macOS Screen Annotation Tools: What’s the best app?

During COVID–19, I’ve still been working hard to support the teachers at my school during our distance-learning efforts. I’ve always been the type person who was willing to try a new app to improve my workflows and provide a better result. One of the tasks I found myself doing a lot more than before is a screen recording and screen annotations. After spending some time with them, it’s clear that macOS screen annotation tools is an area Apple should invest more in.

QuickTime has long been a built-in tool for macOS to record screen clips, and Apple added some new screen annotation tools in macOS Mojave a few years back.

Screenshots deliver new on-screen controls for easy access to every screenshot option and new video recording capabilities. A streamlined workflow enables easy screenshot sharing without cluttering the desktop.

I’ve always felt like Apple’s tools for screenshot annotation and screen recording leaves much to be desired. An example of a workflow that I struggle with is taking a quick screenshot, adding an arrow, and attaching it to an email.

With the built-in tools, I can either grab a screenshot and send to my clipboard or use the annotate tools and then use the built-in sharing extensions. Functionally, I can accomplish my needs using built-in tools, but I struggle with having to drag icons from the desktop into email or Slack continually. For me, all of the functionality is there, but the entire process could use some rethinking. Because I am spending a lot more time annotating screenshots, I went on the hunt for some new tools.


Annotate was a tool I had for years, but its lack of updates had led me to look elsewhere. The latest release notes mention ‘High Sierra Compatability’ if that tells you anything. It was very fast at taking a screenshot, quickly annotating over it, and then sharing it. It includes several pre-set sharing options, but sadly many of them have stopped working as APIs have changed.


Both CloudApp and Droplr are handy tools, but I want an app first instead of a web-based service. I like both of these tools, though. If you are looking for a dedicated service for these tools (such as sharing across an organization), you’ll be well served by both of them.

Droplr starts at $4 per month, and CloudApp is free to start and paid plans start at $9 per month.


Cleanshot for Mac

CleanShot is an app I discovered through my Setapp subscription. Of all the apps I tried, it’s the closest to what Annotate had. One of my favorite features is the ability to hide Desktop icons and set a custom wallpaper for screenshots.

If you have a Setapp subscription, CleanShot is free. If you want to purchase it, you can do so for only $19. In my opinion, CleanShot is more of what Apple’s built-in tools should look like as is it’s fast, easy to understand, and offers just enough power-user features to be perfect for average users.



When I asked on Twitter for recommendations on annotation tools, I got several responses that SnagIt was the absolute best macOS screen annotation tool. I was warned ahead of time that it’s a premium app from a price perspective. It had a free trial, so I knew I could easily give it a shot. After spending the last few weeks with SnagIt, it’s clear that it’s worth every penny.

So what makes SnagIt stand out as the best macOS screen annotation tool? The first is how easy it is to grab a screenshot and share it. I have my preferences to grab a screenshot by region (it’ll automatically adjust to get an entire application window, or you can use crosshairs) and then copy it to my clipboard. This feature allows me to quickly paste it into an email, iMessage, or Slack channel. For simple shares, it was the fastest app I tried.

What makes SnagIt great is when you want to go more in-depth. Inside the editor (where all screenshots go), you can accomplish a lot. All the basics are there (mark up tools). Still, you can also do things like creating a quick video from images, do a panoramic capture, quickly generate a step tool (workflows), and generate documentation from prebuilt templates. Since I am working remotely at the moment, anytime I get help requests; I can use SnagIt to show how to fix something quickly.

On top of the fantastic editor and built-in tools, I do find the sharing component of SnagIt to be well done. It includes a lot of standard services and apps but also includes built-in support for, which is owned by the same company that manages SnagIt. So if you want to share directly to Dropbox or Google Drive, it’s built into the app. If you want something more than that, it offers that as well.

Overall, I feel like SnagIt hits the perfect middle ground of being a fundamental screenshot tool with power-user features when you want them. One of the most common tasks I am doing right now is taking four or so quick screenshots and then moving into the editor to work with them. I love how I can customize how the app doesn’t interrupt me between each one.

If you are looking for the best screenshot annotation tool for macOS, I highly recommend SnagIt. It’s $49.95, but there is a free trial as well as discounts for education, non-profit, and government employees.

If you want a lower cost item, CleanShot would be my recommendation. It’s incredibly easy to use, but SnagIt offers enough power user features that it fits my needs nicely.

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