How to take a quick screenshot and save it in a file where you can always find it again

Scissors and ScreenI’ve blogged before about a piece of software called Gadwin Printscreen that I use to take screenshots of parts or all of screens and save them in files in a folder of my choosing.

In practice, my own computer support clients usually think that using Gadwin is a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a walnut and they would like something simpler and quicker. After all, you often want to make a copy of a screen just on the off-chance that you might want to refer to it again some time in the future. You do not want to spend a minute working out how to create something that you probably won’t refer to again. Well, there is something available and it’s already there if you have Windows 8 or Windows 10. I missed it before. Sorry. There is one annoying proviso that I’ll discuss below, but apart from that, all you have to do is depress the “Windows” key and keep it down while you press the “prt sc” (“Print screen”) key. The “Windows key” is to be found one or two keys to the left of the space bar on the bottom row of the keyboard.

Default Screenshots FolderWhat happens then is that a file is created in a sub-folder of your “Pictures” folder. The sub-folder is called “Screenshots”. The file is a “.png” file. This is easily opened in any images program. Double-clicking on a png file will open it in the default images program.

The “annoying proviso” that I mentioned above is that this may or may not work on a laptop where the “prt sc” function is on a key that also performs another function. If you have to depress the “fn” key (the “Function key”) before depressing the “prt sc” key, then my experience is that you may or may not get the desired re-direction of the output to a file if you then depress all three of the “Windows” key, “Function” key, and “Prt Sc” key together. A bit disappointing, but there you go.

You may also be interested to know that it is possible to re-direct the files created by “Windows prt sc” to any folder of your own choosing. This means, for instance, that you could re-direct the output to a sub-folder of your Dropbox or OneDrive folder. If you have several machines, this means that you can make all screenshots from all machines immediately available on all machines.

To re-direct the output:

  • Right-click on the current (default) folder. This is called “Screenshots” and is a sub-folder of “Pictures”
  • Left-click on the “Properties” option
  • Left-click on the “Locations” tab at the top of the window
  • Left-click on the “Move” option
  • Select the desired destination folder for screenshots
  • Close all open dialogue windows

To change the output back to the default:

  • Right-click on the current (default) folder. This is called “Screenshots” and is a sub-folder of “Pictures”
  • Left-click on the “Properties” option
  • Left-click on the “Locations” tab at the top of the window
  • Left-click on the “Restore Default” option
  • Close all open dialogue windows

Screenshots - change location
Screenshots - change location (2)

An alternative way to capture screens or part of them is the Windows “Snipping Tool” that I described in this blog.

This is also described in more detail on this Microsoft Support page.

There’s no doubt that a lot of Windows PC users are changing to Macs

I can’t find figures on these migrations – in either direction – but my own experience tells me that a lot more people are moving from PC to Mac than the other direction. Certainly, in general terms, the PC market is fairly stagnant whereas Mac sales are still increasing (click here for some heavy-duty statistics).

By and large, those of my own clients that make the switch from PCs to Macs are happy with the move. On the other hand, I do know of more than one person who has subsequently switched back because of the “lack of control, flexibility, and software” that Macs offer.

Despite these reservations (which I have always shared), I have promised myself that this year I will give myself the thorough grounding in Macs that I have always avoided on the grounds that Macs aren’t real computers – just style accessories for graphic designers.

One problem with learning one way of doing something and then switching to another is that you can’t help bringing assumptions with you. So I’m going to do a few blog posts for others who are migrating from PCs to Macs and who have the same mini-tantrums as I do when something “obvious” doesn’t work. I’ve also made a new year’s resolution to get out of the habit of saying things like “it’s easy enough on a proper computer” when my Mac confounds my expectations. So, here we go then:

Right-click doesn’t display a context-menu

Mac Magic Mouse

The rather nice Mac Magic Mouse

If you have a two-button mouse or a swish Apple Magic Mouse, it’s very annoying when you click the right button and nothing happens. The “context” menu displayed with a right-click is something it’s easy to take for granted until it’s not there. The answer on the Mac is that you have to enable it, as follows:

  • Click on the Apple, then System Preferences, then the mouse (as circled in figure 1)
  • Enable the right-click by ticking in the box that enables the “secondary click” (as circled in figure 2)

Screen grab of accessing the mouse options on a Mac

Figure1 – Accessing the mouse options

Screen grab - enabling the right-click on a Mac mouse

Figure 2 – tick the box to enable right-click

There is no “print screen” button on a Mac

True, but there are keyboard options that work if you’ve got 40 fingers to execute them and the memory of an elephant to remember them.

In each of the following options, the best way to execute the command is to press the first two or three keys at the same time (Command, Control, Shift), keep them depressed, and then type the appropriate number key.

Print the contents of the screen to a file on the desktop

A screenshot of the file of a screenshot displayed on the Mac desktop

Figure 3 – a screenshot of the file of a screenshot displayed on a Mac desktop (and I defy you to understand that explanation)

Command+Shift+3 – captures the whole screen and saves the image in a file on the desktop (that will be identified by the name of “Screen Shot” plus the date and time of the capture – see figure 3).

Command+Shift+4 – lets you select a part of the screen to capture and save as above.

Command+Shift+4 then tap the spacebar – you can then tap on any open window and the screenshot will be taken of that window alone.

Print the contents of the screen to the clipboard

This is useful, of course, if you wish to paste the results directly into another program.

Command+Control+Shift+3 – captures the whole screen and saves the image in the clipboard.

Command+Control+Shift+4 – lets you select a part of the screen to capture and save to the clipboard as above.

Command+Control+Shift+4 then tap the spacebar – you can then tap on any open window and the screenshot will be taken of that window alone.

I think I’d better finish by saying that I’m not abandoning support for PCs: just giving more consideration to Macs than I have before.

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Computer Support in London
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