CleanShot X is among the best third-party screenshot utilities as well as among the easiest to use. It also couples cloud storage with sharing capabilities as part of the price of a standalone purchase or subscription, making your captures easier to share. (The standalone version includes 1GB; the subscription flavor offers unlimited storage, a custom domain, and more flexible sharing.)
macOS already lets you capture a screen, part of a screen, a window, or a dialog box within it; make timed captures, and open a screenshot directly into the funky-but-useful Markup feature. That may be enough for most people. If that’s not you, CleanShot X provides the enhancements you’ll need. The app builds on familiar keystrokes and actions to provide more features and power in every respect than macOS, including a “scrolling” capture that can grab non-visible parts of a scrolling window.
It’s probably easiest to think about the app as having a “command center” that appears after you take a screen capture. Just as in recent versions of macOS that show a thumbnail after a capture that you can click and act upon, CleanShot X puts a small floating thumbnail on-screen with prominent Copy and Save buttons overlaid along with other icons in its corners.
You can drag this image into any window or view in any app that accepts drag-and-drop images or onto the Desktop, or click to save it to your cloud storage, pin it so it appears as a floating item on screen, click to annotate, or right-click and view a contextual menu for additional actions. Triggering additional screen captures adds more of these thumbnails, though you can customize how they’re added and how they persist.
To aid in making precise or difficult-to-stage screenshots, you have access to crosshairs like with macOS, but also a magnifier for exact pixel placement and a freeze screen option to snapshot a moment in time.
CleanShot X truly shines in its Annotate feature, a super-powered bump above Apple’s Markup. It has far more flexibility in marking items with borders and shapes, adding text callouts, and highlighting elements. But it also has the delightful option to add step labels just by clicking: it drops a circle with a number; each subsequent click increments the number. (A tip: you can open screenshots and other images not created within CleanShot X to make use of its annotator.)
If you need to make screen recordings for demonstrations, CleanShot X fits somewhere between the minimal controls in macOS and a full-featured screen-recording app like ScreenFlow. CleanShot X lets you customize recording options, mark actions while recording (such as stylizing clicks when you make them), and inset your live camera. It also has post-recording features that will avoid a trip into iMovie.
Nearly every feature in the app can have its settings refined or modified through preferences. And I’ve just scratched the surface on all the options available: the app rewards study with greater control and efficiency.
CleanShot X comes in two versions. You can pay $29 for a standalone perpetual license that includes a year’s worth of updates and 1GB of cloud storage; annual renewals are $19. Or, you can opt for unlimited cloud storage, ongoing updates, and other features for $10 per month or $96 per year for an individual or per user in a company. While there’s no trial version, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
If you find macOS falling short of what you need every time you reach to press Command-Shift-3, -4, or -5, CleanShot X doesn’t just fill in the gaps, it extends your reach. It’s the right fit for those who need to document what they see for their own reference or others.
This is CleanShot X’s first appearance as a Mac Gem.
With the strong resurgence of the Mac in recent years, we want to celebrate the tools we use and that readers recommend to make the most of your macOS experience. Mac Gems highlights great nuggets of Mac software, apps that have a high utility, have a sharp focus on a limited set of problems to solve, and are generally developed by an individual or small company. Stay tuned for weekly updates, and send your suggestions to the Mac Gems Twitter feed (@macgems).