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Today’s tip is proof that great utilities don’t have to be huge and bloated. The ZoomIt program by Mark Russinovich (formerly of Sysinternals and now Microsoft) is a great tool to use while giving a demo or doing a PowerPoint presentation. With it, you can quickly zoom in and highlight part of the screen and then zoom back out. If you think this is typical home/office software, get rid of that thought! It’s bigger than that and it was even in use at the Microsoft Management Summit 2007. Instead of squinting to see small text on large screens, most of the presenters used this utility to quickly zoom in on the important information. While a lot of commercial programs offer this functionality, this is a lightweight alternative that basically does the same thing. Let’s check it out, shall we?!

Version 1.71

ZoomIt is a free utility that allows you to capture an image of your computer screen (via customizable hotkeys). Then, in real time, you can draw, type or zoom directly in on the captured screen image. The really handy part is that the capture process is seamless, as no external program is opened. By pressing the Esc key (escape) on your keyboard, you can “unfreeze” the screen and all the mark-ups you made will disappear. This is extremely handy for doing presentations, especially if you use a tablet PC. ZoomIt also offers a timer function where you can assign a countdown to your computer. That would be useful if you wanted to do a presentation with interactive user exercises. Either way, this is an extremely handy utility that doesn’t even need to be installed to run. Just double click it and go! ZoomIt works on all versions of Windows and you can even use pen input for ZoomIt when drawing on tablet PCs.

The Features

The screen magnifier is the best I’ve ever seen, but it’s the annotation tool that I find to be really handy when giving presentations or even showing someone your computer screen, one on one. The countdown timer is off-topic and rather silly, but you’re not forced to use it. ZoomIt is just a typical Sysinternals program in that it is tiny, functional, handy, unobtrusive and free.

If you have limited vision, this program will simply amaze you! It has the draggable quality of Google Maps, combined with a magnificent zoom function. It shows a much bigger area of your screen than any other magnifier I’ve used. It is also a presentation aid with a draw feature that allows the presenter to circle or highlight part of the screen display. Then, with a simple push of the E key, the drawings are erased again. There is a screen break feature too, but it seems to be the opposite of what I would use it for. For example, I want to use the PC for, say, 45 minutes and have the screen change to tell me to take a break. This feature works more like a countdown timer in that the screen is replaced by a large digital display that counts your time down.

Using ZoomIt

The first time you run ZoomIt, it presents a configuration dialogue box that describes ZoomIt’s behavior. It also allows you to specify alternate hotkeys for zooming and for entering the drawing mode, without zooming. Plus, it lets you customize the drawing pen color and size. I use the draw-without-zoom option to annotate the screen at its native resolution, for example. ZoomIt also includes a break timer feature that remains active even when you tab away from the timer window. It then allows you to return to the timer window by simply clicking on the ZoomIt tray icon.

This is definitely a program you have to see to believe, so check it out today! To download Zoomit for yourself, just visit this Web site.

Happy zooming!

~ Zahid H. Javali