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Snagit on Mac: First look at this powerful screen capture tool

Back in December of 2009, I reported on the public beta of Snagit on Mac, a screenshot tool for Mac from TechSmith, the folks who bring you the Camtasia screen recorder. Well, the beta is over, and after 100,000+ testers gave the app a good scrubbing, it's now available for sale for US$49.95.

Snagit isn't a new product -- it's been around on the Windows platform since 1991 -- but Snagit on Mac is new. One purchase of the application on either platform gives you a non-concurrent use license for both Windows and Mac. I had tried out Snagit on Mac during early beta and frankly wasn't impressed, but I'm pleased to say that the release version is replacing my current screenshot solution. Tech bloggers and authors do a tremendous number of screenshots, so switching to a new tool isn't something that is done lightly.

Follow along with me as I give you a first look at Snagit on Mac.

The application is quite polished, which I'd expect from the people who make Camtasia. After installing the application on my iMac, I took some time to look at the videos and other help documentation that TechSmith has made available in the Snagit on Mac Learning Center. These are well-done videos, even pointing out some limitations of various tools.
To describe how a tech author would use Snagit on Mac, it's helpful to know how I do screen captures right now. I use Snapz Pro X, which is a favorite app of mine but hasn't been updated in quite some time. It grabs windows, full screens, or selections, and can even capture video. Well, once I do a screenshot in Snapz Pro X, I usually have to do something with it -- crop it, blur out something, or add an annotation. There are no tools to do that in Snapz Pro X, so I have the program set up to open screenshots in Preview to do some minor editing. If I need to do more, I open up another program... Get the picture? It's good for capturing the images, but not for annotating them.
Launching Snagit on Mac opens an editor window and a small pop out called the capture window. The capture window hangs around on the right side of the screen by default, although you can move it anywhere or even have it float on your Mac screen. When it is just waiting, all you see is a tiny black tab on the side of your screen. Clicking the tab expands the capture window to show a capture button, a dropdown to change modes between "all in one capture" or "window capture," a way to change the keyboard shortcut for a screenshot, open the editor window, and more.
When in all-in-one capture mode, a yellow crosshair appears on the Mac screen, which is dimmed. As the crosshair is moved around, different parts of different windows are highlighted. Clicking the mouse button takes the screenshot. Even if the window is partially obscured by other windows, the entire window is captured. If the crosshairs are placed over the desktop, the entire desktop is captured. One really cool feature is the ability to capture scrolling windows. For Firefox, there's an add-in that enables the capability to capture a full-length web page. I tried the feature on the TUAW home page and got a file that was 1008 pixels wide by 9698 pixels high. That's a great way to capture a full web page in one shot. All-in-one capture mode also lets you select an area to capture by dragging the crosshairs over a region and then letting up on the mouse button.
With window capture mode turned on, clicking the capture button shows an Exposé-like set of individual windows. Moving the cursor over any of the windows displays a title, and clicking the mouse button captures the window.
Where do the captured photos end up? They're temporarily stored in a captures folder, time and date stamped with a .snagproj file extension. They also appear in a scrolling tray at the bottom of the editor window called the captures tray. The most recent capture is on the left side, with older captures to the right. To edit any of the screenshots, you click on the image in the captures tray to expand it, then use the editor tools.
There are both tools and effects. Tools include cropping, text balloons, arrows that can be curved all over the place by adding handles, stamps (such as the Mac "spinning wheel of death" seen on the title graphic), pens and markers, blurs, lines, shapes, fills (including the ability to make any color transparent), and erasers.
Any image can be shared by either emailing it, sending it to TechSmith's Screencast.com service, or to an FTP server. The sharing tools are all add-ins, so it's likely that we'll see ways to share to Dropbox, Evernote, and MobileMe soon.
Any complaints? I wish that there was a built-in way to scale an image. You can choose to have a new "canvas" at a certain size, but I can't find a way to take a large screenshot and scale it down to a predetermined size without taking it to another tool. Also, I'd like to have captures that I have deleted from the captures tray disappear from the captures folder as well. Now I have to go into the Finder (a single click opens the folder in the Finder), and drag those items to the Trash.
All-in-all, Snagit on Mac looks like it is well worth the $49.95 price tag. If you want to try it out, download a 30-day free trial and then purchase the app if it seems like it will work for your purposes.

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