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Make screenshots quickly in i3 with maim and xclip

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My daily workflow includes taking tons of screenshots. I’m constantly relaying views of different data or results of various work between different chat systems and emails. As with all things that I do often, I look for ways to optimize them as much as possible.

(I’m that guy who wrote a post on an efficient emoji workflow in Wayland.) 😂

Goals #

Screenshots must be easy to take and share, period. Modern versions of Firefox make this extremely easy with the built-in screenshot mechanism.

Right click an element on a web page, choose Take Screenshot from the pop-up and screenshot a whole page or just a single DOM element. From there, you can copy it directly to the clipboard and paste it elsewhere or save it to a file.

I want something as close to that for the i3 desktop environment.

The maim game #

Fortunately, there’s a piece of software called maim!1 The README in the repository contains lots of helpful examples for basic screenshots all the way up to fancy conversions with drop shadows. ✨

My use case is quite simple. I want to press a key, get a selection crosshair, make my selection, and get my screenshot copied to the clipboard.

Here’s how I do it in i3:

bindsym Print exec maim -s -u | xclip -selection clipboard -t image/png -i

Let’s break this down:

  • First, we use bindsym to bind the Print Screen (Print) key
  • Hitting Print Screen runs maim and pops a selection crosshair (-s) and hides the cursor (u)
  • Once the selection is made, the image pipes straight into xclip
  • xclip stores the image in the clipboard with the image/png mime type

I’m able to go to my favorite application or browser window with Slack, Discord, or Mastodon open and simply paste the image into my message. 🏁

This is post 3 of 100 in the #100DaysToOffload challenge.

  1. Before you get upset with the name, keep in mind that it’s the shortened version of make image. 😉 ↩︎