Review: Snapz Pro X 2.0.2 - Macenstein

Review: Snapz Pro X 2.0.2

Posted by Lab Rat

One of the more rewarding aspects of reviewing software is the rare occurrence when you come across an application that you know will change the way you use your computer. I had of course heard of Ambrosia Software’s Snapz Pro X 2.0.2 screen capturing software, but I had never really thought of it as a “must-have� application. After all, OS X comes with its own screen capturing utility “Grab�, as well as the keyboard shortcuts of Command+Shift+3 and Command+Shift+4 for capturing the whole screen and region/window, respectively. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Well, this cow can make cookie dough ice cream and low-fat chocolate yogurt in addition to milk, that’s why.

Snapz Pro takes screen capturing to a whole new level on the Mac, allowing for not only stills of your desktop, but full-motion video clips as well. This is an invaluable tool for creating software demos, capturing movie clips of QuickTime video, and creating hard-to-get footage for use in a video project, such as scrolling through a webpage. Snapz Pro also finally makes it possible to grab stills and movies from the DVD Player application, something Apple’s Grab prohibits.

Ironically, the only thing Snapz Pro can’t capture is images of its own interface. I had to use Apple’s Grab to get these.

Multiple file formats

Snapz Pro goes way beyond Apple’s built-in capture functionality, and allows for capturing stills in multiple file formats, not just PNGs. BMP, GIF, JPG, PDF, PNG, PICT, TIFF, and even Photoshop PSDs are supported. In addition, you can change the file creator, so if you want to save a TIFF of the screen, but want the computer to think Freehand created it, then you can. Likewise, QuickTime movies can be exported using any available codec on your system.

Capturing Stills

With Snapz Pro, you can grab an image of the entire screen, a window, or a region of the screen. What sets this apart from the basic capture functionality of OS X however, is the ability to define fixed regions for capture, to edit the selected regions by manipulating section handles, and to include the Mac cursor in the shots if desired. You can set up your preferences to decide what file type is created, where the files are saved, and what they are named.

Snapz Pro presents you with a wide array of options with which to tailor your capturing experience.

Capturing Movies

The ability to capture QuickTime movies of your desktop is what really makes Snapz Pro unique. As with capturing stills, you can opt for a full screen capture, or a fixed region. However with movies you are also given the option of a “moving camera� which follows your cursor around the screen. This is great for both minimizing the file size of your movie and for focusing the attention of the action to the area immediately surrounding the cursor. All action is recorded, such as dock animations and menus being navigated. Sound capture can either be done via a microphone (for narrations) or via the output of the Mac’s sound card. If you have an iSight, you can use it as your microphone by first selecting it as the sound input in your System Preferences.

The above movie is literally a “Snap” to make. This 15 fps version works great for the web, but full 30 fps video is also possible.

Support for dual monitors

I have a 21-inch CRT monitor and a 15-inch Apple display hooked up as an expanded desktop. Snapz Pro was able to easily capture a 2304×768 QuickTime movie of my cursor moving files across both monitors, opening menus and folders along the way. I thought this was very impressive. For best results, however, you should set both monitors to the same resolution, as Snapz Pro will take the height from the monitor with the shortest screen height (this caused my dock to be cut off in the previous example).

One side note on dual monitors; I found it odd that while Snapz Pro can capture a movie from both screens, if you simply want a full screen desktop still, you need to choose one monitor or the other, Snapz Pro does not see them as a continuous desktop for stills.

You can even grab stills and video from DVDs, something Apple’s built-in capture utilities cannot do. (image © Copyright Disney Enterprises Inc.)


The right hardware for the job

For your average still grabs and desktop movies, Snapz Pro will likely run fine on almost any hardware that supports OS X 10.4. But if you are attempting to capture a high framerate movie of, say, a DVD or QuickTime, the results depend largely on the power of your system. Attempting to capture a 2 minute clip at 30 fps of a 560×416 MPEG-4 video clip playing in QuickTime Player on a 1.2 GHz G4 PowerMac with 1.12 GB of RAM resulted in an extremely choppy movie full of stutters and unsynced sound. Attempting to capture the same movie again on a dual 2.0 GHz G5 with 1.5 GB of RAM produced an almost perfect copy.

