A picture is worth a thousand words. In many cases it helps to show someone a picture of your computer screen (called a screen shot) instead of trying to explain what you’re seeing. A screen shot of an error, application, or settings can be a life saver when working with a support IT professional, or to show someone how to do something by showing them screen shots of every step.
Windows Vista includes the Snipping Tool which helps taking screen shots very easy. This guide shows you how to use the Snipping Tool to take, edit, and save screen shots of your computer.
Snipping Tool Options
Before you start capturing screen shots (also called snips) with the Snipping Tool it helps to familiarize yourself with the Snipping Tool’s options to get the best experience.
Let’s open the Snipping Tool’s options by doing the following:
- Type Snip in the Start Menu’s search box.
- Click the Snipping Tool in the search results.
- Press Esc on your keyboard to cancel the current screen shot (snip).
- Click Options in the Snipping Tool’s window.
Here’s an explanation of all the Snipping Tool’s options:
- Hide Instruction Text: Instruction text basically walks you through taking screen shots in the Snipping Tool. Once you get the hang of the Snipping Tool I would turn this off.
- Always Copy Snips to the Clipboard: When a screen shot is captured with the Snipping Tool the screen shot can be copied to your clipboard which enables you to paste the screen shot in many applications.
- Include URL below snips (HTML only): This option includes the web address of a webpage captured using the Snipping Tool.
- Prompt to Save Snips before Exiting: If you capture a screen shot and don’t save it the Snipping Tool will ask you if you want to save the screen shot with this option selected.
- Display Icon in the Quick Launch Toolbar: If you use the Quick Launch toolbar this option adds a shortcut to the Snipping Tool there so you can easily capture screen shots by opening the Snipping Tool from the Quick Launch toolbar.
- Show Screen Overlay when Snipping Tool is Active: With this option enabled a white transparent color will appear over anything that is not being captured on your computer screen. This makes it easy to know exactly what part of the screen you’re capturing.
- Ink Color: This is the color of the ink the Snipping Tool will use when writing on screen captures and as a border of a screen shot.
- Show Selection Ink after Snips are Captured: When this option is selected a border will be placed around the screen shot.
How-to Capture a Screen Shot
There are different ways to capture a screen shot using the Snipping Tool. When you open the Snipping Tool select the type of screen capture you want to take by dropping down the arrow next to the New button and select the type of screen capture you want to perform. The different types of screen captures are listed below.
- Free Style Form Snip: A free form snip takes a screen shot within a circle or any other shape you draw on your screen.
- Rectangular Snip: The rectangle snip lets you draw a box and captures the screen inside the box.
- Window Snip: A window snip captures a window your mouse hovers over. You simply point at a window you want to capture and click it to take a screen shot of the window.
- Full Screen Snip: The full screen snip takes a screen shot of your entire computer screen.
Once you select the type of snip you want to perform it will be saved the next time you use the Snipping Tool.
Take your screen shot by clicking the New button or if you open the Snipping Tool and use the saved type of snip the screen capture will happen automatically. You’ll have to draw a shape, box, or click on a window or your computer screen to take the screen shot depending on what type of snip you selected.
Once you’ve taken your screen shot another window will open with the screen shot loaded in it where you can edit and save the screen shot. I’ll talk about that later.
Editing a Screen Shot
When you take a screen shot using the Snipping Tool a window will open right after the screen capture is taken that lets you edit the screen shot.
You can write on the screen shot with the selected pen. You can change the color of the pen by selecting the arrow next to the pen button and selecting your color of choice. You can also highlight a portion of the screen shot with a highlighter or erase a portion of it with the eraser.
Saving Your Screen Shot
When you’re ready to save your screen shot on your computer, click the Save button (blue disk) and then select the location you want to save it at and give it a name.
Email Screen Shot
You can also e-mail the screen shot using Outlook or Windows Mail if you’re set up and using them for your e-mail. Simply click the envelop button to start your default e-mail program and the Snipping Tool will create a new e-mail for you and place the screen shot in it. This is an easy way to send screen shots to someone helping you fix a problem.