Roll Your Own Screenshot Annotation App

In our CheezTech chatroom today, another developer was asking for advice on screenshot apps that could do annotation for OS X. I’m a big fan of Automator, so I took a quick sec to whip something together.

For my day-to-day screenshot usage, I use the built-in OS X command ⌘-Shift-4 (or 3) to get a draggable selection box. I also use a cloud storage app called Cloud, which has a built-in option to auto-upload screenshots and give you back a shortened link in the clipboard. I combine the OS X command, Cloud app and a quick hack to change the default location of screenshots to take photos, throw them in my Dropbox, and upload them to Cloud. Adding annotation into this is pretty easy! I’ll go into detail after the break.

So. Automator. It’s awesome. In a nutshell, it allows you to make workflows, which are ways to manipulate data, move things around, all sorts of stuff. Here’s how I set it up for screenshot annotation:

  • First I choose Folder Action as the workflow type. I attach it to wherever I changed my screenshot location to. Folder Actions fire whenever a new file is put into the folder it’s attached to, so this works perfectly for our purposes.

  • Now I drop in a few Actions. Actions are basically just steps in your workflow. Files or inputs get passed along downstream until you’re done. I chose to add an “Ask For Confirmation” action, because I might not always want to annotate my images. Next, I just throw the file to, which has awesome annotation features! Pretty much done!

I’m sure there’s room for improvement. You could even use Dropbox’s Public folder to replace the use of entirely! I think I might try it. Let me know what you think, or if you have any rad improvements to this.

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Toby McKes is the Director of Engineering at Red Tricycle , a foodie, lover of music and board-game enthusiast residing in Seattle, WA.

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