The one part about a project that always gets neglected is documentation – it may that be tutorials, user guides, project notes or manuals. It’s time consuming and to do it well, you’ll need screen shots with annotations and much more. Shrinking away from this task often results in poor and visually appalling documents.
But what if there was an app that would do the bulk of the work for you? MacSnapper allows you to grab screen shots very easily, annotate them right within the app with only a few clicks and add text. Imagine going from a day’s work to mere hours. In the following review, we’ll show you how. And we’re sure that by the time you’ve finished reading it, you’ll look forward to your next documentation.
MacSnapper – A Quick Introduction
If one could explain really quickly what MacSnapper is, it would probably go like this: it’s a word processor merged with a basic image editing app topped off with HTML, PDF and even WordPress export. In short, it brings all the tools you need to undertake a documentation people will actually want to read (though the rest does depend on your effort).
The first steps are really easy: you create a new document, which can be structured into lessons, sub-lessons and steps. Imagine writing a tutorial on using WordPress.
Lessons can be used to give your document a general structure, while sub-lessons can provide some fine tuning and steps contain the actual content.
Steps are added to your lessons automatically as soon as you grab a screen shot. All that remains for you to do is name your step, annotate your screen grab and add some text to explain what’s going on. That’s basically it!
MacSnapper frees you of all the tedious work of manually post-processing a screen shot in a separate image editing application. It rids you of the nerve racking task of having to put it pixel-perfectly into a text document and then jump between applications as you progress.
Grabbing Those Screens
MacSnapper offers three choices for screen grabs: Adding a crop, a window or an entire desktop. Once you click on any of the icons on the upper left of the application window, MacSnapper will immediately spin into action. The resulting image is added as a separate step into your lesson.
Of course you can also add any image from your Mac: simply drag it into the application and a new step is created. That’s great if you need to import something that you might have created with an external application like Pixelmator or Photoshop.
Now you will want to focus your reader’s attention on a specific detail in your screen shot. For that, MacSnapper provides you with all the tools necessary.
I like numbers especially, as well as the ability to blur out parts of the image or highlight partitions. The ability to add numerals allows you to easily guide readers through multiple steps of a process, click by click. You can skip extensive texts (which no one usually reads anyway) and work with images.
Additionally, you can resize your image with the slider beneath it (though the quality does suffer from it). Also, you can trim it to the part that’s relevant, leaving out distracting backgrounds or cut away information that may confuse your client.
Writing What Needs To Be Said
While of course MacSnapper is all about integration images into your documents, you’ll also need to write out some stuff. For that the lower part of the window is reserved, resembling a yellow legal pad.
Whatever you write here is later displayed beneath the image. Apart from simple text you can use basic formatting options like bold, italics or underlined to highlight passages and insert links to online content.
I’m Done, Now What? – Exporting Your Document
MacSnapper really shines when it comes to exporting your document. For the quick-solution-types, simply select one of three options (HTML, PDF or WordPress).
If you want to fine-tune the export, you can do that as well. The preview-button lets you see how your result will look like, both for HTML and PDF export. There are multiple templates available that can alter the look of your final document, so try them out and see what you like best.
The Not-So-Perfect Stuff
While MacSnapper is a fairly neat tool, there are of course aspects which are not optimal, as is the case with every app.
What bugs me most are fairly minor things. First and foremost, the fact that I can’t add more than one image to a step. Especially when trying to accomplish comparisons, it’s annoying. It forces me to either fool MacSnapper by not naming steps (therefore omitting headlines in my exported document) or to resolve to other apps like Pixelmator or Photoshop to prep an image.
Another area that needs work is the text editing. Given that the export templates for PDF, HTML and WordPress pretty much take care of laying out the text, I still wish there were options to use numbered or bulleted lists. When I create step by step guides using the numeral annotations on the images I want to be able to insert a numbered list quickly into the text area. Also, headings and other structural elements would be nice; while it can be accomplished by simply making text bold, the process could be easier.
More importantly though would be a wiki-functionality, meaning the ability to link content within the document. If I introduce the different content types of WordPress in the introduction, I would then like to link to the chapter of the manual where I explain articles or pages in detail. Right now, the reader is forced to leaf through the document to find the related chapter.
As with most apps, MacSnapper is not alone on the market, there are a number of tools which allow you to do the same. Which of these is right for you will depend on your personal taste as well as your wallet.
MacSnapper was my first choice because it offers a time-unlimited demo, which just watermarks your exports without constricting you to a certain amount of chapters. With a price tag of $49, it is on the upper scale of the price range though.
MacSnapper’s main competitor is the well-known Screensteps by Bluemango. It works basically in the same way, the user-interface is similar too. In my personal opinion, Screensteps is slightly easier to use because important functions are more easily accessible. The app starts at $39, offering the same functions as MacSnapper, but if you need more – like collaboration and integration with 3rd party services – Screensteps offers more pricey versions as well.
Last, but not least, there is myManuals by MOapps. The app’s interface does not offer quite as much eye-candy as the other two contestants and it also won’t export in any blogs, but if all you need are PDF, HTML or xml, doc and rtf, myManuals might just be right. With its $19.95 price tag it is the most affordable and well worth a try (also, take a look at the included templates for export, they are stunning!).
It doesn’t really matter which documentation tool you decide to use, the important thing is that it helps you accomplish your task much quicker and without the hassle that your normally have to go through. Instead of jumping across apps for screen grabs, image and text editing, you can do everything from within one single app.
Have you used a documentation app in a project before? What were your experiences? Let us know in the comments.