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Review: Snapz Pro X

Reviewed By: Kirk Hiner

Review Date: October 22, 2001
Updated October 25, 2001 to reflect DVD capture capabilities with NVidia graphics cards


Genre: Image/video capture utility
Developer: Ambrosia Software
Minimum Requirements: Mac OS X, any machine capable of running Mac OS X
Mac OS X Support: Cocoa
Retail Price: $49 with movie capture ($39 upgrade), $29 w/o movie capture ($19 upgrade)
Availability: Out Now

A lot of people have made this claim before me, and many will make it after. The claim will come from reviewers, users and developers alike. Sometimes it'll be accurate, but more often it'll be off base. I can only say that, in my case, it took me many long months to reach this point, and you should realize when I make a claim such as this it's only after putting a product through intense scrutiny.

Snapz Pro X is the first "must have application" for OS X.

Well, must have if you have must have it, I mean. After all, there are a great number of people who have no use for a screen capture utility, who don't need to pull images and videos from applications. In that case, your must-have app is still floating around out there in the ether, no doubt trying to fight its way around spotlight-hog Microsoft Office. For everyone else, however, Snapz Pro X is the first "must have application" for OS X.

Let's first talk image capture, since that's the program's bread and butter. OS X users should probably be familiar with the included Grab application by now. If not, don't bother making its acquaintance. Download and install Snapz Pro X and pretend Grab never existed.

Currently, there are two ways to get Snapz Pro X running. You can either launch it manually when you know you'll need it, or place the application in your Log-In Items window in the OS X System Preferences to have the program automatically launch when you boot up your system. Once the program is running, hitting the traditional Command+Shift+3 sequence will invoke the program (this can be altered).

Immediately, Grab users will understand the versatility of Snapz Pro X. Rather than just taking a picture of your screen and dumping it wherever, you're presented with a multitude of options that stop just short of the power of Graphic Converter (a "very nearly must have app for OS X"). You can chose to take an image of the full screen, one object (such as an open window or a drop-down menu), or a customized selection if you just want a single object from within a web page, PDF document and such (the rest of the screen outside the capture box dims as with the area outside crop box in Photoshop 6). For precise selection, holding the Control key while selecting the area both magnifies the image and defines the precise pixel locations (hidden use here; this can greatly assist web designers when defining absolute pixel locations for CSS layers). You can also chose to capture a movie, but we'll get to that in a bit.

Along with deciding what to capture, you can select where the image should go (to a specific folder, the clipboard, or even directly to a printer), how it should be saved, whether the cursor should be visible, if it should be scaled, and so on. Even better, not only can you decide whether to include a thumbnail or watermark, but you can even customize these settings with enough options to put PhotoShop out of business...temporarily, anyway.

Hold on now, I'm not done yet. Need that color menu to be greyscale? Snapz Pro X can convert it, and to black and white, the system palate, the Windows palate, and more. It also gives you border options, and the ability to chose from eight popular file formats include Photoshop and PDF documents. Select JPG, and you're also presented with the ability to chose quality level.

If you do screen captures for any reason--to display game screens, to illustrate menus in tutorials, to crop web or PDF images--there is no better tool than Snapz Pro X, anywhere on any platform. But that's just the beginning here. That's just the low end. Pay a little more and Snapz Pro X offers the ability to capture movies. Although the features aren't as robust as those for image captures, many users will also find this invaluable.

The camera can be set to a fixed position, to follow the cursor, or to a smooth pan. The frame rate can be adjusted from 1 to 10 frames per second, then up to 30 in increments of 5 (of course, it's wise to aim low and shoot low, here). Audio can be captured from the microphone track, and although the mac audio track is also offered, it's currently greyed out. Hopefully, this option will be included soon. For a workaround, see the Snapz Pro X FAQ included with the program.

Again, this feature is perfect for tutorials and presentations. Snapz Pro X can also be used to capture movies from some games, and get this; for the first time in the history of modern man, Mac users can now capture screen images directly from the Apple DVD player! Well, some Mac users, anyway. This only works if you're running Snapz Pro X 1.0.1 in Mac OS X 10.1 with an NVidia graphics card. Everyone else...well, Ambrosia's website explains, "DVD and other forms of hardware video are actually overlaid on top of the video signal your Macintosh sends to your monitor, so the DVD movies that you see on-screen are never actually on the screen as far as your Macintosh is concerned." So why does it now work with NVidia? Ours is not to question why.

The usefulness of Snapz Pro X is already enough to garner a 5 out of 5, but the program goes beyond that. This isn't just an update to Snapz Pro 2, it's a major overhaul. It's proof that by paying proper attention to OS X's power and interface, Apple's new OS offers programmers the ability to make Classic a distant memory. Snapz Pro X is fast, it's elegant, and it's sturdy. It's everything OS X claimed to be even before OS X got there itself.

Of course, Snapz Pro X is also young, and is therefore not without the occasional glitch. Some image residue can build up, and invoking the program multiple times seemed to shut off magnification in the Dock when Classic was running in the background. And if you're running Mac OS X 10.1, make sure you've either already registered Snapz Pro X or are installing v1.0.1. The registration program included with v1.0 doesn't work under OS X 10.1, although the program itself works fine. I'll be curious to test Snapz Pro X on some of the forthcoming high-end games (bring on Giants!), as well. OpenGL often gave Snapz Pro 2 some trouble in Classic, so we'll see if that problem is alleviated in OS X.

It's rare that I can get completely behind a utility of this sort, but Snapz Pro X has only impressed me. It's hard to imagine not having it, actually, as if it were just built into the OS. And actually, I'm glad it wasn't. I'll go so far as to thank Apple for making Grab useless so that Ambrosia would have more room to shine.

And so, my quest for the "must have app for OS X" now over, it's time to move on to something else...perhaps the first "must have McFarlane Toy for my computer desk. I think I'll go with Evil Ash.


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