IT for Donuts: create animated screenshots easily

By: John McGarvey

Date: 22 August 2014

IT for Donuts is our regular weekly feature where we explain a tech term or answer a question about business IT.

We've explained how to take screenshots on your computer before. So, this week we're going one step further. Read on to find out how to create an animated screenshot.

It's probably much quicker and easier than you expect.

Why use animated screenshots?

There are lots of ways to use animated screenshots. One of the most useful is to give people instructions.

Say you've started using a new version of Microsoft Word in your business. Maybe a colleague has emailed asking if you know how to insert a picture.

Sure, you can send them step-by-step instructions. But it might be easier for them to follow a short animation. Using the method we're about to show you, you can create one in moments.

You can also use animated screenshots to show customers which buttons to click on your website, or to show your IT support company exactly what you did before a tricky error appeared.

How to create an animated screenshot

Let's go back to the Microsoft Word example above. We'll show you how to create an animation that demonstrates how to insert a photo into a document.

To start with, you need to download and install some free software called LICEcap. It's available for Windows and Mac computers. We used a Mac to capture our screenshot, but the instructions are identical for Windows.

Here's what to do (remember, these instructions are for a Microsoft Word screenshot, but you can use it with any software):

  1. Open both Microsoft Word and LICEcap
  2. Position the LICEcap window over the Microsoft Word window, so it covers the parts of the screen you wish to capture.
  3. Select the Record button in LICEcap
  4. A dialog box will open
  5. Give your recording a name in the Save As: (Mac) or File name (Windows) field
  6. You can also change the location of the file, if you want.
  7. If you want to add a title screen, tick title frame and enter your title into the box
  8. You can also highlight mouse clicks in the animation. Select mouse button press to do this.
  9. Once you're ready, select Save
  10. Then perform the steps you want to animate. LICEcap will only capture what you can see within the LICEcap window.
  11. Once you've finished, choose Stop, at the bottom right.

Your animation will be saved as a .GIF file in the location you specified.

To see the animation, you're best off opening it in your web browser. You can either drag it into a browser window, or use the Open option.

The finished animated screenshot

Here's how our animated screenshot turned out.

We've had to scale it down to fit it in here, but you can open the full-size animation in a new tab, if you want to see the detail.

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