What is a Screenshot?

How to Take a Screenshot

Screen Shot Tutorials
Everything You Need to Know About Screen Shots. © Sue Chastain

Question: 

What is a screenshot? What software do I need to take a picture of my computer screen? 

Answer: 

"Screenshot" is the term used to describe the action of capturing your computer desktop or anything shown on your computer screen to a static image file. In other words, it's a way of taking a snapshot or picture of whatever is showing on your computer screen at the time. Some people also call it a screen grab.

Screenshots can be very helpful when you want to demonstrate something that would be difficult to explain in words. Here are just a few examples of situations where a screenshot can be useful: 

  • In software reviews to show what the software looks like
  • In software tutorials to demonstrate how to perform a function
  • In technical support troubleshooting to show an error message or software issues

Screenshots are also useful to save snippets of anything you have on your screen that cannot be easily printed. I use them all the time for things I want to refer to later, but I won't necessarily need a printed copy of the image or information. 

You don't need special software to take a picture of your screen because screenshot functionality is built into all current operating systems. It's typically very easy to take a screenshot. For example, you can capture a screenshot in Windows by simply pressing the Windows Key and the Print Screen key – it appears on some keyboards as a PrsScr key.

Other options are available as well. You can take a screenshot on your iPhone by simultaneously pressing the Sleep/Wake button and the Home button. You can take one on your Mac, and even on older operating systems like Windows 7 and Vista. Here's how to do it on the most common devices:

Many graphics programs also have built-in screen capture capabilities, but using special screen capture software can come in handy if you take screenshots often. Dedicated screen capture software offers benefits such as:

  • The ability to automatically name and save your screenshots to a specific folder
  • Auto-scroll functions to capture long documents like Web pages that don't fit on the screen
  • Timed captures to allow you prepare the workspace before capturing
  • Markup tools for adding callouts, arrows, shapes and text annotations to your screenshots
  • Options to include or exclude the mouse cursor.

There's even screen recording software available that will allow you to capture all the activity on your computer monitor and turn it into a video file.

You can find screen capture software in the following categories: