A Solid Background

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Every once in a while I come across a piece of software that's so simple, yet so useful, that I can't believe no one has done it before. The free Backdrop 1.2 (   ; www.johnhaney.com/backdrop/ ), by John Haney, is one of those things.

As a tech writer, I take a lot of screenshots, usually with the excellent Snapz Pro X 2 (   ; Mac Gems, May 2004 ). However, since I usually have lots of applications and windows open, I have to move a bunch of stuff out of the way to keep it from cluttering the screenshot. And if I've got folders and files littering the Desktop, I have to clean those up, too. (If you've ever taken screenshots for public consumption -- for a book or article, for a training guide, for a website, for a poster or flyer -- you know the hassle of which I speak.)

With Backdrop, window/icon/clutter cleanup is a thing of the past. Simply launch Backdrop and you get a solid background that fills your entire screen, leaving only the menu bar and Dock visible. You then bring the desired application to the front and take your screenshot. For example, here are a couple screenshots of a TextEdit window; the first was taken normally, the second using Backdrop:


Without Backdrop:

screenshot without using Backdrop


Using Backdrop:

screenshot using Backdrop


As simple as it is, Backdrop offers a few useful options, including the ability to choose any color for your background. For example, instead of the overwhelmingly white screenshot above, how about one with a nice blue background?


screenshot using Backdrop with color


You can even use an image file instead of a solid color. This makes for an easy way to watermark screenshots: You just use a background image that includes your watermark. And although Backdrop's default behavior is to act as an application layer -- meaning it can "float" between applications to provide a background that blocks everything behind it -- it can also function as a temporary Desktop background. This is helpful if you want a standard screenshot, Desktop and all, but with a different background than your day to day Desktop image or color.

(I've also found Backdrop to be useful for letting me concentrate on a particular window or application. Sometimes I have so many things open that it's hard to focus on one of them. By launching Backdrop, I can "hide" everything else, including the Desktop.)

My only real complaint about Backdrop is that if you have multiple displays, Backdrop only works on your main (menu bar) screen. On the other hand, I tend to take screenshots on the main screen anyway, so I haven't found that to be a significant limitation. If, like me, you take a lot of screenshots, Backdrop is a must-have.

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