Take Smarter Screenshots with Voila

As a writer, and specifically one who reviews apps, a rock solid screenshot utility is absolutely essential. Sure, I could use the good old fashioned ⌘⇧3 or ⌘⇧4 keyboard shortcuts that are built into OS X, but sometimes “fullscreen” and “area” aren’t enough options. Also, those screenshots are saved to the desktop, and that can become quite messy quite quickly. And unless I feel like launching the all-powerful Photoshop (and I usually don’t), I can forget about doing any sort of meaningful annotation.

Today I’m going to give Voila a shot. Voila is a screenshot utility from Global Delight that boasts an arsenal of useful features for when you need to capture whatever it is on your screen. Read on to find out how Voila stacks up against OS X’s default screenshot key-combos, or, God forbid, the dreaded Grab utility!

Capturing That Moment

No matter what you do for a living, if it involves your computer, there’s probably a good chance that you’ll need to capture what’s on your computer screen at one point or another. While OS X offers fullscreen capture and region capture, Voila allows you to grab the contents of your monitor in several different ways. However, since they seem to be the most common, we’ll talk about the fullscreen and region captures first.

Voila commandeers the ⌘⇧3 and ⌘⇧4 keyboard shortcuts that typically save screenshots to the desktop and instead bolsters them with a touch of class. With Voila running, these commands can be executed with the hotkeys or with the buttons on the toolbar, and once they are, the Voila screen is automatically hidden, the screenshot is snapped, and the result is saved in the built-in image library.

Because Voila takes control of ⌘⇧3 and automatically hides itself upon capture, getting these screenshots of the app itself was quite tricky.

Voila gives you crosshairs for snapping region screenshots, making your capture more precise.

Voila gives you crosshairs for snapping region screenshots, making your capture more precise.

Beyond fullscreen and rectangular regions, Voila also lets you capture circular, polygonal, or freehand regions. The Object button on the toolbar will automatically recognize different objects on your desktop or on a webpage (the toolbar, or an application window, for example) and capture only that item, while the Menu button will capture a toolbar menu, which is something of which many screenshot utilities aren’t capable.

A screenshot of a screenshot utility? What’s going on here?

A screenshot of a screenshot utility? What’s going on here?

Perhaps the most interesting addition to Voila is the Record button, which makes it possible to record a fullscreen or region-limited screencast with a surprisingly robust set of options, including showing/hiding the cursor, and simultaneously recording audio from your Mac’s microphone or line-in jack.

A screen recorder, too? It’s like a Swiss Army Knife of posterity!

A screen recorder, too? It’s like a Swiss Army Knife of posterity!

Finally, Voila lets you load a webpage in the built in web browser and capture any part of it just like you would your desktop, and the iSight button lets you snag images from your iSight camera.

Organize, Annotate, Share

The filesystem in Voila is just about as robust as you could ask for in an app that organizes images and screenshots. All images are saved by default to the built in library, which is quite iTunes-esque. Smart folders in the sidebar exist by default, but they can be removed or changed to fit your needs. Recent screen captures are displayed across the bottom of the window so you always have access to your current project.

Smart Collections making organizing your library simple as pie.

Smart Collections making organizing your library simple as pie.

Voila has a pane of annotation tools available, which I will add is probably the most important tool that I look for in a screenshot utility. Sometimes I snap shots of app interfaces that might contain sensitive information (not that I don’t trust you, dear readers, I’m just pointing it out), and that information needs to be edited/blotted out in an elegant way.

Voila provides the tools to edit out portions of your image, annotate with notes, callouts, arrows, and more. The effects panel gives access to broader options, like image adjustment, filters, cropping, and highlighting so you can effectively get your point across.

No, I'm not running Mountain Lion, that's just a wallpaper.

No, I'm not running Mountain Lion, that's just a wallpaper.

Lastly, Voila has a set of sharing features built in. I’ve never run into a situation where I wanted to send my screenshots to iPhoto or Flickr, but social features seem to be the trend, and I’m sure someone would find a use for them. Use the buttons in the top right of the app to send your screenshot to a printer, via email, or even to an FTP server.

The Bottom Line

Voila is pretty good. I’ve used a handful screenshot utilities in the past, and Voila is definitely one of the most consistent. Even though trying to get screenshots of the app itself was like going on a snipe hunt, I actually really liked the way it made use of the default keyboard shortcuts. Besides, this is probably the only time I will run into such a problem with it.

The built in library, annotating tools, and even screen recording makes it a really robust piece of software. Where I was previously a staunch advocate of LittleSnapper, I am now unsure of which app will become my go-to screencap utility.

What do you think? Voila is a bit on the high priced side, but the feature set seems to make it worth it, and a free, fully functional 15-day trial is available on the developers site, so there’s no reason not to try it out. Let us know how it compares to your method of screenshotting.


Summary

A solid screenshot utility for snapping, annotating, organizing, and sharing your captures.

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