Not a week goes by that I don't have to take a screenshot for an article I'm working on. As someone who covers Windows that's the nature of my job, but I'm not the only one who needs to take screenshots. There are many reasons you'd want to do this such as quickly show what's on your desktop to someone you're chatting with on Slack or Hipchat. You might also see something online you want to save for posterity, or you want to catch an error message to help tech support.
Whatever the reason Windows can help. Here's how to take screenshots if you're running Windows 7 and up. Anyone running Windows XP or Vista can check out our earlier look at screenshots to see what tools are available.
The classic: full screen
The most common screenshot allows you to capture the full screen. On all versions of Windows, this is accomplished by clicking the PrtScn key. What this does is it puts the entire screen capture on your system clipboard. Then you have to paste whatever's there into a graphics program such as Microsoft Paint or Gimp for Windows. The easiest way to paste is to tap Ctrl + V at the same time. If you'd rather use the mouse, Gimp stores the paste command under Edit > Paste, while Paint offers a clipboard icon under the Home tab.
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Windows 8 and Windows 10 users have an additional trick that is a little faster. Tap the Windows key + PrtScn and your display will "blink" as if the shutter of a camera just closed and opened.
That indicates that a screenshot has been taken. This time, however, you don't have to paste it into another program. Instead, the shot is automatically saved in Pictures > Screenshots.
If you're using a Windows tablet, you can also use the auto-save screenshot feature by tapping the Windows button + volume down.
Keep in mind that if you are using multiple displays then the full screenshot will capture all working monitors.
A single window
This method hasn't changed much since it first debuted. If you want to take a screenshot of a single window, first make it the active window by clicking its title bar (the top). Once it's ready to go tap Alt + PrtScn at the same time. As with hitting just PrtScn this copies the active window as an image to your clipboard. It's then up to you to paste it into a program as with the regular PrtScn trick.
If you want to get a little more specific--a section of a particular window, say, or a shot that encompasses two windows without grabbing the whole screen--then you need a specialized tool.
Microsoft includes a built-in utility for Windows called Snipping Tool that is relatively easy to use. There are two versions of the Snipping Tool. The original works the same in Windows Vista, 7, and 8/8.1, but the Windows 10 version has a new feature that we'll talk about later.
To use the original Snipping Tool, all you need to know is that you can take a rectangular snip right away just by clicking the New button. This freezes the screen (active visual elements like a video will appear as if paused) and then lets you frame your screenshot just how you'd like it.
Snipping Tool is a little finicky, however, as clicking the New button will dismiss context menus, the Start menu, and other pop-up menus you might be trying to capture.
If you want a different shape such as a free-form snip, a single window, or full-screen snip click the downward facing arrow to the right of New. This will let you select the type of screenshot you want.
Once the screenshot is taken the Snipping Tool automatically pastes the image into a new Paint window. If you'd rather use a different program the screenshot is also copied to your clipboard.
That's how most users will experience the Snipping Tool, but Windows 10 users have an added delay feature.
The new delay lets you set-up your desktop just the way you'd like it before the program freezes your screen. This is very helpful if you're trying to capture a pop-up menu that disappears the moment you press the New button in the Snipping Tool.
To get started with the new feature click the Delay button and then select the amount of time you'd like Snipping Tool to wait up to a maximum of five seconds. Once that's done click the New button and then set-up your screen the way you want before the timer runs out. The Snipping Tool doesn't have a live timer to show you how much time you have left. To be on the safe side it's best to give yourself five seconds for each shot.
If you don't want to use the Snipping Tool another handy way to grab screenshots is to use the built-in clip tool that comes with the free program OneNote for the Windows desktop. Be sure you don't use the Windows Store version as that program, while nice to use, doesn't offer the same tools as the desktop build.
The OneNote clip tool sits in the system tray of the taskbar. To find it in Windows 10 (other versions of Windows will follow a similar process), click the upward-facing arrow to the far right of your desktop. In the window that opens look for a purple icon that includes a pair of scissors.
Now right-click the icon and then select Take screen clipping from the context menu. Similar to the Snipping Tool, your screen will then freeze and allow you to line up your shot.
Once you've taken the shot, OneNote will pop-up a small context window allowing you to choose whether to copy the new screenshot to your clipboard or paste the image directly into an existing or new notebook.
As if that wasn't enough, Windows 10 users have one final tool they can use for screenshots in Microsoft Edge. In the upper right corner of the new built-in browser for Windows, you'll see a square icon with a pencil in it. This is called Edge's "Web Note" feature. Click on that icon while visiting any web page and a new OneNote-style menu appears at the top of the browser window. The screen will also freeze if a YouTube video is playing,
On the upper left side, you'll see an icon with a pair of scissors. Click that and once again you'll be able to line up and take a rectangular screen snip inside the web page. Once the snip has been taken you'll have to click Exit in the upper right corner to dismiss the Web Note feature. Now just paste that screen clipping into your image editor of choice or OneNote.
There are numerous ways to take a screenshot in Windows, which one you choose depends on what you're trying to achieve for that particular screenshot. One thing's for sure we're certainly not lacking for options.