The Ultimate Guide on How to Take a Screenshot

Angela Randall 16-08-2012

how to take a screenshotMost people would think taking a screenshot was a simple and straightforward process, and that it would be much the same on every platform they encounter. Well, they’d be wrong. The process of taking screenshots is simple for some devices and near-impossible for others. For some operating systems, it involves knowing the shortcuts, while for others you can press PrtScn and follow your nose. They’re all very different.


Here’s a guide that shows you the quickest ways to take screenshots for all the major devices and OS: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iOS, and Kindle Touch. There’s also a bunch of dedicated screenshot tools for many of these operating systems, so they’ve been noted as well. Whatever your device and OS, we should be able to help you take a screenshot today.

Windows Screenshot

Windows has a simple, yet inelegant way of dealing with screenshots. Simply click on PrtScn and you’ll have the screenshot saved in the clipboard. Then open your favourite picture editor and paste the image into a new document.

For instance, MS Paint and Gimp are free image editors that work well.

how to take a screenshot

Mac OS X Screenshot

There are a number of ways to take a screenshot on Mac and they will all save a PNG file to your desktop by default. The most well-used shortcuts for Mac screenshots are:

  • Command-Shift-3 – Takes a full-screen screenshot.
  • Command-Shift-4 – Takes a screenshot of an area you choose.
  • Command-Shift-4 then Space – Takes a screenshot of the active window.

You might also like to read:

Linux Screenshot

There are lots of ways to take screenshots in Linux, some of which are quite involved, so we’ll just take you through some of the more straightforward methods.

In most instances of Gnome or Unity, click on PrtScn and you’ll see a pop-up dialogue appear which will let you choose where to save it. To get just the active window, click Alt-PrtScn. Gnome users can also go to the menu and choose Applications > Accessories > Take Screenshot.

how do i take a screenshot


Many Linux users like to use Gimp or ImageMagick to take screenshots, too. In KDE, you can install KDEgraphics3 to run ksnapshot.

Android Screenshot

If you’re using ICS (Android 4.0), getting a screenshot is no problem. Just press and hold the Volume Down and Power buttons at the same time and the screenshot will appear in your Gallery.

However, if you’re using an older Android release, things get much trickier. Certain models of phone have screenshot capabilites built in, such as several of the Galaxy phones, but everyone else will need to either use the Android SDK method or root their phone and get a dedicated application.

To take screenshots using the Android SDK, you’ll need to install the Android SDK on your computer, then connect your Android. Using the DDMS application, you then choose Device > Screen Capture.


how do i take a screenshot

Full instructions to install the Android SDK are here How To Capture Screenshots With Your Android Mobile Phone Read More .

Check out these articles for more information:

iOS Screenshot

Press and release the On/Off button and the Home button at the same time. The screenshot is added to your Camera Roll album.


Kindle Touch Screenshot

Hold the home button for 3 seconds, then tap anywhere on the Kindle Touch’s screen, then release the home button after a small wait. When you plug your Kindle into your computer using the USB cable you’ll find the screenshot in the root directory of the Kindle Touch. The screenshots are saved as GIF at 800×600 pixels.

how to take a screenshot

Other Cool Tools

There are also plenty of great pieces of software available for multiple platforms that can take great screenshots. In-browser screenshot extensions can be really useful for getting the full page you’re looking at, even if your screen can’t see the whole page.

Here’s some more tools you can check out:

What’s your favourite way of taking screenshots? Do you use native commands or a dedicated program?

Image Credit: ShutterStock

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  1. Maarten Smit
    October 24, 2012 at 12:58 am

    For Android you should have a look at Screenshot Ultimate, works on all my phones (and tablets). Even works on my Google TV!

  2. Janice
    August 26, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Just an FYI.... Snagit One Click is a great screenshot tool

  3. Ellen Odza
    August 23, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Very helpful - thanks! One question - you mention how to do screenshots on Kindle; how about on a Nook tablet?

