How to take a screenshot from the command line on Linux

There are various flavors of Linux screenshot utilities, including desktop-specific screenshot programs (e.g., KSnapshot for KDE, gnome-screenshot for GNOME, Screenshooter for Xfce), or general screenshot utilities (e.g., Shutter). One of unique screenshot utilities is Scrot (short for "SCReen shOT"), which is a command-line screenshot utility. While its interface is minimalistic, Scrot is, feature-wise, as powerful as other dedicated GUI-based screen capture tools. For example, Scrot supports delayed screenshot, adjustable quality/size, command line pipelining, etc. If you are one of those command line junkies, Scrot is a useful tool to add to your arsenal. In this tutorial, I will describe how to take a screenshot from the command line with Scrot.

Install Scrot on Linux

To install Scrot on Debian, Ubuntu or Linux Mint:

$ sudo apt-get install scrot

To install Scrot on Fedora:

$ sudo yum install scrot

To install Scrot on CentOS, you can build it from its source as follows.

First enable Repoforge on CentOS, and use the following commands.

$ sudo yum install giblib-devel
$ wget http://linuxbrit.co.uk/downloads/scrot-0.8.tar.gz
$ tar xvfvz scrot-0.8.tar.gz
$ cd scrot-0.8
$ ./configure
$ make
$ sudo make install

Take Screenshots with Scrot

In the rest of the tutorial, I will describe how to use Scrot to take screenshots in various ways.

1. Take a screenshot of the entire desktop

Screen-capturing the entire desktop is easy. Simply run Scrot command without any argument, and it will save a screenshot of the entire desktop as a (date-stamped) .png file in the current directory.

$ scrot

You can also specify a destination folder and image file name.

$ scrot ~/Pictures/my_desktop.png

2. Take a screenshot of a particular window or a rectangular region

Scrot allows you to choose a specific window or define a rectangular region in your desktop to take a screenshot of. For that, use the following command.

$ scrot -s

After running this command, go ahead and click on any window or draw a rectangle with your mouse, which will trigger screen capture of the selected window/region.

Sometimes the chosen region or window may be partially blocked by other windows of the desktop. In that case, you need some time to clear the area before taking a shot. That is when "delayed" screenshot can help you, as described next.

3. Take a delayed screenshot

Delayed capture can be useful under various circumstances. Right before taking a shot, you may want to move windows around, activate a menu, or trigger a certain event (e.g., notification), etc. With "-d N" option, we can delay a screenshot process by N seconds.

$ scrot -s -d 5

4. Adjust quality of a screenshot

You can adjust the image quality of a screenshot in the range of 1 to 100 (the higher the better quality). Default quality is 75.

$ scrot -q 50

5. Adjust the size of a screenshot

You can adjust the size of a screenshot in the range of 1 to 100 (the higher the bigger). To reduce screenshot size to 10% of the original:

$ scrot -t 10

6. Pipeline a captured screenshot to another command

Scrot allows you to send a saved screenshot image to any arbitrary command as an input. This option can be useful when you want to do any post-processing on a screenshot image. The filename/path of a screenshot is stored as "$f" string.

$ scrot -e 'mv $f ~/screenshots'

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Dan Nanni is the founder and also a regular contributor of Xmodulo.com. He is a Linux/FOSS enthusiast who loves to get his hands dirty with his Linux box. He likes to procrastinate when he is supposed to be busy and productive. When he is otherwise free, he likes to watch movies and shop for the coolest gadgets.
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One thought on “How to take a screenshot from the command line on Linux

  1. Hi,
    Thanks for a good job.
    But, there is the "old good" tool in X-Window utilities, namely: xwd
    No need to install something more, command line and some options (window, whole screen, ...).
    Worth attention.
    Bye :-)

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