Great opportunity - innovative step-by-step features for tech writers

  • 4
  • Idea
  • Updated 3 years ago

This conversation has been merged. Please reference the main conversation: Step by Step builder

I saw the Snagit 2018 video today when it popped up. Great stuff! You inspired me to offer these ideas for breaking new ground.
Why:  Empower tech writers and tech support agents to create fast, efficient step-by-step guides for both onboarding and answering user questions. There is so much pressure on productivity. We're hungry for tools that do the job fast. Our users are hungry for quick answers to questions that text alone or screenshots alone (even with annotations) don't deliver well.

How:  (1) The writer snaps a screenshot into the editor and selects Step-by-Step mode. Now the Editor has a Title box above the screenshot, a text box between Title and screenshot, and a text box below the screenshot.
(2) Annotate the screenshot with arrows, numbers, word balloons.
(3) Enter a Title, introduce the screenshot in the text, and explain the numbered steps below the screenshot using numbered paragraphs.
(4) After making an entry in the app's screen or popping up a dialog window. snap another screenshot into the Editor. Repeat steps (1) to (3).

What:  The result is a quick, efficient, clear step-by-step guide for the users. The Editor offers and option to export the multiple screenshots with their Titles, Text and Annotated Screenshots in PDF and in HTML format for posting on an intranet or in a web app. The author sends the users PDFs and/or links to the page containing these quick step-by-step guides.

Why not just a video? (a) Time. It takes longer to record, narrate and annotate a video. With experience, authors can snap away and, significantly, explain, organize and distribute their mini-guides. (b) These same guides can later be collected and republished in more formal technical documentation and in intranets. They are more reusable and searchable than videos.

So often we authors need a quick and really efficient tool. Users don't often need fancy TOC's, cover pages, chapter numbering and all the attributes of technical manuals all the time. Besides the apps change so fast, it becomes a big burden to update the big manuals.

TechSmith has a great opportunity to disrupt the standard approach to delivering screenshots. The traditional methods involve so many added steps, pasting into Word or inserting into tech manual software or alternating between Snagit and webpage editing. Give us a mini-environment in Editor. We can receive a question, shoot the app windows, and simply annotate, explain and send them directly to our users!
Photo of wa-a


  • 3 Posts
  • 15 Reply Likes
  • pumped up and hopeful

Posted 3 years ago

  • 4
Photo of Paul


  • 1644 Posts
  • 1240 Reply Likes
Interesting idea.  Please help me understand it a bit better.

Putting all these text objects onto a screenshot is, of course, standard SnagIt functionality using call outs and text objects.  And SnagIt already has the ability to define presets that can be selected for a new capture:

So if there was an additional preset effect to add a standard SnagIt object where you could define which object, what properties (border, fill, font etc) and where you wanted it placed in relation to the capture, would that meet a lot of your requirements?

You can add multiple effects to one preset, so you could build up a stack of objects.

There are no bulleted or ordered lists in SnagIt text objects though. And you would want the text objects anchored so they grow above or below the screenshot, not over it?

I am not sure what you mean in your step 4.  Could you elaborate please?
Photo of Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan

  • 8796 Posts
  • 4701 Reply Likes
I like the Step by Step instructional content concept.
However,  as described. The layout may not have broad appeal. I think a Templates feature might be a good way to go.

 I believe your shooting for something along this line?

  If SnagIt could save Templates. You could create your own template, and just use the template on all your images.

 You can save a Template so to speak using a .snag image right now.
 Although, I've never worked with a template that auto resizes itself to accommodate any image,regardless or dimensions.

 I  created an  over sized template . Then I inserted an image , apply my edits and apply a final crop.

Here's the same basic layout as shown above "with changes".
 I sized it for 1920 x 1080 captures with a little wiggle room.   I made the canvas blue for a border.The Text, Background colors and font sizes are are customizable. Saved it as a .snag

There's no reason you couldn't put smaller images in the center.

I can reopen this .snag and replace the image. Update the text, change color scheme,etc. As often as I want.

You would probably save new images as a jpg, png or anything but a .snag.
 Your .snag will remain unaffected if you do.

When you close SnagIt, it may prompt you to save any unsaved changes. You may or may not want to update your template "so to speak" If you want to stick to the same font style,colors, etc. You want to keep the original .snag unchanged.

