Print Screen

In the old days, it was often easier, and indeed made sense, to just print the screen. I once set up a system that ate data off of some rather esoteric machines, store it, analyze it, and make a screen of data and a screen with a graph on it. PrtScr. PrtScr. Tape the data and graphs into a note book. Those were the days.

Everyone knows that on Windows, Print Screen no longer prints a screen, but it does capture the screen. But not in any way that easily works or can be used without unnecessary screwing around. In Linux, on the other hand, Print Screen captures the screen and allows you to save the screen as a png file, or, if you hit Alt-Print Screen, you get the focal window. That’s all good.

But check this out: Linux is so much better than Windows on this useful functionality that many of us (and I’m totally guilty of this myself) forgot to wish for more. Like the ability to send the image to a particular piece of software, or to have a wider range of options for file types.

It turns out that there is a piece of software that does this. It is called Shutter. Here is the site for the app, and here is a review.

Linux only: Free screenshot manager Shutter provides a really handy upgrade from the built-in GNOME screen grabber, sending your images to editors, auto-thumbnailing, sending to FTP or hosting sites, and doing much more.



  1. #1 ooofest
    March 7, 2009

    There are actually many Windows-based Print Screen and independent “screen capture” utilities out there – some freeware, many shareware.

    Or, you could hit “Print Screen”, open Windows Paint, “Paste” . . . then decide what you want to do with it (i.e., crop, rotate, save, copy, etc.).

    Takes me about than 20 seconds to go from “Print Screen” to a saved .jpg that’s been cropped to my needs.

    Good for Linux, though.

  2. #2 Richard Weed
    March 8, 2009

    but, regardless, Greggggg still drinks his own pee. I think it has something to do with aspiring to be a memorization degree-ist. It;s not like he wanted to be a productive member of society at any point. Just let him go with it. He thinks he is an “intellectuall” as a biologist. \
    ” I ‘teach’ and I “BLOG”” hahahhahaahahhahhahahhahahahhahahahhahhhahahhahahahahahhahahahhahahhahahahahahahahhahahahahhahahahhahahahhahhhahahahahhahahahhahahhahahahahhahahahhahahahhahahhhahahahhahahhahahhahahhahahhahhhahahahahhaha

  3. #3 Turd Ferguson
    March 8, 2009

    I agree with with Richard Weed.

  4. #4 ISIS Pee Pee
    March 8, 2009

    Why would someone drink their own PEE? dunno……………….RAR RAROWL

  5. #5 Larry Ayers
    March 8, 2009

    Looks like you have attracted some foolish and unsavory characters to your site! Just ignore them — such commenters tend to have short attention spans.

    I usually use the Gimp’s screen capture facility. Years ago I used xv, but I felt guilty about not paying for it and development seems to ceased.

  6. #6 Dan J
    March 8, 2009

    Because of the web development work that I do, getting a screen capture for a variety of browsers is essential. I’m frequently sending annotated captures to coworkers to illustrate presentation issues.

    On a distantly related note, the Bamboo graphics tablet from Wacom is great for writing notes on the screen captures.

  7. #7 Stacy
    March 8, 2009

    Here’s the problem I have with Linux, Greg … I don’t have a computer that uses it!!

    I have 4 windows systems that all talk to each other (I had an apple – but when it died, I found out that it cost just as much to repair it as it was to buy a brand new windows system).

    Can Linux and Windows interact with each other?? And their programs? (word)?

    Also, I’m guessing you own stock in Linux?? 😉

  8. #8 Wayne Conrad
    March 8, 2009

    Stacy, The answer is yes, but not always seamlessly. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s a bit like everybody talking pidgin English at the international marketplace and you go home with chicken when you thought you were getting a beef steak. For file sharing, there’s Samba, which lets Linux interact with Windows SMB file systems. Works splendidly. For Word, there are fewer options that are good. Open Office will attempt to eat Word documents, but I don’t count on it–the results can be pretty odd. At my work, we’ve purchased a payware product that lets us run MS Office under Linux. It works well.

  9. #9 Tang
    March 8, 2009

    Linux print screen is dependent upon distro and window manager. It wasn’t that long ago that print screen on Linux meant first downloading and compiling scrot and its depedencies, opening a terminal window, typing out “scrot” and a target filename, running whatever you want to capture a screenshot of, moving the terminal window away from whatever you wanted to capture so they didn’t overlap, mousing over the terminal window to foreground it, and pressing enter at the right time. There theoretically was a way to reconfigure X to bind the print screen key to a screen capture program like scrot, but I never found the documentation for it.

    It is not surprising that Ubuntu does it better, but in my experience it takes enough time to launch the screen capture app that the screenshot is delayed a bit from the time you pressed the print screen key. Then it takes another few seconds for the app window to show up. It could be better.

