How to Take a Screenshot In Linux

As a Linux user, there are many occasions where you’ll need to take screenshots of your screen. Either the entire screen, a single window, or a select area of your screen. Fortunately, there are many ways to accomplish this with Linux.

Note: We’re using Zorin OS 16, an Ubuntu-based distro, for this guide. Linux commands featured in this article are distro-independent, meaning they will work on any Linux distro.

Taking Screenshots Using Keyboard Shortcuts

The easiest way to take screenshots in Linux is using keyboard shortcuts. The keyboard shortcuts listed below work on the majority of Linux distros.

  • <Print Screen>  – takes a screenshot of the entire screen and saves it as a .png file in the /home/<user>/Pictures directory.
  • <Alt><Print Screen> – takes a screenshot of a window and saves it as a .png file in the /home/<user>/Pictures directory.
  • <Ctrl><Print Screen> – takes a screenshot of the entire screen and copies it to the clipboard.
  • <Ctrl><Alt><Print Screen> – takes a screenshot of window and copies it to the clipboard.
  • <Ctrl><Shift><Print Screen>  – takes a screenshot of an area and copies it to the clipboard.

Pictures taken using keyboard shortcuts are automatically named and saved to the user’s Picture directory. If no /home/<user>/Pictures directory exists, the files will be saved to the user’s home directory.

Screenshots taken by keyboard shortcuts in the user's Pictures directory.
Screenshots taken by keyboard shortcuts in the user’s Pictures directory.

Using Your Distro’s Default Screenshot Utility

Most Linux distros come with a default screenshot utility already installed. At a minimum, all default screenshot utilities offer:

  • Ability to grab the entire screen.
  • Ability to grab the current window.
  • Ability to select an area to grab.
  • Ability to delay the screenshot capture for a predetermined number of seconds.

For example, here is a screenshot of ZorinOS’s default screenshot utility, gnome-screenshot:

ZorinOS's default screenshot utility, gnome-screenshot.
ZorinOS’s default screenshot utility gnome-screenshot.

Taking a Screenshot of a Window with gnome-screenshot

  1. Ensure you have the window you wish to take a screenshot of launched (in this case, Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager).

    Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager
    Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager
  2. Launch the screenshot utility from the main menu.

    Select the screenshot utility from the main menu.
    Select the screenshot utility from the main menu.
  3. Make your setting selections. In our example, we’re grabbing the current window after a delay of 5 seconds, including both the pointer (cursor) and the window border.

    Enter desired settings in the screenshot utility window.
    Enter desired settings in the screenshot utility window.
  4. Click Take Screenshot and press the <Alt><Tab> keys simultaneously to switch to the desired window.
  5. Wait five seconds until you hear the camera shutter sound.
  6. Press the <Alt><Tab> keys simultaneously to switch to the screenshot utility.
  7. Save the screenshot under the name and directory you wish.

    Save your screenshot with a meaningful name.
    Save your screenshot with a meaningful name.

More advanced screenshot utilities

There are times when you’ll need a more robust screenshot utility. These offer more than what keyboard shortcuts or your distro’s default screenshot utility can. In these cases, you can download other tools such as Flameshot, Spectacle, GIMP, and Kazam.

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