I like DotColor although it gives coordinates, not distances...
Zoom+ is a zoom tool able to show dimensions of the selection done with right-click in the zoom window (so, limited to a few pixels, but precise).
I used a number of other rulers (perhaps Pixel Ruler, tried Screen Caliper), but I don't recall precisely which... I found JR Screen Ruler too.
My favorite screen capture software, MWSnap, has a ruler built in, too.
[EDIT] I read the comment and re-read the message, and saw you don't want rulers... Oh well, I leave them for reference... :-)
Note that when you capture a variable rectangle, MWSnap shows a cross-hair with side zoom (precise positioning) and real-time dimensions of the selected rectangle, so it is very close of what you want (unless you need diagonal measures...).