Screen Capturing Tips

“Susan, help! I know how to copy and paste but I don’t know how to transfer an entire page or share that page with others. As soon as I scroll down, what I have highlighted goes back to white. Ugg! Can you tell me how to transfer a page onto an email without having to send the web address?”

I get this question often from my clients.  Perhaps they have purchased something online and need proof of purchase. Or they want to keep their own copy of online content. Be proactive –get what you need by capturing what you see on your screen. *

To capture content from your computer screen, you have a few choices. My recommendation is to go with option 2 listed below.

1. Use key commands (aka shortcuts) built into your computer’s operating system:

a. On a PC:

When you want to take a picture of your screen, press the Print Screen key (The label may read “PrtScr”. If your keyboard has a number pad, look for the Print Screen key at the top left of the number pad).  After pressing Print Screen, you won’t hear anything. Trust that the software has copied a picture of the screen onto the clipboard. Now you need to paste the clipboard image onto something to see what you have captured. Go to graphics software on your computer. You could launch MS Paint (found under Accessories, comes with every PC) or open a program that reads graphics (like PowerPoint), then save that image as a file. Once the file is saved, you can email it to others.

Just remember that each program on your computer stores files in their own way so one file type may be bigger in size than another even when you just thought you had the same image to save (i.e. your PowerPoint file will be bigger in size typically than a graphics file). To save the screen shot as a graphics file, the easiest solution is to open MS Paint, paste, and save the image as a JPEG (extension is .jpg).

Here’s a quick list of the steps for taking a screen shot in Windows 7: These steps should also work with Vista if that’s what you have as your operating system on a PC.

b. On a Mac:

The screen capturing steps on a Mac are conceptually the same as on the PC but the process is simpler.

To take a screen shot, press and hold these keys in succession: Command+Shift+3. You’ll hear a camera shutter sound, which means that the screen shot has been taken, AND a graphics file has been saved on your desktop (without you needing to do anything else!). Go to your desktop and look for a newly created file. The screen shot will automatically be saved as a graphics file – perhaps as a PNG or JPG.  The file name will reflect the day and time of the screen capture.

In the Mac OS system, there are a number of useful screen capturing options – for example if you want to capture just a portion of the screen or just one window. Here’s a useful list (made from a screen capture):

Mac OS keyboard shortcuts for taking screen captures
Mac OS keyboard shortcuts for taking screen captures

Here’s the source for the screen capture shortcuts listed above:

2. Use screen capturing software.

My personal favourite screen capturing software is SnagIt (available for both PC and Mac computers). I’ve used this product since it released in 1998. While it was free for the first couple of years, it now costs approximately $50 USD (one time fee). You can try it for free for 30 days to see how good it is:

I prefer using SnagIt instead of the built in screen capturing keyboard shortcuts on my computer because SnagIt is so much more than a screen capturing tool. It has a wonderful editor that lets me easily annotate my screen shots. For example I can quickly add an arrow or text to my screen shot to assist others. Another BIG advantage with SnagIt is its ability to capture an entire web page in one click, regardless of how many screens of scrolling there are in that web page.

I must use SnagIt multiple times a day – to obtain computer illustrations for training manuals; to capture proof of purchase when the place that I’m buying from doesn’t send a confirmation email or if I don’t trust that I will get an electronic order confirmation from that specific vendor; to take a picture of what’s wrong on my computer for my techie to solve; or I use it to grab useful information that I don’t want to bookmark and for information that I want to access offline (i.e. I want that information at my fingertips on MY computer).

SnagIt really is amazing software and everyone who got this tip from me said that SnagIt has improved the way they use the computer. So even though you don’t need SnagIt to take a picture of what’s on your screen, you’ll find that SnagIt does so much more than just screen capturing.

*One final and important tip: if you do start capturing content from online places, please reference the original source for that information. Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to make that information available or there may be copyright issues in place. When I’ve come across useful information in the past and I knew I was going to use it elsewhere, I would jot down the URL, or web address. Sometimes I’ve gone so far as contacting the original author to ask permission to use his or her information. Once the author finds out that I am prepared to source their original content online, they typically grant consent.

In SnagIt, this task of referencing the source is even easier if I just copy and paste the URL, or web address, into a text box at the top of the captured image in the editor when I capture the content. I typically add the URL into a text box that I place over top the captured image, in SnagIt’s editor, for quick reference later.

Looking forward to hearing how your screen capturing activities are going. You’ll be amazed how you ever lived without it! And if you need any help, just ask.