If you need to occasionally take screenshots, ScreenFloat (Mac App Store link) can make the process easier. But even if you never need images of your Mac’s screen, ScreenFloat can make some of your daily computing tasks more convenient. The program offers a variety of clever—and cleverly implemented—features, lacking just a couple extras that could send it into the 5-mouse stratosphere.
To help explain ScreenFloat’s basic functionality, let me use the example of our review-writing process, as when I sat down to write this review, I immediately realized that I could use ScreenFloat to simplify the process. When I’m writing a software review here at Macworld, I need to note some key details about the program in question: the precise name and version number, the developer, the minimum system requirements, and that sort of thing. The Mac App Store provides all this information, but doesn’t let me select it—so I can’t just copy and paste it. That means I often end up rearranging my windows so that I can see the necessary information in the Mac App Store window while typing in my text editor.
ScreenFloat made this process easier. I fired up ScreenFloat—you can choose your preferred keyboard shortcut (I use Command+Shift+2)—and the familiar screenshot-taking crosshair cursor appeared. I dragged the selection box around a program’s information panel in the Mac App Store, and instead of saving an image file to your Desktop, ScreenFloat created a floating screenshot window containing only that selected screenshot area. When I switched back to my text editor, this floating image contained all the information I needed.
That’s the crux of what ScreenFloat does—it makes it easy to take screenshots that float on your screen until you’re finished with them. But the app packs plenty of other functionality, too. Click the screenshot window’s settings (gear) icon (or control- or right-click anywhere on the image) and the resulting menu lets you choose the image’s window level (either a normal window or an always-floating one), copy the screenshot to the Clipboard, delete the screenshot, or—most awesomely—send the screenshot directly to another app. When I need to prep screenshots for Macworld, I take them with ScreenFloat and then send them to Acorn for further editing. I do wish ScreenFloat would let me control which programs appear in the Send To list, however; I never want to send my screenshots to, say, ColorSync Utility.
Another useful feature is that ScreenFloat keeps a history of all your screenshots in its library, making it easy to reuse an old image should the need arise. You can optionally rename and tag your saved screenshots.
I wish that I could rely on ScreenFloat as my sole screenshot-taking utility, but I can’t yet. Unlike Jing (which I think is excellent) and Skitch (which I merely like), ScreenFloat doesn’t let you edit or annotate your screenshots or easily share them with others—I long for a button that automatically uploads the current screenshot somewhere and saves, to the Clipboard, the URL for the uploaded image. (I currently use ScreenFloat side-by-side with Jing just to get that functionality.)
But even without the capability to annotate or share screenshots, ScreenFloat earns a place on my Mac—though not in my Dock, since the app wisely offers a preference to live exclusively in your menu bar. I didn’t appreciate just how useful ScreenFloat’s ability to create floating screenshot windows would be until I started using it. Despite a few limitations, it’s a solid screenshot tool.