A screenshot is an electronic image that captures exactly what someone sees on their computer screen at any given moment. You often see them used in training materials or attached to e-mail messages when someone is trying to explain a computer problem that they are experiencing. Sometimes a screenshot captures everything on the computer screen. Usually it is a capture of a specific program or window that is open.  

Screenshots can be very useful! Have you every wondered how they are created? It's easy!

There are two kinds of screen captures:

  • Full screen capture. Full screen captures are a snapshot of the ENTIRE desktop with all objects and open windows visible within it.
  • Single window capture. These images capture only the window that has screen focus. In other words, the window that you are currently working with. You can tell which window has screen focus because the title bar of that window is much deeper in color than the other open windows.

To create a full-screen capture, press PrtScn on the keyboard. An image of the entire desktop is copied to the clipboard. The image can then be pasted into other programs. Here is an example of a full-screen capture:

Example: Full screen capture

Note that the title bar of the smaller window is much deeper in color then that of the larger window. The smaller window has screen focus.

To capture only the window that has focus, press the keyboard combination of  Alt + PrtScn (don't press the "+" key). This key combination copies an image of only the window that has focus, like this:

Example: Single window capture

Once you have captured a screenshot, you can press Ctrl + V to insert the image into an e-mail message or other program (such as Microsoft Word or FrontPage).  

That's it!  Keep in mind though that screenshots are bitmaps and they can be very large. If you plan to send them in e-mail, do your message recipient and mail server admin and yourself a favor and use an imaging program such as MS Paint to save the screenshot as a .jpg file before your send it. This will reduce the size of the image considerably without affecting the resolution too much.

To save the image as .jpg file, paste it into MSPaint (included with Windows), and do File | Save As and choose the .jpg file format.

By default, MS Paint saves screen captures as a .bmp image and nine times out of ten, it ends up being a multi-megabyte sized image.  When these images are embedded into e-mail messages that get replied to or forwarded to others, a persons mailbox storage limit can max out in a hurry. E-mail messages with large images embedded also put a heavy burden on the network bandwidth as well as the reader's processor! So remember, save the image as a .jpg if you plan to send it in e-mail!

NOTE: Some keyboards (like mine) have the ability to toggle special function keys on and off. When capturing screenshots, make sure your keyboard is set to use the PrtScn key properly.

Happy capturing!

This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights.