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screenshot windowsIn principle, taking a screenshot is very simple. With the right technique however, you can save yourself a lot of time and hassle and greatly improve the look of your screenshots.

As a technology writer I frequently rely on screenshots to visually demonstrate what I’m trying to explain. To get my point across, it’s important that I take no nonsense screenshots with clear markings. Apart from that, I have to fulfill certain criteria, for example the screenshot width, image format, and file size. Over time I have acquired quite a routine. In this article I want to show you the basics of taking a screenshot in Windows 7 and share my experience with you, so that taking and working with screenshots will become a breeze for you too.

The Basics

I bet you all know that you can take a screenshot of your entire computer screen by clicking the Print Screen or PrtScrn button on your keyboard. Depending your keyboard, you might have to click a function (FN) key in combination with the [PrtScrn] button.

screenshot windows

Now did you know that you can take a screenshot of only the currently selected window by holding down the [ALT] key at the same time as clicking [Print Screen]? This is quite handy if you want to save yourself some cropping.

By the way, the [Print Screen] button is called that and not screenshot because back in the days before Windows, clicking this button would actually print the current screen.


Where Is My Screenshot?

In case you didn’t know, clicking this button loads an image of the entire screen (a screenshot) into your Windows clipboard. From there you can paste it into an image editing tool to work with it, e.g. crop or annotate it. So what do you do once you have taken a screenshot?

To save or work with a screenshot in Windows 7, you need to paste it into an image editing program. Simply open the program of your choice, for example Paint, eventually open a new file, then click [CTRL] + [V] to paste your screenshot from the clipboard. From there you can edit it and save it as an image file.

You can use any image editor or even Word. Personally, I prefer IrfanView. It’s a lightweight but powerful tool that allows you to view, crop, resize, and batch process image files. In fact, all I use to create my screenshots is the above mentioned buttons and IrfanView. You can read more about IrfanView here:

I save all my screenshot images as PNG (portable network graphics), a format optimized for transferring images on the Internet.

Windows 7 Snipping Tool

If you’re not comfortable with manually taking a screenshot and pasting it into an application for editing and/or saving or if you often take partial screenshots and want to save time cropping the image, you should try the Windows 7 Snipping Tool. You can find it under > Start > All Programs > Accessories > Snipping Tool.

windows 7 screenshot

You can select from taking a free-form Snip, a rectangular Snip, a Windows Snip (same as [ALT] + [PrtScrn]), or a Full-screen Snip (same as just [PrtScrn]). The partial screenshot is pretty neat and something you cannot easily do with the manual method described above.

windows 7 screenshot

When you’re done taking your screenshot, the image is opened in the Snipping Tool editing window. Here you can draw with a pen, highlight elements, copy the image for further editing elsewhere, or save it.

screenshot windows

You can do all that and more with IrfanView and other tools. For simple screenshots in Windows, however, you may find it more comfortable to work with the Snipping Tool.

5 Tips For Optimizing Your Screenshots

  1. Avoid Resizing
    When you resize a screenshot image, it tends to become fuzzy and text will be hard to read. Rather than resizing…
  2. Crop Images
    This way you eliminate things you don’t really want to show. Use the [ALT] + [PrtScrn] key combination to capture only the current window, then crop further.
  3. Annotate
    With annotating I mean highlighting key elements in your screenshot, for example by pointing an arrow to a certain position, circling a button, or highlighting text. You can also add text comments. If you’re using IrfanView, go to > Edit > Show Paint dialog to get a menu with the respective features (also shown in screenshot above).
  4. Edit to Perfection
    Sometimes you take a screenshot of something and there is an add in the middle. To enhance your screenshot, cut it out. You can also cut out superfluous space and make your screenshot more compact than what you see on the screen. In IrfanView for example, you can easily copy and paste selected parts of your image and thus re-arrange it.
  5. Use Dedicated Screenshot Software
    There are lots of great screenshot tools out there. Some are free, others not. Our Managing Editor Mark swears on SnagIt (not free). I would recommend Screenpresso. Our writer Jessica, who edits her screenshots to absolute perfection, also uses FastStone Capture 5.3.

For more screenshot tips and tricks, check out the following articles:

How often do you actually take screenshots and what technique have you been using so far? Do you wish the Print Screen button would actually still print the current screen?

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