Capturing Your Computer Screen: A Step-by-Step Guide
My computer addiction is taking daily screenshots. Whether it's work-related, a silly snippet of a video I want to share with friends, or the breathtaking results of an exceptional Overwatch session, there's always something to capture.
Both Windows and macOS offer a myriad of options for effortlessly taking screenshots. From convenient keyboard shortcuts to built-in tools for capturing, annotating, and saving screenshots and screen recordings, these operating systems have you covered. And if you're looking for even more screenshot power, there are plenty of third-party apps available.
Let's dive into three main topics:
How to Capture Screenshots on Your Windows PC or MacIf you want to capture an image of your entire screen, including all windows, toolbars, docks, and any glimpse of your desktop, the easiest option is to utilize keyboard shortcuts.
Screenshots on WindowsLocate the Print Screen key on your keyboard, which may be labeled as PrtScn or a similar variation.
To capture the entire screen, press the PrtScn button. This screenshot will be saved to your clipboard for easy sharing. Alternatively, you can press Windows Key + Print Screen to save the screenshot to your [User]\Pictures\Screenshots folder.
Screenshots on macOSTo capture the entire screen on a Mac, simultaneously press Cmd + Shift + 3. You'll hear a click sound, and the screenshot thumbnail will appear in the lower right corner of your screen.
Screenshots are automatically saved as PNG files on your desktop. If you prefer to save them to your clipboard instead, press and hold Control + Cmd + Shift + 3.
How to Capture a Portion of Your ScreenIf you only need to capture a single window, a short paragraph of text, or a specific photo, you can screenshot a selection of your screen using convenient keyboard shortcuts or the included tools in your operating system.
Capturing Your Screen on WindowsTo capture solely the active or foremost window, press Alt + PrtScn. If you're using a laptop, you may also need to press Fn simultaneously. The image will be copied to your clipboard for effortless pasting.
If you want to capture something that disappears when you press the Alt key, such as a drop-down menu, press Ctrl + PrtScn instead.
For selecting a specific area of your screen, press Windows Key + Shift + S. In Windows 10, this will open the "snipping bar," which we'll explain further below.
- Utilizing the Snip & Sketch application
In the realm of Windows 10, there exists an application dedicated to capturing your screen known as Snip & Sketch. This innovative tool grants you the ability to encompass specific regions on your screen for capture, be it an irregular shape, a hand-drawn rectangle, a selected window, or even the entirety of your screen. On top of that, Snip & Sketch allows you to annotate your screen captures and easily share your screenshots via email.
If you prefer not to utilize the keyboard command, Windows Key Shift S, to launch a condensed version of Snip & Sketch, fret not! You can access the complete application by simply clicking on the Start button and typing "Snip & Sketch" into the search bar. By selecting New, you can initiate a fresh snip and choose your preferred capture type, whether it be rectangular, free form, windowed, or full-screen. While the image is immediately copied to your clipboard, a convenient pop-up prompt also presents itself within the Snip & Sketch tool, allowing for instant annotation or sharing.
Despite the introduction of Snip & Sketch, Windows 10 still retains the classic Snipping Tool. For those who wish to utilize this relic, simply type its name into the search bar after clicking the Start button. Once launched:
- Click on Mode to specify the desired screen grab type, whether it be a free-form drawing, a rectangular selection, or capturing an entire window. Then, with the aid of your trusty mouse, carefully select the desired area on your screen or window to capture.
- If there is a need to draw over or highlight specific portions of the captured screenshot, make use of the pen or highlighter buttons located in the menu. Additionally, the utility features a timer, which proves invaluable when preparing to take a screenshot of a context menu, for instance.
Upon successfully capturing your desired screenshot, the options at your disposal include saving it, emailing it, or simply copying and pasting it into another application.
Screen capture methods for macOS
When it comes to capturing a specific area of your screen on macOS, simply press Cmd Shift 4. At this point, the once-ordinary cursor will transform into a crosshair, allowing you to effortlessly select the desired region on your screen.
Should you prefer to capture a specific window, or perhaps the illustrious Dock or menu bar, employ the powerful combination of Cmd Shift 4, followed by a quick tap of the space bar. In this instance, the crosshair morphs into a dainty little camera, highlighting the window or objects that can be captured.
In the event that your Mac is graced with a Touch Bar, capturing its essence becomes a reality with the aid of Cmd Shift 6.
