Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

How to capture screenshots

Today I will answer a reader question whose answer you may find useful, in the (hopefully familiar) Q’s and their A’s format.

Q: What program do you use to get the nice pictures of things on your screen?
A: To “capture” the menus and dialogue windows (etc.) and post them into Tech–for Everyone, I could use any of the many screen capture programs on the market (some are freeware, even), but I don’t. I use a tool that has been a part of Windows for a very long time… and you can too. I refer to the much ignored MS Paint.

It is a very good idea to get into the habit of capturing error messages — granted they often disappear quite quickly — as they will greatly assist a Tech Support person (such as myself) to diagnose and repair your trouble as, believe it or not, those bizarre codes actually do (sometimes) tell us something important. I have yet to encounter a client who could repeat to me, verbatim, the content of the message he saw before his program stopped working and his computer rebooted.

The trick to capturing the things appearing on your screen is a keyboard key in the upper-right (usually on the topmost row) labeled Prnt Scrn. (The Print Screen key seems to me to be a bit mislabeled.. when I see “print”, I think “printer”.) This “captures” an image of your screen which can be pasted into a document.. or graphics application.
I usually don’t want a snapshot of the whole screen, but just an open window (or dialogue), so I hold down the right-hand Alt key in combination with the Prnt Scrn key. This “captures” only the ‘active’ window.

Then I open Paint, which is found in the Accessories folder (Start >Programs >Accessories) and hit Ctrl+V to paste the screenshot.
If I want only a portion of capture, I use the rectangle tool to draw around the area the area I want, and hit Ctrl+C (Copy), and then open a new instance of Paint and hit Ctrl+V to paste the rectangle’s area. In the example above, I have done this to capture a very small and select area of my Desktop.
Sometimes, hitting the Alt key makes items on my screen go away before I can capture them — such as context menus. In that case, I capture the whole screen with Prnt Scrn and then use the rectangle tool to grab the area I want.

Other times, and this seems to occur quite a bit with pop-open warning dialogues, the capture method described above fails to grab the appropriate window. In these instances, the trick to capturing the pop-open Error Notification is the Copy command— Ctrl+C (not Alt+Prnt Scrn). Then open Paint and hit Ctrl+V to paste.

One last tip: MS Paint, by default Saves the graphics you create in the bitmap format (.bmp). Some programs and some email accounts either don’t recognize or don’t allow .bmp’s (email in particular, because hackers have found ways to use bitmaps for evil purposes), and so instead of using the Save command, I use the Save As command which offers the option to save it as a TIFF, GIF, PNG, or JPEG. All the screenshots you have seen here are JPEGs.

Today’s free link: I have mentioned this program before, but it has been recently updated and enhanced, and fits in nicely with today’s topic. If you would like a much more capable graphics tool than Paint, without paying for Adobe, get the top rated IrfanViewer. It does much more than “view”!

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Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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October 27, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, tech, Windows | , , , | Leave a comment