Monday, December 16, 2013

Screen capture using Windows' Snipping Tool

As I mentioned in a prior tip, there are several really easy ways to capture a picture of what is shown on your computer screen.  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.  The two ways mentioned before were the use of the Print Screen key and the Alt-Print Screen key combination.  The Alt-Print Screen combination is especially useful because it captures only the window that you’re currently “focused” on.  Remember that once you’ve captured your screen (or your current window) you can immediately go to Word, Excel, or Outlook (for example) and Paste the captured image.

But there are some other situations where these solutions just don't quite do the job.  What if you need to capture just a small section of one window?  What if you want to capture two windows at once?  This tip will introduce you to a tool that can do those things.  It’s called the Snipping Tool.  It was first made available in some special editions of Windows XP and is available in all versions of Windows Vista, 7, and 8.  This tool is worthy of spending a little time with in order to get acquainted.  I’ll explain it first, but the video link below (less than one minute long) will demonstrate how to use it.  This tool is handy enough that I recommend “pinning” it to your Start menu or even your Taskbar (and I’ll show you how to do that, as well).

To launch the Snipping tool, begin by clicking the Windows button (see to the right) and begin typing “snip”.  Windows will locate the Snipping Tool's shortcut for you and show it to you as an option (see below).

Press Enter or click the Snipping Tool shortcut to launch it.  Now you’ve opened the Snipping Tool application.  Prior to Windows 8 your screen will change appearance (will get dimmer), which indicates that the Snipping Tool is now active.  (Note: On Windows 8, this won't happen until you click New.)  This also means that your next mouse click will “set” one corner of the rectangle to be captured.  Here’s what you do: click and hold the mouse to set that first corner, then (while still holding down the mouse button) drag the mouse pointer to the opposite corner of the area you want to select and release the mouse button.  That’s it!  You just “snipped” that section of your screen.  It's already on your clipboard.  You can immediately Paste that image into a program.  If you want to begin another “snip” just click the New button in the Snipping Tool window (see below).

There are several options inside the Snipping Tool (like drawing, erasing, capturing a shape other than a rectangle, etc.), but that’s enough for today.

Here’s the short video demonstrating how to use it.

BONUS TIP: If you want to pin the Snipping Tool to your Start Menu or your Taskbar, click the Start button and begin typing “snip”.  When you see Snipping Tool, right-click it and select either Pin to Taskbar or Pin to Start Menu.

Craig Rhinehart - Director of Information Technology