Improve Plasma performance, screenshots without borders

Updated: July 5, 2024

It's like Mediciens Sans Frontiers, only different. Let's start with some basic claims. The Plasma desktop environment is great. It's also very fast and responsive, and seem to be getting better and better all the time. You're not likely to suffer from its performance much, and yet it can be made even sprightlier. Ahoy.

In parallel, until very recently ( Plasma 6 to be more accurate), Plasma's default screenshot tool Spectacle would take screenshots with borders and shadows enabled, and no GUI option to turn these off. This would result in images with a roughly 200-300px frame, composed of a lightly shaded alpha layer. Annoying if you want clean pictures of specific application windows. Well, today, I want to show you how to kill two dinosaurs with one meteor. A tweak that will give you both performance improvements and borderless, shadowless screenshots.

Compositor, OFF!

What I'm going to tell you now isn't a big secret, or anything radically new. You can disable desktop effects in Plasma - all or individually - and you can also disable compositing. I've shown you how to do this numerous times in the past, especially when testing various distributions inside virtual machines, where good 3D acceleration isn't always a given. So, we've done this before, right.

What you want is - toggle compositing off. This will disable transparency effects, shadows, animations, blur, and other fancy stuff that (sometimes) adds to the visual appeal of the desktop environment. Of course, we can do this in X11, not sure about Wayland, but as I've noted recently, Wayland is still behind X11 when it comes to basic desktop usage.

Click Shift + Alt + F12. This combo will turn compositing off right away. You will immediately notice a performance improvement, even on beefy machines, but doubly so on older systems with weak graphics. The window rendering will be instantaneous, the close/open/min/max "effect" will be instantaneous. Bonus points, there will be no borders in your screenshots!

Full screen

Window, no shadows or borders

Application window screenshot, no shadows, no borders.

Just in comparison, with Compositing enabled, the screenshots will look like:

Compositor on

I manually added the white layer under the screenshot in GIMP. Normally, the wide frame around the actual window is transparent, except the light gray shadow effect. This looks pretty, but it's impractical in most cases.

If you want to turn the compositing and desktop effects back on, hit Shift + Alt + F12 again. Done.

Conclusion

A simple tutorial today, no big fussology. Plasma 6.X renders this tutorial 50% unnecessary, as you have screenshot controls once more. But the performance element remains, so this is something you can always consider, especially if your machine is struggling with fast, instantaneous graphics rendering. Furthermore, as even Kubuntu 24.04 LTS still comes with Plasma 5.27, this means a great number of Plasma instances out there will still have border 'n' shadow screenshots for the foreseeable future.

The full path to (permanently) disabling Compositor goes through Settings > Display and Monitor > Compositor, and here you can toggle the state on/off, without any keyboard shortcuts (or going on the command line). There are still others tips and tricks and options, but I've discussed those before, so no need to repeat myself. Anyway, hopefully, this will come handy, especially if you take lots of screenshots, don't need borders, and wouldn't mind a tiny performance and responsiveness boost on your Plasma box. Take care.

Cheers.