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GIFs are the unofficial language of the internet. From social media to sites like MakeUseOf, they’re high among the preferred forms of online communication — but, unless you’re able to create your own GIFs, you might find that you’re unable to source the perfect animation to express your innermost thoughts.
Luckily, it’s easier than ever before to create GIFs from scratch. These three utilities will get you up and running before you can say “GIF is pronounced with a soft G.”
LICEcap is about as barebones as it gets when it comes to GIF recorders. When you open the utility up, you’ll only see a few bits of extra information accompanying the area that you’re going to record; the max FPS of the resulting GIF, its length and width in pixels, and the all-important record button.
You can use the size fields to make precise adjustments to the portion of your screen being recorded — alternatively, dragging the edges of the window works too. When you have things set up as required, press Record to start capturing your GIF.
While LICEcap is recording, you can either click Stop to end your GIF and save it to a specified folder, or click Pause and then Insert to add text frames.
It’s worth experimenting with how long your text appears for by tweaking the Duration field. There’s no sense to add text that disappears before anyone can read it, so test out your timing before making a GIF for public consumption.
LICEcap is a great minimalist GIF recorder. It doesn’t offer much beyond the most basic GIF creation functionality, but its straightforward function and uncluttered UI are perfect for anyone in search of simplicity.
When you’re ready to graduate onto something with a bit more complexity than LICEcap, GifCam is the obvious choice. Its basic functionality will be very easy to grasp, if you have already used LICEcap.
Press Rec to start capturing your GIF, then press Stop if you want to pause or bring your recording to an end. Once your work is done, click Save and you can select where you want to store your animation.
However, this is just GifCam at its simplest. Using the dropdown options present on the Rec and Save buttons gives you much more control over your GIFs. Click on Rec to tweak the framerate to your specifications and alter settings like cursor visibility.
The Save dropdown allows you to preview your file and select between varying levels of image quality. During a preview, the animation’s file size will be presented next to the current quality setting.
The Edit button opens your recording in a frame-by-frame view where you can adjust finer details. You can add text, tinker with its green screening to help smooth out the animation, and even add mirrored frames to allow your animation to play back and forth. The Edit interface is a great help if you’re attempting to make GIFs that loop.
Here’s a handy tip to avoid frustration when you’re working with GifCam; if you need to create more than one GIF, make sure you use the New command from the Rec dropdown after every capture. Otherwise, you’ll end up with one unwieldy animation that compiles all the footage you recorded, rather than separate files.
Unlike LICEcap and GifCam, ScreenToGif doesn’t initialize straight into a capture window.
Instead, you’ll be given four choices. Recorder will be the most familiar, as it operates in much the same way as the other utilities we’ve looked at, but even it offers up a few more customization options.
The framerate and window size tools are fairly self-explanatory, but the crop symbol to the left of the settings icon is the really useful gadget. By clicking on it and dragging your cursor to another window, you can force ScreenToGif to snap its capture window to that size.
The Webcam mode works much the same way, but using the video feed from your webcam as its source. The Board option allows you to draw freely, capturing frames automatically as you go — this means that you don’t have to worry about starting and stopping the recording, you can focus on your content. Board mode is excellent for serious stuff like diagrams, but it’s also a lot of fun to mess around with.
However, it’s the Editor mode that gives ScreenToGif the biggest edge over its rivals. This section of the utility goes far beyond the editing capabilities of GifCam, providing unparalleled control over your finished product from within the tool itself.
You can scribble over individual frames, add a watermark, and even take advantage of built-in transition effects. If you’re set on creating the GIF from start to finish with one tool, ScreenToGif is definitely the correct choice — although you would of course have even more control by using a program like GIMP to make edits on a frame-by-frame basis.
Do you have tips for other readers on how to capture the most effective GIFs? Or are you looking to get some help with your own project? Either way, feel free to join the conversation in the comments section below.