Skitch 2: A Stark Regression

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.

Skitch 2 log-in

Log in to enable sync with Evernote.

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.

Screen Snapping

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.

Annotation

After taking a screenshot, the next step would be to edit it.

Skitch canvas

Annotation tools are found on the left side of the canvas.

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.

Skitch drag me

Drag Me, one of Skitch’s core features.

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.

skitch share via email

So, where is the screenshot?

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.

Upload to FTP skitch

A feature well-missed.

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.

The Verdict

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.

Conclusion

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?


Summary

Skitch is a screenshot and annotation tool acquired last 2011 by Evernote. Snap and edit screenshots using shapes, text, highlights, blurs, and the like to draw attention to your content.

4
  • Fernando

    4? Are you feeling generous today?

    • Felipe

      No, you don’t get it… 4/10 = 0.4 :-) Now that’s more like it!

      • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef Gonzaga

        Haha! Clever. :) In the end, it’s a challenge for Evernote to bring the app back to life.

    • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef Gonzaga

      Hi Fernando,

      Skitch 2 does have a few good points that merit the score, such as the few good features I mentioned and the fact that the people behind the app are listening to the users and their feedback. It’s got a long way to go to get the app back on its feet, but at least they’ve taken the steps towards improvement.

  • http://benhourigan.com Ben Hourigan

    I quite agree with this review: Skitch 2 is a huge downgrade. The major impetus for Evernote seems to be that syncing Skitch images now uses upload quota on Evernote. I don’t really like Evernote that much, but I keep my free account around in case I want it, which I do every now and then.

    So—when I synced my screenshots to Evernote via Skitch the first time, bam! It used my whole 60MB quota for the month immediately. Should I upgrade to a paid plan, I wondered? No way: I’m not giving Evernote money for downgrading an application I used every day.

    Skitch, which I use in my work as an IT manager on a daily basis, is now less powerful and harder to use. I’m still using it, and won’t be downgrading to 1.0.12, as I don’t like using apps that aren’t actively supported and developed. But if I see an alternative reviewed here on Appstorm, I’ll go for it.

    Thumbs down, Evernote.

  • http://www.shpakovski.com Vadim

    Stef, I think your score is unfairly slow. It is evident that Sketch has lost some features because it was rewritten from scratch, but I believe the new design is cleaner and really promising. I am sure developers now analyzing user feedback and will return the most demanded features in some time. We’ll see.

    • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef Gonzaga

      Hi, Vadim.

      Don’t get me wrong, I like Skitch’s new design as well. And like I said, I’m keeping a positive eye out on Skitch in hopes of it becoming the successful app that it truly is. :)

      The lack/absence of certain features that was present in version 1.0.12 and the fact that I have to click a few times more to do a particular task w/ the app (e.g. resizing/cropping) factor into my overall opinion of it; hence, the score. If Evernote pushes another major update for Skitch, Mac.Appstorm will be ready to take a look at it again.

  • http://socialwebtools.info/ Charnita Fance

    Thanks for the great review. It’s very helpful for someone like me that has only used Skitch once, and that was over a year ago! I’ll stick with Voila for now :)

    • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef Gonzaga

      Hi, Charnita! No problem. Let’s hope Evernote sends out another update that will fix Skitch’s issues. Maybe it’ll convince you to try it again, perhaps. ;)

  • Karin

    I’m so pleased being a slow starter and didn’t update at once. Reading a couple of reviews I stay om Skich 1.
    I feel sorry for the Skitch developer – from being a team and an app all Mac sites took to its heart and Mac user “fought” to get invites, it is now an app “not useful enough to install”
    Hope the Evernote team listening – Mac users can be great when supporting/promote an app but also hard when the turn their back to one. We have seen it before and I do hope it will not happend to Skitch

    • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef Gonzaga

      Reading all of the posts on their support forum made me feel bad for the team behind Skitch as well. It was an app well-loved by the community, so you can imagine how this update really threw a lot of people off their seats in shock.

      • Karin

        I have now been to both Evernote blog and forum and the reaction was stronger than I thought. Apparently Evernote did not expecting something like this due to their really weak reactions. Pleased that they put out version 1 for those who want to downgrade. Still no real alternative to the direct link or Skitch account’s site to view the images.
        It was not better on MAS – from 5 stars to 1.5! Not even the worst programs use to get so low ranking.
        Anyone thinking of AppleMaps?
        I feel even more bad for the original Skitch team.

