Chad Perrin: SOB

4 August 2009

Ugh, screenshots.

Filed under: inanity,Profession,Writing — apotheon @ 07:03

In my newest TechRepublic article, Use the Firefox password manager, I included eight screenshot images from a total of seven images (I cut one into parts) to illustrate it. This isn’t exactly one of my most intellectually stimulating articles — it’s a howto. It is, however, one of the articles that took the most work to compose and publish.

The problem is screenshots, especially MS Windows screenshots. The process of creating screenshots on MS Windows is several annoying steps long, and a fair bit of work. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but I think I’m still paying more than it’s worth, because it’s easier to write a thousand words than to prepare and publish a single screenshot in a TechRepublic article. At least, that’s the case when I have to deal with MS Windows screenshots. I guess it averages out to being as much work as exactly a thousand words when I can use a quick screenshot grabber like scrot on FreeBSD.

I’m exhausted.

13 Comments

  1. I find the hardest part of an MS Windows screen shot is opening up GIMP

    Comment by Joseph A Nagy Jr — 4 August 2009 @ 07:29

  2. What I’ve taken to doing is pasting into MS Paint, saving as a PNG, then using WinSCP to put it on the file server so I can get at it from my laptop. Then, on my laptop, I crop and resize as necessary, using the GIMP.

    Using image editing programs on MS Windows is an exercise in annoyance. I don’t want to compound the problem of having to paste and save stuff separately from taking the screenshot itself by dealing with an image editor on that benighted platform.

    Comment by apotheon — 4 August 2009 @ 08:16

  3. There are some OK ways of handling this. I just do an ALT+Print Screen (capture the active window to the clipboard) and paste into my graphics editor of choice. I keep meaning to try OneNote’s screen clipping features and see how well they do. Some folks I know swear by SnagIt. If you are just looking to hit a key combination and have them dumped, autonumbered to a directory, I bet “there’s an app for that” (to rip off Apple), but I haven’t checked it out.

    J.Ja

    Comment by Justin James — 4 August 2009 @ 09:53

  4. If you are just looking to hit a key combination and have them dumped, autonumbered to a directory, I bet “there’s an app for that” (to rip off Apple), but I haven’t checked it out.

    There are dozens of them, and at least a handful should be available through the software management system of your favorite open source Unix-like system. I use a handy-dandy utility called scrot on FreeBSD with a keyboard shortcut defined in my window manager. It works beautifully. There’s none of that opening an application, waiting for it to open, enlarging the canvas size in advance so you’ll have enough on which to paste the screenshot, switching to whatever you want to capture, using the keyboard shortcut (finally), switching back to the other application, using another keyboard shortcut to paste, cropping to the size of the actual image since the canvas was too large — or undoing the paste, resizing the canvas, repasting, and then cropping the size — before finally saving the image somewhere.

    I seem to recall that there’s a tool like that built into the GIMP, too, but you still have to actually have the GIMP open to use it, which I find an unnecessary burden. The efficiency of my working environment gets more important to me the more efficient I make it.

    Comment by apotheon — 4 August 2009 @ 10:32

  5. It sounds to me like your image editor is not very good, or there might be a feature of your editor that you are overlooking. Most image editors I’ve dealt with have a “Paste into new image” function. That’s what I use, and it eliminates most of the effort that you are describing, other than having to open the editor in the first plaoe, paste the image, and save it. I used to use a similar workflow to what you describe, and it killed me too. I can’t vouch for GIMP lately; when I last tried it, it was an utterly awful application (roughly 4 years ago). I’ve been using Paint.Net, and for routine tasks like handling screenshots, it is more than capable. I definitely feel your pain, though. I’d go bananas if that was my workflow too.

    J.Ja

    Comment by Justin James — 4 August 2009 @ 10:50

  6. It sounds to me like your image editor is not very good, or there might be a feature of your editor that you are overlooking.

    “My image editor” is the GIMP, on FreeBSD. The problem is on MS Windows, where I use Paint because it doesn’t matter what image editor I use — I still have to open up a separate application and dick around with it to save screenshots.

    it eliminates most of the effort that you are describing, other than having to open the editor in the first plaoe, paste the image, and save it.

    That right there is several times as much work as I’m used to having to do with something like scrot.

    Comment by apotheon — 5 August 2009 @ 09:19

  7. I know that your workflow in BSD will be a lot better, I get that scrot does what you need it to do. If you are taking screenshots from within Windows, using a Windows app, you definitely should not be using paint.

    I did a quick search, and there seem to be piles of free screenshot apps on the market, some with advanced features. I bet that you can find one that works well for you if you spend some time looking for one. It might not be worth the time, depending on how frequently this comes up. After all, if it takes an hour of searching and testing to find one tha tyou like but it saves you maybe 10 minutes a year, it’s definitely not worth it.

    J.Ja

    Comment by Justin James — 5 August 2009 @ 11:02

  8. It doesn’t come up very frequently, but it might still be worth looking into. I’ll check into third-party options.

    I tend to be hesitant to install little-used third-party applications on MS Windows, though, because third-party software that doesn’t have at least tens of thousands of users has a tendency to break stuff on MS Windows.

