How to use iOS 11’s powerful new screenshot markup tool

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screenshot markup
Screenshots have moved from a semi-secret, mostly-hidden feature to a proper tool.
Photo: Cult of Mac

iOS 11 has added some great new features to the humble screenshot tool. You can quickly view a new screenshot without a trip to the Photos app first, and you can edit and mark it up before saving it. By adding some powerful pro-level features to screenshot markup, Apple has –somewhat ironically — made them way more useful and accessible for everyone.

Taking a screenshot in iOS 11

Screenshots have always been possible on the iPhone and Pad, but they’ve always felt like the kind of secret feature that was added for internal use by Apple engineers, and left there for the rest of us to discover. Activated by pressing the home and the sleep/wake buttons together, the only way to know you’d grabbed a shot was the camera-shutter sound effect, and a white flash on the screen.

screenshot markup iOS 11 gif

Somewhere along the line, keyboard support was added, so that you could snap a shot by pressing ⇧⌘3 on a hardware keyboard, the same shortcut as on the Mac. Even later, markup features were added to the Photos app, but to use them you had to drill down into the edit settings of each photo to find them first.

Screenshot markup

In iOS 11, screenshots get a huge update. You still snap them in the exact same way (the two-button trigger, or the ⇧⌘3 keyboard shortcut), but now you also get proper visual feedback. Take a screenshot and a large thumbnail slides onto the bottom left corner of the screen. If you ignore it, nothing new happens. The shot is saved to the Screenshots album in your photo library, and the thumbnail slides off screen after a few seconds.

However, if you tap the screenshot, you see this:

screenshot markup
Screenshots are now a full, pro-level feature in iOS 11.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Screenshots now get to use the standard iOS 11 Markup tools, the ones which are available everywhere, from marking up PDFs to sketching in the Notes app. You can use your finger or an Apple Pencil to draw with a highlighter, a marker or a pencil, erase your drawings, copy and delete sections, and to add signatures, text, magnified sections, and shapes (arrows, boxes, speech bubbles, and so on). You can also crop the image to the part you’re interested in, all right there, without going near the convoluted Photos app.

Tap done, and you’re prompted to either delete the screenshot, or to save it to Photos. Do either and the view slips from the screen.

Keyboard shortcuts

The ⇧⌘3 shortcut still snaps a screenshot, but in iOS 11, there’s another shortcut: ⇧⌘4. On the Mac, ⇧⌘4 brings up a crosshairs which lets you select a section of the screen to capture. On iOS 11, taking a screenshot with the ⇧⌘4 combo opens it straight into the markup editor. You bypass the stage where you have to tap the thumbnail in the bottom corner of the screen. This is a very nice refinement, saving time if you do a lot of screenshot work like I do.

iOS 11 is a nice mixture of huge headline changes like drag-and-drop, Files, and the Dock, and subtle but significant tweaks, like screenshots. The iPad is finally starting to mature as a computer platform. Up until now, it has been possible to replace a Mac with an iPad, but not always comfortable. Now, the iPad is like a new pair of slippers: Not as familiar as the old pair you’ve used to wear grooves in the carpet, but almost as comfortable, and just as capable. I may have stretched the slippers metaphor a bit too much there.