Here’s a piece of wisdom that you only learn after years of writing tech content for the web:
Writing an engaging piece of tech tutorial is not only about lucid style and expertise. Your content would fail to do its job if you do not have the best screenshots.
I am talking about screenshots that offer as much value as the information you share.
Taking screenshots that work
Before we go further, I need to provide some context.
I have been working as a technical writer for more than a decade, for most of which I have used a Mac. In the past years, I have covered hundreds of tutorials and reviews for the Mac audience and the Apple user ecosystem in general. It means a random full-screen screenshot of the Mac does not cut it. It often fails to convey the point—a click, a process, or an idea.
For what it’s worth, macOS has had a decent screenshot utility for a few years. It lets you capture not only full-screen but also window-based screenshots. There is also an option to record screen videos. While it’s all great, I have, as a content creator, always needed more control over how a screenshot turns out. As I said earlier, it is about conveying an idea.
After years of testing free and paid screenshot tools, I came across CleanShot X. And it essentially changed how I capture great screenshots for the web. In this guide, we shall talk about how CleanShot X helped me master the Mac screenshots game.
About CleanShot X
CleanShot X is a feature-packed screen capture app for Mac. It is designed for professionals and enthusiasts alike, but I will be sharing my experience with CleanShot X as a technology writer. I came across CleanShot X as a part of the Setapp package, which also brought plenty of other apps onto the table. Since installing this screenshot app on my Macs, I have never had to use the built-in screenshot utility.
Likewise, It is impressive that the app has always been updated for the latest Mac ecosystem. Even during the transition to Apple Silicon, I never had to worry about how the screenshot features worked. In total, CleanShot X has always been a reliable option for taking screenshots on Mac.
But, as I said, reliability and integration with macOS take you only up to a point. You need powerful features to get the job done. And, here is where CleanShot X made all the difference.
UI design that goes a long way
As someone who reviews hundreds of apps every year, I understand the crucial nature of intuitive UI. While I have a different idea about the learning curve for professional tools, I expect great apps to have an intuitive UI design. In this case, it was easy to depend on CleanShot X.
Once you have set up CleanShot X, the whole process of taking screenshots is overtaken by this application. Of course, you need to provide some accessibility settings and permissions, but that is part of the package. So, the next time you use one of the typical screenshot commands on your Mac, CleanShot X will do the job, and show an easy-to-access overlay on the left side of the screen.
For starters, I can simply copy the screenshot or delete it in a single click. Alternatively, I can double-click on the overlay to launch the built-in editor/annotation tool for screenshots. Now, this editor/annotation utility is one of the most optimized tools I have seen.
A smart and powerful editor
I have come across screenshot utilities that are either annoyingly heavy with features or too minimalistic. But CleanShot X makes the right cut out of both the worlds, offering a set of features that you most definitely need when you need to create engaging screenshots for your content. The selection of features is practical as well, from a content creator’s perspective.
Let’s say that you want to highlight a part of the screenshot or remove something sensitive from the screenshot. You can use the dedicated buttons to get this job done. There are also options to introduce steps, connectors and other elements that will make your content more engaging. At the end of the day, you also get the traditional editing features.
I use these features regularly because I mostly create content that is tutorial in nature. So, when I have to explain a particular task or a step in a more understanding way, these features of CleanShot X are beneficial.
I also use the built-in options for cropping the screenshot and adding a background. The second feature is great when you want to create a new form of screenshots that go in sync with the website where you’re publishing your content. For instance, you can adjust the padding, inset, shadow, corners, and you can even use the auto-balance feature in which the app will do its best to align the screenshot according to the ratio.
It’s also time-saving that I can use presets to make tasks easier.
Advanced yet intuitive customization
I said this earlier: you cannot have a great screenshot tool without room for customization. And I have always how CleanShot X brings a great balance in this aspect.
The Settings panel of CleanShot X lets you customize all aspects. There are different tabs for screenshots and screen videos. You can also decide how keyboard shortcuts work and how the quick access overlay behaves. The additional options for video and screenshots allow you to customize how formats and dimensions are dealt with.
In particular, I love the option to scale Retina screenshots into 1x. This is a great option when you want to share the screenshots on the web, where lower file sizes are recommended. You can also use the settings panel to set up advanced features like naming settings and history of the screenshots. You can also enable things like text recognition and what happens after you capture a screenshot or recording.
Others I love in CleanShot X
There are a couple of other features that make CleanShot X my favorite screenshot app for Mac.
To be frank, I cannot possibly list all the features of CleanShot X for obvious reasons. But I should mention a couple of other useful features, such as full-screen capture and scrolling capture. There are also self-timers and screen recording utilities built into the application. But most importantly, there is a Capture Text option, which uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to understand text from the screenshots you have captured.
I know that there are third-party apps dedicated for this purpose, such as TextSniper. Yet, it is convenient to have the OCR feature built into your screenshot utility because it saves a lot of time.
Even though I don’t know, I do not use this feature much, I appreciate the option to directly share your screenshots with the public. So, you can use the built-in features from CleanShot X to upload the screenshot automatically and get the short URL copy to your clipboard. As long as you have the premium subscription, you can control how people can access these screenshots and how longer they should stay on the web.
The value proposition
As a content creator, I proactively have to invest in tools that make things easier. So, from that perspective, CleanShot X is a meaningful investment for most content creators.
Moreover, because CleanShot X is included in the Setapp package which I already have, it feels nice to have this powerful screenshot tool at my disposal at all times.
As for the pricing, you can get the premium version and the basic cloud plan for $29. Or, you may get the Setapp subscription plan, which sets you back at $8 per month. It offers unlimited features and resources as well.
The bottom line
This is no conclusion that the built-in screenshot utility on macOS is bad. But it needs many improvements. Until those improvements appear, it makes sense to rely on CleanShot X.
I can also say that CleanShot X has helped me save hours, if not days, in the past years. And, I would easily recommend this tool to every content creator out there.