When you're standing next to someone, pointing something out is as easy as could be--just lift a finger or nod, and they get what you're talking about. But as soon as the Internet comes in the middle, this sort of quick visual communication becomes much more difficult. I've seen technical writers describe "the button on the bottom right that looks like a paper airplane" in an attempt to point out a single element on the screen. Free application Skitch can restore the visual element to remote communication.
Skitch shows you don't need a toolbar crammed with tools to make for richly annotated images
Skitch is an application from Evernote that tries to make this sort of information as easy to relay virtually as it is in real life, by making it easy to capture screenshots and annotate them (or any other image). It's not as feature-packed as professional alternative Snagit or open-source powerhouse Screenshot Captor, but that is not a bad thing.
Where other apps pile on the bells and whistles, Skitch goes out of its way to keep things simple and coherent. It launches very quickly, and has a vertical toolbar with a scant seven tools, each with a large, clear icon. These are traditional image annotation tools: An arrow for pointing things out, a text tool, a color picker with a limited palette of just eight colors, a rectangle you can surround objects with, a highlighter, a "pixelizer" for blurring out details, and a crop tool. That's it--no special effects, no fancy filters, and nothing that's going to make your screenshot look like it was taken with a broken Polaroid in 1972 and then forgotten in the bottom of a drawer.
Skitch only lets you use a handful of colors, which is a blessing for color-blind users and others who are not artistically inclined.
Skitch includes an interesting UI widget I haven't seen before: It's a tab that sticks out the bottom of the window, protruding outside the border. The tab just says "Drag Me," and when you comply, you get a local copy of the file. Just drag the tab and drop anywhere, and you have your file right there. A very fuss-free way to save your work or attach it to emails.
The only criticism I can level at Skitch is that it works very hard to get you to use Evernote. Yes, Skitch is free, and it's owned by Evernote, an excellent product in its own right. Integration between the two makes perfect sense, and it's nice to be able to save images directly to Evernote. Doing so, however, requires you to install the standalone Evernote client for Windows, which is much larger than Skitch itself. When you try to close Skitch without first saving your image, a typical prompt shows up, with a twist: You can either abort (keep the application open), discard your work, or... save it to Evernote. The prompt doesn't allow you to save your work locally--if you want to do that, you need to remember to do so from within the application, before you try to close it.
Generally speaking, Skitch is fun and simple to use, and you don't need to read a manual or go through a tedious tour before you start using it. Just run it, open up an image, annotate, and send. Effective visual communication, accomplished.
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