How to take a screenshot on Windows?

There are several ways to take a screenshot on Windows.

The essentials in brief:

  • ] + [s] with the help of the key combination [Ctrl] + [v] will insert the screenshot at the desired location.

How to take a screenshot on Windows 7, 8 and 10

Creating screenshots on the Microsoft operating system is not complicated. By pressing the [PrtScn] button on your keyboard, you can copy the current screen view to the clipboard. If you use two monitors at the same time, both screens will be captured. You don’t want to capture the entire screen, but just a window? First select the relevant window. With the keyboard shortcut for screenshots on Windows – [Alt] + [PrtScn] – you can then create a snapshot of the selected window.

Your mouse pointer will not appear on the screenshot. That can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. You don’t have to worry about whether the cursor is covering important information. However, if you want to use the screenshot to indicate something in particular, the pointer can be useful. To do this, you have to install a plug-in.

Note that your keyboard may have different labeling. In English-speaking countries, the terms [Print], [Prnt] or [PrtScn] (for “Print Screen”) are very common. 

After pressing the [PrtScn] button, your screenshot is initially located on the clipboard. This is temporary storage that Windows uses to store items that you copy or cut. Including sections of text that you cut and paste in Word. From the clipboard, you can paste your screenshot into a program such as Paint. To do this, open the program and paste the image from the clipboard. This is done either via the menu bar or with the key combination [Ctrl] + [V].

Now simply save the picture and you have the screenshot in an image file that you can archive or send. But you can also use another graphics program such as GIMP or Paint.NET. These programs have a lot more options for editing your screenshot. Basic functions such as cutting or inserting arrows, colored markings etc., are also available in Paint.

If you need to insert the screenshot into a document, you can insert it directly into Word. In Microsoft Word, simply move the cursor to the position where the screenshot should appear and paste it from the clipboard. The procedure is the same for similar word processing programs, as is the case with the other Office programs.

If you want to take a screenshot on Windows 8 or 10, you have another key combination available: By pressing the [Win] + [PrtScn] keys at the same time, you can create a screenshot that is exported directly to a new file. Windows saves these in PNG format and saves them in a separate screenshot folder. The files are numbered in ascending order.

Snipping Tool: Tool for taking screenshots on Windows

The [PrtScn] function is useful, quick, and straightforward, but it’s also very basic. Microsoft has therefore introduced another method for taking screenshots on Windows. The Snipping Tool is preinstalled in the operating system and offers more options for adjusting the screenshot as you need it. When you have opened the program, you can choose between different capture types:

  • This setting corresponds to the function of the [PrtScn]. So, with just one click, you can make a complete copy of your screen (or screens).
  • If you choose this option, first decide on a window from which you want to create an image. If you hover over it with the mouse pointer, this becomes clearly visible, while everyone else gets a foggy filter. A click on the window of your choice triggers the screenshot.
  • With this type of cut-out, you can select a free but rectangular area for the screenshot. For example, if only a certain part of the screen is important, you only need to save that part. This means that the viewer knows immediately which part is important to you. It is also a way to keep personal information out of the screenshot. Hold down the mouse button and drag a frame. As soon as you release the button, the picture is taken.
  • You have even more freedom with the last snip type. This allows you to choose a shape freehand and only include this area in the screenshot. The quality of the shape depends on how well you can draw with the mouse. Here, too, the program creates the screenshot as soon as you release the mouse button.

In contrast to creating a screenshot with the print screen function, the Snipping Tool shows you the snapshot directly. So you can immediately check that everything looks the way it should. If not, just click on “New” and try again. As soon as you are satisfied with the result, you can start adding markers directly. Important points can be underlined or circled with a pen. With the highlighter you can draw directly over an important sentence or a crucial number. 

Save, copy or send snip

In the last step you decide what to do with your screenshot:

  • Clicking on “Save” opens a window in which you can define the storage location, file name and format. PNG, GIF, JPEG or the MHTML format, with which websites are actually archived, are available.
  • You can also use the Snipping Tool to copy the screenshot you have taken to the clipboard. As with [PrtScn], you can use your screenshot in various applications.
  • You can also send your screenshot by email. To do this, the excerpt is either inserted directly into a new mail or sent as an attachment. The prerequisite for this is that you use a certain program for your emails, not the web application of your mail provider.

If you take a screenshot on Windows 10 with the Snipping Tool, you also have the option of time delay. As with a camera’s self-timer, you set a timer that delays the snapshot. You can use this time to capture settings, which are only visible for a short time or require holding a key.

Problems taking screenshots

Errors are particularly common when creating screenshots from other programs. If you try to take a snapshot of a video or a game, the result is often a completely black image. In many cases the reason for this is a conflict in the graphics card. Most of the time, however, the problem can be avoided. In some cases, it is sufficient to reduce the game from full screen to window mode. Often games or video playback programs also have their own screenshot function, which can be activated via a hotkey.

However, sometimes the provider (Netflix, for example) of the software intentionally prevents the creation of screenshots. In such cases, this has to do with copyrights. The built-in Digital rights management (DRM) system prevents the image from being copied in order to protect the rights of the owner. If this is the cause of your problem taking a screenshot in Windows, you have no choice but to accept it.

Other tools: External tools for screenshots on Windows

Even if the Snipping Tool offers more features than [PrtScn], it can be useful to try other software as well. Programs from external providers are particularly advisable for those users who use screenshots professionally or at least on a daily basis. Some of these screenshot programs offer more editing options and additional functions. Such as automatic scrolling to show long websites in one picture, or so-called screencasts – recording a video of your desktop. This function is very popular with tutorials. It allows the creators of such videos to simply show their viewers what they have to do instead of explaining it cumbersomely.

  • ShareX – A free, open source software which also allows you to create screencasts and GIF files.
  • Screenshot Captor – This slim tool can take photos of both auto-scroll and multiple monitors independently of each other.
  • Grabilla – The developers of this screenshot tool made the software available for numerous platforms and also offer their own file hosting service.
  • Monosnap – This software is quick and easy to use and offers all the important features.

DuckCapture – In addition to the usual screenshot functions, this tool offers its users the ability to combine several screenshots into one large image.

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