Open Source

Seven reasons why you should try HotShots

Marco Fioretti offers seven solid reasons why you should try HotShots, an open-source screenshot tool.



HotShots is an open-source, multi-platform screenshot manager with many interesting features. Its installation on Linux may require some typing at the prompt, but on a modern distribution, there should really be no problems. On Fedora 17, I had HotShots working in three minutes after downloading and unpacking the zipped source code archive. 

As a summary of the already clear INSTALL.txt file, these are the only commands I had to type in the folder containing the source code:

1 #> yum install libqxt-devel
2 #> cd build
3 #> cmake .
4 #> make
5 #> make install

The first command installs the LibQxt package (called libqxt-dev on other distributions), in case it wasn't already on your computer, and you should run at least the first and last command as root or via sudo. Just in case you're interested, the meaning of the last command is clearly explained in one of my previous posts.

Here are seven good reason why I think you should try HotShots:

1. It's full-featured, yet simple

By default, HotShots is as easy to use as simpler programs of the same category, like KSnapshot (which, to be fair, has freehand capture and many more upload options). You won't scare novice users if you make it the default screen capture tool. At the same time, HotShots offers a lot of extra functions through its cute little buttons.

2. Speed it up with HotKeys

Almost everything you can do with HotShots already is, or can be, associated to some HotKey combination to speed up your work. Of course, you can remap most of the HotKeys as you like.

3. Built-in magnification

You can set the region you want to save with great precision. The area around the corner you are dragging is dynamically magnified, to let you see exactly where screen capture will end (Figure A).

Figure A


Figure A

Precision screen capture with magnification.

4. Freehand and multi-screen capture

Select "Grab freehand region" as Capture mode, and HotShots will save whatever you draw as a PNG file with a transparent background. You can also save all of your virtual screens by pressing [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[F5] or push the button highlighted by the yellow arrow in Figure B.

Figure B


Figure B

You can capture all of your virtual screens at one time.

5. Interesting capture options

The Snapshot tab of the HotShots configuration panel has several options made to order for power users. The one I like the most is the automatic insertion of the current date and time to the snapshot filename in a format that I can configure. You may also:

  • Play some sound when capture is done
  • Rotate all snapshots of whatever angle you want
  • Automatically scale them to a maximum width and height, or apply a few simple effects

    6. Many output formats

    With the right Qt plugins, HotShots supports lots of output formats, all listed in its "Infos" tab. Choices range from Encapsulated PostScript to Photoshop psd and Scalable Vector Graphics. I may be silly, but the option I really like is Portable Graymap (.pgm), which gives my screenshots the vintage look of Figure C.

    Figure C


    Figure C

    HotShots supports Portable Graymap (.pgm) output.

    In case you need it, HotShots can directly upload your screenshots to FreeImageHosting, Imgur, Imageshack, CanardPC, or any FTP server. The same Snapshot tab I already mentioned lets you force a specific background color for the uploaded pictures. You may also tell HotShots to always save the URL of the picture you just published online in the clipboard — in HTML, BBCode, and other formats.

    7. A cool editor with support for annotations

    I saved the best for last. HotShots has a built-in editor, and the interface is partly shown in Figure D.

    Figure D


    Figure D

    HotShots interface with built-in editor.

    You can tell HotShots to start editing automatically on any new screenshot or click the pencil icon to resume editing of old ones. This editor is great because it's made to order for screenshots — that is, for the most common actions people usually need to perform on these sort of pictures. Figure E demonstrates that you may, among other things:

    1. Magnify specific areas
    2. Add arrows and other lines or shapes
    3. Encircle picture details
    4. Insert text notes
    5. Obfuscate areas you don't want to show
    6. Highlight details of the snapshot

    Figure E


    Figure E

    Editing capability of HotShots.

    All you have to do to add those nice, automatically numbered labels to your screenshots is click on the small "N" button pointed by the arrow above in Figure D.

    Last but not least, the HotShots editor saves all these objects and settings in files with the .hot extension, which are just plain XML text. This is how label number 1 is defined in the .hot file of Figure E:

    <EditorTagItem fgColor="#ffffff" width="1" shadow="true" tag="1" font-family="Sans Serif" bgColor="#ff0000" pos="620.489x500.155" font-size="10"/>

    Do you realize how powerful this is? You may polish, tweak, or automatically update annotated screenshots, with scripts or any text editor. If, for example, I wanted perfect horizontal alignment of tags 2 to 6 of Figure E, or different colors, all I'd have to do would be to change the "pos" or "color" fields in those strings. I like that!

    Do you have experience with HotShots? Share your own tips and tricks of working with this screenshot tool in the discussion thread below.



    Marco Fioretti is a freelance writer and teacher whose work focuses on the impact of open digital technologies on education, ethics, civil rights, and environmental issues.

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