Sometimes I want to annotate an image quickly, but without loading up a full-blown image editing app like The GIMP.

Today I found an amazing app that lets me do just that.

Annotator by Trevor Williams is something of a cross between the macOS Preview app (which has powerful markup tools built-in) and FOSS-fave Shutter.

Indeed, until now, my go-to tool for annotating images on Linux is Shutter (or Flameshot, though it can only annotate screenshots you take using it), though its UI is a little dated and a few features are missing.

So when I saw Annotator on the elementary AppCenter I had to try it — and I’m glad I did! It’s brilliant for adding text, callouts, and other visual highlights to images (because you can open any compatible image format; they don’t have to be screenshots at all), and quickly exporting them to post/upload/share elsewhere.

In fact, I’m tempted to say it’s the best image annotator app for Linux I’ve come across in a long.

Don’t let the fact it’s “designed for elementary OS” put you off. You can install Annotator on any Linux distributions that supports Flatpak. I took the tool for a spin on Fedora and while there are (as of writing) a few missing icons, th core functionality is intact.

A screenshot of the Annotator app open and running on Fedora with annotated elements on display
Annotator on Fedora Rawhide

As mentioned, you’re not limited to marking up screenshots with Annotator. It can open (almost) any valid image file on your system, including .jpeg, .png, etc. It can also — cool feature alert — open an image currently saved to your clipboard. That’s a real timesaver.

You can decorate images with a variety of on-canvas clutter, like shapes, arrows, and text, as well as advanced accents like magnification areas, counters, and obfuscation (perfect for blurring out sensitive data like the omg staging URL, Joey ). 😅

And many of these elements can be customised further on-canvas. For instance, you can adjust the direction, size, and angle of arrow heads; override incremental counter numbers; and resize the zoom of the magnification ring (as well as the position).

Once added, elements can be freely edited, moved, and rearranged.

The canvas is also pan-able, and you can zoom in and out easily. I work with screenshots of varying sizes so I particularly appreciate having an option to ‘zoom to fit window’.

Annotator features at a glance:

  • Open images from a file or clipboard
  • Add shapes, including arrows, circles and lines
  • Add counters
  • Add a variety of colour stickers/glyphs
  • Draw freehand
  • Add text (with colour/font options)
  • Highlight areas using magnification circles
  • Blur/obfuscate data
  • Crop, resize and add image borders
  • Unlimited undo/redo of any change
  • Export to JPEG, PNG, TIFF, BMP, PDF and SVG
  • Support for copying annotated image to clipboard

Annotator is free, open source software available on the elementary AppCenter (though it can be installed on any distro that supports Flatpak):

Get Annotator on AppCenter

annotator appcenter elementary flatpak apps Image Editors