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The ancient art of taking screenshots


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We all know the PrintScreen-key/paste-in-paint method to take a screenshot. And this is a very effective approach.

However we can make screenshots visually appealing just like we do with desktop themselves. The goal of this tutorial is to teach you how.

0- Thumbnails

THIS is the only rule in this topic so if you don't use them atm, read on!

Images bigger than 300 per * pixels (or the other way round) must never be posted directly inside a topic : link to them.

If not, the image will be removed and a link put in its place. More details why thumbnails are needed here.

1- PNG file format

JPG is widely used and has a high compression ratio. However, it is a lossy compression format and takes a big part of the visual appeal of your desktop out. On photos it goes unnoticed because people usually don't look close enough to them to see the artifacts. But they are present and some compressors are worse than others.

PNG on the other hand is lossless: your screenshot will always be clear and sharp, just like you see it every day. Moreover it compresses better than jpeg on pictures with large chunks of the same color (title bar for example). I have to add that I a clearly biaised towards png screenshots when I have to decide which desktop will go in the monthly contest.

2- Everything but MS's Paint

Paint is a nice tiny app but the in/out part could be much better. It is far from having the best visual quality or size for jpeg and doesn't compress at the most when dealing with png.

I advise you to use IrfanView or XnView. Both are free and for instance, Irfanview usually compresses 40% better than paint (for a png file).

3- Host

Everybody knows imageshack, xs.to, tinypic, photobucket... All of them are free but contain a lot of advertisement, imageshack can be really slow, and they delete pictures that are not checked enough often for them (therefore a lot of images are lacking in past topics).

Zxian has set up a nice website so we can upload screenshots without the usual hassle (remember imageshack removes images after 30 days); I advise you to go with it: KwikPiks.

If you don't like Canadian people, you can still use screenshots.haque.net or get a deviant art account. :)

4- Rumshot

Rumshot is a .net2 application designed to take screenshots and generate eye-candy thumbnails.

It comes with a few themes by default but much more are available on their website.

The bad part is it doesn't compress better than paint so I usually recompress screenshots with irfanview. Important: do not do this with thumbnails, they contain complex transparency values that would get lost.

A simple example of what you can get:


wip ;)

Edited by Camarade_Tux
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The reason you must use thumbnails instead of full-sized images:

  • Too long to load: a thumbnail is a few KB while a screenshot can go up to two MB. Usually, there are more than 7 screenshots on the same page. What if you had to download more than 10MB for a single page? This is just to much, even when you have a high-speed internet access. Moreover, servers are sometimes slow and a picture can take up to 5 minutes to load.
  • To wide to display: remember that if you have a 1440x900 screen (this resolution seems trendy now) and you post a 1440x900 image, you won't be able to see it in its whole because of taskbar, browser title bar, buttons bar, other elements on the forum... And in fact, nobody will. The only this does is to break the page layout which is very uncomfortable. There is really no interest in doing that and fast every image-hosting service can make thumbnails on its own.
  • IPB resizes images that are too wide and offers the reader to expand them by clicking on a small bar at the top of them. In fact, they don't get resized by IPB but by your computer each time it is displayed on your screen. This is a very CPU-intensive operation and makes the page-scrolling choppy. You can see the effect very simply by scrolling on a full-sized screenshot.

Edited by Camarade_Tux
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  • 4 months later...

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