Windows has many hidden features for power users.
Although you might be the only person physically in front of your screen, that doesn’t mean the view on your monitor has to be limited to yourself. A number of great native Windows tools allow you to share what you see.
This guide will explain how you can share exactly what’s on your screen. The time to show off your monitor may come if you’re giving or receiving technical support, want to perform a demonstration, or want a record of how something appeared – and a whole host of other reasons!
Let’s get down and find out how to screenshot, screencast and screenshare, all without having to download any extra applications.
The Basics Of Screenshots
Look down at your keyboard and try and figure out which key will capture exactly what’s on your screen. Okay, so you probably already knew the answer without looking: Print Screen.
Back when operating systems worked on command lines, the Print Screen key would literally send the text on the screen to the printer. Nowadays the capture is saved to your clipboard (the same way that text is when you press Copy), meaning that it can be pasted directly into programs like Photoshop, Word and Skype.
This is truly the most basic method of sharing your desktop remotely, but for some it might be all that’s needed. These screenshots can then be edited further in an image editing program, allowing for things like cropping or highlighting.
It’s possible to get a bit more advanced, however. Pressing Alt + Print Screen will only capture the active window, while pressing Win + Print Screen on Windows 8 will save the image to your drive.
How To Take Better Screenshots
There might be a time where you want to go a bit further than what those keyboard commands offer. This is where a Windows utility called Snipping Tool comes in handy. This is an application that will capture, edit and save your screenshot all in one.
Snipping Tool is on Windows Vista and above. It allows you to capture specific areas of your screen and then instantly annotate the screenshot with pens and highlighters. These screenshots can then be copied to the clipboard, saved, and emailed, all within the program.
It’s still a fairly basic tool in the scheme of things, but it speeds up the process of screenshotting when only certain areas of the display need to be captured. Not only that, but less proficient users may find it easier than editing in tools like Photoshop or the user-friendly Paint.NET.
Problem Steps Recorder
For Windows 7 and 8 users, this one is going to be a lifesaver when you have to talk others through procedures on the computer.
Perform a system search for psr and click the result. This will launch the Problem Steps Recorder. Hit Start Record and then go about demonstrating. The program will track everything, like things you click or highlight, and will also let you add comments to certain parts of the screen.
Once done, click Stop Record and save the file. It’ll output a ZIP file which contains a MHT file of your steps. It isn’t a video, but rather a page containing commented screenshots of every action that you perform. This is especially useful for technical support teams as it allows them to see literally everything that you did, without you having to explain it all in detail.
The Problem Steps Recorder could also come in handy for those of you who are the go-to technical help for family and friends. Rather than having to explain a complicated procedure you can use this tool and let them follow the guide.
Although this guide is for native Windows tools, those using Windows XP and Windows Vista and looking for a similar tool can use Utility Spotlight from TechNet.
Windows Remote Assistance
We’ve covered static images of your screen, but what about if you want to share what you see in real time? That’s no problem as a tool called Windows Remote Assistance (system search for the name to run it) has got you covered. It’s been around in some form since Windows XP. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the same as a remote access utility.
When launched, the program will ask if you want to invite someone to help you or help someone who has invited you. If you’re the former then you can either send an invitation file via email or use Easy Connect, wherein the receiving user types in a code to connect to your computer.
Windows Remote Assistance will share the screen of the user who is asking for help. The person connected is able to use their mouse and keyboard to control this other machine, if necessary. For example, the sharer could demonstrate an issue they’re having and the helper can then show them how to overcome it.
There’s a built-in text chat system and a log of the session can be saved if it has to be referred to at a later point. It’s a simple and quick way of helping someone without the need to be physically present at their computer.
It’s Time To Share
You now know some of the best ways to get sharing your screen using native Windows applications. Whether you just need to send off a quick screenshot, document procedures in detail or share a live view of your screen, these powerful and easy-to-use applications require no third party software.
While there are other programs available to capture screenshots and the like, the chances are that the ones that come with your operating system will do the job just fine.
Have you found the Windows screen sharing utilities useful? Or which alternatives do you prefer?