Best Tools to Make Animated GIF in Linux Systems

Animated GIF images have become an art of its own, with funny scenes and memes flooding the internet. Animated GIFs are also useful to us geeks, for example for showing interactive terminal output. When there is not enough content to warrant entire video but you still need moving picture, animated GIF is what you need. So today we will show five ways you can create GIFs using open source Linux software.

1) Using gtk-recordmydesktop

Lets first install the software we need. We need above mentioned screencasting software,  and we also need imagemagick and mplayer. So let's install them.

# apt-get install imagemagick mplayer gtk-recordmydesktop

Next we use recordmyDesktop software to record terminal window while we execute some command. We will keep it simple so we will just ping google. When that is recorded, and file is saved in ~/Videos/mygif.ogv we move to next step. First cd into videos directory.

# cd Videos/

mkdir img_mygif

Then we need to dissemble the video to frames

# mplayer -ao null mygif.ogv -vo jpeg:outdir=/home/miki/Videos/img_mygif

It will play video and start the process, at the end we will have images in the ~/Videos/img_mygif directory. You can enter that directory and delete some of the images on start and the end in order to make GIF shorter.

To create actual GIF, we need to use imagemagick to fuse images back together in GIF format. It is very resourced intensive task, it can throw down to knees even most powerful ones of machines, so we will use options to limit usage of resources, which will in turn make the process take more time. But at least you wont end up with completely unresponsive system.  The options for limiting are -limit memory 1 -limit map 1

# convert -limit memory 1 -limit map 1 /home/miki/Videos/img_mygif/* final.gif

In order to make the gif smaller we can optimize it

# convert -limit memory 1 -limit map 1 final.gif -fuzz 10% -layers Optimize final_optimzed.gif

And here is the final GIF:

gtk recordmydesktop animated gif

2) Using Byzanz to make GIF

Byzanz is another software which can greatly simplify the creation of the GIFs. First, of course we need to install Byzanz.

# apt install byzanz

We can right away start by making a GIF

# byzanz-record --duration=5 --x=500 --width=250 --height=100 newgif.gif

Byzanz animated gif

The most challenging part here is actually fitting the right area of the screen to capture. The options width and height need to be tested several times before you get the right alignment. Here are the options and the syntax of byzanz-record command:

[email protected]:~$ byzanz-record --help
byzanz-record [OPTION...] record your current desktop session

Help Options:
-?, --help Show help options
--help-all Show all help options
--help-gtk Show GTK+ Options

Application Options:
-d, --duration=SECS Duration of animation (default: 10 seconds)
-e, --exec=COMMAND Command to execute and time
--delay=SECS Delay before start (default: 1 second)
-c, --cursor Record mouse cursor
-a, --audio Record audio
-x, --x=PIXEL X coordinate of rectangle to record
-y, --y=PIXEL Y coordinate of rectangle to record
-w, --width=PIXEL Width of recording rectangle
-h, --height=PIXEL Height of recording rectangle
-v, --verbose Be verbose
--display=DISPLAY X display to use

3) Using peek to make GIF

Peek is a great piece of software that enables you to quickly record GIFs by selecting and recording a piece of screen. To get peek

# wget

To get dependencies

# apt install libsdl1.2debian ffmpeg

Installing the package

# dpkg -i peek-0.7.2-Linux.deb

And start the peek

# peek

It will give you frame like this

peek Frame

You can easily use this frame to get a piece of the screen and record GIF there. For example, I will Peek into terminal again.

Peek animated gif

4) Using Gifine to make animated GIF

Gifine is a free GTK based application tool that can be used to record your desktop screen and create animated gifs or video.

Before starting, you will need to install FFmpeg to your system. By default, FFmpeg is not available in Ubuntu default repository. So you will need to add PPA for FFmpeg. You can do this with the following command:

# add-apt-repository ppa:jonathonf/ffmpeg-3

Next, update your system with the following command:

# apt-get update -y

Finally, install FFmpeg with the following command:

# apt-get install ffmpeg -y

Next, you will also need to install other dependencies required by Gifine. You can install all of them with the following command:

# apt-get install gcc make build-essential graphicsmagick gifsicle luarocks -y

Next, you will need to download and compile XrectSel to your system. It's basically an application that tells you the geometry of a rectangular screen region which you have selected by dragging the mouse/pointer. You can download it with the following command:

# wget

Once the download is finished, extract the downloaded file with the following command:

# unzip

Next, change the directory to the extracted directory and install XrectSel with the following command:

# cd xrectsel-master
./configure --prefix /usr
make DESTDIR="$directory" install

Finally, install Gifine with the following command:

# luarocks install --server= gifine

Once Gifine is installed, you can launch it with the following command:

# gifine

You should see the Gifine application UI in the following image:

Next, click on the Record rectangle button, then select a rectangular area on your screen which you want to record. Recording is now begins and you should see the following image:

Once you are done with the recording, click on the Stop recording button. You should see the following image:

Next, click on the Save GIF or Save MP4 button to save the recording as a GIF or a video.

