Skitch received a major upgrade to version 2.0 last September, taking the Mac community by storm—in a bad way.
Personally, I’m pretty open-minded towards app upgrades. I almost always welcome changes made to an app’s design and functionality, giving it the benefit of testing out the changes first before making any judgments. So, you can imagine how curious I was when I saw how version 2.0 enraged so many of Skitch’s users just after it was released. Did Evernote really push out an update that broke Skitch, a fine application, and made it clunky and unusable?
The New Skitch
After buying out Skitch last year, Evernote pushed this major update to fully integrate Skitch with its service while giving it a fresh UI redesign to coincide with it with its iPhone and iPad counterparts. Considering that this is a major upgrade for a very successful app, you would have thought Evernote would have something juicy in store for its wide user base.
Instead, many thought it was the biggest mistake on the part of the company, as the new version removed several of Skitch’s key functionalities. Even big names like TechCrunch and TUAW felt that the app completely lost the unique touch that made it one of the most popular screen snapping and annotation tools for the Mac.
This review is of the latest version (2.0.2), so I’m testing out all of its features, including those recently added (or in this case, re-added) to the app. If you haven’t made the jump to version 2 yet, read on to see what the real deal is about Skitch’s problematic upgrade.
How It Works
So, before going into the comparison, let’s take a look at how Skitch 2 works as a standalone app.
No presumptions and expectations, just Skitch 2.0.2.
Upon launching the app, you’re greeted with a log in window where you can either register a new Evernote account or sign in with your existing one—the first tell-tale sign that complete integration with Evernote is in full swing.
The Welcome window then prompts users to first import existing Skitch 1.0 documents to your Evernote account. This means you’ll see all of your screenshots on both the web and Mac versions of the app. If you decide to skip this, click on the Later button.
By default, you’re taken to a dark gray dashboard where all Skitch notes synched to Evernote are displayed. To actually go to the canvas, click on the four-squared Evernote button at the top beside the sync icon.
At this point, there are two ways to take a screenshot: use the menu bar icon to take crosshair and fullscreen screenshots, or click on the Screensnap button at the top centre to open the drop down menu. You have several options, such as full screen, screen snap, camera, etc.
On the menu bar, you can click on Capture for more options, such as Menu Snapshot and Window Snapshot. Menu Snapshot snaps the active menu (excluding the background) after three seconds, while the Window Snapshot snaps, well, the active window. Both require you to click on the menu or window before snapping.
Skitch’s menu bar icon only allows Crosshair and Fullscreen. When taking a crosshair snapshot though, you’ll need set the final width and height of the screenshot before actually capturing it.
After taking a screenshot, the next step would be to edit it.
The basic editing and annotation tools can be found on the left side of the window: Arrow, Text, Shape, Pen, Colors and Tool sizes, Pixelate, and Crop and resize. Clicking on Shape and Pen displays sub tools for more options, such as Highlight, Ellipse, Line, etc. You can also select these tools using keyboard shortcuts, which are listed in the Tools menu.
Once you’re done, you can rename the finished image by clicking on the timestamp found above the canvas. You will also find a Share button and a Trash icon at the far right if you’d like to share the image or delete it to start anew.
I do have a problem with the app having no pointer tool to just select and move annotations around the screenshot. You’d have to carefully click on the annotation, or you’ll end up creating another arrow, text box, or shape by accident. You also can’t change font styles other than size and colour, so you’re stuck with a single font outlined in white.
Saving Your Snaps
There are three ways to save a screenshot: Drag Me, Export, or Save to Evernote.
Drag Me, a popular Skitch feature, enables you to drag your screenshots to your desktop. Simply select the file format of your choice and drag.
You can also drag the finished image to file sharing services like CloudApp or Dropplr. It saves you the extra clicks to export a screenshot to a folder. I do advise resizing Skitch into a smaller window before doing so. Dragging while the app’s on full screen mode doesn’t seem to work.
Exporting an image simply allows you to choose where to save the image and in what file format. If you’d like more control over where and in what format to save your screenshots, choose this option.
Lastly, you can save by synching screenshots to your Evernote account. In Preferences, you can choose to save/sync to Evernote automatically, have Skitch ask first, or never ask to do so. If synched, your screenshots are available anywhere on any Evernote platform. The problem here is that you don’t have any other option to go for if you choose not to save to Evernote.
Sharing Your Snaps
Skitch’s sharing options include share via email, Messages, Twitter, Facebook, and setting the image as a desktop wallpaper.
