Making a great animated GIF is an art form. Or it's a science. Either way, it's often a ton of work--editing GIFs is awkward in Photoshop and GIMP, and making a GIF from a video usually requires editing footage down into a small clip and importing that clip into dedicated GIF-making software. It's a pain, and GifCam is the cure. If this little app isn't already the de facto GIF-making software on the Internet, it probably will be soon.
GifCam is about as straightforward as a piece of software can be, and it just hit a 2.0 release on June 3, which makes it even better. Let's run through the basics before getting into the new features. And this is a good time to point out that GifCam is a Windows-only app, but it is free. There's not even an installer--just an EXE, which you can grab here.
GifCam essentially works like a screen recorder--you drag the window over a section of your desktop, resize it as you see fit, and press record. Want to turn a Youtube video into a GIF? Drag the box on top of the browser, click play, and click record. The record button's right-side drop-down menu also offers the choice between the default 10 fps, an intermediate 16fps or a high-speed 33 fps.
Now, chances are you'll end up with a few frames at the beginning or the end you don't want in the GIF. Maybe you want it to loop more seamlessly. GifCam's Edit button brings up a horizontally scrolling window of each frame in your new GIF-to-be.
Here you're given a few options.
You can delete frames outright, delete them in chunks, or clear out half the frames to make a smaller (but choppier) GIF. You probably won't be using that option, though, because GifCam is designed to compress GIFs as intelligently as possible--it'll remove frames for you and compress colors so you don't have to do too much manual tinkering.
Another thing you may notice in this screenshot: a ton of weird green blotches. That's transparency. As GifCam's website explains, it doesn't redraw the whole frame each step of the way. Only the pixels that change frame-to-frame are redrawn, and the rest are represented with transparency, which cuts down on the GIF size.
Once you've edited the frames in a GIF, or if you want a preview of your new animation, you can click the save button to go with the default settings, or click the button's right-side arrow to specify the color reduction used in the GIF. The default "Quantize" usually does a good job at retaining image quality without producing a huge file.
GifCam 2.0 moved the framerate options from the save button to the record button, added in 16fps, and the ability to capture the mouse cursor, which is handy for making tutorials. On the edit side, 2.0 added in the "nearest" color algorithm, which can further reduce file size by matching similar colors.
2.0's biggest addition of all, though, was the ability to add text to any GIF frame, choose shadowing, alignment, font, color, and so on. With text, you can add clever social commentary and hilarious jokes *to your animated GIFs. You can also use GifCam's "open" feature, listed under Rec, to open a previously made GIF and add text to it.
While editing GIFs, dragging the mouse pointer over the text that says "Delay" will change how many seconds each individual frame is delayed. Similarly, when adding text, dragging over the text that says "To frame" will set how long the text appears in the GIF.
That's about all it takes to use GifCam. It's free, but if you really like it, throw a couple bucks at the developer's donate button. And start making GIFs.