How to take a screenshot on Windows

The principle that a picture is worth a thousand words may be a tired phrase, but it certainly seems more accurate today than ever before.

Pictures as a way to share an idea, whether it’s an artwork, your computer screen, or a meme (screenshots, oftentimes, edited for humor), are effective, at least. Screenshot programs could have created the meme format, in fact. I recently found out that very few consumers are unaware that they can take a “screenshot” of their computer screens – from their PC.

3 ways to capture screen

There are three basic options for screen capture.

  1. Use the Windows Snip and Sketch tool. It is compact and powerful. If you don’t need a lot of options, this is your tool and the reason for this post. More on the how-to and the pros and cons are explained below.
  2. Download an external app or screen capture software tool. My two favorites are TechSmith Snagit ($63 with a 30-day free trial. I’ve written many times about their video editing tool, Camtasia, which is an excellent one) FastStone Capture (Free or $20 for a lifetime license). Both allow you to capture a variety of ways, including video footage.
  3. It’s not specifically a function of Windows – but you can use your smartphone to take a screenshot. It is far from ideal. Occasionally, your computer program won’t let you take a screenshot (think: financial institutions), for good reason, to keep your account numbers safe. But sometimes you still need the data in the photo; In this case, be very careful about where and how to save them.

Snip and Sketch is free and available on most Windows devices by default. I’ve found that sometimes it’s not always as accessible as one might expect. I think the developers think that most people already know the Windows screenshot tool, and they know that once you press “Print Screen” it will be found. As you can see in the screenshot below, this button is turned off in the device configuration.

If the “Prt Sc” button (mostly the F-string buttons in the top row of the keyboard) doesn’t work, click the Windows key, and then the small “gear” icon in the lower corner that opens the Settings window. From there, click Ease of Access, then Keyboard (you may have to scroll down in the left navigation area – under the Vision and Hearing sections on Windows 10 or newer devices). The print screen toggle button is highlighted.

You can also access it by pressing the Windows Home key, then the Shift key, then the letter S. It should automatically open the Snip and Sketch program.

Once you open Snip and Sketch, it will show you four options for screen capture (these are basically different shapes and sizes of screen capture – from rectangle to freehand drawing with a pencil, then full screen, or the full window that shows whatever you see).

The following screenshot shows all the options you will find in this screenshot tool. Some menu items, such as the marker or highlighter, have additional menus where you can choose the color, shape, or size of the tool. You can see a ruler on screen here and this allows me to draw a straight line with whatever mark I have selected. Somewhat useful if you have consumed a lot of caffeine.

Why should you take screenshots

This may seem redundant based on all the explanations I gave above, but in this age of video calling, you often need to share your screen. The additional explanation here is to remind you that sometimes you want to provide a “snapshot” in exchange for giving access to your entire screen and other things that might be inadvertently visible (like all your open tabs or another program running at once). The solution is to have a still image, screenshot, available or ready to be created. I planned to name this section: Do not share your full screen directly in video calls, but it seemed over the top. But in general I never do that.

Main uses and reasons why I use or see others using other screenshot software:

  • A & Crop: Going back to my previous point, you can (and should) crop images (called Cropping) to show exactly what you want to share, and resizing an image often saves valuable space. Snip and Sketch does just that.
  • blur (or delete): This is a great use of snapshots. Is your email or other personal information visible on the screen? Taking a quick snapshot allows you to scan more carefully. The blur tool will make the text unreadable, or you can select an area, hit delete and remove the entire element, leaving behind a white square (which may not be aesthetically pleasing). You can edit more and replace the white with another color. In Snip and Sketch, you will have to convert the color of the marker to gray to get the same effect.
  • Captions and Annotations: One of the best features of all screenshot tools is the drawing function where you can select a pencil or highlighter and draw an arrow or a circle to call out your most important areas. I would also like to add a text box that looks like a caption to add an additional comment. Unfortunately, Windows screenshot tools don’t have an option to add text, which if you need it, check out the two favorites above. Perhaps the next Windows Snip and Sketch version will have this useful function.

Snip and Sketch is great if you only have the occasional need to take a screenshot. If you have more customization needs, the small downsides may annoy you. It has limited graphic formats to save the image as – PNG, JPG and BMP only. It also does not allow annotation, comments or even a text box where you can write your thoughts precisely. But it’s free and built in, so it works for last minute efforts to share a photo or screen. I’m using it, but I also use other tools to fine tune my screenshots.

Note: You may also be interested in my free post on Microsoft Word Is A Real Thing that shares two ways to get Microsoft Word (or Excel or Powerpoint) for free.

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