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Variables to consider are: file size, color depth and clarity.
A 1024 x 768 capture of my desktop, with a folder open and 32-bit color
picture in background:
BMP - 3,073 KB
JPG - 544K
GIF - 62K
Quick observations follow.
BMP retains the most quality. This is what you get if you use the
printscreen key. Every pixel is recorded faithfully. The file size reflects
this. Real world experience is that you quickly fill up disk space.
Additionally, when you import BMP's to various programs, like Word, the
document can get out of hand.
With JPG files, you have lost detail that can't be recovered. A certain
amount of loss is acceptable, even with screen captures. If you go too far,
the extended areas of color in a window, such as white and grey, will begin
to fill up with more artifacts. JPG file sizes can be tweaked even lower
than above, and you will lose more detail. Viewed at 100% on a monitor,
things can be acceptable, but when printed...
GIF does a great job with 8-bit color video. In most of a typical window
capture, GIF does better than JPG, but when you get to areas where more
color is used, as in many icons, it dithers colors, and you may not like the
Finally, the graphic files you capture do not stand still in time. You place
them into other programs, which may import and convert them. Add a PDF or
HTML export, send the file to another system, and you may wish for a simpler
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