In some questions or answers, users post screenshots of their terminal to highlight a terminal application or simply to share the output of a command. In some cases, I find using a screenshot useless. If the terminal output can be copied and pasted in answer/question without losing any information or layout feature, I don't see the point of using a screenshot.

Should I edit posts by replacing those screenshots by plain text?

This does not only apply to the terminals, but also to screenshots of error messages for example. Of course, in some cases, the screenshot is necessary to understand the context, but I find that this is rarely the case.

I see many benefits in reducing the number of unnecessary images in posts:

  • reduce page loading time;
  • improve readability on mobile devices;
  • allow copy & paste;
  • it may free a little bit the servers actually not because the screenshot will be kept in previous edits;
  • text is searchable, but images are not.
  • 4
    Depends on the context. If the output itself matters, use text. If the terminal appearance itself matters, and there's no way to use plain text, use images. A second point in using plain text is that it doesn't break accessibility. Images can't be copied or read by screenreaders Jun 17, 2020 at 8:40
  • 8
    I would say it is better to educate the individual posting the screenshot and ask them to edit it, than it is for you to try to take on the responsibility of cleaning this up on their behalf for the entire network. If after prompting they don't remove the screenshot, so what, it's their question to do as they please.
    – musefan
    Jun 17, 2020 at 8:43
  • 2
    Related question on MSO: Discourage screenshots of code and/or errors. Also see meta.stackoverflow.com/q/285551/4014959
    – PM 2Ring
    Jun 17, 2020 at 8:56
  • 2
    I wouldn't start doing this for images posted by others, but if you intend to post a screenshot then yes, please do as Zoe noticed!
    – Luuklag
    Jun 17, 2020 at 9:01
  • 1
    Note that even if you need to use an image, the image needs to be described (or transcribed in the case of images of text): w3.org/WAI/tutorials/images (If the existing text already describes the image then that’s sufficient; you don’t need to be redundant.)
    – BSMP
    Jun 21, 2020 at 2:18
  • What do you mean "replace"--in your draft post, or others' posts?
    – philipxy
    Jun 21, 2020 at 5:55
  • Please clarify via edits, not comments.
    – philipxy
    Jun 22, 2020 at 13:12

1 Answer 1


As a general rule of thumb - text should be preferred. Unless there is some information that can't be conveyed by the text (e.g., the question is about the appearance of the terminal or some rendering issue), using text would be superior to a screenshot for all the reasons you described.

Having said that, going around and editing others' posts by painstakingly typing up the text from a screenshot is a thankless job. If you're up for it - more power to you. But to be honest, I'd just comment on such a post and ask the OP to paste their text. If they have the screenshot, they should also have the text itself ready for copy-pasting. Moreover, educating the OP that we prefer text over screenshots will prevent them from making the same so-called mistake again - "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime".

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