Next to text editing applications, screen capturing programs are de rigueur for us writers here at MakeUseOf – as you can easily see from reading any of our articles. I have tried and used numerous screenshot tools, from Apple’s default Grab app to popular third-party programs like Jing, and the recently reviewed Skitch. I typically use at least three different screenshot programs on a regular basis, each including unique features for the type of shots I need to get.
There will never be a shortage of these type of applications, but Blue Mango has produced an app that stands out amongst the rest. Similar to its flagship professional application ScreenSteps, it has released the beta version of an application called Clarify. Clarify is for when you want to produce step-by-step instructional documents that include screenshots and annotations for quick online sharing.
Advanced screenshot applications like Jing and Skitch include annotation tools which can be applied after a screenshot is taken. You can see how such tools are used in the screenshot below. Clarify also includes annotation tools, but it goes a step further.
If you are a writer, developer, on-site computer technician, or the go-to tech person in your family who needs to provide step-by-step instructions for using a piece of software, or to explain a complex website, Clarify helps you develop and communicate your instructions easily and clearly.
Clarify is both a screenshot program and a text editor. You create your documents within the application, and then export them via e-mail, PDF, or your free online Clarify account. You start a new topic or subject in Clarify, provide a brief description, and then add a series of screenshots which will help communicate what you’re trying to explain.
Similar to other screenshot tools, Clarify provides three different ways to initiate a screenshot. The most common method is to use the default keyboard shortcut (which can be changed in its Preferences) or click the camera icon in the toolbar.
You can also access Clarify from your menu bar, which includes options for delayed screen capture and the ability to automatically upload screenshots to your Clarify account.
In terms of screen capture tools, Jing and Clarify mirror one another. However, if you try to capture say a dropdown menu item, Clarify will automatically hide that action, which means you can can’t capture it. That is one of reasons why I use Jing. The shot below could not be taken with Clarify; I had to use Jing.
Each time you make a screenshot using Clarify, the image file automatically gets added and displayed in your document, saving you the necessary steps of dragging it from your desktop. So essentially, each step in your document can be represented by a corresponding screenshot. The annotation tools in Clarify include shapes and arrows, and text boxes.
The annotation toolbar includes features for changing the font style and colors of annotations. Clarify also has a Number Sequence tool that enables you to quickly add bulleted numbers to screenshots in your document. This is ten times faster than creating them in applications like Word.
Another cool related feature is the ability to add a “Create Lists From Sequence” that you can add in the text part of your document, again another useful timesaver.
Annotations, screenshots, and entire steps can be moved around, replaced, or cut even after the document is saved.
While you could use Clarify to create a multi-page document or guide, the program is geared more towards quickly sharing your instructions via e-mail, Twitter, or anywhere else online. You can also export documents as PDFs.
Clarify contains nearly all of the basic features of the more professional program, ScreenSteps, except Clarify cannot export documents to Word or blog sites. Not everyone needs an advanced screen capture program like Clarify, but if you communicate how-to instructions on a regular basis, you will find this program to be a huge timesaver.
The beta version of Clarify is currently free and available for download for Mac OS X Snow Leopard and Lion. Give it a try, and let us and the developers know what you think.