Review: Snagit should cover all your Mac screenshot needs

At a Glance
  • TechSmith Snagit 2.1.5 for Mac

    Macworld Rating

If you need to take a lot of screenshots, chances are you’re going to want more capabilities than you can get from the two methods provided with the Mac (the screen capture keyboard shortcuts and the Grab application). Snagit 2.1.5, by Techsmith, is a full-featured image and video screen capture application that should be at the top of your consideration list.

After installing Snagit (which ideally should be set as a login application), there are three default ways to invoke a capture. The unique capture palette normally hides at the right side of your screen, with only a small tab visible. Clicking the tab slides the palette out to display two capture mode buttons (image or video); a large red capture button; a button that toggles the cursor’s visibility in the capture; a button that places the capture on the Clipboard; a field that displays (and lets you change) the main capture hotkey; and buttons that open Snagit’s image editor, the help system, and displays additional capture options. If you don’t like the capture palette, Snagit also installs a menubar extra that has access to the same features.

Capture Palette: Snagit’s Capture Palette discreetly loiters at the edge of your screen until you’re ready to snap a picture.

Snagging it

The primary capture mode—and the one you will probably use the most—is the All in One capture. This single capture type allows you to capture the whole screen, a selected region, a window, or the entire contents of a scrolling window, including a web page. After you invoke the capture, crosshairs appear on the screen. As you move the cursor around the screen, a border appears around different regions on your desktop. If you move the cursor over a window, the selection area automatically resizes to the window’s dimensions. Moving the cursor onto a Web browser’s content area resizes the selection to the content, and if the window is scrollable, clicking a yellow arrow at the bottom or sides of the selection area automatically scrolls and captures the window contents. This scrolling window trick doesn’t just work with Web browsers; I used it to capture the entire contents of my Applications folder. If you want to pick your own screen region to capture, just click and drag the crosshairs. The All in One capture also has a small magnification window near the crosshairs, allowing you to select with more precision.

Snagit has three other capture modes. Window zooms out the screen so all windows are visible, similar to Mission Control’s window view; clicking a window captures it (at full size, of course) and restores the screen to normal. Menu captures any open menu and submenus, automatically isolating them against a transparent background. Webcam activates your display’s FaceTime camera, allowing you to shoot a picture of yourself or anything you hold up.

Edits, large and small

When your image or video capture is complete, it is sent to the Snagit Editor, which has a large selection of vector drawing tools to change, annotate, and dress up your images. Captures are automatically saved in a proprietary .snagproj file format, which allows for nondestructive changes. Besides the typical drawing tools, the Editor also provides useful effects, such as torn edges to cut out the middle of long captures, drop shadows, and color filters. You can save a commonly used set of effects as a custom style, making it easy to apply it to future captures.

Dress It Up: After using Snagit to capture a scrolling webpage, I used the Snagit Editor to blur a portion of the screen and add a callout.

For most of your screenshot editing needs, the Snagit Editor will handle the job, without having to move to an external image editor. When you’re ready to share your screenshot, you can do so from a toolbar in the Editor. You can share to a variety of destinations with a single click, including email, Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, YouTube, Techmith’s screencast.com sharing service, or to an FTP site.

I encountered a cosmetic bug that prevented the cursor from appearing over menus when using the Menu or All in One capture types. A Techsmith representative indicated they were aware of the bug and that a fix is in the works, and told me how to work around the problem in the meantime using the Stamp tool in the Editor.

Screenshots that move

Snagit allows you to grab video clips with audio, and you can choose to record the entire screen or a portion, using Snagit’s smart region selection tools. A minor limitation is that in a dual monitor setup, you can only record from a single screen. Video output is an .mp4 file

Snagit’s video capture is meant for sharing quick video clips, and there are no video editing facilities in the Snagit Editor. If you need to produce polished screencasts, you should turn to Techsmith’s Camtasia or Telestream’s ScreenFlow, both of which have vastly better video capture and editing features.

Workflow and value

There are two things I’d like to see improved with Snagit, both related to workflow. First, there is no way to have the program automatically name images with a prefix and a sequence number (instead each image is named with a timestamp), a common feature in competing products, and one that is even in the Windows version of Snagit. Second, to finalize a capture to disk in the standard output format you want, you must pick an image in the Editor, choose File -> Save As, then choose your final location and file format. I’d like a preference that allowed me to choose to skip the Editor and that brought up the Save As dialog immediately after capture.

One really great thing about Snagit has nothing to do with features, but rather its licensing. If your job, like mine, requires you to take both Mac and Windows screenshots, purchasing Snagit allows you to download and use the program on both platforms, using the same serial number. That’s a significant cost savings.

Bottom line

Given its $50 price, especially considering that gets you both Mac and Windows versions, Snagit is an excellent value. It does much more than the $69 Snapz Pro X (3.5-mouse rating), from Ambrosia Software, and works more reliably than the $30 Voilà from Global Delight. If screenshots are a large part of your business, you should definitely give Snagit a try.

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Flexible capture modes
    • Useful screenshot editor
    • Dual Mac and Windows licensing

    Cons

    • Can’t auto-name screenshots
    • Must use editor to finalize capture
    • Minor bugs
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