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If you write a blog or organize information for your company wiki, you no doubt need to take thousands of screenshots showing people how to do certain things on your computer. And one thing most people know from reading the sorts of documentation full of screenshots is this: It’s boring.
Not only is it boring, but it doesn’t always fully explain the step to the reader. So, that makes using lots of screenshots both ineffective AND boring. Great.
What’s Better Than Screenshots? GIFs (And Here’s Why)
So how can we do better? Video screencasting is one. But when you start creating video you often feel you need to explain the whole process in the one clip. Which is great for an overview or training exercise, but not fantastic for quickly referring to the steps you need in order to complete something.
How about a screencast GIF of each small step? That way, you can separate and explain each step in detail in the text part of your blog or other document, and actually remind people how each part is completed along the way with a tiny GIF.
Tools To Create Animated GIFs
There are dozens of ways to create animated GIFs. You can record a video of the entire process and then use parts of that video to convert to GIFs. You can record quick screencasts and then convert them. Or you can use tools like browser extensions that record the screencast directly as a GIF.
Recording Video and Converting to GIF
Recording a full-length screencast video and converting to GIF later would be perfect for an in-depth, lengthy process where you want to be sure you haven’t missed anything.
To convert the video in this case, desktop software like Photoshop or some other dedicated tool would work fine. There are lots of other free or paid tools to convert video to GIF, but if it’s a full-length video you may find using Photoshop to convert video to GIF is easiest to manage.
Recording Short Screencasts and Converting to GIF
To record a short screencast, you can use a browser extension like Screencastify (get Screencastify for Chrome). The lite version lets you record video of your desktop, a single tab or from your camera. You can add audio or mute it, so you don’t have to do a voice-over if you don’t want to.
The free version has a small watermark, and will let you record for up to 10 minutes. However, it will let you share to YouTube, Google Drive or download the video to your computer. You can then use whatever desktop software you like, as above, to convert that video to a GIF.
The paid version of the extension lets you also crop the video to show the exact portion of the screen you need. Additionally, the video can be exported as a GIF directly. For a one time fee of $20, that’s not too bad.
Taking Several Screenshots and Converting to GIF
If you’re more of a screenshot person, you can take a number of screenshots of the process in action, then convert that to a GIF using desktop software like Photoshop or some other GIF-creation tool.
You simply tell it which photos to use, then choose how long to show each image for. It’s a little more time consuming than taking a quick screencast, but it is free and you have complete control over the end product.
For each image, you need to upload it, select it, then press the camera button to “take a photo of it” and add it to the frame reel. You can see the results as you go on the left hand side, adjust the delay as much as you like and then click “Make GIF” to get your result. From there, you can download it or share it directly to Tumblr, Twitter or a number of other places.
GIFPAL also lets you use your webcam to create a short video of yourself and convert it to a GIF. This is a lot of fun, especially as you can add all sorts of effects, but it’s not designed for screencasts.
As you can see, vertical images are not great.
Will You Stick With Boring Screenshots?
Given that many businesses and individuals have Photoshop or a similar tool ready and waiting, and that we’ve now shown you two options for easy GIF creation via your browser, what will you do in the future?
Will you be using GIFs or will you stick to boring screenshots? Or will you just create screencast videos? Tell us your preference and why!