Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dave Ghidiu

Snagit. Annotateit. Shareit.

Many of you have been using TechSmith's products (Snagit, Camtasia, Jing, and Screencast.com to name a few) for years. And with good reason - they are excellent products. For educators, trainers, and tutorial makers, these products offer free solutions (and reasonably priced versions) to capturing and annotating screens.

Today, they just upped the ante.

TechSmith's products have always been top notch, and have offered great cloud storage. But with the proliferation of Chromebooks and other lightweight devices, web-based solutions have been the predominant trend for software - squeezing out applications that require installation on a computer.

Snaggin a sweet spot!
I just snagged a sweet place in Florida.
Yesterday, TechSmith officially released Snagit for Chrome. It is a completely web-based screen capture and annotating tool. 

Screenshots on a computer (even a Chromebook) are not new. Historically, if I wanted a screenshot from my Chromebook, I would have to use the screenshot function (CTRL + "Window" key). Then edit it (I use Pixlr, which is great cloud-based software for editing photos). Then save it in my Google Drive. Then upload it to where I wanted it. It wasn't terribly inconvenient, but it certainly wasn't seamless. Sure, there were other apps out there too. So Snagit for Chrome by TechSmith didn't really introduce a new product; they introduced a new workflow. And that is why the software is so appealing.

Case in point - I had been using the Pixlr Grabber app. But it is fairly piecewise, as it interrupts the flow by asking questions along the way to help channel the end product. Snagit for Chrome is quick and to the point.

There are two components that make the Snagit experience top notch - a Chrome Extension that lets the user capture any image from the browser, and the Chrome app that empowers the user to manage all the captures (as well as annotate them).

Once both components are installed (it sounds daunting, but really all you do is press a button), it is smooth sailing.

The first step is to take the screenshot using the Snagit Extension.


Snagit Extension in Google Chrome.
After installation, the Snagit extension is poised for action across all your Chrome browsers!

Next, use the crosshair to define the boundaries of the image. While dragging, the crosshair will display the current size of the image. Alternatively, there is a button in the lower right hand corner that lets the user take a shot of the entire window.

Snagging a portion of a screen with Snagit.
This picture is a snagging a Snagit. Mind = blown.

Snagit will automatically pop open the Chrome app, which allows for simple annotations. There are a few things going on right now that are genius in their simplicity:
  1. Opening the screenshot in the app provides a seamless and immediate way to modify the picture.

  2. The title of the screenshot can be changed from this screen (this is subtle but distinct advantage over competing software, where the name must be changed from the file structure of Google Drive).

  3. The annotating functions are simple. More substantive extensions like Evernote are bogged down by the complexity of their functionality, and the user experience is more fragmented.

  4. All changes are saved instantaneously.

  5. The file can be shared immediately.

Snagit prevails again! Before and after!
Before and after. Snagging is too easy with Snagit.

All images are stored, by default, in the TechSmith folder that is created in the root directory of Google Drive (they can be moved later). Launching the app at any time brings up the current contents of the library, and double clicking on a thumbnail in the library opens up the annotating piece (yes, it is possible to add annotations at a later date, although it appears as if the image is flattened when the software closes, so it is only possible to delete annotations during the session they are made).

My Snagit Library.
Books are for suckers! My library is full of Snagits!
(Just kidding. I like books, too).

Overall, I think TechSmith did it right. They identified a problem that Chromebook users (as well as desktop users who want simple and immediate integration with Google Drive) experienced, and then designed a simple, easy solution.

Although I have only played with it for a little while, I can already see some classroom applications. First and foremost, I really like the collateral learning that comes from using Snagit for Chrome. As students are transitioning from traditional computing and storage models to more cloud-based models, Snagit provides a tangible example of how to manage files within the cloud (as well as providing stellar examples of how to use browser extensions as well as Chrome Apps). 

There is also a teachable moment in copyrights and attributing. Educators should be diligent in helping students properly cite where the screenshot came from (by URL). It would be pretty snazzy if the Chrome App was able to store the URL with the photo so the user could access it at a later date.

I also believe there is a workflow lesson and file management lesson in Snagit. Currently, one of the limitations (and I hesitate to even use that word) is that all the Snagit images are stored in a root folder called "TechSmith" in Google Drive. Although not initially an issue, as more images are stored, the library will fill up quickly. The Snagit Chrome App does not seem to recognize a folder structure, so it is probably best to move images to other folders once they have served their purpose. Happily, I have great file hygiene so my Snagit images are filed appropriately.

Collateral learning aside, there are other times when I think Snagit for Chrome would be beneficial:
  • Any art class (photography, art history, architecture, etc.) where students need to aggregate photos could use Snagit to apprehend (and comment!) images from online. Those images can be stored in a folder and then shared, or placed into a blog or Google Docs Presentation.

  • Science classes may find a use for students to label diagrams (anatomy, for instance) as homework assignments.

  • Writing intensive classes could use Snagit as a lightweight commenting solution for papers (although there are better options out there, most require the use of accounts). Schools without Google Apps for Education may find better luck using Snagit for Chrome as an alternative to a cobbled together Google Drive solution for sharing documents.

  • From an online perspective, I often hear students claim, "the exam wasn't open for me" or "I submitted it, but I don't know what happened". Snagit for Chrome gives students a chance to create a "Proof-of-Purchase" to capture (and annotate) their submissions or problems they encounter.
I configured a hotkey command to help expedite my Snagit experience, which only furthered the seamless process. Chrome does not seem to allow the hotkeys to work in standalone apps (like my Workflowy app), although if I really needed a screenshot of it, I could open it in a browser. 

Snagit is also now my go-to mechanism for cropping photos. Again, Pixlr is great for photo editing, but Snagit is quicker and easier for cropping. Just open the image in Google Drive Viewer, and Snagit will crop, retitle, and save a new version.

And as an instructional designer, making training materials for online resources just got a lot easier. Snagit for Chrome is a great balance of simplicity, storing, sharing, and annotating.

You should go out and snag it right now.


Dave Ghidiu

About Dave Ghidiu -

Dave Ghidiu is a Senior Instructional Designer for Open SUNY.

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