SnagIt is a terrific tool if you want to describe to someone else a procedure, especially a software procedure using a computer monitor. SnagIt (from Techsmith) is made specifically for capturing part (0r all) of a computer screen image, editing the image with call-outs, pointers, labels, arrows and so forth, and then outputting your graphic in any number of formats and output destinations. One of the features of SnagIt I like best are its stamps. Stamps are the electronic equivalent of those old-fashioned rubber stamps, or, fast forward in time, sticky transparent tape highlighters that people put on contracts and forms and what not that say things like “Sign Here” or “Initial.” SnagIt comes along with a set of useful basic stamps, and you can download more, which are variations on the themes of those included, but once you start working with stamps you start thinking ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if I had a stamp that would…’.
Well, it is possible, and not only possible, but easy, to make your own custom stamps. This article from the TechSmith Visual Lounge blog describes the simple steps, and makes reference to a site that has a tutorial on how to make custom stamps with Photoshop. But once you say “Photoshop” to the average professor, not to mention the casual user, you get a ‘Whoa. Wait a minute. That’s way more than I bargained for,” reaction; especially if they actually see the Photoshop interface. Learning Photoshop, even learning how to do simple things in Photoshop, can be daunting for beginners. So, does that mean the average user cannot make their own custom SnagIt stamps? No, there’s a much easier way: use PowerPoint SmartArt to create the graphics, export the graphics as transparent PNG images (the default), and import them into SnagIt. Sound difficult? Hardly. Here are the details.
First fire up PowerPoint, create a blank presentation (by default PowerPoint uses the Office theme, which is fine, since it provides a white background on all slides) and either create a new, blank slide, or change the layout of the title slide to the Blank layout.
(Hint: I made the “First” stamp used in the illustration above using the technique I am describing here).
Next, go to the Insert Tab and insert a piece of SmartArt. For this illustration I chose the Basic Chevron Process, but you will appreciate the potential of much of the SmartArt.
Type labels on the SmartArt shapes, and add as many additional shapes as you will need by typing in the pull-out text panel.
Now, add coloring and shape effects using the SmartArt tools tab. I went with the Office theme colors and effects, but there are millions of color and effect combinations available to you if you are so inclined. Keep it simple and stick with the color and effects associated with the themes you ordinarily use in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
And I added a 3D effect from the SmartArt Styles gallery.
Colors and effects are completely optional, but PowerPoint makes it easy to create very cool looking graphics with just a couple of clicks. Be sure to make the graphics as large as you will need. Resizing them down in SnagIt will not be a problem because they will act like vector graphics. Resizing them up will only be a problem if you type a label on them. If so, and you re-size them too much, the typed label may pixelate. Therefore, it is better to make them about as large as you need and assume downsizing in practice.
Now, here comes the key to the whole thing: Convert your SmartArt to shapes. Select the piece of SmartArt (the whole thing, not individual components), right-click the selection, and choose “Convert to Shapes.”
PowerPoint will convert your SmartArt to a set of grouped shapes. In the example I am using in this post I needed both left pointing and right pointing arrows with labels on them. Often this will not be the case, so you can skip this part of the exercise if you wish. Since I wanted mirror images of my pointing arrows, after converting to shapes, but before ungrouping my shapes, I selected the group, clicked on the Drawing Tools tab (which is now available since we are now working with drawn objects and not SmartArt), and selected Rotate > Flip Horizontal. The shapes flip, but not their labels!
Now I have a slide with right-pointing labelled arrows, and left-pointing, labelled arrows. The next step is to ungroup the drawn objects. Select the group (be careful not to select individual items within the group), right-click the selection, and choose Ungroup. If you have duplicated the drawn objects and flipped that group horizontally (as I did in this exercise) then ungroup that group too.
Instead of a single group of drawn objects you now have individual graphics. Now (and here is the tedious part if you have a lot of them) you have to right-click each graphic, give it a memorable name, and save it all to the same folder where ALL the graphics will be saved. I’ve placed this last comment in bold because saving them all in the same place will make things very easy once we get to the SnagIt part of this procedure.
In my exercise this amounted to 10 individual save operations, one for each stamp. The really good news is that PowerPoint saves graphics by default as transparent PNG files, the same format that SnagIt uses for its stamps. The white (or whatever color) background will disappear around the drawn object, and the object itself will appear to float over whatever graphic it is stamped on.
OK. That’s it for the PowerPoint part of the exercise. Now for the process of getting the stamps into SnagIt. I’m using SnagIt version 11, so your mileage may vary slightly, but probably not much at all.
Start the SnagIt editor, click on the Draw tab, click the Stamp tool in the Drawing Tools area.
Now click the drop-down at the right end of the Styles gallery (at the bottom of the scroll bar) and select “Organize stamps…”
In the Organize Stamps dialog box click the Add a category button to add a folder to hold your new stamps, then select that folder from the list of folders in the Categories pane and click the Add stamps button.
Navigate to the folder where you saved the graphics from PowerPoint and select them all (you can click on the first, hold down shift, and click on the last, or press Ctrl-A to select them all. Now you see the wisdom of placing them all in the same folder.
That’s it Click the Close button on the Organize Stamps dialog box and your new stamps are a Part of SnagIt, ready for use whenever you need them.
If you decide to get rid of them later you can delete the Category folder and all the stamps in it will be deleted.
We are licensed for SnagIt and Camtasia now on our District computers, and this little tutorial will help you make SnagIt your own.