5) Using Gifcurry to make GIF

Gifcurry is a Haskell based program to create animated GIFs, overlaid with optional text, from video files. It includes both the GUI gifcurry_gui and the command line gifcurry_cli. It uses ffmpeg and imagemagic to process video and convert to GIF. Gifcurry offers the features below

  • Convert video to gif:
  • Add text to gif
  • Choose start time
  • Set duration
  • Set gif width
  • Adjust Quality
  • Upload to Imgur or Giphy

Run the command below to install it

# add-apt-repository ppa:kirillshkrogalev/ffmpeg-next
 This PPA provides backported release ffmpeg for current releases Ubuntu (Trusty, Utopic, etc.)
 More info:
Press [ENTER] to continue or ctrl-c to cancel adding it

now install ffmpeg and imagemagic

# apt-get install ffmpeg imagemagick
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree 
Reading state information... Done
The following additional packages will be installed:
 i965-va-driver libaacs0 libass5 libavcodec-ffmpeg56 libavdevice-ffmpeg56 libavfilter-ffmpeg5.

Now download gifcurry

# wget
--2017-09-08 01:39:58--

Unzip the compressed archive and access to the folder

# tar -xvf gifcurry-linux- 
# cd gifcurry-linux-

You can check the content as below:

# ls -l
total 6956
-rwxr-xr-x 1 ubuntu users 3406376 Nov 17 2016 gifcurry_cli
-rwxr-xr-x 1 ubuntu users 3714352 Nov 17 2016 gifcurry_gui

You can see the gifcurry for GUI and CLI. You can show the help of the gifcurry GUI as below to see how to use the parameters

# ./gifcurry_cli -?
Gifcurry (C) 2016 David Lettier

gifcurry_cli [OPTIONS]

Common flags:
  -i --inputfile=FILE      The input video file path and name.
  -o --outputfile=ITEM     The output GIF file path and name.
  -s --starttime=NUM       The start time (in seconds) for the first frame.
  -d --durationtime=NUM    How long the GIF lasts (in seconds) from the start
  -w --widthsize=INT       How wide the GIF needs to be. Height will scale to
  -q --qualitypercent=NUM  Ranges from 0.0 to 100.0.
  -f --fontchoice=ITEM     Choose your desired font for the top and bottom
  -t --toptext=ITEM        The text you wish to add to the top of the GIF.
  -b --bottomtext=ITEM     The text you wish to add to the bottom of the GIF.
  -? --help                Display help message
  -V --version             Print version information
     --numeric-version     Print just the version number

Now we can create our gif in command line. In the command above, we will try to create a gif animation of a video that we have. The default video takes 13 secondes but for our gif animation, we will set less time

# ./gifcurry_cli -i ~/funny-cat.mkv -o /home/ubuntu/funnycat.gif -s 138.00 -d 8.00 -w 250 -q 30 -f Roboto -b FunnyCat
 _____ _  __                           
|  __ (_)/ _|                          
| |  \/_| |_ ___ _   _ _ __ _ __ _   _ 
| | __| |  _/ __| | | | '__| '__| | | |
| |_\ \ | || (__| |_| | |  | |  | |_| |
 \____/_|_| \___|\__,_|_|  |_|   \__, |
                                  __/ |

Gifcurry (C) 2016 David Lettier.

Input file: /root/funny-cat.mkv
Output file: /home/ubuntu/funnycat.gif
Start second: 138.000
Duration: 8.000 seconds
GIF width: 250px
Quality: 30.0%
Font Choice: Roboto
Top text: 
Bottom text: FunnyCat

Writing temporary frames to... ./frames22605
Font matched: default
Writing your GIF to... /home/ubuntu/funnycat.gif


There we have five ways to make animated GIFs on Linux and this guide show the case of an Ubuntu system. The first method, using imagemagick, is also useful if you have video from the internet, not made by yourself. Second and third method rely on you making the screencast on your computer. The fourth can be usefull to do a gif of your desktop or a video of your choice as the fifth tool. You can pick methods based on your needs and preference, and generally, all the methods can get you the same result. This was all for today's article, thank you for reading.

Mihajlo Milenovic 3:00 am

About Mihajlo Milenovic

Miki is a long time GNU/Linux user, Free Software advocate and a freelance system administrator from Serbia. Got introduced to GNU/Linux in year 2003 on old AMD Duron computer, and since than always eager to learn new stuff about this system. From 2016 writes for Linoxide to share his experiences with wider audience

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  1. I tried to make a gif out of several pictures that I shot in rapid succession. I used Gimp, which makes it easier to crop them to the same area and then make the animation. But for some reason the output was low color depth, which looked terrible on a photo.

    1. I had similar problems now and then, but I found out that Peek is most trouble free of above. There is also java based ScreenStudio, but haven't been able to make it work.

      I dont have solution for that problem other than switching software and trying what works best.