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Switch to Fewer Colors Before Capturing Images

I've been doing this little trick forever, but I forgot why until I went to write my latest article and forgot to do it. This tip has nothing to do with ASP, except that ASP is usually used to produce HTML documents and these documents often contain images and some of these images come from screen captures. Ok so it's a bit of a stretch...

If you're running Windows Millenium or any flavor of Windows 2000, take a look at the title bar of any window. Most likely (by default) it's got this gradient from one color to another (usually dark to light blue). This makes for a relatively large number of colors in your color palette if you're trying to convert a screen capture for use on a web page. Sure you can dither and reduce them, but why bother... what purpose does it serve to begin with?

To switch to a solid title bar you can go to the "Appearence" tab in "Display Properties" and select "Active Title Bar" or "Inactive Title Bar" and set "Color 2" to the same setting as "Color".

To make the switch more easily and eliminate other problems of this type you can also just change your display adapter to 256 or fewer colors for the couple seconds it takes to do the screen capture. I usually don't even hit the confirmation button and just do the screen capture quickly so when Windows goes back to its original settings 15 seconds later I can just continue working.

What type of difference does it make? In this last article I was capturing standard windows dialog boxes. Without making the switch, the image came back with over 256 colors and when dithered to the 216 web palette the file was around 16k. Making the switch to 256 colors, the same image came back with 15 colors and the resulting file was 8k. The kicker of it all... when looking at them side by side, the bigger file with more colors looks grainy!

Oh and for those who don't know about it... Windows itself is one of the best screen capture utilities around. From the Windows 2000 help:

To copy the window or screen contents

  • To make a copy of only the active window, press ALT+PRINT SCREEN.
  • To copy the entire screen as it appears on your monitor, press PRINT SCREEN.


  • To paste the image into a document, click the Edit menu in the document window, and then click Paste.

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