Skitch: Draw Attention

If there’s one iOS feature that’s truly saved my bacon more than any other, it’s the iOS screenshot. For those who don’t know, pressing the sleep/wake button and home button at the same time on an iOS device creates a PNG screenshot that’s saved to the camera roll. This feature is invaluable for writing app reviews, documenting glitches, or testing websites in Mobile Safari.

Screenshots are useful in many situations, but iOS doesn’t offer a native way to mark up screenshots or photos that may require a bit more explanation. If only there was a simple way to circle a face in a picture, draw an arrow to an important map point, or add a caption to a funny photo. Fortunately there’s Skitch, a free iPad application from Evernote that makes annotating photos and screenshots painless.


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First Impressions

Skitch does away with the bookshelf layout commonly found in drawing apps, in favor of a bright and cheery tile menu. The main menu puts all of the options for importing images or creating documents alongside the Skitch library.

The Skitch library combines creation with collection. There are no complicated submenus or cheesy shelves to be found.

The Skitch library combines creation with collection. There are no complicated submenus or cheesy shelves to be found.

Users of the desktop version of Skitch will feel at home in the mobile app. The iPad version sports a simplified menubar, situated to the left of the screen. The most important features are accessible with a single tap, and the app limits sub menus to sharing, shapes, and color/size selection. Once again, the app relies on a custom menu, instead of the stock iOS menu, and the Skitch icons pop against its textured background. The custom layout works very well for Skitch, and app navigation is simple and well designed.

The menu in Skitch for iPad is a simplified version of its Mac counterpart.

The menu in Skitch for iPad is a simplified version of its Mac counterpart.

The Basics

In most cases, work with Skitch starts with an image. This image can be imported from the camera roll or captured as a screenshot from the built-in web or map browser. Skitch detects screenshots automatically and adds the most recent screenshot to the "Screenshot" tile in the main menu. The built-in web browser makes it easy to take screenshots of websites but, unlike Mobile Safari, the Skitch browser hides the address bar before a screenshot is taken.

Skitch has a built-in map, where users can snap a map for later markup. This would be more useful with an address bar, rather than a simple location beacon.

Skitch has a built-in map, where users can snap a map for later markup. This would be more useful with an address bar, rather than a simple location beacon.

Don’t want to sketch on an image? Tap “Blank” in the main menu to create a blank canvas.

Editing

Once an image is captured to the Skitch library, it’s time to annotate it. Skitch’s drawing features definitely won’t help in creating the next great work of art, but the app offers all of the necessities:

  • Arrows
  • Text
  • Circles
  • Squares
  • Rounded Squares
  • Lines

Skitch makes quick markup a breeze. The drawing mechanics are smooth and responsive. Draw an arrow by tapping on the starting point and dragging to the endpoint, or create a simple triangle by drawing three line segments. All drawing can be done with the use of one hand, and the overall experience is incredibly intuitive. Each stroke, shape, or text block is maintained as a separate entity, and there’s no object grouping.

Use a combination of text, shapes, and freehand to make your point clear.

Use a combination of text, shapes, and freehand to make your point clear.

Don’t fret if you want to change your elements later, because the selector tool can be used to change the color and line thickness of a single item or several items at once. There are eight color choices and a slider that sets text size and line thickness. Objects can also be scaled or rotated in groups using a two-finger pinch or rotate gesture.

Change one item at a time, or select several items with the selection box.

Change one item at a time, or select several items with the selection box.

Skitch has undo/redo buttons, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

Cropping is essential for photos, and Skitch includes a simplified crop feature. Resize the box to the desired position and size, but don’t extend it beyond the photo limits, or else Skitch will include negative space in the image. It would be nice if Skitch included hard stops at image borders, because it’s difficult to place the box directly on the image’s edge.

The crop feature is useful for removing blank canvas or less-popular family members.

The crop feature is useful for removing blank canvas or less-popular family members.

Sharing

Skitch images are meant to be shared, and the app includes several ways to share/export an image. Images can be tweeted, using iOS Twitter integration, emailed, displayed with AirPlay, or saved to the camera roll.

Skitch also exports directly to Evernote.

Combine Skitch with Evernote to collect ideas for web designs, sketches, or important notes.

Combine Skitch with Evernote to collect ideas for web designs, sketches, or important notes.

Skitch for Mac can export a Skitch file, but the iPad version doesn’t support open-in, essentially making it impossible to edit an existing file created outside of the app. The app only exports image files, so don’t plan on moving between the iPad and Mac versions of Skitch.

Beyond

Although Skitch is meant for simple photo markup, it’s a very useful way to make simple diagrams. Skitch works for everything from simple website mockups to process flow diagrams. The lack of pinch-to-zoom limits the canvas to the iPad’s screen, but this provides just enough space to make some pretty useful charts. Skitch is much easier to use than other sketching apps, and I find myself relying on it more and more for simple sketching and mockups.

Since Skitch objects are easy to move around, the app is a great tool for constructing simple diagrams.

Since Skitch objects are easy to move around, the app is a great tool for constructing simple diagrams.

Conclusion

As with most apps, Skitch has some room for improvement. Evernote integration is limited, the crop feature could use some work, and export as .skitch is nonexistent. Despite these small/arguable misses, Skitch is an app to be reckoned with. This free app comes without any of the caveats associated with free apps.

There are no intrusive ads or missing features, and if anything, Evernote could push its note service a bit more within the app. The app has a simple feature set, but this plays to its overall usability and makes it a pleasant alternative to complicated competitors.

Skitch is an incredibly useful utility that’s both versatile and fast. The app makes a quick job out of simple image markups, and I find myself using it more and more every week. Paired with a nonexistent price tag, Skitch’s excellent design makes it a no brainer for anyone with an iPad. Seriously, if you haven’t downloaded Skitch by now, let this serve as your call to action.


Summary

Skitch is an image annotator that makes sketching and sharing a snap. Point out objects in photos, mark up a design mockup, or annotate a screenshot. Evernote integration makes sharing easier than ever.

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