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 27, 2012 at 10:28 am

      I haven't got one, but a quick search says to try long-pressing the ? button and then pressing the - volume button (on the right side of the device) quickly before releasing the ? button. You should find the screenshot in your gallery app. Hope that helps!

  4. Kevin Fegan
    August 23, 2012 at 11:03 am

    I use "Screenshot Captor" from Works great.

  5. Sebastian Hadinata
    August 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Whoa, Blackberry Playbook is not included. Oh well, to take screenshot in BB Playbook just press the "Volume Up" and "Volume Down" button at the same time.

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 22, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      Thanks for sharing this!

  6. Damon Osborne
    August 22, 2012 at 6:56 am

    The Windows pr scn key is a misnomer as it has nothing to do with printing. scn cpy would be good. Also if you press both alt and prt scn you copy the active window. You can put them in a image editor, Photoshop, Photo this or Photo that or a Word processor.
    Handy for all those gobbledy gook error messages. Also file lists like albums on a flash card.

  7. VS Vishnu
    August 21, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    there is some way to take it using the physical button on the older androids as well...

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      If you've rooted your droid or are using a model which supports it you can, but most people can't.

  8. DI
    August 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    I use Wisdom-soft ScreenHunter 5 Free. It works for me.

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 21, 2012 at 9:17 am

      Thanks for sharing!

  9. RIMA R
    August 20, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Windows Screen Shots
    I have to agree with some of the comments. You missed out on Windows Snipping Tool which is included in Windows 7 and quite similar to the software SnagIT.
    Also CTRL - PRINT SCRN takes the most active window only.
    Everybody shoud know these 2 facts of life :)

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 21, 2012 at 9:17 am

      Ah, someone else just said it was alt-print screen. I'll check next time I'm on a windows machine. One of you will be right. Thanks! :)

  10. Victor Ong
    August 19, 2012 at 12:57 am

    Pressing alt+prtsc takes snapshots ONLY OF THE WINDOW IN FOCUS. So that's pretty useful.

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 21, 2012 at 9:15 am

      Nice tip. Thanks :)

  11. josemon maliakal
    August 18, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Taking a screen shot is too common, can you please share something about recording desktop activities as video ?

  12. Suvrojit
    August 18, 2012 at 6:51 am

    I use Snaplr. It is the best free 3rd party software out there. It is light on resources, has a preview screen built-in which lets you make MS-Paint like pencil markings & take scrrenshots in rectangular, oval or free form.
    [Broken URL Removed]

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 21, 2012 at 9:15 am

      Sounds great - thanks!

  13. Scrubs
    August 18, 2012 at 2:25 am

    For multiple screenshots instead of pressing PrintScreen and pasting it a 1000 times, use ClipMagic.

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 18, 2012 at 6:35 am

      Sounds like it could be really useful. Thanks!

  14. Richard Borkovec
    August 17, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    The Snipping Tool in Windows is the easiest to use I've found for Windows. No Paint or GIMP needed, as it has built-in tools for highlighting and writing on the screenshot.

    For Linux, I always use Shutter. It's got more features than most people even need, but it's fast, easy, and the built-in timer is fantastic!

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 18, 2012 at 6:35 am

      Shutter rocks.. and the Snipping Tool is an obvious improvement.

  15. Pete Stewart
    August 17, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    One of the easiest solutions is to use the Snipping Tool found in Windows Vista and 7 Accessories. I pin it to my task bar for easy access. You draw a rectangle around the area on the screen you want to capture. The resulting image can be saved, emailed or copied elsewhere. This tool also provides a pen with variable colours and thickness and a highlighter.

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 18, 2012 at 6:34 am

      Windows has obviously improved things!

    • Eli
      August 18, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      PicPick is much easier to use than windows snipping tool (hot key) and has many more capabilities

  16. susendeep dutta
    August 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    I prefer " Lightscreen portable " as it's easy to use and lightweight.

