Denizens of Maximum PC's forums and gamers everywhere are familiar with Beepa's Fraps, the benchmarking, screen capture and movie-making software made especially for gaming. But even if your idea of a good game is a rousing hand of Solitaire, if you ever need to capture screens or movies in Windows, consider adding Fraps to your toolkit.
Fraps to the Rescue in Windows Media Center
It's no exaggeration to say that Fraps had a major role in making my forthcoming book, Maximum PC Microsoft Windows Vista Exposed, possible. One of the most important chapters in this new book (available on August 24) is the chapter on Windows Media Center (WMC), the multimedia presentation and TV recording powerhouse updated from Windows XP Media Center Edition. WMC is one of the "must have" features of Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate editions.
As I worked on the chapter, I must have tried a half-dozen or more screen capture programs, from the biggest names in the business to various freeware programs. All tried - and failed - to capture WMC's famous "10 foot UI" in full-screen mode. Time after time I got black screens instead of menus. I didn't want to take the easy way out as some books have done of running WMC in a window: although you can do it (and capture the menus with most screen-cap programs on the market), WMC just isn't as much fun in a window - and hardly anyone runs it that way.
Fortunately, on the recommendation of my son Jeremy (the biggest gamer in the family - and a great photographer and digital artist too), I fired up Fraps and found the answer to my problem. Fraps had no problems grabbing WMC screens, enabling me to illustrate the WMC chapter properly. It's no surprise that both Jeremy and Fraps got a well-deserved "Thank you" in the book.
On Beyond Gaming with Fraps 2.9.1
The version of Fraps I used wasn't fully Windows Vista-compatible, although it worked well enough for my purposes. But now, a new version of Fraps (2.9.1) is available. Fraps 2.9.1 is now ready for the new generation of Windows gaming, with full support for Windows Vista, support for DirectX 10, Direct Stream sound recording in movies, better resource sharing, and numerous fixes. If you haven't downloaded Fraps since version 2.9.1 came out on July 12th, it's time to grab a new copy.
Fraps for Non-Gamers
If the ability to capture WMC screens isn't enough to make you non-gamers out there grab a copy of Fraps, how about this: with Fraps 2.9.1, you can use Fraps to grab screens - and movies - from the standard Windows desktop! Use Fraps for tutorials or demonstrations by day, and documenting your gaming prowess by night.
Gamers will also appreciate this new capability: you don't need to load two screen capture programs into memory or juggle hot-key assignments any more. To enable this option, go to the FPS tab and check the box "Monitor Desktop Windows Manager."
Fraps Isn't Perfect...Yet
One Vista feature still has Fraps and everybody else (as far as I know) baffled: themed slide shows from Vista's Photo Gallery feature. Fraps produces black screens when trying to capture these screens (but so does everybody else). Fraps also has trouble if you do, indeed, run Windows Media Center in a window: it won't capture anything. Maximize WMC, though, and you can capture WMC screens perfectly, regardless of the Monitor Desktop Windows Manager setting.
Who Needs Fraps? Now, Everybody Does
Despite these modest issues, Fraps is staying in my toolbox. Get support for JPG, PNG and TGA graphics formats (the free version only works with the space-hogging BMP format), enjoy unlimited movie recording time and take the watermark off your movies by registering your copy for $37.00.
[Note: adjusted capitalization of Fraps after initial post]