Take screenshots in Windows like a pro

Whether you’re using Windows 10, Windows 11, or doing it the old-fashioned way with Windows 7, capturing the content on your screen can come in handy in a variety of situations.

Whether you want to save information for later, collaborate with others, or share troubleshooting information, screenshots are a powerful tool worth a thousand words. In this guide, we’ll show you the best ways to take screenshots with Windows’ built-in tools and the best third-party tools for the job.

The Basics: Using the Print Screen Key

The easiest way to take a screenshot is to press the Print Screen key on your keyboard, which is usually abbreviated as PrtSc. This will save what is displayed on your PC screen in the clipboard. If you are using a laptop, you may need to press Fn + PrtSc to get the same result.

To crop, annotate, and save your screen capture, paste it into an app like Paint or an image editor of your choice. For very simple editing, you can use Paint, which is available in all Windows versions. Open Paint from the Start menu and then press Ctrl + V on your keyboard to paste your screenshot. From there, you can crop and edit your screenshot to your liking, or save it directly by pressing Ctrl + S on your keyboard.

If what you’ve captured is mostly white space, text, charts, tables, and app windows, the PNG format, which is the default, will result in a sharper image.

If what you captured is a frame from a YouTube video, or a Zoom video, a scene from a game, or a photo, JPG is a better choice, as it produces an acceptable-looking shot with a smaller file size.

You can also take a full screen shot without any adjustments by pressing . to push Win + PrtSc

This will immediately save the contents of your screen as a PNG in a folder called Screenshots in your Pictures folder. This is useful when you need to take multiple screenshots in quick succession.

To capture only the contents of the active window, use Win + Alt + PrtSc† Then use Paint to save it as explained above.

Alternatively, there is a more robust way to take screenshots in Windows – use either Snipping Tool (Windows 10) or Snip & Sketch (Windows 11). Both aim to give you instant ways to annotate and crop your screenshots.

To open Snipping Tool, locate it in the Start menu or press .

From there, you can drag your cursor to select the area of ​​the screen you want to capture.

Alternatively, you can use the app to perform a freeform snip by drawing a shape around what you want to capture.

You can then scribble or highlight elements in your recording using the Snipping Tool, or copy them to another app.

The Snipping Tool also allows you to take a timed screenshot, which is useful for tricky situations where you need to take screenshots of pop-up menus or multiple dialog boxes. Choose the desired delay and then do a haircut as you normally would.

step recorder

Good for documentation

Another great way to take screenshots is a little-known utility introduced in Windows 7 called ‘Problem Steps Recorder’, currently known as ‘Steps Recorder’. This one is part screenshot tool, part keylogger, and part annotation tool, which is very useful when you need to reproduce or document a series of steps while using software.

Find the Steps Recorder in the Start menu. From there, all you need to do is press “Record”, perform the actions you want to capture on the screen, then quit and save it as a zip file that you can easily share with others.

Examples of actions include clicking something, opening apps, typing, navigating a menu, snapping a window to one side of the screen, copying a file, exporting your work from an app to a particular file format, and more.

If you are still using Windows 7, you will not find this utility in Start. Instead, press Windows + R, type “psr” and then press Enter. This method also works on Windows 10 and 11.

Keep in mind that step recorder will capture everything that happens on your PC screen in great detail, so be sure to close unrelated apps beforehand. This ensures that you can isolate the problem you are trying to document, and also makes it easier for the person or group to receive your recorded steps to resolve.

You can pause the recording at any time so that you don’t record unnecessary information. During the recording, you can also use the “Add Comment” button to highlight an area of ​​your screen and add any comments about what’s going on that you think may be helpful in resolving the issue .

You can also adjust the maximum number of screenshots from the default of 25 to a little more than you think you need.

When you stop the recording, you will see a window with the results of the recording, organized in a detailed report of the actions performed on the screen, with steps accompanied by screenshots and the names, locations and version of the apps that were used. executed. approached. If you’re happy with the result and don’t see any sensitive information in the recording, save it as a zip file and it’s ready to share with others.

