I’ve been an avid user of SnagIt for a few years now. It’s a great tool for taking screenshots of things and adding boxes, arrows and a variety of effects to explain something. It’s fantastic for putting together documentation or explaining to someone how to use a piece of software. You click a button and it captures either a window or you can draw a box around what you’re interested in. You can then annotate it all you want and save it in the format of your choice. It’s quick, simple and powerful. Well, that is until SnagIt 9.
First of all, let’s look at SnagIt 8:
SnagIt 8 is simple. The tools you need are on the left, such as boxes, arrows, highlighter, text and so forth. The image you’ve captured is in the middle and all effects are on the right such as resizing the image, adding a drop shadow, a torn effect (which is what I’ve used), adding a caption and so on. I frequently capture an image, draw some boxes, arrows and text on it, then add an edge effect – usually that torn paper one – then resize it and save it. Since everything is in one place it takes the minimal number of mouse clicks, all the tools such as the arrow tool remember the settings I’d used before (such as the colour, thickness and depth of shadow) so once I’ve used SnagIt one time it’ll remember everything from then on. Simple.
Now let’s look at SnagIt 9:
The first thing to note is that it uses the fancy new Ribbon control that was introduced by Microsoft in Office 2007 (it’s the strip at the top of the dialog labelled Draw, Image, Hotspots, Tags, etc. and when you click on one it reveals a bunch of related controls). When Microsoft introduced the ribbon a lot of people complained – people hate change after all. However Microsoft put a great deal of effort into deciding what controls to put on which section of the ribbon so that commonly used controls lived next to each other and were easy to discover. After struggling with it for a bit myself I have to admit that Office is far better for the new ribbon. Sadly I can’t say the same about SnagIt.
While the ribbon looks sexy in SnagIt, it’s pretty clear that not a great deal of thought went into deciding what goes where. OK, there may have been a lot of thought about it, but unlike the Office team TechSmith didn’t have the usability statistics to see how people actually use the product. And in a straw poll of one person (me) I have to say that SnagIt 9 has actually made my life harder and as a result I’ve rolled back to version 8 – the first time I’ve ever preferred an older product over a new one.
Take my standard workflow. I’ll capture an image, draw some boxes and arrows, resize it, add a torn edge effect and save. In SnagIt 8 I’d do the following (and I’m assuming I’ve run through the process previously and SnagIt has saved my preferences):
- Capture the image
- Click the ‘box’ tool and draw a box
- Click the ‘arrow’ tool and draw an arrow
- Click the ‘Resize Image’ button on the right and choose the size
- Click the ‘Edge Effects’ button then choose ‘Torn Edge’
- Save image
In SnagIt 9, things are no longer as simple. Now I have to do the following (and note that I’m assuming I’ve run through the process before so SnagIt should really remember my presets like SnagIt 8 does):
- Capture the image (same as before)
- Click the ‘Draw’ tab
- Click the ‘box’ button and find that it’s chosen the default one and not the one I want so I have to…
- Click the drop-down next to the styles to find one I’ve saved before in ‘Quick Styles’ noting that after a reboot my quick style has disappeared so I have to…
- Use the default box and draw it, then click the ‘Outline’ button and choose the red colour I prefer to the default dark red (note that red isn’t in any of the presets)
- Next click Effects > Shadow > More Shadows so that I can change the default shadow (note that in SnagIt 8 I’d do this once only and it would be remembered for ever more)
- Click the arrow next to ‘Styles’ to add the current style to ‘Quick Styles’ knowing it’ll be forgotten later
- Now to draw the arrow I’ll have to go back to point 3, but click the arrow instead of the box button – sigh
- Ok, time to resize the image, that means clicking the ‘Image’ tab
- Click Resize > Resize image – pretty much the same as SnagIt 8
- Now to add the edge effect, as usual it’s forgotten my quick style so I click Edges > Torn Edges and set the values I want (click ‘Add to Quick Styles’ and hope it’s there next time)
- Save image
Ok, I admit that if they manage to fix the fact that the quick styles keep being lost (and kept in view every time) it’ll make things slightly better, but nevertheless for my workflow – which is nothing special – it would mean a lot of flitting between the ‘Draw’ and ‘Image’ tabs and indeed that’s been the frustration. I love the fact that SnagIt 8 has all the tools you need in one place – changing tabs is like walking into another room and it just slows me down. It’s a real shame as SnagIt 9 has a lot of other cool features like being able to do multiple captures in a row and having a library recording all the snapshots you’ve taken. I gave it a few months to see if I liked it but when I happened to use SnagIt 8 on one of my machines it reminded me how much better it was so I rolled back.
I can see why as a software vendor you’d see the Microsoft Office ribbon and want to put it in your application – if nothing else it looks cool – but it’s easy to forget that the ribbon was designed to handle software containing hundreds of functions such as Word and was laid out with a great deal of care and thought. And while it works well in Word it’s not necessarily of benefit to applications with a couple of dozen functions. In the case of SnagIt it takes a light, quick and simple application and makes it just that little bit less light, quick and simple – which for me has always been its defining strength.
If you don’t take a lot of captures or are happy with all the defaults, then SnagIt 9 may be fine for you. But I’m a bit particular and fussy, so all that new GUI just gets in my way and means I’m better sticking with SnagIt 8. Bah humbug!