Put plainly, Glui is a screenshot and annotation tool; a utilitarian application. It does not evoke charm, but it doesn’t really need to. What Glui does need to offer is a functional yet efficient workflow and, on this front, it delivers. In use, I never feel like the app is getting in my way.
The activation shortcuts are bound to Shift+Cmd+5 and Shift+Cmd+6 by default to match OS X’s native screenshot shortcuts. These actions select either a rectangular screen region or one window, respectively. With the region mode, the screen cursor changes to a crosshair (which shows x,y pixel coordinates) and the region is chosen by dragging your mouse to create a rectangle. With the window mode, the cursor changes to a camera icon and you simply click on the window you wish to capture.
Although the process is very similar to how OS X’s built-in screenshot features work, it is not identical. For instance, in Glui, window screen grabs do not include the accompanying drop shadow as they do in OS X’s implementation.
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However, the value in this app now starts to appear. Instead of getting sidelined to the clipboard or desktop, Glui opens the image — instantly — in an editing window, with a toolbox of controls presented along the bottom of the view. On the left side, annotation tools are exposed. This makes adding arrows, boxes, and text annotations straightforward and fast.
In addition, areas of the image can be deleted by cropping or obfuscated with the pixellation tool. This came in handy when I was writing up this news post for 9to5Mac – hiding the developer email address was a cinch. The app keeps a full undo history, too, meaning all actions are non-destructive and reversible.
It is obvious that the developer’s intention is to keep this screen stripped down to bare essentials. Naturally, there are some drawbacks to this approach. Glui does not have an ellipse or oval tool, which means you have to resort to awkward (and uneven) freeform drawing with the pen tool or stick to plain boxy rectangles.
Another limitation is that, on some occasions, I wished I had a larger color wheel at my disposal. The app’s choice of fill colours is limited to six presets which, albeit being well-chosen, do not accommodate all scenarios seamlessly. That being said, all objects have bold white strokes that ensure annotations contrast against their background.
The right hand side of the toolbar is dedicated to sharing. The blue Dropbox “Upload” button is the focal point of the interface, but in my experience I found this is the feature I use the least. This is because my use case for Glui is for creating disposable images, a “fire and forget” scenario.
I rarely find myself wanting to archive the output. Instead, I use the action menu to share the resultant image directly via email, Messages, Twitter, or similar services. Glui uses the native sharing sheets for Twitter and Facebook, meaning no additional authentication is required, which is great.
There are also options for copying the image to the clipboard or enabling ‘dragging’, so that the image can be dropped into another application. For an app that openly prides itself as being clutter-free, both of these menu items stand out as being superfluous. In every other program, a copy action is exposed through a right-click context menu. For some unknown reason, Glui elects to ignore ingrained human habits and does not have a context menu. In fact, right-clicking in Glui has no effect at all. In the case of dragging, having a menu item is awkward and inelegant. Dragging is supposed to be quick — needing a menu item inherently makes a fast action slow. As a default alternative, Glui lets you hold the Option key to activate the dragging mode. It is a much better way of going about it.
Glui slots into an established workflow with ease, because the overhead of incorporating it is so small. Even if you don’t use the annotation features, Glui speeds up the process of tweeting a screenshot significantly over the basic screenshot feature built into OS X.
Before Glui, the mere thought of needing to open up Photoshop to obscure some sensitive information in an image would disincentivise me from snapping a website or app. Glui changes that paradigm. I feel compelled to add extra context to my tweets, via attached screenshots, because doing so no longer feels like a monotonous chore.
The convenience of the little utility has resulted in me taking more screenshots in a month than I ever used to take in a year. Glui is $6.99 on the Mac App Store.