Frequently Asked Questions

Using the service

Yes, even for inclusion in closed, for-cost works. It would be nice if you'd mention that you used for the screenshots, but you don't have to.

Yes. For the foreseeable future, there will be free screenshots for everybody. You may have to wait in the queue when there's a lot of demand, or you can buy priority processing.

Old screenshots will be deleted when they haven't been accessed for a while. How long exactly depends on the number of new screenshots per day.As of May 2010, we have enough disk space to keep screenshots for one month after the last visit.


If the queue is very long, your screenshot requests may expire before they can be processed. The default expiration time is 30 minutes, but you can extend it with a button on the website overview page. Also, if your requested configuration is too specific (e.g. specific Flash or Java version) there may not be matching screenshot factories all the time. Try the Don't care setting for quicker results.

That's not a problem with your page but a side effect of the multi-page merging. The screenshots are taken one screen at a time, and then merged together to produce a tall screenshot. If your menu or background doesn't scroll with the rest of the page, it will appear multiple times.

Sometimes the automatic scrolling doesn't work. The reason could be that your page uses frames, or that it sets the keyboard focus to an input field with JavaScript.

Browsershots respects the robots.txt standard. If you want, you can explicitly allow Browsershots by adding a section like this to the robots.txt file on your server:

User-agent: Browsershots

Some pages on are also protected, mainly to keep screenshot result pages out of search engines.

Running a screenshot factory

Python is included with recent versions of Linux and Mac OS, and on Windows it should be easy to install. If you really can't get Python to run on your computer, you could write your own screenshot factory in your favorite programming language, according to the FactoryInterface specification.

See HowToCreateANewScreenshotFactory. The factory password is your user account password on

On Windows, the screenshot factory program uses the desktop, so you will have to stop it when you want to use the computer.

On Linux, the program runs in the background and uses a VNC server for the screen. You can use your computer at the same time, and if the system load is over a configurable limit, the screenshot factory program will stop making screenshots until the system is idle again. The default load limit is 1.0, but you can change it with the command line option -l.

On Mac, it's possible to run the screenshot factory in the background, using fast user switching and a separate user account.

That's because the /RPC2 interface was for the old version 0.3 of Browsershots which moved to for historic reference. The current version 0.4 uses for the screenshot factory API. You should install a package with "0.4" in the name, or check out the trunk from Subversion.

For security reasons, the browser command must not contain whitespace or start with a drive letter. The purpose of this mechanism is to avoid commands like format C: or C:\rootkit.exe. The best solution on Windows is to install the browser in a subdirectory of the shotfactory folder, e.g. shotfactory\firefox30, then enter firefox30\firefox.exe in the browser command field.

For security reasons, the browser command must not contain whitespace or start with a slash. The purpose of this mechanism is to avoid commands like rm -rf / or /tmp/rootkit. The best solution on Linux or Mac OS is to create a simple shell script with your desired options, make it executable (chmod a+x), put it somewhere on your PATH and then use the name of the shell script as the browser command. For example, you could save the following in /usr/local/bin/opera-newpage and then enter opera-newpage in the browser command field:

/usr/bin/opera -newpage "$@"

This is possibly because you enabled 32 bits per pixel on the factory details page, but this bit depth is not supported by the VNC server. Remove the 32 bpp setting and use 24 bpp instead. You can try to run -vvv (for very very verbose output) to see the exact commands that the shotfactory script is trying to run.

Background info

One night in November 2004, I went to bed too early, and while I was lying awake, suddenly the distributed volunteer idea struck me.

Public beta test started in February 2005. The first public release was in March 2005. The project was rewritten completely between v0.2.6 and v0.3-alpha1, and again for v0.4-beta1 (transition to the Django framework).

This is the one feature that sets this project apart from similar online services. The screenshots are made on distributed computers that are run by volunteers. You can see a list of active screenshot factories. Most of these are normal desktop machines with domestic broadband internet. Distributed community processing ensures O/S and browser diversity, but it makes quality assurance much harder.