January 2015: Showing something can get your point across faster than explaining it — a picture is worth a thousand words, right? But what if you add graphics and words on top of that picture — now what’s it worth? It’s worth learning how to do!
Here’s how to use the tools that came with your computer — plus some killer apps — to take screenshots and annotate them with text, circles, arrows, highlighting and more:
Quick overview of annotation
To annotate means to add notes, graphics and comments directly on top of an image. You can do things like point to or circle something, give your opinion (yay or yuck), highlight the important stuff, block out the unimportant stuff. It’s kind of like taking a Sharpie to a printed page, except you can alter your annotations and move them around. Then just save the annotated file and send it off via email, text, Dropbox, Facebook or however you usually share files.
Windows computers: how to take a screenshot and annotate it
Use the Snipping Tool in Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 to take a picture of whatever portion of the screen you want — a window with four tool choices will pop up (free-form, rectangular, window and full-screen). Once you make your snip, the image opens in a window with annotation tools so you can write and draw on it. Use the Save As button to save it.
Mac computers: how to take a screenshot and annotate it
On a Mac, use Command + Shift + 3 to take a picture of your entire screen or Command + Shift + 4 to select a portion of it — just drag the crosshairs over the part of the screen you want to capture, then release. Your screenshot is saved to your desktop and the filename includes the date and time. To annotate, open the file in Preview and open the Annotate toolbar in the Tools menu.
How to do it even faster on any computer
Use an extension or an app to streamline the entire process. With an extension like Awesome Screenshot (Chrome and Firefox) or Nimbus (Chrome), your screenshot and annotating tool is right there in your browser with many options of how to save and send. For a cloud-based extension that stores your annotated screenshots online, try Screenleap. TinyTake for Windows captures video as well as screenshots and stores them in the cloud.
All of those options are free, as is one of the best cross-platform annotation apps called Skitch that’s brought to you by the folks at Evernote. You can save to Evernote, too, which means your screenshots are available and editable wherever you can access Evernote (everywhere). And if you really get into the capture-annotate habit, there are some robust, feature-rich apps to choose from. Mac users can try SnapNDrag ($9.99) or Napkin ($39.99), and Clarify 2 ($29.99) works on both Mac and Windows computers.
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