Take Easy Screenshots in Windows

With the last round of operating system updates from Microsoft, taking screenshots in Windows became much, much easier. Many of you out there might be familiar with the “Print Screen” method that is basically as old as Windows itself. In that method, a simple press of the Print Screen button copies an image of the screen to your clipboard. If you haven’t used that method, then chances are you’ve never actually pushed that “Print Screen/System Req” button key at the top of your keyboard, not on purpose anyway. However, pressing the Print Screen button has two major drawbacks. First, it copies the entire screen (or the active window if you hold Ctrl). If you want only a certain piece of the screen, you need to edit the file with an image editing program. And second, you can’t simply save the image file to your computer. You need image editing software to accomplish that as well. In this post, I’ll describe the new and easier ways to create images from the content on your screen.

If you have Windows 7 (something I highly recommend you get so long as your PC meets the minimum hardware requirements) or Windows Vista, the ability to take custom screen captures has been built into the operating system. All you need to do is find the program. In both operating systems the program is called the Snipping Tool. You can find it in the Accessories folder of the Start Menu. I use the feature fairly often so I’ve pinned a shortcut to the program on my taskbar. To do this simply right click on the program and select “Pin to Task Bar” or simply click on it and drag it to the taskbar.

Snipping Tool MenuWhen you run the program it presents you with this dialogue box.You can choose between four types of screen capture. The Snipping Tool allows you to capture the whole screen or a single open window. You can also draw a rectangle or a freeform shape with your mouse. Once you’ve clipped your desired content, the image is copied to your clipboard. You can now paste that image into a word processing document or any other software that can accept an image as pasted input. If you simply want to save the image file, click on the save icon in the screenshot program. The Snipping Tool allows you to save the image as a JPEG, GIF, PNG or MHTML file. For a more detailed rundown of how the software works check out Microsoft’s step by step instructions for the tool.

If you’ve got an old machine or a netbook that runs good ol’ Windows XP, you’ll need a piece of third party software to accomplish these tasks. A simple program called Snippy offers basically the same features that are now Snippy Tray Iconbuilt into Windows. The program is so simple that it doesn’t even need an installer. You simply download Snippy.exe and run that very file when you want to take screenshots. Running the program places a scissors icon among the notification icons in your taskbar. A click of that icon brings up an interface pretty similar to that of the Snipping Tool.

Once you’ve mastered one of these little programs, you’re free to pop that “Print Screen/System Req” button right off your keyboard. You’ll never need it again.

If you’ve got a Mac, you can accomplish these screenshot tasks with a series of keyboard shortcuts or with a program called Grab located in /Applications/Utilities. Linux users have many options available depending on the distribution they run.

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2 responses to “Take Easy Screenshots in Windows

  1. Pingback: Mac users, try Skitch for annotating images « DIY Ivory Tower

  2. Pingback: Skitch makes annotating images simple | nicomachus.net

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