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Capturing Screenshots to Use in DTP Projects

written by: Bruce Tyson•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 2/6/2011

Desktop publishers often need to include pictures of a computer screen in various states inside their documents. Here we take a look at how to capture screenshots using two separate approaches.

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    Capturing Screenshots with the Print Screen Key

    Many computer users who need to know how to capture screenshots do not realize that the Microsoft Windows operating system comes equipped for the task. In the past, computer users could press the <Print Screen> button on their keyboard to send the image of a computer's screen to the default printer, but this method no longer works in Windows. In fact, when pressing the <Print Screen> key on the keyboard, many users think that nothing happened, though this is not the case.

    Pressing the <Print Screen> key on a Windows keyboard will copy an image of the screen to the clipboard. That image can then be pasted into Paint, Photoshop, GIMP, or other graphics editor and then saved, edited, or printed out. We'll use this technique to capture a screen from a Windows XP computer running the Google Chrome Web browser. screen001 

    Follow these simple steps:

    1. Press the <Print Screen> button on the keyboard.

    2. Open Paint by clicking on the "Start" button and then "All Programs" and then "Accessories" and then "Paint."

    screen002 

    3. When Paint opens, an untitled document should appear in the window. Now press the <Cntrl> key and the V key simultaneously. The image of the screen should now appear within Paint.

    screen003 

    From here, users can edit the screenshot, print it, or save it as a file on the computer for later retrieval.

    Sometimes, users do not wish to capture the entire screen. In these cases, only the contents of a window can be captured for printing by holding down the <Alt> key while pressing <Print Screen>. The result will be similar to that shown above except that only the image of the "Chrome" window will paste into Paint.

    screen004 

    This method showed how to capture screenshots using the keyboard and features that are built-into Windows. Next, we will take a look at how computer programs that can help with the process.

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    How to Capture Screenshots Using Other Computer Programs

    Let's face it, using the <Print Screen> button and an image editor to capture computer screenshots is not very convenient. To make the process easier, users can download a screen capture utility. While discovering how to capture screenshots, computer users are likely to come across many premium solutions available for sale. Although many of those programs are probably good and potentially worth the expense, users probably should try one or more of the free screen capture programs first. Most of the free screen capture utilities get the job done without requiring users to spend any money.

    One good free screenshot utility is MWSnap. screen005 

    MWSnap gives users full control over whether a window is captured, the full computer screen, or just part of a screen. Similarly, the program has an integrated image editor, so users can save or print screens without taking any additional steps. The program comes with good documentation that shows how to capture screenshots using several different methods.

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    Closing Thoughts

    While learning how to capture screenshots, one additional thing should be considered which is often overlooked: many methods do not include the cursor as part of the image. This limitation can cause complications for users writing manuals and tutorials where the position or the appearance of the mouse is significant. Some free screen capture programs may be available that includes the cursor image, but many of the best programs with that capability are for sale.

    One program that users should consider is Corel PaintShop Pro. This program is a powerful graphics editing program, but it also includes screenshot capabilities that capture the mouse cursor along with the image of the display. In the screen image printed with Corel PaintShop Pro X3 shown below, the cursor is part of the image (inside the yellow circle). screen006 

    Again, users might want to explore free screen capture alternatives before purchasing a premium product. Also, many premium products (such as Corel Paint Shop Pro) are available in a trial version that allows users to see if the program meets their needs before spending any money.

    Two basic screen printing techniques were described and illustrated in this tutorial, demonstrating how to capture screenshots and highlighting the potentially significant issue concerning the inclusion of the cursor as part of the captured image.

    Image Credits: Screenshots taken by Bruce Tyson