    Comment by apotheon — 5 August 2009 @ 12:11

  9. Yeah, I know what you mean about the third-party stuff. Maybe it’s just a bad taste in my mouth that’s been there since the Windows 3.X days, but I broke myself of the “shareware habit” something like 15 years ago. I remember when Dave Berlind at ZDNet would go on and on about how he would use a zillion Windows VMs because they would always break, but his real problem was that he was always installing a million shareware/freeware garbage apps. Heck, my FreeBSD experience has been the same… add enough weird apps (especially those with weird dependencies) and you can quickly get a very messed up system, and spend a lot of time with “pkgdb -F” in an effort to get “portupgrade -a” to work… And don’t get me started on qmail, which doesn’t play with the port system at all (don’t recall if it is a license issue or a technical problem, but I’ve always had to install it via source directly, and it loves having a directory tree that DJB deems is better than BSD’s). Or apps ported from Linux or Solaris with their own built-in ideas about things like where log and configuration files should go. Ugh.

    My other very big concern with the shareware/freeware story on Windows is malware. There’s a lot of junk posing as “ultimate XYZ helper app” out there.

    J.Ja

    Comment by Justin James — 5 August 2009 @ 12:24

  10. If you’re using big, fat applications, problems can arise on any operating system. One of the reasons Unix-like systems are so much more stable (just one — there are others) for me is the fact that the simplest tools don’t require a metric crapload of cruft just to provide basic functionality the way they do on MS Windows. For instance, scrot is just a simple little command-line utility in its most basic form. There aren’t any IE integration or GUI toolkit concerns, so it doesn’t add to the complexity of the system in a harmful manner the way similar functionality will in the common case on MS Windows where you have to have a system tray icon and a menu bar just to take screenshots.

    . . . and while it is, of course, technically possible to use command line utilities in MS Windows, it’s painful because of the severe limitations of the default command shell.

    Even first-party tools are often an issue with MS Windows, though. Gob forbid one should actually install too many of the so-called Power Tools offered by Microsoft. So much for predictable behavior from the system.

    Comment by apotheon — 5 August 2009 @ 12:46

  11. “One of the reasons Unix-like systems are so much more stable (just one — there are others) for me is the fact that the simplest tools don’t require a metric crapload of cruft just to provide basic functionality the way they do on MS Windows.”

    Unfortunately, this is less and less the case. My FreeBSD server, for example, has never had X11 explicitly installed on it. I have no need for X11 on it. All the same, I know that a huge mountain of GNOME-related items are install. I suspect some KDE as well, to a lesser extent, most likely, but GNOME is really blatent. For whatever reason, everything decides to use GNOME libs for even the most minute functionality. As far as I can tell, the only thing that might justify it are a few items which create graphs, in which case I would imagine that gd and maybe ImageMagick would be enough.

    “. . . and while it is, of course, technically possible to use command line utilities in MS Windows, it’s painful because of the severe limitations of the default command shell.”

    I think you need to give PowerShell a look. While I know that you would never use it yourself, I think that it is extremely powerful. Indeed, there are some aspects about it that I prefer to the *Nix shell, mainly the fact that it was designed by a “top-down” process at the same shop gives it a consistency amongst commands that you don’t see with *Nix CLI stuff.

    J.Ja

    Comment by Justin James — 5 August 2009 @ 07:38

  12. I can’t help ya if you’re looking for more efficiency then using the GIMP, but it’s what I use.

    Open Gimp -> Create -> Paste from Clipboard (where print screen saves to apparently)

    or if you’re just wanting to grab a specific window it has other commands for that I’m sure you are familiar with. If not I could provide a screencap from the latest version of GIMP (which I thoroughly dislike at the moment).

    Comment by Joseph A Nagy Jr — 5 August 2009 @ 08:51

  13. Justin James:

    All the same, I know that a huge mountain of GNOME-related items are install. I suspect some KDE as well, to a lesser extent, most likely, but GNOME is really blatent.

    This is why I avoid installing GNOME and KDE applications — especially on servers, since I have no need of GUI apps there. I don’t have a single KDE library on my laptop, and relatively little related to GNOME (I think it’s just two of the smaller libraries plus GTK+). If I could get a decent IM client that supported OTR, I could get rid of Pidgin and relieve myself of a little of my current GNOME cruft.

    Y’know, every time I say that (probably twice a month), seeing if I can contribute OTR support patches to something like CenterIM moves up my priority list a tick.

    I think you need to give PowerShell a look. While I know that you would never use it yourself, I think that it is extremely powerful.

    I might use it myself, actually — just as soon as I find a reason to. At the moment, I don’t do enough MS Windows support to bother, though — most of my MS Windows use these days is just testing code that’s meant to be portable.

    Indeed, there are some aspects about it that I prefer to the *Nix shell, mainly the fact that it was designed by a “top-down” process at the same shop gives it a consistency amongst commands that you don’t see with *Nix CLI stuff.

    That’s more of a Linux thing than a Unix thing in general. The switch from Debian to FreeBSD was a bit of an eye-opener for me, when I encountered the significant difference in consistency of command line experience.

    Joseph A Nagy Jr:

    I use the GIMP semi-regularly — I’m familiar with it. I just don’t bother to install it on MS Windows because, frankly, I don’t have much cause to use it for that long at a stretch (other than playing Command & Conquer: Generals every now and then). Thanks, though.

    Comment by apotheon — 5 August 2009 @ 10:02

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License