Ever wish you could draw on the Linux desktop or write on the screen?

Well, there’s a new GNOME Shell extension that lets you do exactly that: draw on the Linux desktop.

You may want to point out a bug, highlight a feature, or provide some guidance to someone else by sending them an annotated screenshot.

In this short post we’ll show you how to install the add-on and how to use it.

Draw on Your Desktop for Linux

Now, I’m not going to pretend that screen drawing is something we all do. Shy of avid bug reporters few of us have need to draw on the screen very often, and when we do we typically use a traditional screenshot annotation tool like Shutter.

Adding to the options is the suitably titled “Draw on Your Screen” extension for GNOME Shell.

draw on screen linux is a gnome extension
Graffiti in GNOME Shell

The ‘Draw on Your Screen’ extension offers a simple, straight-forward way to point at, call-out, circle, annotate or draw attention to something on your desktop or computer screen.

There aren’t many write on screen apps available for Linux, especially not ones that are as easy to use as this.

It speeds up the ‘annotate screenshot’ process which usually involves taking a screenshot, opening it in an image editor like The GIMP, marking it up, saving, and then sharing it.

Available tools include:

  • Shapes (rectangle, circle, etc)
  • Lines (including variable thickness)
  • Free-hand drawing
  • Text (any font family, size, etc)
  • Choice of colours

The add-on supports undo/redo, offers a smooth stroke option, persistence (so you can keep adding to your screen-based masterpiece) and support for multi-monitor set-ups.

How to write on the screen in Ubuntu

First things first: make sure you’re running GNOME Shell 3.26 or later. The extension does not work with older versions of the GNOME Shell desktop.

If you’re using Ubuntu 18.04 LTS or later, you are good to go.

Assuming you have the relevant parts needed to install GNOME Extensions on Ubuntu — if you don’t, we recap it here — head to the extension page below.

‘Draw on Your Screen’ GNOME Extension

Slide the toggle from ‘off’ to ‘on’ to prompt install.

With the screen drawing extension installed and enabled in GNOME Shell you will be able to hit the super + alt + D key combo to bring up the drawing features.

To save a drawing you simply take a screenshot (using a specific app or the built-in system shortcut). You can also export drawings as an SVG file.


‘Draw on Your Screen’, for all its garish novelty, simplifies the process of annotating a screenshot. It’s like Epic Pen for Linux; you can literally draw, type or call-out whatever is on your screen and then take a screenshot of your scribbles.

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