Going Paperless Quick Tip: Timed Screen Captures Using Skitch for Mac

As a software developer in my day job, I find I am often doing lots of screen captures. I use Skitch for all of these because they are easy to mark up. As a blogger, writing about, say, Going Paperless, I also do a lot of screen captures, as readers of these posts well know. I use Skitch for these screen captures as well.

One of the features I love in Skitch for the Macintosh1 is its ability to do timed screen captures. Have you ever tried to do a screen capture where you are trying to illustrate an option on a pull-down menu, only to have the menu disappear the minute you press a key to do the screen capture? The timed screen capture feature in Skitch is designed to solve just this type of problem.

How it works

  1. You select the Timed Screen Capture option.
  2. You highlight the part of the screen you want to capture.
  3. Skitch will then give you a countdown–the default is 5 seconds. At the end of those 5 seconds, Skitch will capture whatever is on your screen.

This allows you to capture pulldown menus and submenus easily, without having them disappear when you click away.

How it looks

Here is what it looks like when you are attempting to do a timed screen capture. And yes, in order to produce the following screenshots I had to use the timed-screen capture feature:

Timed Capture

From the pulldown in Skitch, you select the Timed Screen Snap… option like in the image above. You then select the part of the screen you wish to capture. You will get a 5 second countdown to get the screen to look however you want. In the case of the above screenshot, I pulled down the Screen Snap menu in Skitch in order to be able to capture all of the options on it.

I did a second one. For the second example, I wanted to show an information menu from CrashPlan from the menu bar on my iMac. Clicking on the menu option along and trying to do a normal screen capture wouldn’t work. Instead, I used the Timed Screen Snap function in Skitch, which resulted in this:

Crash Plan Menu

Where I find this most useful

There are 3 main areas in which I find the Timed Screen Capture most useful:

  1. Capturing specific screenshots for software I am developing. The timed screen snap allows me to stage the screenshot exactly how I want it.
  2. Sending screenshots to technical support to illustrate a problem. Using the timed screen capture means I can capture elements of the screen (like menus or hover boxes) that I might not be able to capture with an ordinary screen capture.
  3. Creating instructional documentation for friends and family. You know: you get those questions like, “How do I create a filter for this email?” or something similar. Timed screen snaps allow me to easily create screen captures of exactly what I want to that I can be specific in my instructions or documentation.

And as an added bonus…

Anything you capture in Skitch can be synced and saved in Evernote, so you don’t have to worry about losing the screen capture, and indeed, can access it from anywhere once you’ve synced with Evernote.

Alas, not available on Windows

In my day job I work on a Windows machine, and if there is one Evernote feature I am desperate for on that machine it is the Timed Screen Snap for Skitch. Currently, the Windows version of Skitch can’t do a timed screen snap. I hope that in the future, this feature will be added.

If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let know me. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post: A Framework for Searching in Evernote.

  1. I sometimes get asked why these posts tend to focus on Mac and not Windows. The main reason is that, outside of my day job, I work primarily on Macs and that is what I am most familiar with when it comes to Evernote and its products.


  1. I also like the time capture function of Skitch, but I’ve found something else I use quite often: Clarify.

    It also allows timed captures, but it allows you to write the instructions for multiple steps below each image, with similar annotations (boxes, arrows, etc). This is useful for multi-step instructions/manuals/guides. Instead of syncing multiple images to Evernote, and then having to create a document in yet another program (eg Pages) I do everything in Clarify, and then upload that document to Evernote (build in support for Sync to Evernote) and export it as a PDF (to share). Evernote then stores all the text, images and the actual Clarify document in one note – excellent for searching.

    I think Clarify is available for both Windows and Mac, and it is a paid program (I can’t remember how much I paid, but I’m just another happy user).

  2. Thank you. In general, my favorite screen capture software is SnagIt (Mac/PC), which also allows timed captures.

    Funny enough, the only gap I see with SnagIt is the lack of the typical Skitch arrows. Don’t ask me why, I love their shape!


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