Snapz Pro X: Still the Best All-Round Screen Capture Utility

It used to be that if you needed to capture your screen — be it movies or static images — Snapz Pro X was the only option worth considering. But the screen capture field is a competitive one these days, with the likes of ScreenFlow and Camtasia raising the bar on the video side while LittleSnapper and its many alternatives doing the same for screenshots.

Does Ambrosia’s star utility still shine brightest? Let’s take a look.

Powerful Capturing in a Snap

Snapz Pro X puts OS X’s built-in screen capture tools to shame. With a couple of taps on the keyboard, you can grab screenshots and videos of windows, selections, or the entire display — all customized to your specific needs through the plethora of options.

Main Window

This dialog comes up when you press the Snapz Pro X hotkey (Command-Shift-5), offering quick-and-easy access to powerful screen capture tools.

If you’re just looking to snap a quick screenshot, you might be better off with a simpler tool, however. Snapz Pro X is laden with advanced features that slow down and complicate the process, although the interface has been streamlined to keep this mostly painless. You bring the app up with your hot key of choice, then choose the kind of snap you want — (full) screen, objects, selection, or movie. These are mapped to the numbers on your keyboard, but you can also click the buttons directly.

The screen darkens everywhere except within the dotted-line box that comes up, leaving you free to select the area you want to snap and preview the resulting image before saving it to disk. Unlike most other screenshot utilities, where you snap first and resize/export/watermark/whatever later, you get to change settings on the fly. The floating Screen Settings menu offers all the advanced options you might need, and it includes a Preview button that turns the screen grey and displays only what you’ll be saving in the file.

It’s also easy to capture several objects across multiple screens, as I’ve done here, simply by holding the Shift or Command keys while setting up the snap.

This preview option is perhaps the most valuable part of the app. You can always check to see exactly what you’re capturing — right down to the thumbnail, coloration, and even compression artifacts on JPEGs — before you hit okay, and the file size at the current settings gets displayed in the bottom-left corner. All of the typical post-capture processing that you’d do normally can be done live, streamlining and simplifying your workflow.

Live previews are really handy for seeing how the saved image will appear, and how big its file size will be.

I don’t know of any other app that handles previews so brilliantly. It even shows how a video capture will look at your chosen frame rate, so that you can fine-tune the settings before you start.

Snaps can be sent directly to your printer, attached to a new email, or copied to the clipboard. There’s sadly no cloud support or exporting direct to another app for editing, though. On the plus side, the app handles multiple monitors, spaces, and Retina displays with ease — regardless of whether you’re grabbing screenshots or movies.

Easy Screen Recording

Snapz Pro X is a fine “on the fly” solution for screen recording, with those fantastic Preview options once again proving invaluable. You have three camera modes to choose from: a fixed camera stays locked in place, according to the dimensions and position you set; Smooth Pan follows the cursor with inertia, reacting to its movements as if being pulled by a rope; and Follow Cursor keeps the mouse cursor rigidly centered in the viewing window as it moves around your screen.

The Movie Settings window floats on the screen while you’re setting up your video capture.

This should cover different styles and needs, and I expect the two unfixed camera modes will be of great use for recording tutorial videos at low resolution. File sizes can also be limited by reducing the frame rate, which can be set to any whole number from 1 to 30, or by reducing the scale (you can also scale up as high as 400% of the native resolution). The save dialog at the end of a recording allows your choice of compressor for both audio and video tracks, with all the usual corresponding settings.

Save dialog

You can tweak the settings after recording a movie, changing the quality and type of compression.

The pre-save preview options don’t extend to seeing the impact of compressor choice for movie recordings, as they do on images, which means you’ll have to learn how to balance quality with file size through trial and error. This seems a strange inconsistency, although I expect it’s due to the comparatively large size of movies and the time it takes to encode them.

Missing Features

Perhaps the most glaring omission is that there’s no option to pause your screen recording. This has become a standard feature in screen recording apps, and it really hurts the viability of Snapz Pro X as a screencasting tool. If you are using it for screencasting, make sure you plan thoroughly in advance — or get ready to do some editing in another app afterwards.

