5 reasons to love the new SnagIt 9

Hint: tinted good looks, a stash of new tools, and a Microsoft Office-inspired redesign (we lie not!) that makes discovering old effects and features as exciting as finding $20 crumpled in your jeans pocket.

5-star review

Whatever you might envision of Tuesday's release of the redesigned SnagIt 9, it probably wouldn't be as a Microsoft Office clone.

Before you Microsoft naysayers begin your shuddering and muttering (you know who you are), have a little faith in TechSmith, the publisher that also brought to market the top-rated Camtasia Studio. Thanks to the new features and look, SnagIt 9 is a familiar, intuitive, and much more varnished capture utility whose image editor has finally come of age. Here are five ways SnagIt 9 has caught our attention. Check out the video below for a snapshot, or skip it to go straight into the count.

1: Tinted good looks
Dark skins and themes are all the rage, so why not a darker SnagIt? The new program interface and editor is organized much like version 8's, but swaps out blue for blackened gray. The image editor has been painted with the same brush, but underneath is a dramatically different layout from version 8 that elevates visual selection over text menus.

2: Microsoft-like menus
As part of the new visual design, SnagIt 9 borrows heavily from Microsoft Office 2007 to arrange tools and effects in a horizontal ribbon. This layout makes use of large images and icon-driven drop-down menus and goes easy on the text, under which useful tools were previously buried and ignored. According to SnagIt's product manager, Tony Dunckel, the average user accessed only two percent of the product.

Close-up of SnagIt 9 start button.
SnagIt 9's Start button and menu structure is modeled on Microsoft Office 2007. (Credit: CNET Networks)

The decision to follow Microsoft's lead is twofold, Dunckel said. First, replicating the menu brings SnagIt closer to earning Microsoft certification. Second, piggybacking on Microsoft's design makes use of the software giant's extensive consumer testing. If users responded best to the ribbon workflow in Office 2007, why not apply it to SnagIt?

Looking at the spacious version 9 and cramped version 8 side-by-side, it's hard to argue that version 9 isn't substantially improved by the menus, which rescues those editing effects from obscurity and migrates them to eye-catching menu blocks a user can explore.

SnagIt 9 editor
SnagIt9's Editor is larger, darker, and easier to use. (Credit: CNET Networks)

3: A well-stocked catalog
No longer must you recapture images you didn't perfectly edit the first time around. With the new Open Captures tray, a ribbon along the screen bottom, SnagIt matures from a screen grabber that callously dumps any capture you didn't save into a helpful tool keeping track of all your images, including those unsaved files. You'll be able to jump from one open image to another, an illegal action with previous SnagIt versions, to interact with images at any time for editing, saving in a new file-type, and exporting.

SnagIt 9's annotating and drawing tools.
Annotation and drawing tools are easy to access with the horizontal, icon-driven menu system. (Credit: CNET Networks)

4: Tagging
Like e-mails, images contain information, relevance, and nuance. SnagIt 9 introduces tagging in the library pane and the menu navigation that uses a combination of flagging, autotagging, and keyword entry to assign searchable tags to an image. Flag categories include important, follow-up, personal, finance, and funny. Captures are also tagged by URL if they're taken from a Web site, by the name of the application you may have grabbed it from, and by a manually entered keyword.

5: Search
SnagIt's user scenario is to store every capture you've taken in the application's lifespan. After a couple hundred captures, browsing through tags gets old and inefficient. A search engine integrated into the library pane pulls up relevant tags and dates. Clicking the folder icon at the bottom right of the screen helps organize the findings with more granularity--you'll be able to sort by name, size, dimension, flags, and keyword and display image clips instead of the usual text-chunky file names.

SnagIt 9's search pane
The search field pulls up captures by tag, flag, keyword, and source. (Credit: CNET Networks)

There are still more features to love in future versions that aren't so lovable now, like the functionality of the text capture profile to name one. Still, the application has come so far in usability that it remains the most sophisticated capture technology around, and a must-have tool for screen-grabbers interested in more advanced editing.

SnagIt 9 is available with no restrictions for a 30-day trial period and costs $49.95 to purchase in full. Current customers can upgrade for $19.95 in the next 60 days.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.