  • Mike

    I have used Skitch for years. V1. was a relatively light app which did what it did well enough to become my goto tool for quick markups. When the new version was announced, I jumped at the chance to upgrade. Huge mistake. I downgraded the next day. Unfortunately, a get the annoying skitch splash screen every time I reboot. (regardless of preference deselection)
    Just annoying enough for me to want an alternative. Voila’s new offering may be the ticket. The UI is a little clumsy, requiring additional steps to get things done. I only wish a tool such as SnapNDrag had the ability to manipulate. It is such a nice, light, intuitive app.

  • Somebody

    Just look at the newly redesigned evernote that’s coming out. Even worse:
    http://blog.evernote.com/2012/10/26/coming-soon-the-new-evernote-5-for-mac/

    • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef Gonzaga

      Just got the email about it. It reminds me of how email desktop clients and services are usually designed. Will be looking forward to the reviews.

    • foljs

      Even worse how? This looks like a much better redesign that the crap-fest that Skitch 2.0 was.

  • http://roadslesstraveledphotography.com Matt

    Well, trying Skitch out for the first time, I guess I’m really missing something.

    When I add text and export to Evernote, the text is there. When I do an export (because the save option is not available), it exports the image without the text. Now since I went through all the trouble to put text on the image, I’m at a loss as to why it exports without the text.

    I know I’m missing something here. Someone enlighten me…

  • http://theNogblog.com Stuart Noggle

    I moved back to LittleSnapper for FTP functionality and a pointer tool. Voila is on sale in the Mac App Store for $4.99 too. TinyGrab is fast if you don’t need annotations.

    • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef Gonzaga

      Voila’s been the most popular alternative these days. I’ll check it out. :)

  • Peter

    I used to loathe Skitch for its consistently counterintuitive and cluttered user interface. I am an Evernote addict and wanted to love Skitch but I never could wrap my head around it because it was awkward and felt very outlandish to OS X.

    I welcome the streamlining of features as well as the more OS X friendly interface.

    • Erik

      I quite agree. I use Skitch all the time now.

  • macstarter

    I reviewed Skitch on my website a little while back:

    http://macstarter.com/2012/09/21/skitch-update-2-but-its-not-good/

    The sad thing is that Skitch 1 was on my “must download” list since it was released. It’s the kind of software that you would pay for (version 1 of course). When I updated to version 2 I did so without even thinking that the core functionality would have been ripped out. For me, the best part of the new update is the link to older version on their website. Download it and store a copy safely somewhere…..

  • AW

    I dumped Skitch and went to Voila. Some of Skitch’s best features were stupidly dropped. Features that made Skitch, Skitch. Simple things like renaming the file and selecting filetype before you drag it out. And the worse addition? Having to login to Evernote to link the two. I get it, Evernote owns Skitch. But really, I wished Skitch never sold, or Evernote felt it should change Skitch to suit itself. It just gave Evernote a bad name and I felt they effed this one up.

  • http://www.footballmamangeroldskool.com Thomas Paine

    In my opinion Skitch 2 is a huge step behind, the app is now slower and it lacks too many key features, like the possibility to change fonts and edit your text.
    By the way, I never liked Evernote.

  • gmtlvsred

    I wish I had never seen the new Skitch. The old one was exactly what I wanted as I mainly create screen shots for documents with it. I definitely miss the functionality! I know its picky, but I also miss the handy menu bar interface. Skitch 1 I would have given at least an 8. Skitch 2, at most a 2.

  • http://thegraphicmac.com James

    Some of you might want to try out ImageWell as an alternative to Skitch: http://xtralean.com/IWFeatures.html

    ImageWell is nowhere near as ‘pretty’ as Skitch, but it offers a much better feature set, including FTP, SFTP, WebDav saving, and more.

    I love Evernote, but I really hate what they’ve done to Skitch.

  • AJAJ

    Looks like they “tuned up” Skitch with one single motivation in mind – to make you max out your free Evernote monthly usage. Essentially, every screen shot you take seems to rack up against the data plan. Crafty, but obvious. Moved back to Skitch 1.

  • Joseph

    I reverted back to Skitch 1. Much more functional, especially in the annotation area. Why did these developers ruin a good thing? Certainly doesn’t endear me to Evernot!

  • Jay W

    Couldn’t agree more. I am completely disappointed and wish I had read this before updating.

  • Terri O.

    Skitch was one of my favorite apps every (and I use a lot of them) until now. I could not agree with you more. Point by every point. So sad to lose the snap from url function.

  • Dave

    I’m so happy that I backed up a copy of Skitch 1.0.4 before upgrading.

    For those who long for the “busier, but better” version, it can be obtained here: http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/27134/skitch under the “Download Older Version” link.

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