You’re also out of luck if you’re looking for webcam support. The app can capture your Mac’s audio and your microphone, but not your iSight camera or any external video sources. This rules out picture-in-picture movies, unless you record the inset video separately and patch it in via an external editor.

The Competition

If you’re really serious about screencasts, check out Camtasia or Screenflow — they offer a far more robust and complete toolset. Purely in terms of making videos of your screen, Snapz Pro X fits between these and QuickTime’s built-in screen recording feature — more powerful than Apple’s utility, but lacking in the fine controls required by screencasting or webcasting pros.

As for direct competitors, Snagit, Voila, Screeny, and Jing all give Snapz Pro X and its ensemble of screen capturing tools a run for its money. Snagit and Jing come from the same developer, TechSmith, with the free Jing offering basic tools for capturing screenshots and screencasts while the paid Snagit leverages its best-in-class reputation on Windows to bring several killer features. In particular, Snagit offers webcam support, an elegant object selection tool, multi-region capture, editing/annotations, and cloud and app sharing.

Snagit’s slick capture tool and side-of-the-screen menu make Snapz Pro X’s interface look dated.

Voila’s big hooks are that it can capture in exotic shapes (like triangles or freehand); capture an entire web page; and edit, import, organize, and annotate screenshots. It also offers webcam support, FTP uploads, and basic pre-processing. Screeny has the simplest interface of the group, similarly coupled with cloud and webcam support.

Voila’s interface lacks polish in a few spots, and its customization isn’t as robust but it offers great library/organization functions and a barebones editor.

All of these apps offer the same features at their core, but none match Snapz Pro X on pre-capture manipulation. The few advanced settings that they do offer — Screeny and Voila have frame-rate options, for instance — are hidden away in separate menus. This makes the design simpler, sure, but the loss in functionality may not be worth it.

Final Thoughts

Snapz Pro X was once the undisputed heavyweight champion of Mac screen capturing, but in recent years it’s fallen on hard times. Snagit, Voila, Sceeny, and Jing all provide compelling alternatives for a lower price. While it’s still the best-in-class all-in-one screen capture utility, Ambrosia have let their star utility fall behind these younger upstarts in several key areas — and it has some catching up to do now.

It’s getting hard to justify that $69 price tag in the face of Screeny and Snagit’s slick design or pairings of more specialized apps such as ScreenFlow (for video) and LittleSnapper (for screenshots). Its best features may be overkill for casual users who just need to capture what’s on the screen, while these dedicated screenshot and screencasting alternatives are more in line with the needs of the high end (with a higher price to match).

If you’re somewhere in the middle, though, Snapz Pro X remains top dog thanks to its powerful pre-production and Live Preview tools.


Summary

Snapz Pro X is still the best screen capture tool — thanks to its unmatched array of powerful and advanced features — but its high price, dated interface, and the growth of specialist screencasting and screenshot utilities make it a hard sell.

8
  • Christian

    No cloud support? Buh-bye!!!

  • BlondeFurious

    I saw you reviewed Screenflick (http://araelium.com/screenflick/) last August, but didn’t mention it in this review. It’s definitely on par or better than many of the alternates to Snapz Pro X. While Screenflick lacks a post editing tool, If a person really needs to edit a video a real video editing app is the right way to go… not one of the compromise built-in editors many screen recording apps include.

  • http://www.ericgranata.com Eric Granata

    I’m a long time Snapz Pro user and have long appreciated Snapz’s preview features (something which Ambrosia carries over to their other utilities as well). I think I’m with BlondeFurious regarding video editing. I’ll typically record multiple takes in one capture and edit later.

    Nothing in the interface bothers me either. Maybe it’s the fact that it hasn’t changed much over the years that keeps me coming back to it.

    If there was any feature that I wish Snapz included, it would be some of the live effects you see used to draw attention to something on the screen.

  • mike moore

    I’m surprised that iShowU is not mentioned as a direct competitor. You should road test it.

  • Sasa

    I know Snapz Pro can capture audio, but can any of the others?

theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow