Notifications? Really?

Apr 22, 2020 | Technical & How-To

I finally started using Microsoft’s Snip & Sketch utility – the coming replacement for the old Snipping Tool in Windows. You can open it from the Start menu or Windows Logo Key + Shift +S. If you don’t have it already, download it from the Microsoft Store. It’s free, and it’s convenient. I was resistant, but this little app slowly converted me into a fan, at least while I was on my work PC.

At home, I had other tools: Paintshop Pro, for one. It was easier just to prt sc,  paste the whole thing into Paintshop Pro, add annotations, and crop out the bits I didn’t want, than to use the Snipping Tool to snip the bits I did want and then edit in the annotations.

I’d only recently started using the little known, built-in Snipping Tool, when Microsoft shoved Snip & Sketch in my face and said, basically, “Wanna try it now? We’re going to force you to switch, pretty soon! Get a preview, now, before we do that!” They still haven’t forced anyone to switch, as of this writing, and it’s been years. At least three of them. Two, since the utility last had an update. @Microsoft, if you’re reading this, we don’t all have a touchscreen and stylus – please make it easier to add text to the snip.

Why Does It Work Differently on Different Laptops?

I liked the way Snip & Sketch worked on my work PC. I hated the way it worked on my home PC. The shortcut key to open the utility was the same on both: Windows Logo Key + Shift + S. But at work, this opened a new window for Snip & Sketch to add annotations and highlight things. At home, all this did was let me snip – and whatever bit I snipped was available only on the clipboard until I used Ctrl + C or made another “snip”! The only way to capture a snippet of the screen and edit it in Snip & Sketch (this is really its main advantage over the old Snipping Tool) was to run the app, click one of the capture buttons at the upper left, capture part or all of the screen, make my edits, and save. That didn’t save me any time over other tools.

I diligently checked all the app settings. Both were the same:

The app versions were identical, as well. But just to be sure, I updated both. I even uninstalled and reinstalled a fresh copy of the app on both PCs. The behavior was unchanged: at work, the app behaved as expected; at home, not so much. I left feedback about this on the Microsoft site, but it’s hard to describe, there, what’s going on – and when Feedback says, “Hey give us a screen recording of this thing happening to you,” it miraculously appeared to work the same way on my home PC as it does on my work PC! But this only happened during screen recording – the minute I finished and closed the feedback box, thinking there was really no point leaving feedback if the app had somehow fixed itself, it went back to not working on my home PC.

I had a mystery on my hands, but no time to investigate. There was so much more interesting work to be done.

Mystery Solved, But WHY, Microsoft?

Thanks to recent retirement and the pandemic lock-down clipping my wings, I have time on my hands. I finally went on a quest to solve this mystery. Someone else’s instructions on using the app gave me a clue: They mentioned snips showing up in the Notifications and Activity pane in Windows. I rarely use or think about that pane, and I’d turned off notifications altogether, on my home PC. Could that somehow be related? Surely not…

But apparently, the behavior I wanted (which was for Snip & Sketch to work on my home PC to exactly as it does on my work PC) is tied to allowing Notifications in Windows. This is as brilliant, @Microsoft, just like only allowing Feedback from users who also allow you to run Cortana and capture all their speech and writing so you can “give them a better user experience.” That’s another nit to pick, another day – but I am tired of Cortana reactivating on my PC and randomly “listening” to my conversations. I do not want it sending my novel drafts and emails to the Mothership. And no, I did not say anything that sounds remotely like “Hey, Cortana,” so don’t even.The closest you get to that excuse is me, occasionally swearing at “Coronavirus,” and I’m starting to wonder if Cortana thinks that’s her real name.

So, to recap, Snip & Sketch works so much better if you enable Notifications in Windows. Why the app’s behavior is tied, in this way, to Notifications, I cannot begin to guess. I’d say it’s a bug. Certainly an opportunity exists, here, to “improve the user experience.” Are you listening, Coronavirus? Please pass it on to the brilliant folks at @Microsoft.

To enable Notifications:

  1. Go to Settings > System > Notifications & Actions.
  2. Turn Notifications ON, as shown below.Now, each time you create a snip by using Windows Logo Key + Shift + S, your new snip will appear as a toast notification and you can access it by clicking the notification as it pops up, or through the notifications bar.

Sure, there are other screen capture utilities out there, and some work much better, but this one’s free. It’s also great for showing people, visually and quickly, what you’re trying to explain how to do for umpteenth time on Facebook, without going to a lot of trouble to create professional-looking illustrations for a manual.

Enjoy!

 

 

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.

10 Comments

  1. Amy

    I am going to check this out. My desktop just died and a replacement is delayed until late May.
    I am going to love it when it arrives, all the quirks of apps, phones and ipads will not be missed!
    I do love them for certain things, but some things are easier on the desktop.. and more powerful!
    The good and bad in everything. Computers and Tech definitely keep teaching me to practice patience and acceptance!

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      When I say “app” in this case, I am talking about a Windows 10 desktop app from the Windows Store. (I know, I love full blown application software – the grown-up kind that doesn’t call itself “app” like it’s some hip little trendsetter – myself. Especially if it’s well-coded, works, gets regular security and maintenance updates… where have all the real programmers gone, anyway?)

      Reply
      • Amy

        Well coded and developed software is a dream to use.

        I actually miss the applications that were installed via a CD days… not so much the pile of floppy disk days though!

        I believe I may looking at the past with my rose tinted glasses on!

        Reply
        • Holly Jahangiri

          Yeah, well it wasn’t PERFECT, but it also wasn’t RUSHED to market and we weren’t all treated like beta testers happy to pay through the nose for the privilege of being “early adopters,” either.

          Reply
          • Amy

            Yes exactly! Well said.
            Thanks for making me not feel alone on missing the good ole days.

            The race needs to slow down and quality return.

            Imagine if more collaboration vs competition from those in similar markets. The software would be amazing… maybe?!

  2. Mitchell Allen

    Hi Holly! Sounds like you have investigating. I used to use the Snipping tool until I discovered Greenshot. In general, being able to grab stuff off the screen with any tool is so much fun. I know that, whatever tool you settle upon, you’ll get really creative.

    Cheers,

    Mitch
    Mitchell Allen recently posted…The Last SupperMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      Doesn’t have to be either-or. The Snip & Sketch is convenient, when it works the way I’d come to expect it to! For more complex graphics work, there’s Paintshop Pro, with most of the features and a fraction of the cost of Photoshop. (Remember JASC?)

      Reply
  3. Mitchell Allen

    I remember the existence of JASC, but I was lucky to have scored a copy of Photoshop from when I was at work. I never was really good with it, though I learned to appreciate the concept of layers. (That was instrumental in the design of my old, old board game design software.)

    It’s true that we don’t have to stick with one tool. You know me, I have a toy box full of goodies. Do you miss the “Lambo”? LOL

    Cheers,

    Mitch

    Reply
  4. Nick

    Check your email to confirm your subscription.

    This is deep. Turning on notifications is doing a lot more than I thought. Not sure how things connect here but something worth I read today. Thanks for finding it out

    Nick recently posted…“Type Here to Search” Windows Search BoxMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I was shocked. And I keep forgetting this, every time notifications annoy me. I keep turning them off. And then having this, “Oh. Right. Crap,” moment.

      Reply

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