Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Software Review - FireShot

Technically, FireShot's not software.  Well, it's not stand-alone software.  It's a FireFox add-in.

As a semi-regular blogger (for as long as I can be, at least), I often find myself blogging about things in the blogosphere or on the web.  It's not unique; I think most of us do that.  But when I'm blogging about things like weird search terms (which are some of the most popular posts I do) or doing software reviews, having tools at my disposal for the task makes it much easier, more enjoyable, and faster.

You may have noticed lately that some of my posts have included screen shots of portions of my Wordpress dashboard.  Those screen shots were taken with FireShot.

FireShot is one of those tools.  For blogging, it's amazing.  Once it's downloaded, the installer prompts you for choices.  One of which is whether to include FireShot as a context-menu item.  For the less geeky, that means when you right-click on your browser somewhere, FireShot is able to be among the choices you're presented with.  This is a cool feature, and one I use a great deal.

What happens is this: you have an icon on your browser's toolbar.  It's a big red square with an "S" in it.  There's a drop-down arrow next to the icon.   When you click on the icon, there's a list of things that FireShot can do.  Those items are Resume Editing (grayed out unless you're editing a shot), Take  Screen Shot (Entire Page) and ..., Take a Screen Shot (Visible Area) and ..., Preferences, View Demo, Write a Review, Support, Donate and About.  Most of these are self-explanatory, but some of them aren't as intuitive.

Take a Screen Shot (Entire Page) and ... does just that: it takes a shot of the entire page you're visiting.  That's great if there are multiple things you want to include in whatever you're writing, or you want the unedited content as it is, or you're showing the entire page for any reason.  Be aware, this feature will create quite a big image file in pixels, depending on the page you're visiting when you take the shot.

Take a Screen Shot (Visible Area) and ... again does just as it indicates: it takes a shot of the portion of the page visible within your browser.  The smaller your brower window, the smaller the area snapped will be.  This is the one I use the most; and from there, I do more editing still.

I won't really discuss the rest of the options.  Support is where you get tech support on the product.  About tells you about the version and such.  View Demo -- 'nuff said there.  Et cetera, et cetera.

Now, once you've captured the screen shot, you can do a few things with it.  That's the "and ..." part of the menu entries.  FireShot prompts you for the next step.  You can edit within the built-in editor (very cool), upload the image to your image storage location, save the image to your local drive, copy the image to the Windows clipboard, email the shot and open in an external editor.  Lots of choices.

The FireShot image editor lets you drag and drop the image size (don't expect the resolution to adjust, though; it gets pretty grainy very quickly), crop the image, and manipulate it just as you would in any simple image editor.  It also allows you the opportunity to upload, save or copy the image once you've done the editing, so those buttons are available too.  There's a Select button that makes choosing the portion of the shot you want a snap with either an ellipse or a rectangular call-out.  And there's a nifty Shapes button that allows you to highlight certain parts of the shot for annotation.  You can also do annotation outside the Shapes menu with the Pointer and Text buttons.  There's a Drawing button, too, which enables freehand drawing of lines, shapes and probably note-writing too.  Very slick.  While it's not Adobe Photoshop, it's a nice little image hacker, and it lets you stitch an image together cleanly and neatly, without having to get a graphic designer's degree to use the program.

I've used it on a couple of occasions, to create images of the portions of the screen I want to use in my blog post.  I capture the image, then I select the portion I'm interested in with the Selection tool of choice.  That brings up a sub-menu in the sidebar to the right of the screen, and I can crop the image there.  (You can do a lot of other things, too, including blur, invert, grayscale convert, annotate, add glow effects, fill ... nice).   Then I add the call-out shape I want and type in any text, which you can control (font and size).  I can move the call-out and the pointer will automatically be adjusted.  I like it a lot.

If you like blogging on web sites or portions of pages, FireShot's a very nice little package that makes grabbing sections or portions easy and fun.  It's simple, powerful and very light-weight.

I declare, with all the great add-ons to FireFox, we won't need to use other programs at all pretty soon.

I recommend FireShot highly to bloggers and web0philes.  It's really nifty.

Try it and see.  Let me know what you think.


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