Upgrade Your Documentation with Screenshots

Screen Shot

When you’re describing something that needs to be done on a computer, screen shots inserted into a document provide much more useful guidance than text alone. While the capability to take screen shots has been built into Windows for decades, newer software makes the task of creating and editing those screenshots much easier than before.

You may have always wondered what the “PrtScr” (sometimes called the “PrtScn” or “Print Screen”) button does on your keyboard. While there are exception in years past (where the button would literally print what was on the screen), that button now takes a screenshot of your entire workspace and saves it to the clipboard so it can be pasted into another document.

If you combine “Alt” with “PrtScr,” it will take a screenshot of the currently active Window and save a copy to the clipboard, so you can paste it somewhere as needed.

Starting with Windows 8, Win+PrtScr, instantly saves a screenshot to the “Screenshots” folder in “Pictures” library.

While that’s handy functionality, screen shots are much more functional if captured using one of a few programs.

  1. Snipping Tool: Built into Windows since Windows Vista (and as an add-on to some versions of Windows XP). It can take screenshots of an open window, rectangular areas, a free-form area, or the entire screen. It has some basic editing capabilities to mark-up or highlight certain areas of the screenshot. You can then save the file in a few different formats
  2. Greenshot: Snipping Tool is fine for basic needs, but if you’re needs are a bit more advanced, other tools might work better. Greenshot is one I discovered recently and it works pretty darn well and has a bunch of useful features. It can be mapped to launch upon hitting the “Print Screen” button so it launch upon pushing the button and capture all or part of a screen or scrolling web page. It also has a built-in editor that you can them mark up, annotate, or obfuscate parts of the screen shot. And you can export the newly-edited screenshot in a variety of different ways (save to file, send to printer, attach to email, upload to photo sites, send to Office programs). Best part? It’s free but the developers will take donations.
  3. SnagIt: SnagIt has been the go-to program for folks who take and use screenshots as a large part of their job. It will do all the above (in a much more defined interface), and will also do video capture and annotation, support profiles for projects, tagging, importing mobile screens and much more flexibility and functionality. It costs a few bucks ($50) but for folks who need to take a pile of screenshots and want the job to be as quick as possible, SnagIt is your choice (note that Weston is a reseller of SnagIt and can quote our licenses for it).

Do you take a bunch of screen shots? How are you using them in your internal documentation? Or is there a program you use instead that is better for your needs? Share in the comments section below!

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