How to Take Screenshots on Your Windows or Mac Computer

A screenshot is a handy way to quickly save information from a webpage, document or any program that happens to be pulled up on your laptop’s screen. The captured image is saved as a graphics or image file that can easily be emailed or saved for your records. For Windows and Mac, there’s more than one way to capture a screenshot. Give these different methods a try to find which works most efficiently for you.

Windows Screenshot Keyboard Shortcut

There’s a special key that automatically takes a screenshot of your Windows desktop — the print screen key. Depending on the type of keyboard you own, the print screen key may appear as “PrtScn” or “PrtSc.” Pressing the print screen button will cause the screen to dim for a moment, indicating that a screen shot has been taken of the entire desktop. Then, the screen capture is automatically saved in a folder called “Screenshots,” which is found under “Pictures.”

Some keyboards will have the print screen button as a secondary command on the keyboard. If this is the case, simply press the function key before pressing the screenshot key for the same result.

Using the print screen key alone will take a screenshot of your entire desktop. However, you can also take a screenshot of only your web browser page. Select a web browser window to make it active, then hold alt and the print screen key.

Windows Screenshot App — Snipping Tool

If you’re operating with Windows 10, the system comes with a preinstalled app called the snipping tool. You can find the snipping tool on your Windows computer by going to “All apps,” then select “Windows Accessories,” and from there you’ll be able to click “Snipping Tool.” A quicker way to open the application is by typing “snip” in the Windows search bar. Pin the snipping tool to the task bar for easy access if you plan on taking screenshots often.

Once the snipping tool has been clicked, you’ll have several options depending on the type of screenshot you’d like to take. The full screen capture will take a picture of everything visible on your desktop screen. The window snip takes a screenshot of a specific browser window. The rectangular snip lets you form a rectangular shape to capture something specific within its frame, and the free form snip option lets you draw your own unique shape for a customized screenshot capture.

Saving a Windows Screenshot From the Snipping Tool

Whichever way you choose to take your screenshot, once the image has been captured there are several different file types to choose from when saving. Typically your choices will be .png, .gif, or .jpg/jpeg formats. If you’re planning on editing the screen capture in Adobe Photoshop, .png will be an ideal file format. However, if you’re simply saving the image for record-keeping or emailing, the default .jpg will suit those file format needs.

A benefit of using the snipping tool is that you can annotate and highlight the image while it’s still open in the application, whereas the keyboard shortcut will take the screenshot and automatically save it as is.

Mac Screenshot Keyboard Shortcuts

female typing on computer

Unlike Windows, Mac does not have a built-in application for taking screenshots. Instead, on the Mac OS Mojave, there are several ways to take screenshots using only the keyboard. Pressing command, shift and five will bring up the option to screenshot the entire desktop, a selected rectangular window or record your scrolling screen. When holding the shift, command and three key, a screenshot of every display window will be taken.

If you want to update your operating system to Mojave, select command, shift and the number four keys together. Then, press the space bar to take a screenshot of the active window, regardless of what Mac OS you’re using.

Saving Mac Screenshots

Whichever method you use to screenshot on Mac, the files will be automatically saved to the desktop. Screen capture files are given a file name using the naming convention “Screen Shot year-month-day time taken.”

While Mac doesn’t offer a screenshot application, it does let you simultaneously screenshot and copy to clipboard by holding the control key while you screenshot. You can then open the copied screen capture in photo-editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop, and save the altered file.

Third Party Screenshot Apps

There’s no shortage of third party screenshot applications available to download. Many of these apps are free and have a download option for Mac and Windows. When researching, consider the reason you’re screen capturing before you shell out money, and match those priorities with the capabilities of the third party apps.

For example, the screen capture app LightShot is preferable for its intuitive design and post-screenshot editing features, and is available for free. The CloudApp comes with a price tag and a reputation as quality screen capture software that maintains the clarity of screenshots and videos, making it easy to organize and share screenshots with your team. Full Page Screen Capture is an option that works with the Google Chrome browser, regardless of whether your operating system is Windows or Mac. This app takes a scrolling screenshot of an entire webpage, from top to bottom, and saves it as a clean PDF.

A screenshot can be the most efficient way to make your point in an email without typing out a lengthy, convoluted explanation. Or you might use it to organize your digital files by keeping track and organizing all those purchase confirmation numbers and event tickets. Maybe you’re reading an e-book and want to save one striking paragraph on page 172. A screen capture is the solution to all these issues. Whether you prefer Windows or Mac, it’s worth knowing the various ways to access the versatile screenshot feature.