Ember Keeps LittleSnapper's Flame Burning

Ember Keeps LittleSnapper's Flame Burning

I’m a screenshot nut. I take screenshots every day for documentation, support, explanation, etc., and I’ve tried just about every Mac app out there that claims to do the job. Except for a short flirtation with Skitch that ended badly, my utility of choice for the last four-and-a-half years has been LittleSnapper. Back in July, Realmac Software released Ember, the next version of LittleSnipper, and now that a demo is available I’ve had a chance to put the app through its paces.

As expected, Ember [Mac App Store, $50] offers the standard fullscreen, object, and area snaps. Timed (5 second delay) snaps are available, but only for fullscreen captures. Of particular interest to me is the app’s ability to capture web pages, either by using a Safari extension or Ember’s own in-app browser. Like LittleSnapper, Ember allows the user to select a specific DOM element (button, text area, image, etc.) from the page in addition to the entire page, but—unlike LittleSnapper—it’s not possible to either open the current website in Ember or snap the current website from the menu extra. Sure, both actions are still possible with a couple steps, but with LittleSnapper it was possible with a single keystroke.

Ember Library

Once you’ve captured all or part of your screen, Ember saves it within its library and (optionally) shows the app. There are options in Ember’s preferences that allow you to add a drop shadow to window snaps and copy the capture to the clipboard; unlike LittleSnapper it’s not possible to include the cursor in a fullscreen snap. I’d also like the ability to toggle those options (drop shadow, cursor) on the fly, perhaps with a modifier, since it’s a chore to change the preference from the default—usually after I snapped a window with the wrong option.

LittleSnapper’s library has gotten a facelift in Ember: gone is the ability to add folders (which would group snaps, Collections and Smart Collections) and some viewing options have been moved around. Two changes I’m not fond of in the library are the removal of the thumbnail sizer and the placement of the inspector into a popover instead of the right sidebar. A new feature in the inspector, however, takes you to the URL of any web snap (only in your browser—the app won’t open the WebArchive itself in the in-app browser as LittleSnapper did).

Speaking of Smart Collections, the criteria for creating one have been halved. It’s no longer possible to filter on annotated state, tag, Collection, notes, sharing name, or sharing URL. But it is possible to filter (and search) on colors, a new feature in Ember that analyzes your images and figures out each snap’s primary color.

Ember Annotation Tools

Snapping and organizing your snaps are nice, but also important is the ability to annotate your snaps. At first I was concerned that Ember had removed the bulk of LittleSnapper’s editing options; lines, arrows, ovals and rectangles seemed to have been replaced by a single freehand drawing tool. However, Ember adds a smart drawing feature that intelligently guesses if you’re drawing an oval, rectangle or arrow and smooths out the shape.

You’ll note that straight lines are not supported. Ember also removes the ability to resize and fill objects and greatly restricts your options for colors and stroke width of objects. Further, the highlight and blur tools have been removed and, while text no longer has a bezel around, text formatting (font, size, style) has been removed. LittleSnapper’s callout feature is also gone.

Getting images out of Ember is as simple as before—just drag a thumbnail from the library to the Finder, a Mail message, etc.—and, if you use the Export feature, Ember adds an option to export as PDF. This replaces LittleSnapper’s more front-and-center Export Website to PDF command and extends the export format to any image. (Alas, the ability to resize an image upon export has been removed.)

Exporting is not your only option: while LittleSnapper only allowed you to publish to Flickr and FTP, Ember excels at sharing, adding options for Mail, Messages, Facebook, Twitter, CloudApp, and Tumbler. There’s also an option for sharing via iCloud, but I wasn’t able to test this (I believe) because I was using the trial version—only the Mac App Store version will work with iCloud. And AirDrop is supported, only not on my Mac.

Once again, where Ember giveth, Ember taketh away: FTP is not an option for sharing.

Ember Subscriptions

But an area where Ember steps beyond its predecessor is found in Subscriptions: online sources of inspiration that you can browse and select from for addition to your library. You can choose from the dozen or so recommended subscriptions or add your own (from RSS); whenever a subscription is updated, a notification is displayed and adding an image to you library is as simple as double-clicking.

For me, Ember is a disappointing update to an app I’ve used daily for quite some time. Although sharing options have been expanded and Subscriptions will be helpful for some, its annotation features have been stunted. Realmac has already released two feature updates, though, so I’m hopeful that annotating gets more powerful in the future. And I’m looking forward to using it with Ember for iOS, which was teased just yesterday.