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 18, 2012 at 6:33 am

      Sounds useful!

  17. Craig R
    August 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    When I saw the title "The Ultimate Guide On How to Take a Screenshot" in my newsreader, I eagerly clicked through expecting to see an in-depth tutorial on a professional methodology for capturing and optimizing screenshots for blogs or software documentation. I was really disappointed to see this title applied to an article that should have been titled "How to Take Screenshots On Any Platform." Ms. Alcorn, please consider authoring a real "Ultimate Screenshot Guide" as I think it would make a great MakeUseOf downloadable guide as well as an online article. Thank you!

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 18, 2012 at 6:33 am

      Your take on the article title would definitely be a good one. Thanks for the idea. :D

  18. René Flohil
    August 17, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    For Windows I always use Gyazo, its easy and instantly uploads your screenshot to a private online gallery. Also the screenshot pops up in your standard browser

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 18, 2012 at 6:32 am

      Sounds interesting - thanks!

  19. StefanyBaez
    August 17, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I'm surprised some people still don't know how to take a screenshot of their laptop. This is something everyone MUST know.

    • GrrGrrr
      August 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      not really..i know many people who are shocked by the work screenshot...

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 18, 2012 at 6:31 am

      Yeah, it's not used by everyone. Mainly I think screenshots are used by people who are the geeks of the office and have to show other people how things are done. :)

  20. Ethan S.
    August 17, 2012 at 8:58 am

    You forgot to mention the snipping tool that started to come in windows 7, it's a tremendous help.

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 18, 2012 at 6:30 am

      I did, sorry!

  21. Timothy Liem
    August 17, 2012 at 6:52 am

    lol.. the simplest one is on Linux. you don't need to paste it on other software, unlike Windows.

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 18, 2012 at 6:30 am

      It's pretty funny, isn't it? :D

  22. Adrian
    August 17, 2012 at 5:11 am

    Windows 7 comes with it's own Snipping Tool built in.

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 18, 2012 at 6:29 am

      That's good news!

  23. Eli
    August 17, 2012 at 1:30 am

    I use a free dedicated screen capture software - Picpick. I found it superior to all other free alternatives I checked. It uses hot keys (e.g. CTRL + PrtScr captures a rectangular area of choice). I can annotate the picture, mark areas, hide unwanted parts, save as, copy, etc. It has ALL the functionalities I need coupled with ease of operation. Take a peek at

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 18, 2012 at 6:29 am

      Sounds great. Thanks!

  24. Brett R
    August 17, 2012 at 12:03 am

    I use Captur on the Mac..sits in the Menu bar, don't have to remember short cuts, annotation tools...and free!

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 18, 2012 at 6:29 am

      Annotation tools are often very useful. Thanks for adding this one!

  25. Elijah Swartz
    August 17, 2012 at 12:00 am

    While in Windows 7, I use a little program called Screenshoter which I use to take a screenshot of a user defined area. You can also do full screen or active window screen shots too. You can also choose which popular image format to do it in and where to save it as. Also within Windows 7 while using Chrome, I use the "imgur" extension, which I can take screen shots of a user defined area, what is currently being viewed, a specific image, or the whole page. Once you select what you want it hosts it over at Another aspect I like about the extension is that it sort of acts as a URL shortener as well. All of the URLs look like "". No need to share a giant URL to anyone.

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 18, 2012 at 6:28 am

      I didn't realise imgur had a browser extension. Thanks for adding these!

  26. Andrey Zvyagin
    August 16, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    Sometimes, some programs in Windows intercept PrtScr. Then you can use Shift + PrtScr

    • Angela Alcorn
      August 18, 2012 at 6:27 am

      Thanks for the tip!

    • Shehan Nirmal
      August 18, 2012 at 1:42 pm

      Ctrl + PrtScr will also work when you use another software...