Capture a Screenshot of a Full Website With Ruby

I’ve been working on a project recently where I needed to take screenshots of an entire website. I’m not talking about the full screen but the entire-multiple-screens-long website.

There are a few existing tools out that but they wouldn’t work for me for various reasons:

  • I wanted to use the command line so I can script it
  • It had to run on Linux
  • I didn’t want to mess with installing a bunch of libraries (like KDE)
  • I wanted something simple, that shouldn’t break later when upgrading things

So I rolled my own.

#!/usr/bin/env ruby
require 'rubygems'
require 'trollop'
require 'vapir'
def filename_for_url(url)
    gsub(/\//, '_').
    gsub(/[^0-9A-za-z.]/,'') + ".png"
def print_file_name(file)
  puts file
opts = Trollop::options do
  opt :url, "URL to screenshot", :default => ''
  opt :force, "force saving", :default => false
Trollop::die :url, "url required" if opts[:url].nil? || opts[:url] == ''
file = filename_for_url(opts[:url])
Trollop::die :url, "file exists, use --force to override" if (File.exists?(file) && !opts[:force])
  browser =
  browser.goto opts[:url]
  browser.screen_capture file

[button color=”silver” style=”download”]Download the code from Github.[/button]

The code is pretty simple and easy to follow with a bit of explaination.

I’m using vapir which is a fork of watir that works on Linux. There is also firewatir but I couldn’t get it to work for me.

trollop is used to provide some simple command line parsing and validation. I only care about the url and if the screenshot should be overwritten.

The filename_for_url method just does some simple string substition so the url can be used as a safe filename

e.g. Converting into theadmin.org_articles_something.png

The main guts are lines 27-34 where vapir does 4 things:

1. Creates a new firefox instance, which actually opens the browser
2. Browses to the passed in url
3. Does a full page screen capture and saves it to a file
4. Closes the browser window

The process is a bit slow and it borrows my mouse focus but it works good enough for me. I’d like to get it working with some of the QTWebkit stuff so it runs without opening a browser (headless) but I haven’t felt the need to dive into that complexity yet.

Full screenshot of
Full screenshot of

Because you can never talk about screenshots without creating one, here is what looks like.

All in all, it only took me about an hour to research all of the alternative solutions and throw this code together.

Is it a hack? Yes.

Is it something I want to maintain until 2021? No.

Will it save me a few minutes every couple of days? Yes.

Was it something I learned from? Yes.

Don’t be afraid of building your own tools if you need to. You might end up throwing them away when they rust but the knowledge you gain from it will stay with you for years to come.

(If you’re on OSX and don’t mind using python, webkit2png seems to be a common alternative. Though it’s well over 280 lines of code and looks like it was last updated on April 2009.)