    Windows is ironically more unixy than Ubuntu in that it does what it does without a prompt and you are expected to know how it works. The focus in Windows is not saving to a file but copying between applications. In the 1990s Microsoft was pushing things like COM, OLE, and other technologies with the basic idea of having all sorts of different data types in the same application linked together. You would not have an image file, you would have a file with an image in it along with some text and maybe a spreadsheet. In this context, taking a screenshot is no different to Windows than copying text.

    Now if you want to talk about print screen being user unfriendly, let’s discuss the Mac…

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    March 8, 2009

    Wayne and Stacy: I’ve had utterly different experiences. Which reminds me to say that a given person’s experiences is not data. Even mine. (But especially Wayne’s!!!! …)

    I use OpenOffice docs. For all compouters, windows or otherwise, if you open a word processor document and you do not have the font on your computer, then yo will get slightly different results. Most windows computers have each other’s fonts. If you want the same exact recults the average windows users have, you want to install the true type fonts on the linux computer (which is quite a bit easier than installing fonts on a windows computer). Other than this small difference, which is not a Linux thing but a computer and document thing, there is no problem.

    I supervise over 30 people doing research projects in which they send me proposals, final write ups, and other documents. 28 of them use Word. I work with dozens of other colleagues. More than half of them use word. We exchange word processor documents all the time. I open the Word documents in writer, or generate documents in writer, etc. etc .(including using track changes) and we don’t have problems

    What is strange is that I’ve exchanged documents with a colleague who uses rtf format on a Mac, and our documents get somewhat messed up. This may be a font issue or a Mac issue.

    As far as interacting, I used to run a network with six windows computers and it was a nightmare, things always had to be fixed. Later, I ran a network with three Linux computers and it was very hard to figure out what to do at first but once the lightbulb went on, it was very very easy. Now I have thre Linux computers and two Windows computers on a network and although the windows computers screw up all the time, it mostly works.

    Networking is never easy to a person who does not know how to do it.

    Tang: No way, man! On a Mac, “it just works” Right?

  11. #11 Wayne Conrad
    March 8, 2009

    “Which reminds me to say that a given person’s experiences is not data.”

    Well said. Thanks for the detail. Now that I know there is at least one dimension where it using OO on an Office document works, I’ll push OO harder next time before I give up and use the “run Windows in Linux” thing (which, although it works well, is exceedingly slow (and worse, discordant).

  12. #12 Greg Laden
    March 8, 2009

    I had amazingly good luck about 3 years ago when I first tried to use WINE to run an older version of MS Office. The really fun thing was when Crossover (which I used to implement this … worked well) simulated the reboot process in windows. That was so cute!!!!

    But I was just playing. I don’t do that now.

  13. #13 Dan J
    March 9, 2009

    I use WINE for a few programs that I don’t have good (for myself) alternatives for in Linux. It’s hit-or-miss for a lot of Windows programs using this method, but WINE is constantly improving.

    Windows and Linux can coexist in a reasonably happy manner on the same network, and file sharing between them can work quite well, with the users often not knowing which type of system they are sharing with. OpenOffice is a very inexpensive alternative to Microsoft Office. With today’s economic climate, that sort of thing can make a big difference when you’re setting up several PCs in an office.

    My own home network is all Linux (except for the Playstation 3). My wife and I share a network connection through the third PC which acts primarily as a router/firewall We use SSH connections to exchange files when needed. Streaming media to the PS3 using Mediatomb is fairly simple too.

  14. #14 Benjamin Geiger
    March 9, 2009

    I don’t know what’s so user-unfriendly about print-screen on the Mac, except possibly the odd keystroke combination. Command-# captures the screen, Command-$ captures a region or a window (space toggles). And it saves the resulting screenshot to your desktop, as a PNG file (recent versions) or PDF (older ones).

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    March 9, 2009

    Dan… crap. Why is my Wii not on my home network!!?! Can I do that?

  16. #16 Vadim P.
    March 12, 2009

    Shutter is just made for people who frequently work with screenshots.

    It can capture a selected screen area (even allows you to be pixel-perfect via it’s magnification window), capture a specified window, a part of a window, fullscreen, or a site. Or even a cube side if you use that.

    Then it’s built-in tool allows you to highlight, censor, add some stock images (lightbulb and etc), add text, while still keeping everything you add movable and resizable (if you’re a gimp/ps user, think that every object is a layer, or a vector graphic).

    It has some built-in effects too like adding a soft border, making the picture look like a polariod one and etc. along with being able to upload to popular image hosts like imageshack, imagebanana right on it (it also supports uploading to your own server).

    So I hope that convinces some of the merits of having a screenshot app and not just PrtSc 😉