Screenshot Capture with Shutter

Often overlooked, there are a couple of things that Vista got right. Well, okay, one thing then. No, not UAC, I’m talking about the Vista snipping tool. Since I use Vista as work, I know the O/S pretty well and if I had to point out one feature that’s missing from a default Ubuntu build, it’s a decent screenshot capture utility. Of particular note is the snipping tool’s ability to capture regions by dragging, rather than simply the traditional areas of “window” or “full desktop”.

However, I came across a tool last month that not only offers similar functionality to the snipping tool, but in fact far surpasses it! It’s called “Shutter” and it’s like the poster-child for the virtues of a name change. “Gimp”, take note. I doubt many corporations or individuals would extol the delights of “GScrot”, Shutter’s old name, and the same goes for Mr Gimp.

The Shutter website is simply laid out with FAQ entires for use and, of course, plenty of screenshots. So how does it work?

Simply start up the Shutter tool and click on one of the four options : rectangular section, full desktop, window, or section of window. Having taken your screenshot, you’ll get a preview thumbnail, it’ll be copied to you clipboard and it’s automatically saved to the location of your choice using the naming convention of your choice. At this point, either close down Shutter and use the screenshot as you see fit, or leave it open for further modificaitons.

What modifications? Shutter supports a plug-in system and comes ready with about 20 transformations available.

There’s plenty of scope here for customisation. For example, the 3D plug in allows rotation on any access, at any angle. And the Polaroid plug-in allows the creation of text subtitles as well as specifying the angle of the resultant picture.

Effects can also be combined over and over. Perhaps you’d like to sepia your screenshot, blur it, then angle it with the 3D plugin. Or as in the screenshot below, you can try adding a reflection before applying the 3D effect :

Shutter also supports uploads of your screenshots to various services.  Supported services include ubuntu-pics.de (the main author is German), imageshack.us and imagebanana.com.  You can also specifiy any FTP site and credentials for custom uploads.

Version 0.80.1 is in the Ubuntu Karmic (9.10) repositories, but there’s
a deb file or a PPA on the website if you prefer to stay as up to date
as possible.  One feature in the latest version that makes it worth
grabbing is that you can now specify screenshot delays from the app’s
status bar, instead of going into the preferences dialogue.  This is handy if you need to capture menus as part of your screenshot.  The latest version also adds a feature to help you take screenshots featuring tooltips.

One feature I like about the Vista snipping tool is its immediacy.  When you click on the snipping tool, the screen immediately darkens, encouraging you specify what you want to capture.  I originally thought that this was missing from Shutter, but never fear.  Just change your Shutter shortcut to include “–selection” and you’ll get the same behaviour as the snipping tool, but keep all of Shutter’s extra features once you’ve taken the screenshot.  Best of both worlds!

Finally, you can also edit/annotate your screenshot using Shutter’s built-in image editing tool.  The latest (0.85) version of Shutter even lets you drop jpg images straight in so that you can use Shutter’s various features from that point on, without needing to take a screenshot in the first place.

Alternatives

Not much.  Compiz has a screen capture facility which is very similar to the snipping tool.  Having enabled the plug-in in compiz settings, just hold down CTRL-ALT and drag your mouse over the area you want to capture – hey presto.  However, it suffers from a bug when using Intel video cards (https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/xserver-xorg-video-intel/+bug/…) which renders it useless.

Of course, you can also use printscr, built into Gnome, to capture the whole desktop, or hold down ALT while doing so to capture the active window, but that won’t help if you need to capture menus, or parts of a window/desktop.  Well, actually, that’s not quite true – if you really need a quick-fix menu grab using the built-in tools, just hit ALT-F2 to bring up your run dialogue, then entergnome-panel-screenshot --delay 3 to give yourself 3 seconds to set up the shot.  But really, with software like Shutter available why bother with the built in Gnome tool?  Shutter even offers an option to replace the built-in tool with itself – just tick the option in Shutter’s preferences.

If KDE is your thing, you could try ksnapshot, but although I’ve just started playing around with Kubuntu 10.04 on my test machine, I’m still not familliar enough with KDE apps to comment on that.

Finally, while its being removed from the default install in Ubuntu 10.04, current versions of Ubuntu should all have Gimp installed, which also offers a powerful screenshot tool.  Like the rest of that program though, I find it too complicated for my needs.  Your mileage may vary, and if you use Gimp regularly, this is probably your best bet.

Conlusion

A phenomenally well thought out tool and brilliantly executed.