Did you know the Print Screen button used to actually buffer what was on your screen and send it to the printer port? The screen would literally be printed.
Meanwhile, taking screenshots has become more convenient and hence more common. Whether it’s a journalist like me doing an article, IT support needing to see a user’s screen, or a gamer wanting to show everyone a really cool part of their game, everyone should have a screenshot tool on their computer. And there are many to choose from – especially if you are on a Windows machine.
Snip Your Screen
Redmond has handed you a free gift in the form of Microsoft Snip. Snip is a screenshot tool, along the lines of Evernote’s Skitch. Originally, the Snipping Tool was introduced with Windows 7, but it has since been given a huge makeover. Although the option to send your screenshots to your OneDrive folder will probably not be universally welcomed.
After installing it, it sits at the top of your screen, although you can disable that if you don’t want it there. The tool consists of three sections – the capture tool, the whiteboard, and the camera for taking photos with your webcam. All of which are fairly self-explanatory. The whiteboard gives you the chance to flex your artistic skills a bit or take down some notes, although the feature is best suited to tablets and a user’s finger (or stylus pen). As you can see below, my attempts at writing with a mouse looks like a snail overdosing on ecstasy.
After taking your screenshot, it will appear in the Snip Editor where you can annotate it with notes, give a person red hair, or highlight important parts on a page. Adding audio turns the whole thing into a MP4 file, which can be embedded on websites.
A lot of people have noted that Snip is kind of buggy right now. The email option in the Share menu defaults only to Outlook, and if you don’t use Outlook, then nothing happens. But it is still a neat little tool which makes high quality screenshots, and provides basic annotation tools to help you further get your point across. You would be daft not to have this installed on your PC.
Other Options to Snip Your Screen
I am fully aware though that, like Google, not everyone is a Microsoft fan. I can’t say I particularly love them, but they do bring out some good stuff every now and then, Windows 10 and Snip being two recent examples.
So in the spirit of balance, let’s go over some alternatives, and while you’re at it, check out Joel’s great article on screenshots from last year.
IrfanView is a sturdy reliable alternative, that has been around since 1996, believe it or not. Despite the competition now heating up in the cut-throat world of screenshot companies, IrfanView still tirelessly slugs it out like Rocky Balboa.
What I like about IrfanView is its batch editing features. If I have a bunch of screenshots for a MakeUseOf article, and they all have to be 640px wide, I just have to put them into IrfanView, specify 640px wide in the options, and hit the button. Seconds later, I have copies in the right size waiting for me.
What I DON’T like about IrfanView is that it is designed mainly for Windows, which is crap for users of Mac OS X and Linux. You can apparently use WINE to run IrfanView (and other Windows apps) on an OS X system and a Linux system, but when I tried with my Macbook, it didn’t work.
There’s three things to love about Greenshot. It’s free, it’s open-source, and it makes fantastic screenshots. And if you like the color green…well, that’s a fourth thing to get excited about.
After capturing your green screenshot, you can annotate the screenshot with whatever it needs, as well as getting it edited. Then save it as an image, or send it to an email attachment, your printer, or your clipboard for pasting into a document. There are also add-ons for sending your images to third-party image editing apps such as Paint.NET, Microsoft Office, or Dropbox.
Oh and the program is available in 33 languages, so if English is not your first language, then you are more than likely to find your mother tongue in there somewhere.
When you start up Lightscreen, it reminds you a lot of Microsoft Snip with its little window, and the three options to choose from. However, unlike Snip, there are no annotation or editing features. But it redeems itself by having a portable version, which is always good if you like running your programs from a USB stick.
It hides in the background and waits for you to press the pre-set Hotkey combo, so it can spring into life. A preview window shows you the screenshot you have just made. You can then save the screenshot as an image file on your computer.
Years ago, I discovered this nifty screenshot tool, and I fell in love with it. So much so that I made the unbelievable decision to pay $50 to get the full version (I was using the trial version to begin with). Now, with so many free and excellent possibilities, I can’t believe I paid the equivalent of 10 Big Macs for this tool, no matter how brilliant it is. My belly is devastated.
And one other downside to this one is that you are not automatically entitled to free upgrades. If you want to upgrade to a new version, you have to pay $25. Cheeky.
But the program itself is fantastic, and it has served me well for 6 years now. Screenshots are crystal clear, and the image editor and annotation tools are great and easy to use.
I found this one purely by chance as I was searching for the HyperDesktop link. Someone was on the Windows sub-reddit telling everyone how fantastic ShareX is, so I took a look. And they’re right. This is a really neat program.
The number of features is really impressive. As you can see in the screenshot above, you can upload to countless cloud services, FTP folders, and email, using various URL shorteners or even your own customized URL shortener (such as mine, which is http://mrko.nl).
The list of features is too long to go into here as the list is enormous. So go check out the features list on GitHub to see how fantastic this tool is.
Honorable Mention: VLC Player
If you are watching a movie or TV show on VLC Player, and you want a screenshot of a scene in the show, you may or may not know that VLC Player offers a screen capture option.
Just pause on the scene you want to capture, go to the Video drop-down menu, and choose Snapshot. A 1270 x 720px screen capture will then be made and deposited in your My Pictures folder.
The Old-School Method – The PrtScn Button
The Print Screen (PrtScn) button has been around since the MS-DOS days, and its best days now seem to be behind it, being forced into retirement by the new screen capture tools in town. However, it is still there on the keyboard, so an article about screenshot tools would not be complete without at least one mention of the tool that started the whole screenshot craze.
The PrtScn button (or PRT SCRN as shown above), is located in the top-right of your keyboard, and pressing it will…well, it won’t actually print your screen, but rather save a copy to the clipboard. Note that if you press the key combo ALT + Print Screen, it will only save your currently active window.
If you use at least Windows 8, then pressing the Windows key + Print Screen will save your screenshot to a Screenshots sub-folder in the Pictures folder.
So Come On, Which One Did I Miss?
Screenshot programs are popping up as fast as moles in a Whack-a-Mole game. So maybe I neglected to mention your favorite? If so, please feel free to use the comments below to promote your favorite app, as well as berate me for not mentioning it myself.