Microsoft released a free app for capturing, annotating, and explaining screenshots. But the real breakthrough is how the Snip app was developed. Mark Kaelin explains. By Mark Kaelin | September 2, 2015, 8:14 AM PST Image: Mark Kaelin If I were to tell you that a well-known technology company had just released a preview (beta) version of a new, previously unannounced, free application, you might think I was talking about Google. But, in this case, you'd be wrong. In late August 2015, Microsoft released a free screen capture and annotation application called Snip (Figure A). But the twist in the story is the fact that Snip is not part of some master strategic plan. Figure A Image: Mark Kaelin Snip is a free screen capture and annotation application. Snip While the name is a bit confusing, Snip is not the same thing as the improved Snipping Tool that comes free with Windows 10. The Snipping Tool will capture screenshots, but it does not have any annotation features. Snip, on the other hand, is a free tool developed through a Microsoft Garage project that allows users to capture screenshots and then annotate them (Figure B). With the Snip app, users can draw on their captured screenshots using a software pen, which is available in various colors and sizes. Figure B Image: Mark Kaelin Users can use Snip to draw on their captured screenshots. Snip can also record the annotation, and your vocal description of it, to create a short video that users can share as a URL or as an MP4 video (Figure C). These features make Snip very useful for creating and sharing short instructional videos. Figure C You can use Snip to create short videos. Obviously, Snip is not breaking any new ground here. There are numerous third-party applications available that do much the same thing. For example, I've used Screencast and SnagIt from TechSmith to perform many of my annotation tasks in the past. Of course, Snip is free and Screencast and SnagIt are not, so this changes my thinking considerably. Cultural shift The important thing to note about Snip is the way it was developed and released. Under the Garage program, Microsoft employees are encouraged to work on projects outside of their official duties. The idea is to create an environment where employees can experiment, innovate, and exercise their creativity. Releasing an app like Snip in beta form to the general public indicates a shift in attitude when it comes to app development at Microsoft. Snip has been released without worrying about whether it will generate a revenue stream or ever make a profit. As far as I can tell, there are no expectations regarding Snip and how it fits into the overall corporate strategy. Snip is just a nice little program that Microsoft thinks people will find useful, and they'd appreciate some feedback on how to make it even better. No promises, no expectations, no quid pro quo. Microsoft is trying hard not to be the stodgy old software company anymore. Snip also fits in well with Microsoft's major theme for Office 365, which postulates that a modern productive workforce needs better collaboration tools. When you consider recent app releases like Edge, Sway, and now Snip, you can begin to see where Microsoft is heading. If you need to communicate an idea in a simple but effective way, Microsoft is saying it has the tool you seek. It would not surprise me to see Snip become an integrated part of Office 365 in the near future.