Xannotate, a desktop annotation tool

I like gromit. It is a tool to do desktop/screen annotation - you can draw on your screen as if it is a big canvas. It is useful to direct attention when you're doing presentation - instead of waving your mouse, just draw a big circle on the items you want to talk about.

Well at least, I like the idea. Because it is not working from me, and as much as I tried, I can't get it to work correctly. The code itself is good; the problem is probably the change in the underlying GDK/GTK that it depends on.

So I decide to write one myself; this time it depends only on Xlib (the basic X11 library).

Picture is worth a thousand words, so here is a screenshot:


Interested? Get is from here. The package also contains Xscreenshot.

From the README:

To use xannotate, just launch it. It is controlled by a hotkey. This hotkey, along with shifted versions of it, control various aspects of xannotate. By default, this hotkey is the "Pause" key.

Keys usage

  • Hotkey - toggle annotate/normal mode
  • Shift-hotkey - show/hide annotation
  • Ctrl-hotkey - clear annotation
  • Ctrl-Shift-hotkey - terminate xannotate
  • Alt-Shift-hotkey - take screenshot (when compiled with screenshot support)

Button usage

  • Left-click - pen: press to start, move to draw, release to stop
  • Right-click - eraser: press to start, move to erase, release to stop
  • Shift-Left-click - switch pen

Command line options

There are a few aspects of the program you can control by passing options.

 -h       : brief help
 -k key   : use 'key' as the hotkey (default is 'Pause')
 -w width : use 'width' as the default pen width (default is 5)
 -e width : use 'width' as the default eraser width (default is 20)
 -p path  : path/filename for screenshot (default is $HOME/xannotate)
 -n index : the starting index used for screenshot filename
 -a       : enable alpha for use with XRENDER composite. You must be running
            an X composite manager (xcompmgr, compton, kwin) for this to work.
 -1 colour: colour for pen1 (default red)
 -2 colour: colour for pen2 (default green)
 -3 colour: colour for pen2 (default blue)


  • The program makes use of SHAPE extension, so it can get slow.

    You can make it faster by using the alpha (-a) option but you must be running a window manager with composite ability (kwin) or running an independent X composite manager (xcompmgr, compton) otherwise you will get a black screen.

  • The screenshot only support direct/truecolor, 15/16/24-bit RGB pixel (with LSB first).

  • Sometimes the shift key can get stuck, just press and release it a couple of times to make it work again.