If you’re a screencaster or a YouTube video maker you’ll know how useful it can be to show which keys you’re pressing on your screen, as you press them.
Mac and Windows screencasters have access to an array of apps designed specifically to display key presses on screen as they are typed. The macOS tool Screenflick is perhaps the best known.
But is there a similar app for Ubuntu? Yes – try Screenkey.
Screenkey is a free, open-source alternative to Screenflick designed for use on Linux desktops like Ubuntu. When run, the app will show each key press on screen as you press it (ideally while you record using the GNOME Shell screen recorder or other tool).
The majority of Ubuntu users don’t need this tool. But the 0.25% making video tutorials, explanatory gifs, or other how-to related content? For them Screenkey is invaluable.
Put simply: if you need to illustrate actions associated with a specific keyboard shortcut or command in a screenshot or video clip there is nothing easier to use than this.
Screenkey features multi-monitor support, lets you customise font size, font style, and font colour, and offers a crop of advanced settings to control position, timing, opacity, specific character key presses, and more.
You can also choose what shortcut activates the app, and decide whether multimedia keys (e.g., volume, pause, brightness, etc) are supported or not.
One tip: use a modern, comprehensive font for best results. I find Deja Vu Sans (available in Ubuntu out-of-the-box) pretty decent.
Install Screenkey on Ubuntu
You can install Screenkey on Ubuntu direct from the Ubuntu Software app but be aware that this version has issues showing a system tray icon on the GNOME Shell desktop (but it works fine in MATE, Xfce, etc):
Helpfully the Spanish Linux blog Atareao has packaged a version Screenkey with working system tray icon especially for Ubuntu users. You can add the PPA then install Screenkey on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and above using these commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:atareao/atareao
sudo apt install screenkeyfk
Also check out the Gitlab page for Screenkey. There you can find instructions on how to install the tool from source code for other distros, and find directions on how to report issues.
Arch reader? You can install Screenkey through the AUR.