I am really excited about the newest release of Skitch for Mac, but troubled by some of the negative reaction from some of our oldest and most loyal users. After thinking about this for the past few weeks, I’ve come to the realization that we’ve underestimated how deeply ingrained Skitch had become in many people’s daily workflows and how disruptive changes to the product could be. I’d like you to know that we’re going to fix it.
In the meantime, if you prefer to use the version prior to Skitch 2.0 for Mac, you can download it here and use it until the new version fits into your workflow. Of course, you’ll be missing out on the new features in 2.0, but we’ll be working hard to make 2.0 the more appealing choice for you in the long-term.
As one of the founders of Skitch, I want to say that Skitch is something very personal to me. I realize that we’ve been so heads down for the last 16 months building that we’ve not taken the time to say hello and share our perspective on what’s happening in our world. And Skitch is all about sharing perspective.
So let me begin with a little history, and then share our roadmap for Skitch, below.
Skitch is Born
In 2004, Skitch started as an idea which grew into the barest of working prototypes — nothing more than a red rectangle on the screen. But we loved it. It was used by us and close friends for four years with features layered on over time. Skitch went ‘public beta’ in 2008. The public beta lasted for another 3 years, where it continued to accumulate features, polish, and a group of passionate users who loved its idiosyncratic UI. There’s probably a dusty award sitting unclaimed in some post office for ‘longest public beta ever.’ In fact, Skitch was only officially 1.0 for a short period before we started talking to Evernote.
Scholarly types might call it a ‘deictic gesture,’ but the rest of us just call it “pointing and talking”. I read somewhere once that this ability to direct attention to, and make some comment on *that* thing is a skill that upgrades a small group of humans from a saber-tooth’s smorgasbord to smart and effective hunters/gatherers/creators/builders. The penny dropped when Phil Libin and the brilliant people at Evernote framed Skitch in this way — as the ‘point and grunt’ tool for our modern, digital, life. They and we, realised that together we could help millions of people become smarter and more effective through a shared perspective. That’s why Skitch joined Evernote.
Skitch was acquired by Evernote in late 2011. At the point of acquisition we had one part-time developer. Fourteen months later, you can find me sitting alongside more than 25 of the smartest and most hard-working people I know, all working directly on Skitch.
In those last 16 months we’ve designed, built and released:
- Skitch on iOS, including an iPhone and iPad-specific UI
- Skitch for Android, with a phone and tablet UI, including a 2.0 version
- Skitch for Windows 8
- Skitch for Windows Desktop
- A completely re-written Skitch 2.0 for Mac
I’m really proud of what we’ve built. We’ve made a tool that’s now in the hands of more than ten million users. People love being able to use Skitch not just at their computer, but wherever they are. But we’re not finished, because there are some things we didn’t get right, some things we screwed up, and some things we simply didn’t get to yet.
Skitch 2.0 for Mac is the most visible example of this. It’s a tool loved and used daily by many, of course including me. So why did we re-write, and rethink Skitch for Mac when going from 1.0 to 2.0?
Re-thinking Skitch for Mac
Firstly, if you looked under the hood of Skitch 1.0 you would see that it was being held together by five years of duct-tape and good intentions. The entire app needed to be re-written for us to ever move forward; for example it’s easy to forget that Skitch 1.0 for Mac had no way to resize shapes, no way to re-direct arrows or even transfer your Skitch Library to a new machine if you upgraded. We had to start from scratch to build a modern Mac app.
Secondly, I wanted us to re-think what made Skitch for Mac great. How could we make Skitch simpler, more friendly to the average Mac user? In the time since we started making Skitch, many great apps have grown to fill in functional niches better than Skitch ever could. So we didn’t think we needed to include those things. How could we build the Skitch app of the future if the UI was already overloaded? So we re-thought much of how Skitch for Mac looked and worked. We didn’t get it all right, and we’re certainly not done.
Future Skitch for Mac Roadmap
Since Skitch 2.0 for Mac came out, here are the 1.x features that users have been most vocal about bringing back:
Menubar Extra support
The original Skitch 2.0 shipped without a separate menubar icon. We’ve had to change a bunch of things around to make the menubar helper play well with Mountain Lion and sandboxing, but I’m happy to say that it’s already back in the Skitch 2.02 version available now.
Multiple file formats from the Drag Me tab
Already back in 2.02.
Coming back to Skitch soon.
Auto creation of sharing URLs
Coming back in the next few weeks, as a user-selected preference (lots of people don’t want this to happen by default for privacy reasons).
While short URLs can be quite convenient, they come with a security risk. The chance of somebody stumbling across a random “private” file that’s been shared with a short URL are many orders of magnitude higher than with the long URLs we’re currently using. Many of our users understand this and still prefer the convenience of short URLs for not-super-sensitive Skitch documents. Short URLs are coming back soon — with appropriate notifications to alert users to that may be unaware of the risks.
Direct Hosting of Skitch Images (Deep Linking)
Image hosting is a very different business than Evernote’s. Most image hosting companies try to monetize their users through a combination of ads, behavior tracking, lead generation, data mining or other “indirect” methods. Evernote doesn’t do any of these things. We don’t make money from your data and assume that everything you put in is private and completely under your control. That’s why we got rid of direct image hosting on Skitch.com. We’ll be putting it back, with some constraints to make sure that it doesn’t get abused, in the next few weeks.
Storage, synchronization and sharing options
You can do three things with your documents in Skitch for Mac: (1) sync them to Evernote and make them accessible on every Evernote-enabled device, (2) save them locally to the filesystem so you can do anything you normally do with files, and (3) share them directly via email, Facebook, Twitter and other services. I think that covers the whole gamut. All three options are available now and will be getting easier to use in upcoming releases.
Multiple fonts and custom colors, streamlined cropping and resizing, automatic type tool selection
All coming back, with an interface that makes them far easier to figure out and use than in the 1.x versions.
The best Skitch is yet to come
Of course we’ll be doing a lot more than just putting improved 1.x features back into the new Skitch. We’re working on some really amazing stuff that should appeal to our most loyal users as well as bring in many millions of new fans. Imagine being able to Skitch on top of different document types, communicate complex ideas via email without typing a single line of text, and going on a manned mission to Mars. In the next few months, you’ll be able to do at least two of these things in Skitch!
All of this is possible only with the passion, energy and resources that Evernote has put behind Skitch. I am personally humbled to work alongside the Skitch team, whose members have worked late nights, cancelled vacations and poured their souls into something I’m fortunate to have been involved in. I’ve never known a collection of smarter, more caring creators of apps than those at Evernote. We’ve got lots of work to do, and I look forward to it.
Keith Lang, Chief Designer for Skitch