Open Source Musings The thoughts, ideas, and opinions of an open source guy

Enhancing your screen captures with Shutter

Tools for shining shoes

Generally, I like my software to do one thing and do it well. One of the exceptions to the is screen capture software. While I have nothing against a good basic screen capture tool, there are usually a few enhancement that I want to make to my snaps. And I don’t like to add the additional step of opening them in a separate image editor to make those enhancements.

Enter Shutter, a screen capture application that I discussed in a previous post. Not only is Shutter great for capturing images, it also packs some useful tools for enhancing your screen captures.

Let’s take a look at what Shutter has to offer.

What do you mean by enhancements?

By that, I mean little changes to a screen capture. Things like:

  • Adding callouts to point out specific portions of a window
  • Highlighting elements of a screen capture
  • Censoring portions of a screen
  • Applying an effect, like a shadow or a border, to a screen capture

While you don’t get same number of image editing functions with Shutter as would with software like The GIMP, Shutter’s not designed to be a full-featured image editor. But lets you enhance screen captures in ways that aren’t as easy to do with a tool like The GIMP.

Using Shutter’s editing tools

Obviously, you’ll need Shutter installed on your computer. You can get it using your distro’s package manager or you can download packages and source code from the Shutter website.

Fire up Shutter, and then either take a screen capture or open an existing one. Then, click Edit on the toolbar. Your screen capture loads in the editor window.

Shutter's editing tools

You can select the editing tools by clicking an option on the left side of the editing window, or choosing one the Tools menu.

Shutter's editing tools

The tools are:

  • Draw a freehand line
  • Highlighter
  • Draw a straight line
  • Draw an arrow
  • Draw a rectangle
  • Draw an ellipse
  • Add text
  • Censor portions of the screenshot
  • Pixelize selected areas
  • Add an auto increment shape
  • Crop image

The Add an auto increment shape tool allows you to add numbered callouts to your screen capture. The number of each new callout is increased by one. And I find that the pixelize and censor tools do essentially the same thing. They just do it in slightly different ways.

Using those tools is quite simple. All you need to do is click on an option, and then click or click and drag on the screen capture. For example, let’s say you’re writing a software tutorial and want to point out specific portions of a window. To do that, click the Add an auto increment shape tool. Then, click in the screen capture.

Here’s an example:

Using callouts

You can maneuver the callouts into position using the arrow keys on your keyboard. And if the format of the callouts isn’t to your liking, right click on them and choose Preferences. In the Preferences window, you can change the colour of the outline and the text, the font, and the fill.

Shutter's preferences

With many of these tools, the quality of the job they do will depend on how steady your hand is when using a mouse. Let’s take the highlighting and censoring tools, for example. Unless you manage to apply them in a straight line, the results will look messy.

Messy application of effects

Working with plugins

Plugins enable you to apply effects to a screen capture. Those effects include:

  • Adding a watermark to an image
  • Removing empty borders
  • Converting the screen capture to grayscale
  • Adding a border
  • Adding a torn paper effect
  • Inserting a drop shadow
  • Giving the image the appearance of a Polaroid picture

To apply a plugin, select Screenshot > Run a plugin.

Choosing a plugin

Then, choose the plugin that you want to use and click Run. With some plugins, another window opens that enables you to set some options. For example, if you choose the Hard Shadow plugin, the following window appears:

Shutter's hard shadow effects

From there, click Save. Here’s the result of applying the Hard Shadow plugin.

Hard shadow applied to an image

Final thoughts

Shutter has some excellent built-in tools for enhancing your screen captures. While you don’t get the same flexibility that you would with a more fully-featured image editor, Shutter enables you to add effects to an image that can be tricky to add using one of those editors.

Thoughts? Let's start a conversation on Twitter.

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