far as overall quality goes, our tests showed that Ashampoo Snap does a great job at shooting Windows applications in action, but it delivers poor quality when it comes to capturing moving content.
The list of options for the video part of the application would not be complete without the set of effects for the mouse. Ashampoo Snap provides quite a set of shapes and forms to mark the mouse cursor, left and right click. Very handy while recording is the zoom function of the application. Once you press the assigned key, you will automatically trigger zoom in effect on the area of the cursor. Unfortunately, this does not translate too well in the output result since the close-up is not too smooth of a transition.
The strong suit of Ashampoo Snap is image capturing. For this sort of job, the application comes prepared with an impressive arsenal of features. Besides the five types of image capture available, the app offers plenty of customization features that can help you draw attention to a specific area of the picture, mark region, add text or zoom in on a specific part of the image.
Highlighting multiple areas is one feature you won’t see in too many apps of the same feather, and the possibilities of pointing areas out do not stop at this. There is a marker tool, or, if you want to blur everything else but the part that is interesting, you can use spotlight effect on the image. Moreover, hint boxes containing text can be created and you can also place all sorts of stamps or zoom in on specific regions of the capture.
To give your image a twist, Ashampoo Snap 4 boasts three image effects: drop shadow, pencil drawing effect and grayscale. These can be applied in an instant with a click of a button from the Image Bar in the upper part of the application window. Also sheltered here are capture image zoom in and out functions, rotate, mirror and flip commands, as well as canvas and picture resize and rename options.
Ashampoo Snap 4 puts at your disposal both exciting and easy to use instruments, but there are some minor glitches that can make working with it a bit distressing. We noticed that undoing an action after using “Hint” tool and Highlight or Marker instruments would reverse both actions. To put it shortly, if you hit Ctrl+Z to undo a marker, after you previously used Hint, both of them will be undone.
Still on the downside, we noticed that some features many users would gladly use and still seek are not yet available in the application. For instance, Ashampoo Snap cannot capture menus that extend outside the main application window. In the case of highlight option, if the selected region is too small, the buttons for highlighting a new region, cancelling or agreeing with the current selection resize according to your marking instead of having a fixed dimension (although the icons describing these actions are intuitive enough to realize the action they stand for).
A color picker would come in handy, especially in combination with the “Flood Fill” tool. Another thing that may be considered a bug is the fact that the zoomed region can be moved around the picture with no problem, whereas we consider it should be glued to the region it magnifies. We also heard users complain about capturing the glass effect of the title bar in Windows 7, but frankly, we consider this as being on the fancy side of the wishlist.
Ashampoo Snap’s image capture capabilities and features are among the most complete we’ve seen so far. It creates the perfect synergy between ease of use and options you have at your disposal, while editing functions are extremely useful.
Setting up the program can be done in a snap. “Settings” panel of the program comprises all the configuration options for all the tools available in the program. This means that shadow-related choices, transparency thresholds and the like are all available here. Also present in this section is hotkey configuration, essential for smooth handling of captures by power users. Defining the default output format for the images (PNG, BMP, JPG or PDF), storage location and the automatic renaming of the files can be done from “Capture” menu of the configuration screen.
Overall, our experience with Ashampoo Snap 4 left us very pleasantly impressed, as the app exhibited features we never thought would be that useful. Once configured to fit your needs, ease of use governed under all circumstances of our testing, especially when tinkering with the image capture part of the programs.
The interface stands out as original, uncomplicated and extremely easy to use. The set of options encompassed by Ashampoo Snap is among the most complete and most fitting to image capturing needs.
Both image and video capturing are supported, and for the latter, you can use whatever codec you have installed on the system for AVI format. There are two encoding methods to pick from, depending on the time you want to spend processing frames and CPU load used.
The application can work on multi-monitor systems with no problem, and is perfectly able to capture in-game video as long as the game is in application mode.
Highlighting multiple areas of the image at the same time is a feature that many users have been asking for long, and it has been included in this edition. Also, all instruments that help you stress certain parts of the image are great helpers.
Apart from our wishlist presented in the review, we experienced great discomfort when taking fixed-size snaps because we had to go to the configuration panel in order to change the values because that’s where all capture settings are located. A more comfortable approach would be to have these options right next to the tools.
Video capturing is the weak point of the product. It did nothing to impress us in terms of quality, while the zoom effect option, despite its high coolness factor, needs to be adjusted to a smoother close-up.
Ashampoo Snap 4 comes with extraordinary functionality and an amazing interface. It is one of the most complete and definitely the best looking in its category. All of its tools are easy to handle and beginners benefit from tooltips for each of the areas they access.
Despite the rack of improvements we’d like to see in the program, it is definitely worth the money, especially since you can get it for the discounted price of $15.99.