Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Windows screen capture basics

There are several really easy ways to capture a picture of what is shown on your computer screen.  I’ll describe two of them here and another in a future post.  These features are very handy for preparing documentation, for passing along an error message to tech support, or any other time you need to “grab” a picture of what’s on your screen.

If you want to capture an image of what is shown on your monitor (or what is shown on ALL your monitors, if you have more than one) and then use it in Word, in an E-mail, or in any program that can manipulate a picture, just press the Print Screen key on your keyboard (sometimes abbreviated PrtScn).  You won’t see anything happen – there’s no flash or beep.  Windows captures your screen’s contents and holds on to the image in the “clipboard” – the invisible place in Windows where things are copied to and pasted from.  You can then go to almost any program and use the Paste function.  The entire image of your screen(s) will be inserted into that program.  It’s really that easy… but there’s a drawback when using Print Screen with multiple monitors:

When you use Print Screen with a multiple monitor system and then paste the image into Word (for example), the resulting picture is very wide and is automatically adjusted in order to fit in your Document.  The result is that it is difficult to make out details of the picture.  Enter the Alt-Print Screen shortcut:

Just hold down the Alt key while pressing and releasing the Print Screen key and Windows will capture only the active window and place that image onto the clipboard.  Everything else is the same (the Paste step, how and where you can use the captured image).  I use Alt-Print Screen a lot more often than I use Print Screen because the image is a more manageable size.

FYI – Either of these methods allow you to create what IT folks commonly call a “screen shot.”

Craig Rhinehart
Director of Information Technology