In the Technology Oasis, we are often asked how to take a picture of a computer screen. People want to take a picture, or “screen grab,” so that they can document error messages or to create a job aid for a new employee. This process is fairly straightforward and doesn’t require you to purchase expensive software. In fact, everything you need to do a screen grab comes with your computer. While this process can be completed on both Windows and Mac system, we are going to focus on Windows systems for this article. The technique you use to perform a screen grab depends on how much of your screen you want to capture. Both processes are similar and use keyboard shortcuts to accomplish the task.
Let’s say that you need to capture everything that is currently displayed on your monitor. This is ideal when you want to capture an error message, or if you need to show all of the windows you have open. To accomplish this, open all of the windows, and arrange them on the screen. Your screen might end up with something like the image to the right.
Once you are happy with the way the windows are arranged, press [Print Screen] on your keyboard. This will copy the image to a “magical place” on your computer called the clipboard. The clipboard is the place where the most currently copied item is held. Items can then be retrieved from the clipboard by pasting.
With the screen capture safely stored in your clipboard, you are now ready to paste the screen capture into a document. Commonly, these screen captures will be pasted into Word document. To do this, simply switch to your word document, position your cursor where you want the image placed and paste away. After pasting, your document might look something like the image to the right.
While it is useful to be able to capture everything on the screen at the same time, users will most commonly want to capture an image of a single window. Perhaps you are developing a job aid, or documenting a process and want to capture the contents of your web browser, but not the other windows you have open. To accomplish this, start by clicking somewhere in the window you wish to capture, then press [ALT][Print Screen]. This will place just the current window into the clipboard. You can then paste you image just like you did before. In fact, that’s the way that I created the image of the word document I referred to previously.
While you won’t need to perform screen captures on a daily basis, this is a great technique to put into your toolbox of handy tricks.