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How to take a screenshot in Windows


Screenshots are a valuable tool for any level of computer user, but many people think creating them is difficult, or requires special software.  In fact, they're easy for anyone with basic computer skills to create, using software that comes standard on every Windows computer.

The tools:  (Alt + PrtScr) + Microsoft Paint


windows screenshot tools 

Unfortunately, many people don't realize how easy it is to take screenshots, and end up using the wrong tools that produce larger than necessary images in formats that aren't suited for email and the web.  Fancy screen capture software does have its place, but for basic screenshots, it's overkill.  Using the right format guarantees everyone will be able to see your screenshot right in their email programs and web browsers.

Once you memorize how to do it, you can create a screenshot and add it to an email or blog article in less than a minute.




Screenshots provide an easy way to share or keep a record of what's visible on your computer at a particular instant.  They improve communication by adding a visual component; as they say, a picture is worth...

Once you see how fast and easy it is to take a screenshot, you'll find it often comes in handy for a variety of uses, such as:

  • Creating clear how-to and help documentation with visual examples
  • Showing someone exactly what you're looking at on a computer
  • Quick-saving something when you don't need or want it in editable form (e.g. receipts from online purchases, airline itineraries, maps)
  • Sharing desktop & browser configuration tips
  • Showing off your high score on web-based video games



Take a screenshot in 5 easy steps:

This looks long, because I'm including a lot of detail, but it really is just the quick five steps in bold below.

  1. Select the window you want to capture
  2. Press "Alt+PrtScr"  to take the screenshot
    • (Press and hold the "Alt" key, then press the "PrtScr" key.)
      • This key combination should be easy to remember, since "PrtScr" stands for "print screen".
    • This copies the image of the selected window to the clipboard.
    • "Prt Scr" alone will take a shot of the entire desktop
  3.  Open Paint
    • Shortcut: Press the "Start" key + R and type "mspaint":
      • screenshot of run dialog with mspaint
    • Paint isn't fancy, but it's on every Windows computer, takes no time to load, and can handle basic tasks like highlighting and adding comments.
  4. Paste the screenshot
    • If you don't want the entire window:
      • Select the part you want (Paint defaults to the Selection tool after you paste an image.  Just press the "Esc" key to cancel the selection of the entire image; you'll see the dotted border disappear.)
      • Copy it
      • Use Ctrl+z to undo the paste of the initial screenshot
      • Paste your selection
  5. Save the file
    • You'll be prompted to enter a filename and specify the file type:
      • screenshot save as PNG example
    • Saving to your Desktop makes it quick and easy to find, for instant emailing or posting on a blog, though I recommend filing it somewhere meaningful after using it.
    • I've standardized on the PNG format for screenshots; it doesn't degrade image quality and produces a small file size.  See "When and how to use internet image formats" for good information on this topic.