How to take screenshots in Windows 10


From keyboard shortcuts to built-in apps, there’s plenty of ways to take screenshots on a Windows 10 PC.

Image: Microsoft

There’s any number of reasons why you may need to take a screenshot on a Windows 10 PC. You may need to send an error report to IT, capture graphics and images for a presentation, or create a tutorial on how to take screenshots in Windows 10

No matter the reason you’re trying to take screenshots in Windows 10, there are options. Microsoft didn’t make all of them super simple, and you’ll need to bring in additional apps like Paint to actually save the screen captures you take.

SEE: Cheat sheet: Windows 10 PowerToys (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

There are also a couple of Windows apps you can use to take screenshots if you’re averse to keyboard shortcuts or having to paste captured content from the Windows clipboard to a separate app for editing manually. Whichever way you prefer, there are options.

How to take a full screen screenshot in Windows 10 with keyboard shortcuts

The simplest, and most obvious way to take a screenshot in Windows 10 is probably the button that everyone has on their keyboard: Print Screen, which may also be labeled PrtScrn, PrSc, or some similarly abbreviated name. 

Pressing Print Screen doesn’t do anything obvious, so you’d be understandably confused if you were hoping a small thumbnail would appear in the lower right of the screen, ala macOS, indicating an image has been captured. Instead of actually taking a picture, Print Screen copies the contents of your entire screen to the clipboard, much like you highlighted some text and pressed Ctrl + C. 

SEE: Microsoft 365: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

In order to create the image you captured with Print Screen you’ll have to open Word, Paint, or some other program where you can paste an image file and then save it with the name and extension of your choice. 

If you want to skip the copying and pasting, you’re in luck: Pressing Windows Key + Print Screen will capture the entire screen and automatically save it as an image. You’ll also get some visual feedback indicating it’s been captured, as the screen will briefly dim. 

In order to find images captured using Windows Key + Print Screen, navigate to your Pictures folder and look for the Screenshots subfolder. 

Note: If you have a Microsoft OneDrive account, be sure to check your OneDrive Pictures folder for Screenshots, as it may default there instead of to your local Pictures folder (Figure A).

Figure A

figure-a.jpg

Where auto-captured screenshots are stored in Windows 10

How to capture the active window in Windows 10 with keyboard shortcuts

If you want to capture just the active window, you need to press Alt + Print Screen. Again, you won’t get any visual feedback indicating it was copied successfully, but you’ll be able to paste the image into whichever app you used to take a full screen screenshot.

How to capture a screen selection in Windows 10 with keyboard shortcuts

If you just want to capture a small portion of the screen you can do so by pressing Windows Key + Shift + S. When you do this you’ll see a small toolbar appear at the top of the screen with several snipping options (Figure B): The first snips a square shape by clicking and dragging, the second allows you to draw a freeform shape, the third takes a picture of the active window, and the fourth snips a copy of the full screen. 

Figure B

figure-b.jpg

The snipping bar that appears when the Windows Key + Shift + S hotkey combination is pressed.

This is arguably the best keyboard shortcut option for taking screenshots, as it’s the only one that presents you with a thumbnail at the bottom right of the screen saying an image has been captured (Figure C). Clicking on the thumbnail will open the image in Snip & Sketch, which will be discussed more below. 

Figure C

figure-c.jpg

The thumbnail preview that appears when you use the interface shown in Figure B to take a screenshot.

Taking Windows 10 screenshots using Windows apps

There are two options when it comes to taking screenshots with built-in Windows applications: Snip & Sketch, which was released for Windows 10 with the October 2018 update, and the tried-and-true Windows Snipping Tool, which has been a part of Windows since Vista.

You can find both tools by typing in the Windows search bar (Figure D), or by finding it in the application list of the Start menu. 

Figure D

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Using the Windows 10 search bar to find the built-in screenshot tools

Snip & Sketch (Figure E) is both an image editing/markup tool and an image capture app. Clicking on New in Snip & Sketch will bring up the same menu as Windows Key + Shift + S, so think of opening it directly as an alternative to remembering that hotkey combination—it even reminds you of that when you open it.

Figure E

figure-e.jpg

The default view of Windows 10 Snip & Sketch

Next to the New button there’s an arrow that will allow you to take a snip with a time delay of three or 10 seconds. Along with delay options are basic markup functions, a crop tool, and a share option.

As for the Windows Snipping Tool, it’s essentially the same thing as Snip & Sketch with a slightly older user interface (Figure F).

Figure F

figure-f.jpg

The Windows 10 Snipping Tool

Snipping Tool even reminds you that it’s going to be phased out eventually, but it has coexisted with Snip & Sketch for a couple of years already with no indication it’s going to disappear anytime soon. 

Aside from its look, the only big differences between Snip & Sketch and Snipping Tool are the delay option, which ranges from one to five seconds in one-second increments, and the lack of image editing options contained in Snipping Tool. All you can really do with an image captured in Snipping Tool is mark it up with a pen, highlight it, and erase marks you’ve made.

With Snip & Sketch’s tight integration with Windows keyboard shortcuts it and its corresponding Windows Key + Shift + S keyboard shortcut it’s the most user friendly method of taking screenshots in Windows 10. 

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