Photo of Paul


  • 1644 Posts
  • 1240 Reply Likes
Forget what I said.  Joe's idea is much better
Photo of Rick Grunwald

Rick Grunwald

  • 1422 Posts
  • 990 Reply Likes
I might be missing something but
Can you not create a snag file with all the headers, text boxes and even a couple of highly stylized tools then load it and put your picture into it? Just remember to "Save As"
Photo of wa-a


  • 3 Posts
  • 15 Reply Likes
Great to see all the interest in Step-by-Step, super-efficient short tutorial editing!

I am all for making the most of existing features. But we all can get tunnel vision when we know a product inside and out.

In the SnagIt 2018 Reveal video,, Chris and Daniel welcomed "big, ambitious ideas" from us SnagIt users. Offering a streamlined editor for mixing independent text blocks alternating with screenshots involves a paradigm shift, but not one that would be as burdensome a writing a new app from the ground up.

Our tunnel vision has us thinking in terms of inserting everything into images. But these days, users are getting help on their mobile devices. Responsive webpages handle text much more readably when it is not part of a graphic image.

Here is an example. It works on phones, tablets and computers:
Try resizing your web browser window to simulate viewing on smaller screens. You can still read the text outside the images as the images get smaller. But that's not the biggest benefit of a new editor for entering text.

Technical writers and help desk staff get the biggest bang for the time spent when we can quickly generate and revise guides for our users. Imagine alternating between taking screenshots, annotating them and writing short instructions in rich-text edit boxes. Then output it to PDF or HTML that can be posted to an intranet or web-based Wiki or knowledge base.

Paul - in my Step 4 in the OP, I was describing doing another iteration of the first three steps. So often, we are explaining how to work with a webpage form or an app window that has various drop-downs and fly-outs. For example, a first screenshot shows where to click and the text box describes why. A second screenshot shows the original shot, but with a child window that has more options explained in another text element.

In the Billing example (link above), there is an intro paragraph and then the steps start. The step, Change the Client in the New Matter, superimposes a pop-up window. The matching instructions 1, 2, 3 are described in the text element above the screenshot. To cram all that text onto the screenshot can make it hard to read. Or maybe you're a master at making space for text boxes in the image. But that process is not as simple and fast as using text elements that can be ordered before and after screenshots. They also break across PDF pages more gracefully.

Think outside the image, Snaggers! Think fast editing, not resizing boxes and dragging them around.
Photo of Paul


  • 1644 Posts
  • 1240 Reply Likes
Thanks for clarification on point 4.  I thought that was what you meant but wasn't sure.

So, in a nutshell you're talking about an option that is share to HTML?  I can see the attraction of that.  I do a lot of working building help systems and writing articles in WordPress,  What you are describing is effectively a complement to the visual editor that lets you design a section and then paste the html direct into the text editor. 

WordPress struggles to closely integrate text and graphics, and I do get frustrated when I have to change a word on an annotated screenshot, and have to recreate the entire thing, so something that allowed me to break the elements down into html that could be edited in situ in WordPress would be very cool.
Photo of wa-a


  • 3 Posts
  • 15 Reply Likes
Thanks for your contributions to this discussion, Paul!

Perhaps a simpler approach to changing a step-by-step page in WordPress, especially for those inexperienced with HTML, would be to return to the SnagIt Editor, make the text and/or image annotations, and then export again to HTML or PDF. For WordPress, replace the old HTML with the revised export.

The ability to rapidly update screenshots and accompanying text is at the heart of this suggestion.
Photo of Paul


  • 1644 Posts
  • 1240 Reply Likes
Thinking about it some more I can see a distinction between relatively simple text boxes, like those shown in Joe's mockup above, and complex SnagIt shapes. Drawing text boxes, giving them a border, fill, text colour, weight, font etc is fairly straightforward html activity.  Complex shapes are not.

But that sounds very much like what you were proposing anyway @wa-a

And that would suit my Word Press needs too.  I'd be very comfortable editing the SnagIt item and then replacing the existing section with the new.

So if the screenshot and complex objects are part of the basic canvas and the text boxes are outside the canvas, that gives the app the breakpoint between what needs to be converted to HTML and what needs to be rendered as a flattened image.  If the bit I need to edit is a piece of text in the html sections I might just do that in the WordPress visual or text editors but I would come back to SnagIt for anything more complex, like changing the border or fill of the text boxes.

It might be a good idea to have some smart fields in the html area for Date & Time Stamp and Version Number, which are saved and incremented respectively when the file is saved / copied to its external formats, so that when you update your target content, the fact that the screenshot has been updated is obvious.  This would be very useful for ISO 9001 process audits

This conversation is no longer open for comments or replies.