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Take screen captures using tools in your operating system

Screen captures are an important component of software documentation. You will often need to show your users images of buttons, confusing parts of an interface, and perhaps entire dialog boxes or windows. While using TechSmith Snagit significantly simplifies taking screen captures, you do have a few other alternatives, namely keyboard shortcuts and simplified applications that ship with your operating system.

Using keyboard shortcuts

Both Windows and Mac computers have built-in keyboard shortcuts for taking screen captures. On a Windows system, the keyboard shortcuts store the screen captures to the Windows clipboard, meaning you'll need an image-editing program to paste the screen capture into to save it, such as the Windows Paint program that comes with every version of Windows. On a Mac system, the keyboard shortcuts result in screen capture files being saved to your desktop in the appropriate PNG format.

To… Do this in Windows… Do this in macOS…
Take a capture of the entire screen Press Print Screen, and then paste the image into an image editor.

-or-

In Windows 8.x and Windows 10, press the Windows key, and then press Print Screen. The image appears in your Pictures folder inside the Screenshots folder.

Press Command+Shift+3.
Take a capture of an active window Press Alt+Print Screen, and then paste the image into an image editor. Press Command+Shift+4, press the Spacebar, and then click the window you want to capture.
Take a capture of a region of the screen N/A; instead, take a window capture and crop to the desired area. Press Command+Shift+4, and then select the region you want to capture.

Using the Snipping Tool in Microsoft Windows

Windows 7, Windows 8.x, and Windows 10 come with a built-in screen capture program called the Snipping Tool. While not as feature-complete as Snagit, the Snipping Tool offers enough functionality to be useful if you can't install Snagit on the machine you're documenting.

To take a capture with Snipping Tool

To open the program, click Start, type Snipping Tool, and then press Enter. You can then use the tool to take the types of captures listed in the table.

To… Do this…
Take a capture of the entire screen Click the arrow next to the New button, and then click Full-screen Snip.
Take a capture of an active window Click the arrow next to the New button, click Window Snip, and then click inside the active window you want to capture.
Take a capture of a region of the screen Click the arrow next to the New button, click Rectangular Snip, and then drag a selection around the item you want to capture.
Take a time-delayed capture (Windows 10 only) Click the arrow next to Delay, and then click the number of seconds you'd like the delay the capture. Next, complete one of the capture types mentioned above.

To save a capture taken with the Snipping Tool

  1. On the File menu, click Save As.
  2. Navigate to the location where you want to save your capture.
  3. In the File name box, type a meaningful name for your capture.
  4. Make sure the Save as type is set to Portable Network Graphic file (PNG).
  5. Click Save.

Using Grab in macOS

In macOS, the built-in screen capture program is called Grab. While not as feature-complete as Snagit, Grab offers enough functionality to be useful if you can't install Snagit on the machine you're documenting.

To take a capture with Grab

To open the program, in Finder, click the Go menu, and then click Utilities. In the Utilities window, double-click Grab. You can use the tool to take the types of captures listed in the table.

To… Do this…
Take a capture of the entire screen On the Capture menu, click Screen, and then click any area of the screen.
Take a capture of an active window On the Capture menu, click Window. Click Choose Window, and then click the window you want to capture.
Take a capture of a region of the screen On the Capture menu, click Selection, and then drag a selection around the part of the screen you want to capture.
Take a capture with a time delay On the Capture menu, click Timed Screen. Click Start Timer, make sure your screen appears as you want it captured, and then wait 10 seconds for the capture to finish.

To save a capture taken with Grab

  1. On the File menu, click Save.
  2. In the Save As box, type a meaningful name for your capture.
  3. In the Where list, select a location where you would like to save your capture.
  4. In the File Format list, click PNG.
  5. Click Save.