SharpCap was born in frustration in February 2010. The frustration was with the typical applications used for webcam capture in Astrophotography at the time. AMCAP was a prime example – it made it very hard to adjust the settings on your camera and very easy to do silly things like write over the previous capture file. These shortcomings were brought even more obvious when you were trying to use the program in the dark, on a laptop and while wearing gloves.

My response to this – a standard one for a software developer who has just encountered a poorly designed application – was to think to myself ‘I can do better than that’. Perhaps more unusually I actually decided that I would do better than that and I started to write SharpCap over the next few days. One of the hard parts of a software project is often deciding on a name, but the name SharpCap was easy to arrive at – it comes from the programming language it is written in – C# (pronounced C-sharp).

Through its first year, SharpCap remained a fairly simple webcam capture application that was designed to be easy to use, to use standard, familiar Windows UI elements and to show the controls for the camera to the user at all times. This seemed to be enough of an improvement over the available alternatives to persuade a large number of people to start using SharpCap.

About a year after SharpCap’s first release something unexpected (to me) happened – I was approached out of the blue by an astronomy retailer selling Basler cameras asking if it would be possible to make SharpCap work with those cameras and offering to provide a sample camera to work with. This chance event changed SharpCap’s direction from a webcam only application to one that today supports a wide range of dedicated astro-imaging hardware.

Over the years as well as adding support for more cameras, SharpCap has also added many more features to the extent that this user manual is now necessary as the application is sadly no longer simple enough to ‘just use’. The primary aim throughout has been to try to make things that are difficult simpler – finding objects can be hard so the various image boost effects help find faint or out-of-focus targets; focusing can be hard so there are six focus assistance tools; DSO imaging is hard so live stacking makes it easier and of course polar alignment can be hard, but it is made simpler with SharpCap’s easy to use polar alignment tool.

I hope that you enjoy using SharpCap and that it indeed makes your astro-imaging easier.

Clear Skies!

Robin Glover, April 2018

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