How to Create a Screenshot

Sometimes when trying to explain a problem or idea to your web designer or computer technician a picture is really worth a thousand words. You don’t have to be a graphics person to be able to convey what you are trying to explain through pictures.

What is a Screenshot?

A screenshot is a picture of your computer’s monitor screen. It can be the whole screen, just the active window or depending on what you use, it can be just a piece of the viewable area of the computer monitor screen.

What are Screenshots Used For?

There are different things you can use screenshots for:

  • Give Your Web Designer Ideas of Features You Would Like

    A good web designer will ask you for some examples of what you like when visiting other websites. You don’t have to pick one site and say “Like this!” (that would infringe on the website owner’s copyright) but you can take a screenshot of specific areas and add notes to the image pointing out what feature you like and why plus make any suggestions on how you see the idea implemented on your own site.

  • Show Your Web Designer a Problem on Your Own Website

    It is not possible for a web designer to have every single type of computer, monitor and portable device (well, guess they could but you would be paying top dollar for their work to cover their expense of having all that equipment) in their office. When there is a problem on your own website the easiest way to convey the problem to them if they can’t see it is with a screenshot.

  • Explaining Problems to Your Computer Technician

    If you are not a tech savvy person and have troubles explaining your problem to your tech support person a screenshot would be an easy way to show them what you are seeing. When the problem is a blue screen (sometimes referred to the blue screen of death) or a black screen with writing on it you won’t be able to get a screenshot for the technician. You could take a photo though…

There are just a few ways you can use screenshots.

Screenshot Tips

Large images are hard to handle when inserting into a web page, a document or in an email. The smaller you can make the file the better. Here are some tips for when you are taking screenshots:

  1. Change the screen resolution of your monitor.

    Your monitor’s screen resolution can be adjusted temporarily using our change resolution on the fly tutorial. Once you are finished use the same method to change it back to your original setting.

    Increasing the resolution of your monitor will make things appear smaller. This will help you get as much information as possible in your screenshot and possibly save on file size, depending on how much you crop the image and the image file format you choose.

  2. Resize images carefully.

    When you have to manually resize the screenshot to suit its purpose the width and height dimensions need to be changed at the same ratio. i.e. If you change the width to half of what the original is then the height has to be changed to half of its dimension also. When this is not done your image will look stretched in one of the dimensions, making the image look strange.

  3. Use the right image file format for the job.

    .jpeg (or .jpg) image file type is best used for photos. When you use this file format for actual graphics or text the image is not as clear as it would be if you used the .gif or .png file format. You also have to consider what you are going to do with the screenshot. If quality of the image is not important then go for the file format that will give the smallest size.

  4. Use your graphics program’s crop feature to narrow down the subject of your screenshot.

    Cropping is a technique where you draw a box around the area you wish to keep in the screenshot with the graphic program’s crop tool. Depending on your chosen graphics program, pressing the Enter key will “crop” the image, deleting the area outside the box you drew.

On to how to take a screenshot is next.

How Do I Create a Screenshot?

First have the document or browser window open and showing what it is you wish to take a screenshot of.

Next, get your keyboard in a position where you can see all the keys. We use the PrtScn button to create a screenshot.

Note: These instructions are for a traditional keyboard. If you are using a laptop or other device the PrtScn key might be somewhere else on the keyboard.

  1. Look at your keyboard on the right side. The farthest column of keys has the number keys at the bottom. Moving left, the next column of keys has the arrow keys at the bottom.

    Look at the top of the column with the arrow keys. In the top row of this column is the PrtScn key.

  2. Press the PrtScn key.

    Your screenshot is now stored in the computer’s memory.

The next step depends on what you plan to do with the screenshot.

What do I do with the Screenshot Now?

You have a few choices of what to do with your screenshot now it is in the memory of your computer.

Paste Screenshot into Word Processing Document

This method skips the editing step of taking a screenshot. Your word processing program might have the capabilities to edit the image within the document after inserting it.

  1. Open the word processing document you want to insert the screenshot into.
  2. Find the spot where you want to insert the image within the document.
  3. Use either the Paste button in the top menu bar of the word processing program or right click and select Paste from the menu that appears.
  4. Save the document before doing anything else and loosing the screenshot from the computer memory.

Edit Image in a Graphics Program

This is the best method for editing, making notes in the screenshot and cropping it.

You do not have to go out a buy or find a graphics program to edit your screenshots. Windows comes with a program called MS Paint available under Programs/Accessories/Paint. Those using Windows Vista or Windows 7 have a new tool called the Snipping Tool also available via the Programs/Accessories/ menu using the Start menu. The Snipping Tool needs to be opened and set to the type of snip (capture) you wish to use.

  1. Open your graphics program.
  2. Create a new image if required.
  3. Use the program’s Paste function to paste your screenshot into the new image.
  4. Edit the image are required, adding notes for clarity, cropping the screenshot to suit its purpose.
  5. Save the image using the appropriate file format for the intended purpose of the image.

After you have edited and saved the image it can be inserted into a document, into a web page or attached to an email.

Paste into an Email

Some email programs will let you insert images from your computer memory without saving first.

  1. Start a new email.
  2. Locate the spot where you wish to insert the image.
  3. Use the email program’s Paste function or right click and select Paste from the menu that appears.

Attach Image to an Email

If the email program you are using will not let you paste the screenshot directly into your email you will have to use the edit in graphics program method above, save the file and then attach to the email.

Learn How to Take a Screenshot

Screenshots are a great and fast way to explain something to another person visually. Creating a screenshot is as simple as pressing a keyboard key and pasting into another program. Have a look around. You might find a browser extension, free screenshot program or a paid one that also has other useful features.

What is your favourite screenshot tool?

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