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While Apple has long built screen capture features into its Mac operating systems and has gradually improved them, they are limited to what Apple finds useful for the most people. (Although most people seem to be unaware of all the functionality of macOS’s keystroke-based options and undocumented use of the Command key for dialog capture.) If you need to document how things work on a Mac in Apps or the macOS for yourself, co-workers, the websites you post to, a community, or your family, you might want to upgrade to CleanShot X.
CleanShot X is one of the best third-party screenshot utilities as well as one of the easiest to use. It also bundles cloud storage with sharing capabilities as part of the price of a standalone purchase or subscription, making it easy to share your captures. (Standalone version includes 1GB; subscription version offers unlimited storage, custom domain, and more flexible sharing.)
macOS already allows you to capture a screen, part of a screen, a window or a dialog inside it; Take timed captures and open a screenshot directly in the awesome but useful markup feature. This may be enough for most people. If that’s not you, CleanShot X provides the improvements you’ll need. The app relies on familiar keystrokes and actions to provide more functionality and power in every way than macOS, including “scrolling” capture that can grab non-visible parts of a scrolling window.
It’s probably easiest to think of the app as having a “command center” that pops up after you take a screenshot. Much like recent versions of macOS that display a thumbnail after a capture that you can click and act on, CleanShot X displays a small floating thumbnail onscreen with prominent Copy and Save buttons overlaid with other icons in its corners.
You can drag this image into any window or view in any application that accepts drag-and-drop images or onto the desktop, or click to save it to your cloud storage, pin it so that it appears as a floating element on the screen, click to annotate, or right-click and display a context menu for additional actions. Triggering additional screenshots adds more of these thumbnails, though you can customize how they’re added and how they persist.
To help you take precise or hard-to-scene screenshots, you have access to crosshairs like with macOS, but also a magnifying glass for exact pixel placement and a frozen screen option to capture a instant in time.
CleanShot X really shines in its annotation feature, a super powerful bump above Apple’s markup. It offers much more flexibility to mark items with borders and shapes, add text captions, and highlight items. But it also has the delightful option of adding step labels just by clicking: it drops a circle with a number; each subsequent click increments the number. (Tip: you can open screenshots and other images not created in CleanShot X to use its annotator.)
If you need to take screen recordings for demonstrations, CleanShot X falls somewhere between minimal macOS controls and a full-featured screen recording app like ScreenFlow. CleanShot X lets you customize recording options, mark actions while recording (such as styling clicks when you make them), and insert your live camera. It also has post recording features that will save a trip to iMovie.
Almost all app features can have their settings fine-tuned or changed through preferences. And I only touched on all the available options: the app rewards studying with more control and efficiency.
CleanShot X is available in two flavors. You can pay $29 for a standalone perpetual license that includes one year of updates and 1GB of cloud storage; annual renewals are $19. Or, you can opt for unlimited cloud storage, continuous updates, and other features for $10 per month or $96 per year for an individual or per user in a company. Although there is no trial version, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
If you find that macOS isn’t meeting your needs every time you hit Command-Shift-3, -4, or -5, CleanShot X doesn’t just fill in the gaps, it extends your reach. It is the ideal solution for those who need to document what they see for their own reference or for others.
This is CleanShot X’s first appearance as a Mac Gem.
With the strong resurgence of the Mac in recent years, we want to celebrate the tools we use and recommend to get the most out of your macOS experience. Mac Gems highlights great nuggets of Mac software, apps that have great utility, focus on a limited set of problems to solve, and are typically developed by an individual or a small business. Stay tuned for weekly updates and send your suggestions to the Mac Gems Twitter feed (@macgems).