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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

An overview of Skitch

May 21, 2007

I’d seen Skitch pop up on Flickr and various Mac-related web sites for quite awhile before I got my hands on a copy. I’d wanted to try it but there is no open beta yet available. I thought this was because Skitch was unstable or simply not ready for the public eye. Boy was I wrong – but more about that in a minute.

As with other overviews I’ve written I want to take you back to the time I first downloaded Skitch and met its designer Cris Pearson. I was sitting at a table in the Mashroom at Web2Open in the Moscone Center (which was caught by Scott Beale in this photo). Cris pulls up a chair next to me and begins enjoying his lunch provided by the Expo and we get to talking about Skitch. Details are a little fuzzy because of the number of conversations I had at that table but he quickly launched his Dashboard and was able to create an account for me which then emailed me a link to download Skitch for myself. I was thoroughly impressed with the way he setup his account activation process so I knew I was in for a treat with Skitch.

Being incredibly busy during events such as the Expo I was unable to give Skitch a thorough run through until I got home. Since then I’ve been using Skitch pretty regularly for both work and play and I’ve been loving every minute of it.

Skitch 1.0b2 v4658

Me wishing my salad was made of Skitch.

Skitch’s features

How can an application, with the primary purpose of taking screenshots, quickly become one of my favorites? I think it is a combination of the user interface and how well thought-out Skitch really is. Skitch is jammed packed with features yet the interface for those features never gets in your way or becomes overbearing. This is the result of a ton of research, trial and error, and well thought out design by Cris and his team. Here are the main features of Skitch as I see it:

Quickly take a screenshot in just about anyway you can think of. The Mac OS has some really great shortcut keys for taking screenshots. You can select a specific viewable area for your screenshot, select a specific window, or capture your entire screen space. Skitch wraps all of these into an easy to use UI that then lets you “do something” with that screenshot.

Then you can annotate a screenshot once you’ve captured it. By adding shapes, arrows, text, etc. you can quickly highlight and draw attention to the specific parts of the screenshot that you’d like to. Or, you can put earrings on dogs. I remember doing this type of thing in Photoshop for years and what a pain that was! Not only was I forced to open an application that is far too complex for this type of simple annotation but it hogged all of my memory!

Sharing your screenshot with the world is probably Skitch’s strong suit. Skitch is not just an application but it also connects to a hosting service provided by plasq called MySkitch. MySkitch gives you a simple way to share your screenshots without worrying about saving, emailing, or FTPing those files to those you want to share with. With one-click your screenshot is available for the world to see! You don’t want to use MySkitch because all of your friends use Flickr? No problem because Skitch supports MySkitch, .Mac, FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, and of course Flickr. I’m fairly certain that this list will grow before and after launch of the final product.

Taking photos with your webcam is dead simple. Skitch does not come equipped with all of the effects that Photo Booth does, but if you need a quick way to take a snapshot with your webcam, annotate it, and share it – Skitch is for you.

The little things

The main thing that separates the good applications from the great applications is attention to detail. Skitch has a few ‘little things’ that both surprised and impressed me.

First was the delete feature. Skitch saves an entire history of your screenshots (which in itself is great), but the history remembers where you shared that file. So, when you go to delete something out of your history that you may have shared via Flickr, Skitch will ask if you’d like to delete the local file, the file that you shared on Flickr, or both. How cool is that?

Photo description

Howdy, from Skitch.

I suppose the second would have to be the ability to drag the “drag me” file from the bottom of the window at any point while you’re editing the original screenshot. Instead of saving and sharing what you’ve done so far you can quickly drag that “drag me” file into an instant message, email, onto your desktop, or into a document. This saves a lot of time and also saves your Skitch history from having multiple copies of unfinished work.

Resizing screenshots has always been a hassle. Perhaps you’ve taken a screenshot of your entire desktop which spans thousands of pixels in every direction and you’d like to share that with someone via email who may not even have the same resolution as you do. Simply resizing skitch to be the size you want your screenshot to be (which is indicated in the bottom left hand corner) will resize your screenshot automatically.

There is a lot about Skitch that I’m leaving out. Really I wanted to provide a general overview of why I like Skitch so much and why I recommend that you register to be notified of Skitch’s public release. Also be sure to read what everyone else is saying about Skitch so that you know I am not alone.

Want an invite to try Skitch?

Cris was kind enough to allow me to give away five invites to use the latest Skitch beta along with getting yourself a shiny new MySkitch account. After noodling it for a bit I’ve decided on who is going to get these invites. The first five people to write a blog post about how they’d use Skitch (linking to both this entry and the Skitch site) will receive a MySkitch account and a beta copy of Skitch. Be sure to trackback this entry so that I see it and if you don’t know how to do that send me an email (which is on my about page).

Happy Skitching!