For those using macOS Mojave or a later version, a screenshot-taking tool aptly named Screenshot is at your disposal. This sought-after feature can be accessed through the reliable combination of Cmd Shift 5 or by navigating to Applications > Utilities.
Upon launching Screenshot, a handy floating toolbar will emerge at the bottom of your screen. From here, you can select your desired capture mode: a specific selection, a particular window, or even the entire screen. Additionally, the tool offers the option to incorporate a delay of either 5 or 10 seconds via the accessible Options menu.
By default, your screenshot will be saved on your Desktop. However, you have the option to choose a different location from the Options menu.
macOS provides a built-in PDF viewer with a screen capture tool that allows you to quickly annotate and edit your screenshots. Afterwards, you can export or save them to a specific folder. To access this feature, open Preview and go to File > Take Screenshot. You can capture a selection by dragging the crosshairs, a window by pressing Enter, or the entire screen with a countdown that provides you a few seconds to rearrange windows.
A Guide to Annotating, Saving, and Sharing ScreenshotsWhat's the purpose of capturing your screen if you can't make any notes on it? Both Windows and Mac offer free built-in tools that enable cropping, drawing, and editing your screenshots.
Annotating and Sharing Screenshots on WindowsAs previously mentioned, Snip & Sketch and the Snipping Tool come equipped with annotation tools, in addition to various options for saving and sharing screenshots. You can also utilize Snip & Sketch to annotate other images, which is useful if you captured a screenshot using a keyboard shortcut or pasted one from your clipboard.
Annotating and Sharing Screenshots on macOSIf you prefer using keyboard shortcuts or the Screenshot feature in macOS, a thumbnail of your image will appear in the lower-right corner of your screen for a brief moment. Simply click on the image to access the annotation and editing tools provided by macOS. Click "Done" to save your image to your desktop, or click the "Share" button in the upper-right corner to share your screenshot via Mail, Messages, AirDrop, and more.
If you miss the thumbnail in time, you can double-click the image on your desktop to open it in Preview. There, you will find the same annotation tools and sharing options, plus the ability to save your image to a different location or in a different format.
Screen Capture Tools from Third-party ProvidersThat covers the basic functionality of the native Windows and macOS screen capture tools. However, there are also third-party applications available that can provide enhanced screenshots and recordings, along with more comprehensive editing options. Lightshot and TinyTake (for both Mac and Windows) offer detailed annotation functions, while ShareX (for Windows) boasts an extensive list of capture options, such as scrolling and GIF creation, in addition to its editing tools.
How to Capture Screen Activity on Your Windows PC or Mac
An image can convey a multitude of information, but a quick video that accurately captures your actions on a computer screen can be an even more effective solution. The good news is that recording your screen on either Windows or macOS is just as simple as taking a screenshot.
Screen Recording on Windows
Windows comes equipped with a built-in recording tool known as the Xbox Game Bar. To begin, click on Start > Settings. From there, select Gaming and navigate to Game Bar. Locate the option that reads "Record game clips, screenshots, and broadcast using Game bar" and toggle it on.
When you are prepared to start recording, press the Windows Key + G to activate the Game Bar. The Capture window should automatically appear, and all you need to do is click on Record to initiate or stop the screen recording.
If the Capture window fails to appear, locate and click on the webcam icon found on the main Game Bar overlay. This will bring up the window. Do not be discouraged if you encounter a peculiar message resembling the following:
To overcome this obstacle, simply launch a web browser, reactivate the Xbox Game Bar with the press of Windows Key + G, and proceed with the recording despite the inconvenient message. (You can easily remove this workaround from your final video if desired.)
Screen Recording on macOS
Within the Screenshot tool (Cmd Shift 5), you have the option to record your entire screen or a selected portion (represented by the two rightmost icons). Once you have chosen a recording option, the Capture button at the far right will transform into a Record button. Click on it to begin recording and utilize the small Stop icon located in your Mac's Menu Bar to end the recording. Like a screenshot, an image or link to your recording will then appear in the lower-right corner of your screen.
This article was initially written by Melanie Pinola in 2011 and was later updated in April 2020 by Emily Long and David Murphy. We have made significant revisions to the article, including the addition of external links to third-party applications, rewriting sections to enhance clarity, and providing new tools and recommendations for capturing screenshots and screen recordings. Accuracy of information was verified on October 19, 2020.
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