Napkin: A Surprisingly Powerful Communication Tool

napkin-logoGoing through my news reader early this morning I came across this one sentence post by John Gruber at Daring Fireball. It referenced a Mac app called “Napkin” and Gruber said that it’s a “great update” so I thought I’d check it out.

Wow. How did I not know about this app? Napkin allows you to essentially create a mashup of media that you can annotate and quickly share.

Huh?” you may ask. What do you mean by “annotate and quickly share” Borsch?


An example of a screenshot annotated in Napkin and immediately exported to my desktop and imported in to this post. Time to create was about 1 minute.

My workflow consists of communicating with people every single day that are not in my office and some I’ve never even met personally. I have to communicate concepts to people at our clients, on my team, to subcontractors, and to friends and family. If I write up a bunch of text about a concept, often people just don’t get it. Creating a quick screencast is very time consuming so I only do that when my communication to one or more people absolutely requires it.

For my high value concept communications, let me tell you about the steps I went through before, and then after, I used Napkin.

My “pre-Napkin” workflow was this:

  1. Take a screenshot
  2. Open the screenshot in Photoshop
  3. Open Keynote (or one could drag-n-drop the screenshot in to Keynote, but I find it gave me less control and didn’t save any steps)
  4. Select various vector objects like an arrow to point at stuff on the screenshot and copy-n-paste it in to the image. Rinse and repeat for various callouts
  5. Save the image and use in email, on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

My “post-Napkin” workflow looks like this:

  1. Launch Napkin
  2. Use its tools to do everything above.

Yep. It saves three steps and jumping around to other programs. Now I can communicate faster and with richer content. While the program is $49.95, a rough ‘back of the napkin’ estimate on time saved for the 6-12 “concept communications” I perform daily is 30-60 minutes per day.

ronald-mcdonaldIf you’re not busy or don’t have money, don’t buy Napkin. But if your time is only worth a McDonalds-sized hourly wage of $10/hour—and you communicate as frequently as I do—your return on investment will be 1-2 weeks. Even if you only use Napkin 1-2 times per week, within a few months it will have paid for itself and, most importantly, will have made your entire process of communicating richer, higher value, and more fun too.

Posted in ,  

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

Posts by Category

Archives (2004 – Present)

Connecting the Dots Podcast

Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.