Windows expert to Redmond: Buh-bye

Scot Finnie says "sayonara" to Windows, but his search for Mac software continues

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In Search of Mac Software

I received so much e-mail from Scot's Newsletter and Computerworld readers about the previous installment in the Mac trial series that there's just no way to read it all. Mac forums and blog sites ripped me to shreds for picayune details, most of which were misunderstood or taken out of context. But more than a thousand people wrote to wish me well with my tests, many of them telling of their own switch to the Mac or offering help and useful insights.

There are a few points I need to set to rights. My initial call for help in finding Mac programs was not detailed enough. My apologies for that. I didn't realize how many people would try to help.

Screenshot Program

For one thing, I mentioned I was looking for a solid screenshot utility for the Mac -- and I still haven't found a solution that works for me. But if I had a dollar for everyone who wrote, with the best intentions, to tell me that the Mac has built-in screen-capture functionality (such as Command-Shift-3 to take the whole screen) as well as the Grab utility for the same purpose, I'd be taking a week off.

Thanks for writing, but the truth is that the Apple-supplied means of taking screenshots are woefully inadequate for the needs of a software reviewer. The people who understood that I need a truly high-end screenshot program all recommended Ambrosia Software's Snapz Pro X. Although this utility has some of the higher-end features I need, it doesn't have them all, and the interface is absolutely terrible.

Author's note: I originally stated here that Snapz Pro X's demo version renders screenshots unusable, but that's true only after 30 days of try-before-you-buy testing. My apologies to Ambrosia Software.

Someone, anyone, make a better screenshot utility for the Mac. Let me suggest 10 features that I expect to find in a more advanced screenshot utility:

  1. Image conversion among all major image formats and the capability to select a new default file format from among those image types.

  2. A facility that lets you control default options for some file formats, like number of colors and quality/compression levels (as with JPEGs, for example).

  3. Automatic, sequentially numbered file naming with user-specifiable root names (such as "OSXLeop_###") and folder-save-to locations. It should also let the user specify the starting number of the file-naming sequence.

  4. A capability that lets you optionally hide all but the Apple default desktop icons and other user customizations.

  5. User-configurable screen-capture delay with audible and/or visible countdown. This feature is sometimes required to set up and capture open menus, drop-downs, and so on. There should also be an option to include or not include the mouse pointer.

  6. Automatic selection of common object elements, such as program window, menu bar, toolbar, icons, the Dock, etc. (Apple's built-in Command-Shift-4-Spacebar key combination does this, but the facility is otherwise very limited). Snap-to selection for parts of objects is also very desirable. Any product that offers only a manual drag-selection tool for parts of the screen doesn't make the cut.

  7. Important functionality: A capture-preview window that appears before you save the file, so you can review it and make appropriate alterations.

  8. The capability to add basic (and preferably subtle) edge effects, such as rules, blurring, ripples, tear-aways, white borders and so on.

  9. The capability to make assisted selections within the preview to save as separate shots.

  10. The ability to save named sets of settings (such as file format, image quality, file name and file-save location, and object selection type) that can later be called by the user to suit specific capture needs.

An advanced screenshot-capture program is really my biggest unfulfilled software need on the Mac. I have tested a long list of products and come up empty-handed so far. Some of the ones that come the closest are programs such as FreeSnap and AlphaCapture that were abandoned by program authors. Continued support and a Universal binary -- meaning the program can run on Intel Core Macs as well as older PowerPC Macs -- are other important needs.

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