TechTips—Screen Shots

March 26, 2013  - by 

Have you heard the term “screenshot” lately? It is one of the greatest things since—you name it. A screenshot is a digital image of what your screen looks like at any given moment, just as if you had taken a picture of it with a digital camera. The ability to take a screenshot has been around for quite a while (30+ years), and it is a great thing for helping solve problems for someone who isn’t in the same room with you. You can send the image by email to a support person who can then tell you what you need to do to fix your problem. You can also use a screenshot (or several of them) to show someone else how to do something. So that’s just great—now you need to know HOW to create one, right?

Well, for a PC it’s pretty straightforward. Most keyboards have a print screen button somewhere along the top row. It usually shares the button location with Sys Rq. “Print screen” may be written out or abbreviated as “Prt Scr” or something similar. The key harks back to the good old days before graphical interface (the pictures we see on the computer screens) when pressing the key actually just sent whatever text was on the screen to your printer to be printed. (I often used it to print an index of files on my floppy disk.)

Here’s how you do it on most PCs. You hold down the Shift key AND the Prt Scr key (Shift+PrtScr) at the same time. The computer copies a pretty picture of your screen onto the clipboard, ready to paste into any program. If you are going to email the image to someone, you can just paste it into your email by pressing Ctrl+V. If you need to send it through Skype, you’ll need to turn it into a file by pasting it into a photo or word processing program and saving the file to your hard drive. Then you can drag the file onto your Skype window, and off it goes!

For a Mac, the process is a little different, but maybe even easier. To get the picture of your screen onto the clipboard for pasting into a program, you press Command+Control+Shift+3 and then paste away. If you need it as a file anyway, you can leave out the Control key from the process. Command+Shift+3 will create a .png file of your screen and put it on your desktop all in one easy step, as long as your fingers are coordinated!

Just so you know, there are programs out there that will create your screenshots and save them to a file for you. Some can even copy just portions of your screen to a file. Whether or not you need those programs depends on how much you use screenshots and what you use them for. Personally, PrtScr has worked for me for about 30 years. I don’t do a lot of screenshots, but if I were creating a lot of tutorials, I might look into one of these programs.

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  1. On my regular old computer, I don’t need to press the Shift key, only the PrtScn key.

    On smaller documents (such as Death Certificates) that I find here on familysearch, I use the PrtScn method instead of downloading the file then going to My Name>Downloads, then clicking on open with…because PrtScn involves less steps.

    The PrtScn method won’t work on large documents such as census pages, because I want the finished image to be larger than my monitor.

  2. Alt+PrtScn on a Windows computer produces an image of just the active window on the screen, often more useful than capturing the entire screen.

  3. Downloading Gadwin Print Screen (freeware) makes cropping to just what you want really easy. The screen goes gray and cross hairs appear so you can highlight just a portion of the screen. Then it copies the selection to the clipboard and can be pasted into a word doc or an email, etc. I have found this very useful.

  4. In Windows Vista and newer, there is a “Snipping tool” in the accessories that is nifty. If I remember right, in Vista you had to install the Snipping Tool as an accessory but it was included in the Windows program. You can choose the portion of the screen you want to copy. You don’t have to copy the whole screen. You can then save the screen shot to a file or copy and paste it into a document.

    1. Mac too has a similar tool called snippet that works like the snipping tool for PC users.

  5. iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch – press home button and power button at same time

    Android Phone and Kindle Tablet – power button and volume down button

    Chrome book – To capture your entire screen, hit Ctrl + window switch key.
    To capture only part of the screen, hit Ctrl + Shift + window switch key, then click and drag your cursor to select the area you’d like to capture.
    Note: If you’re using an external keyboard, the combinations will be Ctrl + F5 and Ctrl + Shift + F5, respectively.

  6. The easiest/fastest screenshot option for Windows 10, along with 2 other options:

    1. To capture the entire screen & save it one step:
    Press the Windows and PrtSc button at the same time. By default, these screen captures will be saved at This PC > Pictures > Screenshots.

    2. To capture the a single window: Click the Start button. Type “snipping tool” & click on the Snipping Tool Desktop app to open it that shows up. Once the program opens, delect the drop-down menu by New, then select Window Snip. Save the snapshot in your desired image format.

    3. To capture a custom part of the screen: Click the Start button. Type “snipping tool” & click on the Snipping Tool Desktop app to open it that shows up. Once the program opens, select the drop-down menu by New, then select Free-form Snip. Make alterations as desired before saving the image afterwards.

  7. The most common screenshot options for (most) flavors of Linux

    1. To capture the entire screen:
    Press the PrtSc button. A small dialog box should automatically open; you can either leave the default filename at this point, or type your own. Select “Save” inside of the dialog box to store the image into “Pictures” directory.

    2. To select the current window:
    Press: Alt and PrtSc buttons (at the same time). All the steps are the same as the last option, except only the active window is available to use.

    3. To select the part of the screen you’re interested in yourself:
    Press: Shift + PrtSc buttons (at the same time). All the steps are the same as the last option, except you can use the cursor to select which part of the screen you’d like to use.