I don’t have Photoshop either, so it’s been a bit of a learning curve for me too. I do edit all my caps before making a gif, but have yet to attempt to crop any. I think I’m a bit better at it now than I was, though.
I don’t always edit my caps.. which is for one reason: I once edited all the caps, and then the gif got too big and I couldn’t solve it easily. :( Ugh. But I just don’t think it’s worth spending shittons on money for Adobe CS5 for. Making gifs should be fun, after all. I do, I hope you do too. :) And you’re right, I think you’ve improved too :D Practice makes perfect?