Greg DeVore

By: Greg DeVore on May 20th, 2011

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Screencasts vs. ScreenSteps vs. Single Image Capture

Software Documentation Tips | Documentation Managers

A question was recently posted on Twitter, "@donmcallister @podfeet opinions on what problems are best solved by/use cases for Mac apps such as ScreenSteps, Screenflow, Skitch, others?"

We get that question a lot. We answered it in depth in a webinar we did last year titled "Video, Screencasts and Still Images - Using the Right Tool at the Right Time." But for those who are interested in a shorter answer, here it is. These are some simple rules that we use.

Teaching Concepts or Introducing New Features? Use a Screencast

When you are explaining new concepts for new features a video is going to be your best tool. Why? It's more engaging. Your viewer probably isn't sure yet if the new feature or concept will matter to them. You want to have a more engaging presentation to help catch their attention. Also, video will allow for passive consumption. They can watch the video while doing other things. If something comes up in the video that grabs them they can then focus on that subject.

Teaching How-To's? Screencasts or ScreenSteps

There are two different types of how-to's: informational and instructional. Informational how-to's are really advertising features. For this type of how-to follow the advice mentioned above - use a screencast.

Instructional how-to's are mostly used in support situations. The viewer knows what they want to do but they don't know how to do it. In this case engagement isn't a concern because the viewer is highly motivated. Clarity and speed are more important. This is where ScreenSteps excels. So, if your audience knows what they want to do but not how to do it then use ScreenSteps. You can create the instructions in a fraction of the time (5 minutes as compared to an hour or more) and your viewer will be able to consume the information much more quickly than they could in a screencast.

ScreenSteps vs. Single Image Sharing (i.e. Skitch/SnagIt)

This one is simple. Do you need just one image to communicate your message? Then use Skitch/SnagIt. Need more than one? Use ScreenSteps.

If you just need to point out a design flaw on a web page then Skitch or SnagIt will work great. But if you are trying to point out a bug that requires several steps to reproduce or communicate a how-to then ScreenSteps will work better. Our has become very popular with our users for submitting bug reports to vendors. They tell us that the vendors always thank them for the clarity of their reports and the "roundtrip" email communications are reduced since their initial report clearly identifies the problem.


All of these tools are communication tools. Not all communications have the same needs and goals. Look at what you are trying to communicate as well as the interest level and needs of your viewer. Then choose the tool that will get the job done most effectively in the least amount of time for that specific communication.

About Greg DeVore

CEO of ScreenSteps