You may think at first, why do you even need an API to take a screenshot? Is it really necessary if you can just press a button on your keyboard to do it? In this article, we will discuss why you may want to use an API, what are the advantages, what can be the use cases, and lastly, how can you actually take a screenshot using an API.

Why use an API?

So, why API? The very short answer- automation. The long answer is there are a lot of things you can do with an API, and automation, especially for any repeatable tasks, is one of the solid reasons why you may opt to use a Screenshot API. The simple fact that it is an API means it can be scalable and pretty reliable for any application that you may want to use it for. Also, a screenshot API can easily save an image of an entire webpage without the need to go to the actual website with a browser.

Take the image below as an example. With just one API call, you can download an exact copy of a webpage in seconds and save it to your local machine in JPEG or PNG format.

Most web pages nowadays do not fit on a single browser screen and may take you a few scrolls to get to the bottom part. So, saving an image of a webpage manually can take several minutes or longer since you will need to open your browser, go to the URL, wait for the webpage to load then take screenshots to capture multiple sections of the page and use an application where you can edit and reconstruct the entire image. It may be viable if you just want to save a small section of the page, but if you plan to capture lots of webpages, then it is surely going to be a waste of time when you can just write a simple code to utilize an API and automate the entire process and even get better results.

To further show you how useful a screenshot API is, we have listed down some of its most popular applications based on a wide range of users.

Screenshot API use cases

Take Web scraping into the next level - Using a screenshot API can greatly enhance your web scraping projects. There are various ways to take advantage of the capabilities of this kind of API and it can be easily integrated into any existing systems. Use it to validate if your scraper is getting the correct source code, capture thousands of screenshots in minutes and use it as another data point besides the usual texts that you can get from scraping, or even keep track of any website changes via the snapshots so you can quickly make some adjustments on your scraper if necessary.

For study and research - Wouldn’t it be best if you can just capture and download study and research materials you’ve found on various sites in a matter of seconds so you can focus on what really matters? As we have pointed out earlier, saving snapshots of web pages manually will take so much of your time and effort it is hard to justify doing it in the first place. Using an API to automate this task will make much more sense and can significantly reduce your workload. Saving copies of online research papers, books, and useful articles will be a breeze and can greatly increase its accessibility since images can be saved on a local hard drive or the cloud.

Perfect for bloggers, content creators, and web developers - It is indeed a simple API but can be a very effective one in the hands of professionals. If you are writing a review or doing a list of websites for any reason, the API can capture a perfect image of any web page, and including that image in your article can improve user engagement. For web developers and freelancers who want to showcase their portfolio, using an API is almost a must if you have built multiple websites as it can flawlessly take screenshots of your work with minimal effort in the best resolution possible.

Using ProxyCrawl’s Screenshots API

There are a lot of websites that offer an automated screenshot API and finding the right one for you may be troublesome. But you do not need to look any further, as ProxyCrawl is currently offering one of the best API screenshot services which have a built-in anti-bot detection that can bypass blocked requests and CAPTCHAs. By using this Screenshot API, you can stay anonymous as the API is built on top of thousands of residential and data center proxies managed by artificial intelligence so you can always get a flawless and high-resolution image of any website you want.

Using the API is easy, as every request will start with the following base part:

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https://api.proxycrawl.com/screenshots

ProxyCrawl will provide a private token upon creating an account that is required to use the service:

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?token=PRIVATE_TOKEN

Executing a very simple curl command on the terminal or command prompt will allow you to crawl any webpage and save the image to any compatible file type of your choice:

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curl "https://api.proxycrawl.com/screenshots?token=PRIVATE_TOKEN&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Famazon-books%2Fb%3Fie%3DUTF8%26node%3D13270229011" > test.jpeg

The result will be a clean image of the entire webpage in the best resolution possible and without the unnecessary section of a web browser, like the scroll bar and the address bar:

Now if you want this to scale and fully automate the process, you can build your code using any of your favorite programming languages. ProxyCrawl has libraries that are free to use which will allow uncompromising integration to any existing systems. It is also pretty straightforward if you want to create your project around the API.

Below is a simple demonstration of how you can use the Screenshots API with the ProxyCrawl Node library:

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const { ScreenshotsAPI } = require('proxycrawl');
const api = new ScreenshotsAPI({ token: 'PRIVATE_TOKEN' });
const fs = require('fs');

api.get('https://www.apple.com').then((response) => {
fs.writeFileSync('apple.jpg', response.body, { encoding: 'binary' });
console.log('Screenshot saved!');
});

In addition to the default function, the API has optional parameters that you can utilize based on your needs:

  • device - pass this parameter if you wish to capture the image on a specific device. The options available are desktop and mobile.
  • user_agent - use this if you want a more specific option than the device parameter. This is a character string that lets you pass a custom user agent to the API.
  • css_click_selector - this parameter will let you instruct the API to click an element in the page before the browser captures the resulting web page. The value should be a valid CSS selector, for example, .some-other-button or #some-button, and should be fully encoded.
  • scroll - use this for websites with infinite scrolling. The API will scroll through the entire page before capturing a screenshot on a set scroll interval. The default scroll is 10 seconds but can be set to a maximum of 60 through its subparameter scroll_interval=value. Example: &scroll=true&scroll_interval=20
  • store - accepts boolean &store=true to store a copy of your screenshot straight into the ProxyCrawl’s Cloud storage.

Passing any of the available parameters to the API, is as easy as shown below:

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const { ScreenshotsAPI } = require('proxycrawl');
const api = new ScreenshotsAPI({ token: 'PRIVATE_TOKEN' });
const fs = require('fs');

api.get('https://www.amazon.com', { device: 'mobile' }).then((response) => {
fs.writeFileSync('amazon.jpg', response.body, { encoding: 'binary' });
console.log('Screenshot saved!');
});

The result will be the mobile version of the website:

Conclusion

There is no doubt that doing the same task over and over again can be tedious. So, if it is a repetitious task, like taking tens, hundreds, or even thousands of website screenshots, then the best choice would be to automate it using an API. Not only that it can save time but it can also provide better and consistent results.

ProxyCrawl’s Screenshots API is one of the best choices in the market right now as it does provide an easy-to-use service that also offers great flexibility due to its features and exceptional reliability. Every API call utilizes IP from a vast pool of proxies and is optimized by artificial intelligence so you can stay anonymous and avoid bot detection while capturing a website’s image in high resolution.