KDE’s desktop effects are fantastic, except when taking screenshots for use on your site or blog. Great-looking shadows around every desktop element are captured as well and can end up conflicting with your site or blog’s theme.
Most screenshot tools insist on capturing them, and the option they offer to disable decorations can also change how windows look. The only solution seems to be to capture a rectangular area and then manually define the region of each screenshot or maybe to edit each screenshot afterward in something like GIMP.
Both approaches soon become tedious if you’re dealing with more than one screenshot. Thankfully, there is an easy solution: temporarily disable the very source of those shadows with KDE’s Compositor. Let’s see how.
The full-screen sidestep
If you’re dealing with applications that look good in full-screen mode, you can skip the very problem we’re talking about by taking full-screen screenshots. This way, no shadow will be added around the windows since they’ll cover the whole screen.
Alternatively, you can enlarge your windows and, again, go for full-screen captures. By including the desktop wallpaper in them, your screenshots won’t look bad when posted to your blog.
Here’s an example
To make this clear, see the below screenshot that has shadows with transparency. The following image was captured in Kubuntu with Spectacle, KDE’s default capture tool. Both KDE’s and Spectacle’s default options were used. Not only does the screenshot look out of place visually compared to the rest of the images here, it also throws off the estimated image width since its shadow is included in the image’s dimensions.
Find the Compositor
KDE’s Compositor is the source of most of its effects. You can think of it as a layer between the window manager and the screen that relies on your GPU’s hardware acceleration to improve your desktop’s responsiveness and make everything look prettier. It’s also responsible for the shadows we want to disable.
Since the Compositor is responsible for other functions like window animations, taskbar thumbnails, and also accessibility features like KDE’s screen magnifier. If you’re relying on them, you should re-enable it after you take your screenshots.
You can find KDE Compositor’s configuration panel by typing “Compositor” in the search field of KDE’s main desktop menu. Select it to access its options.
Disable the Compositor
To turn off the Compositor, deselect “Enable compositor on startup” in the System Settings Module. Leave the rest of the options as they are, since you’ll probably re-enable it after taking your screenshots to have things turn back to normal and have your desktop function as usual.
After you click “Apply” or “OK,” you may see your screen flash for a second. Strangely, you might not see any change – at least, not yet.
When you enable the Compositor, the changes are applied immediately. You have to log out of your desktop, though, to disable it. Do that by choosing “Leave -> Log Out” from KDE’s main menu.
When you log back in to your desktop, it won’t look that different. You won’t see any shadows around your windows, and will not see any animations, extra effects, or other niceties. Other than that, it will be pretty much the same. Now it’s time to take your screenshots.
As you can see, the screenshot below is the same as the problematic one we’ve included above, but it now looks as you’d expect. We didn’t edit it in any way – that’s how Spectacle “grabbed” the same window with the Compositor disabled.
A snappier desktop?
While taking your screenshots, your desktop will look somewhat less “glossy,” without any effects. You might notice, though, that the Compositor that supposedly makes things look and perform better by taking advantage of our computer’s GPUs, in many cases ends up slowing things. Especially on slower, older PCs, KDE’s desktop with the Compositor disabled may feel faster, snappier, and respond faster to your input.
If that’s the case, and you don’t really miss everything the Compositor brings to the table, you might need to rethink if it’s worth it re-enabling it afterward. And if you like how much quicker your computer feels with it disabled, maybe you’d like to optimize it some more by disabling some services or deleting some fluff.