How to Get Screenshots off a Steam Deck
We interrupt my regular playthrough posts with this important news bulletin:
I FINALLY GOT MY STEAM DECK YOU GUYS! 😍 🤩
I’tm about to do TWO posts about this. One with general overall impressions of the thing, and also this post, which is going to be about the hoops I had to jump through in order to get at the screenshots I love to take for my playthrough posts. This did, I feel, deserve a whole separate post because it’s one of the few things I don’t like about the Deck so far. And I wanted to write up the steps I followed for my workaround, in case any other gamers out there also finally getting Decks want to do the same thing.
This is going to be long, so here’s a More tag, y’all:
How I’ve gotten screenshots up till now
First, let me describe the use case here. When I’ve been doing all my playing up until now, I’ve regularly taken screenshots to plug into my blog posts. How I get at those screenshots has depended upon what device I’m playing on.
On the Switch
The process of getting screenshots off my Switch isn’t quite as easy as I would like, but it wasn’t onerous to set up, either. It involves three things:
- Plugging the Switch into my MacBook via USB
- The Android File Transfer app installed on my Mac, which lets it see the Switch as a connected device and move files off of it
- Going in through the Switch’s UI for managing screenshots, and telling it to transfer files over USB
Then the files get dropped onto a directory on my computer and I can do what I like with them.
On the PC
Steam, to my vexation, isn’t as smooth about this as the Switch is. The default behavior in the Steam client is oriented around sharing screenshots up to your Steam account on their servers–which is not my use case. I just want the raw files so I can plug them into blog posts.
The Steam client does let you specify an additional screenshots directory, though, and I’ve been using that. I told it to drop files into a directory on my Dropbox account, local to the Windows file system. And if I’ve got the Dropbox client running, it synchronizes over to the Mac and lets me get at the files on my preferred computer.
And if I wanted to save a step, I could also of course just write the blog posts on the PC. Which hasn’t been an option I’ve considered before, but which I may have to do, because….
How I got my screenshots off the Deck
The Steam Deck’s Gaming mode UI does not include an equivalent of that Screenshots Folder setting I’ve been using on the PC. You can take screenshots. But the only UI you get access to is, again, oriented around sending them up to your Steam account.
When I booted the thing into Desktop mode, I discovered a couple of things.
One: even in Desktop mode, there is a Steam client.
Two: You can also run games in Desktop mode, you don’t have to be in Gaming mode to do it.
So with that in mind, when I saw that the Desktop mode Steam client did have the familiar Screenshots Folder setting, I tried it out. I could not, however, get it to work. Launching Skyrim either in Gaming mode or in Desktop mode didn’t show any sign of being willing to save files in the directory I specified, which happened to be the desktop.
Here’s what finally did work, though. There were two parts to this process.
Actually finding my screenshot files
The main thing I had to find out was, where the hell Steam dropped the screenshot files. I knew from the PC that they were buried fairly deep. The same applies on the Deck. The path reference I found when I searched for it was:
Home > .local > share > Steam > userdata > [Your Steam account ID] >760 > remote
I did not want to have to drill that far down into my file structure to get screenshots every damn time I do a playthrough post, though. So once I found the directory where the files were sitting, I went up a level so that I could right-click on the folder and copy the path for it to the clipboard.
Then I went over to my Pictures directory, created a link to that folder, and named that link ‘Skyrim’. Much easier to find.
Setting up a file transfer bridge
A considerable amount of web searching tonight found me multiple forum posts and Reddit threads talking about a thing called Warpinator. This is a file transfer utility, and you can install it straight onto the Deck in Desktop mode. Here’s how I did that:
- Put the Deck into Desktop mode by hitting the Steam button on the left
- Selecting Power
- Selecting Switch to Desktop
- Tapping on the Discover app in Desktop mode’s dock, which is the third one from the left
- Tapped on the Applications list
- Scrolled down that entire thing till I found Warpinator, and installed it
- Went over to my PC, and installed the Windows port, Winpinator
- I had to explicitly go into Winpinator’s preferences and tell it to connect over WiFi, so that it’d actually connect to the Deck
- I also had to tell Windows to authorize the Deck to connect and share files with Windows
Once I went through these steps, I was able to tell Warpinator on the Deck to chuck everything in my Skyrim screenshots directory over onto the PC so I could play with those files on something with a real keyboard.
It’s a clunky workaround, mind you. But then again, workarounds in tech generally are. It did however do the job and let me put those files where I want them, and where I’ll be able to use them for my next actual Skyrim playthrough post.
Other possibilities I may consider trying, until a better way to do this is implemented in SteamOS:
- Copying the raw files onto an SSD and skipping Warpinator entirely; would have tried that tonight but didn’t happen to have an SSD handy, I may need to buy one to dedicate to this purpose?
- Or, alternately, a tiny flash drive would also be acceptable.
- I found multiple posts talking about people moving files onto and off of the Deck via sshd, too, and I did install an sftp client to try, FileZilla. However, wound up not trying that because so far, trying to do anything more complex than tapping is not smooth in Desktop mode. So if I’m going to do any serious administration of the Desktop mode on this device, I’m clearly going to have to point it at a Bluetooth keyboard of some kind.
Ultimately, though, this will do me for now. And I am pleased mostly by this device! This was the only real bumpy aspect of getting it set up the way I want it. Aside from this, I have Skyrim, Morrowind, and Oblivion now all set up on it, and have successfully played Skyrim on it tonight. 😀
More on the Steam Deck in my next post!