Once considered little more than a curiosity, screen-capture utilities are changing the way businesses write documentation — and for good reason. Screen shots quickly and effectively convey ideas that can otherwise be difficult to articulate, saving time and eliminating the ambiguity that can derail even the best of instructions.
Released to the general public as shareware in 1990, Snagit was perhaps the first legitimate screen-capture utility of its time. TechSmith, its developer, recognized the need for end users to create and save screen shots and has enjoyed more than 20 years of success providing new and effective means to facilitate this.
Snagit loads on Windows startup, takes relatively little memory (less than 50 megabytes on test machines) and invokes a simple interface at the press of the Print Screen key. Once active, Snagit will try to “snap” its focus to whatever window or field the mouse cursor is hovering over and capture just that area with a single click, or free-hand a selection prior to clicking.
While free-handing, Snagit provides a real-time picture-in-picture zoom window, so it’s easy to see the exact starting and stopping point that’s being selected on a pixel level. This allows users to grab exactly what they want and nothing more, providing professional results without the need to crop or clean up captures.
Snagit also has an extensive library of helpful overlays and enhancements, including text tools for writing notes, scalable arrows and outline shapes of varying colors, borders, shadow effects, anti-aliasing and simple drawing tools for anything else not covered by the provided templates. Users can even add hot spots to images, creating one-click access to pre-defined web addresses. The Copy All button, provided in the toolbar, automatically flattens the completed image and copies it to the clipboard, making copying and pasting the finished product as easy as it should be.
If your IT department is like mine, its technicians invest considerable time documenting procedures, both for internal use and end-user education. Snagit is an easy win for both of these purposes because it is so straightforward and provides enhancements that provide everything you need to draw attention to specific points and clarify what is being illustrated.
Additionally, TechSmith's volume licensing model gives steep discounts (well over 50 percent in many cases) for multiple-license purchases of Snagit. This makes the software an affordable option for any department that creates documentation, or even remote users who may need to use screen captures in an occasional support capacity.
Snagit is intuitive and requires very little training to use. Most users already familiar with any kind of photo editing software will have little trouble adapting to its interface. If users do have questions, there is a wealth of knowledge available through the Learning Center, accessible through the program’s Help menu. The Learning Center provides both practical knowledge and step-by-step walk-throughs of common tasks, both through written instructions and video tutorials.
The absence of a viewable history is a disappointing omission. While this isn’t a show-stopper, having that simple function allows users to reverse specific actions without having to repeatedly “undo” back to them, losing work they might want to keep. Though Snagit is robust for what it is, this simple addition would add a convenient functionality to the program.
Additionally, Snagit, by default, saves in .PNG format. While .PNG’s support of transparency is a nice touch, this format doesn’t always translate well when the saved image is used in certain contexts, such as HTML e-mail. While Snagit supports several other more compatible formats (.BMP, .JPG, .GIF, .TIF and .PDF, to name a few), defaulting to .PNG can be a pitfall for inexperienced users when sharing their captured images.