Here’s a nice Innovator’s Dilemma style example of how easy it is for free software to come along and take money away from a perfectly good commercial product. If you want to take a screenshot in Windows, you can always use the built-in “PrintScreen” capability, but it’s pretty limited. SnagIt, from TechSmith, is a much nicer full-featured tool. You can select all sorts of different kinds of regions and you can save them in many formats: GIF, PNG, JPG, and so on. It won the PC Magazine Editor’s Choice award for three years running, and it’s been adding lots of features every year. Now you can capture animations, scrollable regions, and text. At $40 a copy, it’s not that expensive either.
I’ve actually been in the market for a nice screen capture tool. Here’s what happened. I downloaded a free trial of SnagIt, and I discovered that SnagIt would definitely make me happy. But I really don’t need all those extra fancy SnagIt features, nice as they are. And while I was pondering how much of my $40 would be paying for features I’ll never use, I came across this post on the UI design blog flow|state. It told me that maybe Brian Scott’s free Cropper is all that I needed. I downloaded Cropper, and sure enough, it’s exactly what I needed, neither more nor less. And free is a price I’m willing to pay. I have no idea how much Cropper will cut into SnagIt’s market, but it has to hurt to see competitive high quality software being given away in your space.
If information wants to be free, then I would add that software wants to be a service.