design for quality


Application equivalents: screencapture


I plan to make an ongoing series of posts regarding equivalent programs for designer/developers in OS X, Linux, and XP. Most of the comparisons will be between programs that provide a GUI (or Graphical User Interface).

So how about screenshots? I've recently updated the portfolio section of this site, and that act is fresh in my memory. I opted to use Linux for this, but have previously used XP for the task.


Pressing the Print Screen button (or Print Screen + ALT to only grab the current window) copies an image of the screen to the system clipboard. You then have to go to something like Paint, Photoshop or Word and paste the clipboard contents before you can do anything with the image. The lack of GUI is... well, just that, a lack.

Most folks I know who aren't power users, aren't aware of this functionality even being in XP, and I think a lightweight GUI interface would do wonders for getting the word out.

I haven't found a free GUI screenshot tool in XP that I like. There are pay-for tools out there, but this is something that seems like it should just be bundled with the OS, and with the availability of similar tools free on other systems, it makes me unlikely to shell out money for a Windows version.

Windows Vista includes a tool called the Snipping Tool, but I've not used it, and have no plans of moving to Vista anytime soon.

Linux (KDE)

At the press of the Print Screen button in the Linux KDE environment, KSnapshot takes a screenshot of the full desktop and opens it in the KSnapshot program's window. From there you can choose to adjust the capture mode (full screen, region, window under cursor or section of window) and then click the "new snapshot" button and create a new snapshot (derivative of your screen, not the screenshot taken when opening the program).

Turning KSnapshot on itself...

The capture modes are where the real power and convenience of KSnapshot reside. I especially like the region capture mode, as it allows me to click-and-drag select an adjustable region on the screen to capture. The section of window mode is also helpful, with its autodetection of parts of a window (applied to Firefox's window, it throws a red outline around the full window or the browser controls and page display or just the page display depending on what I mouse over and I click to pick the section I want to capture) and this is perfect for making a web page screenshot without the browser chrome.

A feature that would make this program super-cool and helpful would be the ability to crop screenshot natively in KSnapshot. At current, though, this can be easily accomplished by clicking the "copy to clipboard" button and pasting the image into a program such as the Gimp and working from there.

Gnome desktop users have the gnome-screenshot program in place of KSnapshot.


Out of the box in OS X offers the most to the user. Command + Shift + 3 will save an image of your full screen to the desktop. Command + Shift + 4 works similar to KSnapshot's select region and allows you to click and drag a screenshot region. Or with Command + Shift + 3, if before you drag a region you hit the spacebar, you can select a window of which to take a shot instead.

In the Applications/Utilities folder there's also a program called Grab which provides much of the functionality already mentioned, and other sometimes helpful features such as timed screenshots, etc.

There's even a program "screencapture" available on the OS X command line. Type "man screencapture" for more info.

So, it appears the only weak showing among the current OSes is XP, but Vista has corrected for that. That's good news for folks who stick to the Windows world, but for those of us who free-range, we have options. And I like that.

There's a wealth of more screenshot information and links on Wikipedia for those interested in learning more.


© 2008