I've really come to appreciate good tools that help me with things I do day to day.  I've decided that I'd like to use my blog to highlight companies and products that I use and enjoy.  Hopefully, by sharing my experience, it will help some of you find great tools that help you be more productive or happy. 


There are two products I've been using a lot lately for the work I've been doing for Pluralsight On Demand! and papers I've been writing.  Both are invaluable tools that are well designed and executed.  Both tools are from TechSmith who do a great job of keeping their products up to date and are constantly adding new and useful features. 


Snagit provides screen capture, and so much more.  I use Snagit primarily for capturing windows or portions of my screen for inclusion in articles and papers that I write.  The product allows you to create profiles that include what you want to capture, any effects to apply to it and where you want to send the capture. I usually have my images sent directly to the Snagit Editor so I can work with them to do things like highlight a portion of an image by drawing on it, adding effects like the tear-off effect, and saving the image out to a file.  However, the product can do so much more. In addition to capturing windows or regions of a screen, it can capture full web pages including scrolling the web page (Firefox and IE) and including all the content that is not initially visible on the page. Output can go to image files, PDF, or to the printer.  But wait, there's more!  When I say that TechSmith innovates and adds cool new features, I'm talking about things like being able to capture that image, then send it to Team System.  That's right, you capture the web page or window in Snagit, then you can create a new work item or add the image to an existing one.  What a great way to make life simpler for people who are doing testing and need to communicate the problem to a developer.  All in all, this is a great tool if you have any scenarios where you need to capture information on the screen and send it.  Check out all the plug-ins they have for capturing from Office, browsers, and elsewhere. And they have a printer driver so anything you can print you can send to the Snagit Editor and work with it before saving it to your preferred format. 

Camtasia is my tool of choice for recording our screencasts and our content for Pluralsight On Demand!.  Camtasia is simple to use for recording part of all of your screen and for recording PowerPoint  presentations.  You can add in the "talking head" picture-in-picture with a webcam if you so desire and easily create clips.  Then you have the ability to use the editor to slice-and-dice your clips into a presentation before you encode the whole thing.  You can annotate the recording when editing and manipulate the video and audio tracks. You've got various options for the video format and can do things like add a watermark image to the entire recording, cleanup the audio.  I'm a fairly novice user of this tool and I'm sure there are tons of things it can do that I haven't even begun to find yet, but I don't know that I could find a better tool for recording demos and presentations.


So that's it for my first set of tools.  If they sound useful, try them out, they both have trial versions you can download before buying and if you do buy them you just enter your key and keep right on going, no need to reinstall.