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 picture of the screen—also known as a screenshot or screengrab—can be handy in a variety of ways, like:

  • when you'd like to capture an error message to show tech support
  • helping someone find something on their computer by showing them what to look for
  • if you'd like to save the confirmation number of a purchase, rather than printing it or writing it down

Here's an example of a screengrab you might send to someone to show them what to look for:

taking a screenshot with Mac OS

Screenshots are captured by a screenshot application or through keyboard shortcuts. There are a few screenshot options available, depending on how much of the screen you want to capture. You can screengrab 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 want a general review about how to perform shortcuts with your keyboard, check out our Keyboard Shortcuts lesson.

Taking screenshots in macOS

Using the Application

  • From your desktop, click the Launchpad. This will bring you to your applications. The app you're looking for is called Screenshot. (If you don't see it right away, check in Other). 
  • Once the application is in use, you'll see a toolbar pop up. You can choose from Capture Entire Screen, Capture Selected Window, and Capture Selected Portion mode. 
  • If you want to take a picture of your entire screen, select this mode in the toolbar. Your mouse's arrow will turn into a camera icon. Click anywhere on the screen, and you'll hear the sound of a camera clicking.
  • The screenshot will automatically save to your desktop. If you want to take another picture, you'll need to reopen the application.
  • If you want to capture a selected portion of the screen, click this option in the toolbar. You can change the screenshot’s dimensions by clicking and dragging its corners.
  • Once you’ve selected the portion you’d like to screengrab, click Capture in the toolbar. Once again, the screenshot will be saved to your desktop.

Using Keyboard Shortcuts

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

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

  • Click and drag the plus/crosshair icon 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

Taking screenshots in Windows

Using the Application

Depending on which version of Windows you're using, the built-in application is either called the Snipping Tool or Snip & Sketch. While they offer some different editing functions, their core functions are more or less the same.

  • Find the Snipping Tool or Snip & Sketch in your Applications. When you open the application, the screen will darken.
  • In the application's toolbar, you have the option of taking a "Rectangular Snip," a "Free Form Snip,"  where you can draw the edges of your picture, a "Window Snip" in which you focus on a specific window, or a "Full Screen Snip." Let's say you want to take a Rectangular Snip.
  • After clicking this option in the toolbar, click and drag the plus icon (or "crosshairs" icon), holding the left button on your mouse. 
  • Drag it across the area you'd like to screengrab. Upon release, a picture will be taken, and you can see it automatically in the application's preview.
  • You can use the different editing functions in the toolbar, and click the Save button once you are finished. Select a name, file type, and the pathway where you will be saving your screenshot (like the desktop). 

Using Keyboard Shortcuts

  • 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 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