A screenshot is an image captured to record the items visible on a computer screen.
Screenshots, which may also be called screen captures, dumps, or grabs, are supported by applications and commands built into virtually every computer operating system. While screenshots are captured with software installed on the computer itself, in some cases an external camera may be used, or the video feed from the computer may be transmitted to another device which captures the image.
Screenshots are commonly used to create images for training and demonstration purposes, when specific aspects can be demonstrated more effectively visually with the use of screenshots, than in writing alone.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I use screenshots?
Any situation where it would be useful for someone to be looking over your shoulder is a time when a screenshot might be useful. For example, if you're troubleshooting a software problem on your computer, and are having a hard time describing the issue you're seeing to someone who's helping you over email or the phone, a screenshot may help clarify the situation.
One instance where screenshots are commonly used is to clarify instructions in a user manual or tutorial, particularly in the case of complex applications.
How do I take a screenshot?
There are two common ways to take a screenshot using software on a computer.
First, you could use the screenshot command integrated into your operating system. Most Windows computers have a “PrtScn” button. On most Windows systems, holding down the Windows logo key and pressing the “PrtScn” button will create a screenshot that captures the entire screen area. To take a screenshot on a Mac, press Command, Shift, and the numeral 3 at the same time.
Second, you could take a partial screenshot using an appropriate application or system command. Modern Windows computers are provided with a pre-installed application called “Snipping Tool”. With this tool, you can easily take a partial screenshot. Macs offer the same functionality with a built-in command accessed by pressing Command, Shift, and the numeral 4 at the same time, and then dragging to select the area of the screen to be captured.
I've taken a screenshot, but can't find it. Where is it?
If you have a Windows computer look for a folder called “Screenshots” inside the “Pictures” folder contained with “My Documents”. On a Mac, minimize all applications and look at the icons on your desktop. Be default, Windows computers save screenshots to the “Screenshots” folder while Macs send screenshots to the desktop.
How do I improve the resolution of a screenshot?
When you take a screenshot you are capturing the contents of your screen as they are displayed, pixels and all. So the resolution of the image captured will be limited by the resolution of your monitor. If you want to take a higher quality screenshot you'll need to take it using a high-resolution display, such as a retina display.
How can I edit a screenshot?
Screenshots can be edited in whatever application you usually use to edit image files. For simple edits, such as cropping and resizing, you can use the Paint application on a Windows computer, or the Preview application on a Mac.
Are there any safety or privacy concerns associated with taking and sharing screenshots?
When taking screenshots be very careful about the content that is displayed on the screen. If you aren't careful, you can accidentally include information in a screenshot that you would rather remain confidential. For example, if you are taking a screenshot to display the contents of a browser window, take a look at the tabs that are currently displayed along the top of the screen. Are there any you'd rather not make public?
Screenshots are just static images. In and of themselves they don't pose any threat. However, always be sure to carefully review the entire contents of a screenshot before sharing it to avoid an embarrassing mistake.