Sometimes you want to keep a copy of something you’re looking at on your computer or phone screen but it’s not a file that can be saved or website that can be bookmarked and replicated in exactly the same way.
For example, maybe you’re having computer problems and you want to send a picture of exactly what you’re seeing on the screen to some tech-savvy person who might know what’s going on.
Another example: Your husband sends you a text message that resulted in a hilarious and incorrect auto-correct. You want to share a copy of the conversation on Facebook so all your friends can laugh along. A screenshot will do the trick.
It’s simple to do.
Your keyboard likely has a key that says “PrtScn.” Once whatever you want to capture is on your screen, just press the Shift and the PrtScn keys simultaneously. It will seem like nothing happened, but really what you did was copy the image on your screen to the clipboard. From there, you can paste it somewhere else using the shortcut that involves pressing the “Ctrl” or Control key in combination with the “v” key.
If your PC is running Windows 7 or Vista there’s an even better method.
The Snipping Tool, which you can find at Start>>All Programs>>Accessories, lets you capture specific portions of your screen, eliminating the need to do so by pulling a screen capture into editing software such as Photoshop.
Once you click on the Snipping Tool, a window opens and a white overlay appears on your screen. Click on the “New” pull-down arrow to choose what kind of screen capture you want: Free-form snip, rectangular snip, window snip or full-screen snip. Pick one, and for the first two options click and hold your mouse while you pull it around the area you want to capture (the other two involve just a click). What you’ve grabbed will show up in a window where you can save, copy or share it, as well as mark it up with a pen or highlighter.
Like the Windows Snipping Tool, Mac OS X lets you capture your screen in several different ways, but instead of using a PrtSrn key or a dedicated tool, you use keyboard shortcuts that begin with pressing the Command and Shift keys at the same time.
To capture a portion of your screen and save it to your desktop, press Command+Shift+4, which will bring up a cross-hair. Click and drag the mouse over the part of the screen you want to capture. To save it to your clipboard instead of the desktop, press Command+Control+Shift+4. Then you can paste it into another program.
To capture your entire screen and save it to the desktop, press Command+Shift+3. To save it to the clipboard instead, press Command+Control+Shift+3; then you can paste the image somewhere else.
To take a screenshot of an open window, press Command+Shift+4 and hit Spacebar. Your cursor is now a camera that you can click over the window you want to capture. The image is saved to the desktop.
Alternately, you can use the Mac grab utility found at Dock>> Utilities>> Grab>> Go to Dock>> Utilities>> Grab. When you open it you’ll see menus in the upper left of your screen that provide options for how much of your screen you want to grab. After taking a photo of your entire screen, a portion of it, or a specific window you can save it as a .tiff file.
The ease or difficulty of creating screenshots on Android depends on if you’re using a newer operating system, or not.
On most Android 4.0 or later, you simply make sure whatever you want to capture is displayed on your screen then hold down both the volume down and power keys at the same time. (For most Samsung models, it's the home button and power.) You’ll see an animation that shows you the shot was saved. You can access it in your Gallery app, where there’s a section specifically for screenshots. Tap on the screenshot you want and you’ll have the option to email it to someone, or share it on Facebook, Google+ as well as a slew of other apps.
If your phone is still running an older version of Android, the process is nothing short of a pain, at least initially. But if you can’t wait until you get Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean, here’s what to do if you use a Windows PC.
Mac users running older versions of Android have a different set of hoops to jump through. Read them here.
Note that there are apps you can download from Google Play that let you access screenshots on Android, however, to use most of them your phone must be rooted, meaning the operating system has been modified so as to give you more control over your phone. Rooting voids the manufacturer’s warranty, so I don’t recommend it unless you’re a tech whiz who absolutely knows what you’re doing.
Snapping an image from your iPhone is easy. Just click (not hold) the home button and power button at the same time. The screenshot saves to your photo camera roll where you can share it via email or text.