Usability & Productivity highlight: Spectacle

Over the past few weeks, we’ve done a lot of Usability & Productivity work for Spectacle, KDE’s screenshot tool. I’d like to share the progress! But first, a screenshot. Here’s how spectacle looks now:

We’ve been hard at work making Spectacle easier to use and more featureful, and you can see some of those changes in the above screenshot. Here’s the full list of user-facing changes and bugfixes:

  • The save button now defaults to showing “Save As…” (KDE Phabricator revision D10153)
  • The Save button now remembers the last Save mode that you used by default (KDE Phabricator revision D10198)
  • Removed the confusing and destructive Discard/Quit button (you can still quit the app with Ctrl+Q or the Escape key, or by clicking on the window’s close button (KDE Phabricator revision D10283)
  • Added a visible “Configure…” button so that you can more easily find Spectacle’s settings (KDE Phabricator revision D10289)
  • Added a new “Tools” menu button that can hold extra features, and moved “Print” to it. Now the “Save” button finally has only actual Save actions! (KDE Phabricator revision D10371)
  • Spectacle’s new Tools menu now provides an easy link to your screen recording app if you have one installed, and if you don’t, it suggests a few (KDE Phabricator revision D10295)
  • Made the main window size itself optimally based on the shape of the screenshot (KDE Phabricator revision D10377):
  • Spectacle can now be configured to quit after copying the screenshot to the clipboard (KDE bug 389773) – note that you will need to tell Klipper (the clipboard manager) to accept images for this to work. For more information, see the bug report.
  • Spectacle’s new Tools menu provides an easy way to see where the last screenshot was saved (KDE bug 389695)
  • Drag-and-drop to Chromium windows now works (KDE bug 369404)
  • Spectacle no longer displays the dreaded “Ambiguous shortcut warning” dialog if you use the same keyboard shortcut twice (KDE bug 389691)

All of these improvements will be available in KDE Applications 18.04.

And we’re not done yet. We’re scoping out work to add an inline image editor/annotator and improve the user experience where you want to use spectacle to quickly take a screenshot and copy it to the clipboard without showing the main window (often for the purposes of pasting it into a chat window). An option to omit window shadows or reduce their size is also in the works.

Spectacle is used by hundreds of thousands or even millions of people, so this work has an impact! It’s a great time to be part of something big. Hop on board, and we’ll work together to continue making everything even better.

27 thoughts on “Usability & Productivity highlight: Spectacle

  1. Awesome improvements. I’ve been using Spectacle quite a bit as you have probably noticed. 🙂 I have noticed a bug, both on KDE Neon and Kubuntu 17.10 with 5.12.1, is that Spectacle crashes KWin (I think?) when you select Active Window and click Take new screenshot. The top Titlebar of windows dissapears, I’m pretty sure that’s KWin, unless you can correct me. I have that added to my list of “bugs to submit”… gotta do that soon.


  2. This looks so perfect with all your improvements, it’s hard to imagine why it didn’t come with all these gorgeous & usable features to begin with!


    1. Why not add some basic annotation/drawing tools to gwenview as a kipi plugin since it badly needs one? Then we can “Export image…” to gwenview from spectacle and edit it. Gwenview launchs quickly and present in every kde distro. Other kipi-based programs can benefit too.
      Or merge spectacle and ksnip into one effort, but this way we will be restricted to edit only taken shots not all images as gwenview can do.
      (I’m not developer myself, sorry)


    2. The plan is to actually make it a KPart that can be embedded in any app that wants it, so yeah, Gwenview would get it too.

      The KSnip developer is actually doing the work, and is planning to merge his work into Spectacle.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. this Usability & Productivity initiative has great value from a user POW, thank you!

    a bit off topic, but I’d love that we had a UI to add the many KIO slaves and configure them as entries into Dolphin’s Places panel and FolderView widget! Now I’m still lost


    1. You already can! For example, navigate to or create a places panel for “recentdocuments:/” Boom, you’re looking at the Recent Documents KIO slave.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dragging images into Discord used to work and then it stopped working. I’m hopeful that the “drop to Chromium windows now works” fixes Discord too (which is based on embedded Chromium)!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It would be good if you could choose background color and transparency when capturing region screenshot.
    With dark backgrounds you can lost sight of dark themed cursor, and in latest updates it changed to a light background which make easy to lose sight of light colored cursor


    1. Seems like maybe a light cursor might be more appropriate when you’re using a dark theme, and a dark cursor when using a light theme. It doesn’t seem like Spectacle’s place to correct pre-existing visual deficiencies.


    2. Oh, I was not talking about KDE theme colors.
      Instead, I’m talking about the color of the “shadowed” area around the rectangle that represents the region you want to capture.


    3. You mean the border of the selection rectangle for “Rectangular Region” mode? Can you take a picture of the screen with your phone to show what’s happening?


    4. Sure thing, I didn’t have my computer during weekend but now I recorded so you can check it. Specifically how can easy the cursor can be lost outside the rectangle region to capture:

      Some versions ago, background during region screenshots was darker, but the problem happened if you captured any app with dark theme, now it happens if the screen you want to capture has light colors


    5. I see what you mean now. In fact, the person who lightened the shaded background during Rectangular Region screenshot captures was me. 🙂 We got a lot of complaints about it being too dark. In your case, you might prefer to use a light background instead, and thankfully Spectacle offers an option for this in its Configure window!

      Liked by 2 people

    6. Duh! You were right, I need to check the Configure Options more often xD
      By the way maybe it would be a good usability feature that the background adapts to light or dark depending what is in the background while you are making a region screenshot but maybe that would be better for another post.
      For now I just must to thank you for your responses and the excellent work that has been doing in Spectacle which I consider to be the easier and the best screenshot tool


  6. Thanks a lot for making progress ever more visible, Nate!
    If there’s one thing I’ve been hoping for regarding Spectacle, it is more default keyboard shortcuts to directly invoke different screenshot modes (e.g. Shift+PrtScr to immediately start a rectangular region selection). I tried to manually define a shortcut for it a while ago and there were no DBus-Signals to connect the shortcut to then. I see there’s an issue for this already ( along with a few related ones, is there a possibility this could be looked into in the future?

    Liked by 1 person

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