Likewise, attempting to capture full motion (1024×768) video of Civilization 3 Complete resulted in fair amount of frame drop outs on a single processor system (and Civ 3 is far from Halo when it comes to taxing the system).

Still, on more robust systems the performance is excellent, and for even full screen (1280×960) movies showing Word or Safari usage Snapz Pro did very well on the older system.

Above: the movie capture dialogue box.

ALMOST perfect

Snapz Pro is incredibly robust, and can meet almost any screen capturing need. However there are a couple features I would like to see in the next version. First and foremost, when installed, Snapz pro defaults to taking over Apple’s “full screen grab� short cut key combo of “Command+Shift+3�. While Snapz Pro lets you change this key combination to any other available configuration, you cannot get back Apple’s “Command+Shift+3� functionality without first uninstalling Snapz Pro. The developers claim this is due to Snapz Pro’s tight integration with the Apple grabbing functionality, and to be honest, you don’t NEED to be able to do both, but when you just want to capture the whole screen, it takes an extra click on the mouse to use Snapz Pro, and my time is extremely valuable (sarcasm).

Secondly, a timed-screen capture feature would be nice. Apple’s Grab has had this forever, and I find it useful. Not so much for stills, as Snapz Pro “freezes the screen� when taking a still, so you can fairly easily capture the exact frame you want, but for capturing movies it would be nice. Snapz Pro begins capturing a QuickTime as soon as you hit go, not allowing you time to position your cursor on the screen where you want it. If you wanted to get a shot of an application launching, you cannot hit “capture in 5 seconds� and then go over the application’s icon in the dock, wait as time counts down, and then launch the application to capture the splash screen and such without capturing excess intro footage. Snapz Pro does not contain any editing software like Camtasia Studio does on the PC, so I found it necessary to trim off the beginnings and ends of my movies in either QuickTime Pro or Final Cut (Snapz Pro movies CAN be brought into final Cut with some effort. See the Snapz Pro forum for more on this).


As a software reviewer, capturing still images of my computer screen has become essential. After using Snapz Pro for a couple weeks, I now realize I was wasting time by over capturing areas using Apple’s solutions, then bringing those images into Photoshop to crop out portions of the screen I did not want. The flexibility of selection and output directly from Snapz Pro make it a great utility to have in your arsenal. The ability to capture QuickTimes is essential for anyone wishing to create video tutorials of software. Snap Pro X’s ability to capture areas of the screen that Apple’s built-in captures solutions just can’t (like DVDs) also sets it apart.

Snapz Pro X 2.0.2:

Price: $69 (full version) $29 (upgrade from previous versions)

Rating: 9.1 out of 10

Pros: Ability to capture QuickTime movies; much more control over the capture process than Apple’s built-in methods

Cons: No timed capture feature, performance a bit sluggish on single processor systems.

4 Responses to “Review: Snapz Pro X 2.0.2”
  1. Eduo says:

    Snapz is the best screen capture utility by far on the mac, bar none.
    For those that don’t use it there is always the trusty Cmd-Shift-3 on the mac, which has been the default screen capture command on the mac for two decades and the trusty ol’ Grab, introduced in OSX (but with a history back from NeXTstep).

    One shortcut that’s usually missed by most mac users, though, is “capture an area of the screen” and “capture a whole window” and the “control” modifier, used to copy the screenshot to the clipboard to paste somewhere else, which works on all combinations. So we have:

    cmd-shft-3 = Capture Full Screen
    cmd-shft-4 = Capture Screen area (after combination select a rectangle with the mouse, cancel with ESC)
    cmd-shft-4,space = Capture whole window (after cmd-shft-4 press the space bar and the cursor changes to a little camera, hover over the window you want to capture and click, cancel with ESC)

    Pressing “ctrl” with any of the above will copy the screenshot to the clipboard for later pasting.

  2. Ren says:

    They sort of mentioned that Eduo.

    Snapz rocks.
    This version ahs been out for awhile though.
    Wonder how long it will be before we see the Intel version.
    I would assume that is a total rewrite?
    Very hardware related.

  3. Steve says:

    Snapz will not capture a full web page that needs to be scrolled to see all of it, but Snagit on Windows platform will. Bummer.

  4. Dan says:

    Great Review. This has been great help with my tutorial building efforts for

    Snapz makes this all so easy!

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