Tech Savvy Tips and Tricks: Taking Screenshots

Lesson 1: Taking Screenshots

Taking screenshots

There may be times when you want to explain or show something that's happening on your computer screen or mobile device. Knowing how to take a screenshot—or a picture of the screen—can be handy in a variety of ways, like:

  • When you'd like to capture an error message to show tech support
  • If you're on the phone with someone who needs help finding something on his or her computer, you can send a screenshot of your computer to show that person what to look for
  • If you'd like to save the confirmation number of a purchase rather than printing it or writing it down
taking a screenshot with Mac OS

Screenshots are captured by using keyboard shortcuts or a screenshot application. There are a few screenshot options available, depending on how much of the screen you want to capture. You can choose to take a screenshot of the entire screen, the active window, or part of the screen. In this lesson, we'll share how to take screenshots for Windows and macOS computers, as well as for mobile devices.

If you need to review how to perform shortcuts with your keyboard, go to our Keyboard Shortcuts lesson.

Taking screenshots in Windows

When taking a screenshot in Windows, you'll use the Print Scrn key in your keyboard shortcuts. The image will copy to the clipboard. It's important to note that only one image at a time can be copied to the clipboard.

showing a PC keyboard
  • Print Scrn: This copies the entire screen.
    viewing a screenshot of Windows 10 desktop

  • Alt+Print Scrn: This copies the active window or dialog box.
    viewing a screenshot of the active window

Once you've taken a screenshot, you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+V to paste it into applications like Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Paint, and Photoshop. You can then edit and save the image.

Taking screenshots in macOS

When taking screenshots in macOS, these keyboard shortcuts will automatically save the picture to your desktop as an image file.

  • Shift+Command+3: This takes a screenshot of the entire screen.
  • Shift+Command+4: The mouse changes into a crosshair icon.

Using the Shift+Command+4 shortcut, you can then choose from two options:

  • Click and drag the crosshair to take a screenshot of part of the screen.
    taking a screenshot in Mac OS
  • Press the space bar. The mouse changes into a camera icon. Then click on a window to take a screenshot of that window. 
    taking a screenshot of a window in Mac OS

Screenshot apps

An alternative to using keyboard shortcuts is to use a built-in screenshot app, such as the Snipping Tool in Windows or the Screenshot app in macOS (previous versions use the Grab app instead). If you'd like additional options like the ability to edit your images or add callouts, you can download an app like Snagit or Skitch. Snagit and Skitch also feature a time delay setting for capturing an action, like opening a menu.

showing a screenshot of Snagit tools

If you're interested in creating screen recordings (screencasts), you can download one of these apps: ActivePresenter (Windows) or TechSmith Capture (macOS).

Taking screenshots on mobile devices

  • To take a screenshot on newer Apple mobile devices, all you have to do is press the Volume up button and the Sleep/wake button at the same time. This will take a photo of what's on your screen, and the image will save to your camera roll (in the Photos app). If you have an older iPhone, you will hold the Home button and the Sleep/wake button at the same time.

    taking a screenshot by holding the lock button and the up volume button for iPhone 12
  • To take a screenshot on most Android mobile devices, just press the Volume Down button and the Power button at the same time. This will take a picture of your screen, and the image will save to your gallery.
    taking a screenshot by holding the volume down button and the power button for Google Pixel