Sharing via email doesn’t seem to work, though. The email contains only text and a link to Evernote.com—nothing more. Unless this is a bug of some sort, this makes the feature practically useless. Likewise, I don’t see how anyone would want to set annotated screenshots as their desktop wallpaper. To each his own, I guess. Sharing easily to social networks is a plus though as it saves users time from that extra step of saving to desktop and then uploading to Twitter or Facebook.
Below these options are the ability to share and copy the URL to a screenshot. The screenshot is essentially uploaded to Evernote’s service and made visible through the shared link. This enables public viewing of and access to your screenshots. If you prefer not to use Evernote to share your screenshots online, you can disable sharing anytime by clicking on Share » Stop Sharing.
The Big Changes
Putting it side-by-side with version 1.0.12, big changes have been made to Skitch.
Besides the universal design, Evernote introduced new features to the app:
- Uploading and synching Skitch notes or screenshots to Evernote, with available sync options.
- Being able to search through Skitch notes for text annotations, including handwriting.
- Importing previous screenshots from Skitch 1.x.
- Pixelate and Highlight tools
- Ability to modify the width and height of the screenshot before capture.
- Ability to easily click and resize shapes
- Ability to multi-select images for easier deletion.
- New keyboard shortcuts
Unfortunately, they weren’t satisfied with just adding new stuff. They removed and complicated many of Skitch’s core features as well:
- No more Snap from Link option.
- No more saving screenshots to (S)FTP and to other accounts besides Evernote.
- No more saving to other file formats (i.e. PDF) besides what is available (.png, .jpeg, .tiff, .bmp, and .gif). You can’t even control the quality of JPG files anymore.
- Speaking of which, no more compressed JPG files.
- No more resizing images by simply resizing the Skitch window.
- No more editing font styles other than colour and size.
- No more pointer tool.
- No more timed or countdown screenshots. They replaced it with Menu Capture.
- No more direct URLs to screenshots.
- No more image size presets and ability to insert a watermark into images.
- Very limited sharing options.
- An annoying dock icon that won’t go away.
Removing and complicating these tasks have crippled the app to the point that many find it unusable and alien to one’s workflow. For instance, many of Skitch’s users value the ability to upload content via FTP onto their own servers, as it allows sharing and previewing images privately, so to speak. In contrast, pushing all content to Evernote means publicly displaying these images using Evernote’s service.
Evernote’s intentions are clear: they want to push existing users and their content directly to their service. It’s a shame though that they chose to do this at the expense of ease of use and flexibility, leaving users with a completely different app with very little left to work with.
Fortunately, Evernote has listened to the outcries and made version 1.0.12 available for download from their website. You can also find a copy over at MacUpdate. If you upgraded your Mac App Store copy and would like to revert back to the older version, you can uninstall and download, or use Time Machine to grab the old version back.
Comparing it to version 1, is Skitch 2 a huge step backward in terms of design and usability?
In my opinion, absolutely.
First and foremost, I have no problem with Skitch’s new makeover. It’s clean and clutter-free. Since the goal was to also pattern it to the look and feel of Skitch for iOS, I think they did a good job at it. I even find a couple of Skitch’s newer features useful. Being able to modify the size of the screenshot before capture, cropping images, and sharing to social networks like Twitter and Facebook are just a few that I found useful to my own workflow.
The downfall is really in the lack of both usability and overall functionality— the key features that made Skitch the great screenshot tool that it was. Using version 2 for the first time, I actually had to relearn Skitch to be able to get the hang of it again. While it didn’t take long for me to do so, I find it ironic that this universal design, clean as it may be, sacrificed ease of use and familiarity. Long-time power users are obviously not pleased.
Moreover, I don’t understand the reasoning behind the decision to remove and/or complicate simple features, such as resizing, cropping, running silently on the menu bar, etc. Since these are some of Skitch’s successful features, it’s clear that Evernote didn’t test this version for initial user feedback before making it available to the public. If the premise is to make Skitch 2 work similarly to its iOS counterparts, it’s definitely not working for Mac users.
I’d like to be optimistic towards Skitch and Evernote though in that I’m keeping a close eye on the development, hoping that they will see the light and bring back some of Skitch’s best features back. While that’s in the works—and I sure hope it is—I’ll keep using version 1.0.12.
Are you still using Skitch despite the huge drawback? Do you plan on making the switch to a different screenshot tool?