taking easy screenshots of anything

When doing our assignments or when assembling these posts, a common need is to snap screenshots.  It’s pretty easy to do, but if you’re not already experienced, search results can be a little annoying (many sites advertise semi-useless nagging shareware or annoying apps that you don’t actually need).  This post is intended to gather together a number of methods for taking screenshots which work simply and require absolutely no extra software.

Windows XP: Press the “Print Screen” or “Prt Scn” key on your keyboard (which on notebooks may require also pressing the blue “Fn” key).  This will place an image of the entire screen into clipboard memory.  You can then open any graphics software you like, such as Paint or Photoshop, and “Paste” the screenshot from memory (in most applications “Paste” is under the “Edit” menu).

Windows Vista & 7: Press the “Print Screen” or “Prt Scn” key on your keyboard (which on notebooks may require also pressing the blue “Fn” key).  This will place an image of the entire screen into clipboard memory.  You can then open any graphics software you like, such as Paint or Photoshop, and “Paste” the screenshot from memory (in most applications “Paste” is under the “Edit” menu).  You can also access the built-in “Snipping Tool” from Start | All Programs | Accessories, a program which allows you to take multiple screenshots rapidly with ease.

Mac OS X 10.1 – 10.6: Press Command+Shift+3 to save a screenshot file of the entire screen to the desktop, or press Command+Shift+4 to do the same with a selected area of the screen.  By adding “Control” to these hotkey combinations you can snap the screenshot to the clipboard instead, then open any graphics software you like (such as Preview or Photoshop) and “Paste” the screenshot from memory.  In the most recent versions of Mac OS X, Preview can also directly screenshots directly by choosing “Take Screen Shot” under the “File” menu.

Don’t forget, if your screenshot is intended for use on this blog, to resize it appropriately for blog use.  For example, crop the image to the most pertinent content area, resize it proportionately to approximately 400 pixels in width, and save it as a .GIF, .JPEG, or.PNG with options which result in a reasonable bytesize (say, less than 100k).  In Photoshop, the “Save For Web and Devices” does a much better job of this than the “Save As” dialog does.

Bonus tip: if you’re trying to snap a screenshot from digitally protected media content such as something playing in Microsoft or Apple’s built-in DVD applications and you’re getting a blank or black image, download and use VLC instead (it bypasses such protections).  Remember to follow Fair Use laws!

Drew Wallner

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~ by atw17 on March 19, 2011.

4 Responses to “taking easy screenshots of anything”

  1. Hey, Drew –

    Any suggestions about capturing the screen as video??

    Catherine

  2. Capturing as a video, as opposed to frozen single frames, is where those annoying applications that aren’t necessary for simple capturing actually have their utility. You have to compare the various ones available for each operating system though, because some of them are still just annoying crap. Also, pretty much all of the ones that do a *good* job capturing video tend not to be open source (in other words, they cost something) and among them, some cost several times the price of others (and more expensive does NOT automatically mean better).

    Is there a particular platform you’re interested in? I almost exclusively use Mac OS X these days but I could poke around forums and ask if you need a recommendation. Most professors, I find, do this sort of capturing often so you might want to ask Jamie or the TAs if they have a favorite.

  3. Right now I am working with windows 7. I was trying to capture video for my site (the spectrum analysis in soundbooth of the sound clips from my investigations). I appreciate your help – I will follow up with Jamie and the TA’s as well. Thanks again!

  4. For users with Windows 7, there’s actually a free tool from Microsoft called Expression which can record screencasts to web-friendly video formats like H.264, and you can learn more about it and get it here:

    http://www.microsoft.com/expression/try-it/

    The purple link in the lower left is the free version. Be sure to get the free version and not the trial version of the more expensive flavors which have features you don’t need for this kind of use.

    There may be much easier to use or better tools (after all, this is Microsoft we’re talking about) but since this is totally free you might wanna give it a shot first.

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