Video capture your Windows Vista desktop into an Animated GIF

Have you ever wanted to record your desktop activity into an animated GIF file?

I always thought this idea was kinda cool. The problem was that there are a number of tools out there that accomplish this but they're all kinda pricey for something I just wanted to mess around with.

And let's not kid ourselves: I'm just a simple blogger. I'm not getting paid to do any of this and I certainly don't intend of spending any money on tools that I just want to mess around with and have no hope of ever getting reimbursed for. (For example, DemoCharge 2005 does this and does it really well. The only problem is the tool is $100 and I really don't want to pay $100 for something I may never use again. If I did use this stuff for actual work, I'd certainly consider buying the tool because it's a great product but being that I'm just messing around...)

So anyway what if there was a tool that did this for free?

Enter Cropper & it's Animated GIF plug in:

Cropper Screen Capture Tool v1.9

Animated GIF plug-in for Cropper

Microsoft GIF Animator v1.0

Cropper is a free .NET 2.0-based Windows Vista-compatible tool that will screen capture adhoc segments or windows on your desktop. The Animated GIF plug in is a set of files that you can drop into the plugin directory that will wnable Cropper to record your
actions within a windows or a predefined area of space on the desktop. The recording will be placed into an animated GIF.

Why is this cool? Well, since you can post pictures on to public blog sites or photo sites like Flickr, it's now possible to easily... and cheaply... record desktop demonstrations and post them onto your blog space, without resorting to doing a Windows Media screen capture, posting the video clip to Soapbox, then embedding the video as an object into your blog. Instead, you just upload the "picture" which is really an animated GIF, and you're done. And if you need to edit the recording/animated GIF, you can use the freely available Microsoft GIF Animator.

Of course, there's a few limitations:

    There's no audio, unlike a Windows Media recording. If you want to record your on-screen demo and annotate it with your voice, you'll still want to download and install the free Windows Media Encoder 9.0 from Because there's no audio, this is really only good for quick demonstrations of simple actions that require no verbal explanation.
    Movement can be jerky because the frame rate of these animated GIFs aren't great. For smoother movement you'll want to look at Windows Media screen capture codec using Windows Media Encoder 9.0.
    File sizes can get big. The compression of animated GIF files aren't as good as I thought they'd be relative to Windows Media frames... I guess progressive morphing between Windows Media video frames really provide a lot of super high quality compression relative to frame by frame captures like with animated GIFs.
    While Cropper will capture most everything on the desktop, it won't capture anything in Windows Media Player or anything projecting video leveraging hardware acceleration overlays. This is because the media "feed"/"stream" for this content goes directly to the display on your system using DirectX and completely bypasses the display system interface that Cropper uses to capture data from.