Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

LittleSnapper

Posted on 11 December 2008 Comments

Article illustration for LittleSnapper

Article illustration for LittleSnapper

Today sees the launch of a new OSX application from my friends at Realmac Software. It’s called LittleSnapper and it rocks.

I’ve had the pleasure of testing this app from its early alpha incarnations right through to the final line of betas released this week, and I can honestly say that it’s one of my favourite pieces of software for OSX and I’m using it daily. So I was absolutely thrilled when the guys asked me if I’d like to be interviewed for a case study! You can read it here.

So what is LittleSnapper?

It’s a tool for capturing web design inspiration, organising it in the library, adding annotations and edits if necessary, and sharing the snaps on the web. When I first heard about the app, I must admit that I wasn’t sure if I’d use it, since I always use Delicious to bookmark any sites I find inspiring. But as soon as I started using it, I realised how much nicer it is to have a visual library of bookmarks to look through. And they really are bookmarks, because – unlike when you capture screengrabs with OSX – LittleSnapper will actually save the page title and URL in the metadata.

Snapping

As you may have guessed, the snapping is far superior to the OS-level commands you’re used to, but it also makes use of them, so you can still do things like snap a certain area of the screen, snap a whole window (maintaining the full PNG transparency and drop-shadow effects), or just grab the whole screen. And of course these snaps will all automatically appear in your LittleSnapper library, ready for organising.

Although it’s great to take snaps without ever leaving your browser (the app has a menu bar with all of the main commands), what’s really cool is that LittleSnapper has a webkit-based browser built in, so it’s possible to do all your snapping from within the app itself.

Where this internal browser really comes into its own, though, is when you use the DOM-snapping tool. As the name suggests, you can snap certain parts of the page based on their position within the DOM. Think of it like when you ‘inspect’ an element in Firebug and that element gets highlighted. In LittleSnapper, once an element is highlighted, you can then snap it, which is absolutely brilliant if you’re collecting something like ‘navigation’ inspiration. I was doing this for my book just yesterday and it’s so handy. For quite a while, I must admit that I didn’t use this feature, but once I did, I wondered why I hadn’t before.

Organising & editing

I’m such a sucker for gorgeous interfaces, which is why I fell for the app’s UI straight away, with all its animated effects, thumbnail resizing etc.; in other words: the stuff you’d expect from Apple, not a third-party developer. But it’s not just a pretty face: the real power is the way you can tag snaps, give them ratings, and sort them into collections, folders, or even smart folders. As your library grows, so does the need to keep everything well organised, and the app handles this brilliantly.

If you want, you can even go into each snap and add notes, highlight certain areas, draw shapes, and in general prepare an image for a presentation to clients or colleagues. And if you want to edit the image in an external editor like Photoshop, you can do that too.

Sharing

The guys have built a snap-sharing service called QuickSnapper, which is also great, although I must admit I don’t really use the service much myself. What’s really nice is that they’ve integrated Flickr, which is my preferred site for sharing images. I expect many people will feel the same, having long-established accounts and contacts there, so it’s cool that they’ve recognised this and not tied us into QuickSnapper, as nice as it is. Flickr is not the only way of sharing, though – you can even upload to your own server using built-in support for FTP and SFTP. Nice!

Improvements

As much as I love LittleSnapper, it is only a 1.0 release and, like most 1.0 releases, could do with some improvements. In future versions, I’d like to see auto-titling / auto-URL-adding to snaps taken with the ‘snap area’ tool, and it’d be great to be able to set up some default tags and / or titles that could be applied to every snap (like adding “Inspiration: ” to the beginning of every title, which is useful when posting to Flickr).

The main thing I’d like to see in the future would be auto-uploading / auto-sharing. It’s extremely easy to publish to Flickr, but sometimes I’ve forgotten which snaps I’ve already put up there, and the only way to make sure I don’t re-post by accident is to trawl my Flickr library. And if you could publish to both Flickr and QuickSnapper at the same time, that would probably help promote the QuickSnapper service, since you could start using either one as your main ‘sharing’ place without having to re-upload everything.

Last words

The negative points I have about the app are very small indeed, and as you can no doubt tell by now, I love LittleSnapper and thoroughly recommend you give it a try. You can demo it for free, and if you do decide to buy it, it’s only $39. You can’t say fairer than that.

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