Xbox Game Bar

Another way to take screenshots is to use the Xbox Game Bar in Windows 10 and 11. The intended purpose of this tool is to capture bits of gameplay and chat with friends, but it also works for taking screenshots of a particular scene.

on . to press Win + G the Xbox Game Bar should appear.

The main benefit of using this method is that your in-game screenshots are saved in the Videos > Recordings folder, they won’t mix with other screenshots and are organized by getting filenames after the title you captured them in.

steam client

If you’re not a big fan of the Xbox Game Bar, you can also rely on the Steam client. During gameplay, press the F12 key to save a screenshot, which is confirmed with a small notification with a preview of the recording.

You can find the resulting screenshots by visiting the game’s page in the Library section of the Steam app. It’s worth noting that Steam can save your screenshots as both .jpg and .png, so you have some flexibility there.

Nvidia Ansel

For those using an Nvidia GPU, the GeForce Experience app has a handy tool for taking in-game screenshots called Nvidia Ansel. Not all games support Ansel, but the list is growing and includes many popular games released in recent years.

With this tool, you can pause the game, adjust the field of view and move the camera until you find the angle that looks best for you.

To use Ansel, press Alt + F2 to open the corresponding GeForce experience overlay. You can also press Alt + Z and click “Photo Mode” to enter the same interface.

From there, you can apply a variety of filters, adjust the camera angle, and increase the resolution of the scene being displayed well beyond what your monitor/laptop screen natively supports. In some games, you can even create so-called 360-degree photospheres that can be viewed with a VR headset.

You’ll see a notification when you take a screenshot. If you want to take multiple shots in quick succession, you can disable this notification in the GeForce experience settings.

Taking great in-game screenshots is an art, so of course it takes some practice adjusting different settings and finding the right angle or point of view before you get a great composition.

Third-party apps for taking screenshots

There are several dedicated third-party apps that you can use for your screen recording needs. These usually offer a variety of editing and exporting features that can save you time and simplify your workflow.

If you’re looking for a minimalistic tool to take screenshots and annotate in a jiffy, you should definitely check out Monosnap. This one gives you a lot of basic editing like cropping and annotation in a lightweight interface that pops up every time you take a screenshot.

While it’s not as comprehensive as ShareX (see below), it works for Windows and Mac, is free for basic use, and has some cloud capabilities that can go further if you need them (for a fee).

ShareX is a more powerful tool for creating, editing, and sharing screenshots, although its busy interface may intimidate first-time users. It can capture your screen in a variety of ways, including scrolling shots that save you the hassle of stitching together multiple screenshots.

It also lets you automate parts of your workflow, and it’s easy to upload your resulting screenshots to a variety of services, including Imgur, Dropbox, Google Photos, Flickr, OneDrive, Twitter, and more.

Once installed, ShareX works with the standard screenshot shortcuts in Windows. Once you’ve captured a shot, the integrated editor allows you to perform a variety of edits, from cropping, annotating, and highlighting to obscuring sensitive information by blurring or pixelating a selected area.

A third app to consider is Greenshot, a long-time logging tool for system administrators and power users. It is a relatively lightweight tool with a small memory footprint. If needed, it can also be added as a plug-in to Microsoft’s Office suite or tools such as Jira and Confluence. And like ShareX, once you’re done editing your screenshots, you can upload the results to services like Box, Dropbox, and Imgur.

Unfortunately, development around Greenshot has been dormant for a few years, with some new signs of activity in the first few months of 2022. Therefore, you should proceed with caution as you may encounter some bugs in newer versions of Windows 10 and Windows11

Bonus tip for difficult situations

Some people take pictures of a computer screen with their iPhone or Android phone, which generally doesn’t result in great shots. However, this unorthodox method can be useful when a PC freezes or displays a blue screen with an error code, as well as situations where you want to capture a digital whiteboard from something like a Surface Hub.

You can take much better screenshots with the help of some apps, such as Microsoft Office Lens (Android / iPhone) and Adobe Scan (Android / iPhone).

Both work in a similar way, in that you can point your phone’s camera at any screen and take clear images of something on it: an error code, an app window, a graph, a drawing, or anything you had before. seen. was running before your PC crashed due to a technical problem. If the recording contains text, you can even try extracting text from it.

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