How to Take a Screenshot on Any Device
We write a lot of stories about computers and smartphones. Over the course of writing those articles, we have to take a lot of screenshots. While it may be second nature to some of you, knowing all the ins and outs of screen captures can get complicated. There may even be some devices you didn’t know had screen-grab utilities built in.
If you need to take a screenshot (or 20), this is the tutorial you need. We run down everything you should know about capturing screenshots, no matter the platform—Windows, ChromeOS, macOS, iOS, Android, and more.
Most systems have their own proprietary tools already baked into the system, but there is a wealth of third-party software to choose from as well. There are even add-ons you can install to capture images right on your web browser. Here’s how to take a screenshot on every device and system you could use.
How to Take a Screenshot on iPhone, iPad
For years, there was only one way to take a screenshot on Apple devices. All you had to do was hold down the Sleep/Wake button and press the Home button. On iPhone 8, all the way down to the original, you hear a camera shutter (if your sound is on) and see a “flash.” The screenshot appears in your Camera Roll/All Photos, as well as in the Screenshots album.
However, with the introduction of the iPhone X line of phones and iPad Pro, a new way of grabbing your screen was introduced.
From the iPhone X forward, including this year’s iPhone 11 lineup and the iPad Pro, there are no more Home buttons. Instead, you must instead hold the Side Button to the right of the screen (Top button for iPad Pro) and tap the Volume Up button on the opposite side simultaneously.
If you’re using an Apple Pencil with iPadOS, you can take a screen grab with the drawing tool. Simply swipe up from the bottom corner of the screen with the Apple Pencil to capture the image. You can also choose between just your current screen or the entire page, even after the picture has been taken.
If you need to annotate a screenshot, just tap the small thumbnail that appears at the bottom of the screen. This will open the device’s markup tool and allow you to begin editing the document.
Some apps may make it difficult to take screenshots through the normal means. This is where your device’s built-in Screen Recording tool comes in. While its primary purpose is to record video of your screen, you can pause the video and take a screenshot this way.
You can also take screenshots of your device from the computer with the third-party LonelyScreen tool. Share your screen via AirPlay and take all the PC-based screengrabs (or video grabs) you like.
Another built-in screen-capture tool is Apowersoft’s iPhone/iPad Recorder. As long as the PC and mobile device are on the same Wi-Fi network, they will talk via AirPlay instantly (once you activate the connection in the Control Center). It can record video and stills, and works with both Windows and macOS.
How to Take a Screenshot on Android
While Apple’s iOS is all nice and uniform, Google doesn’t have the same control over Android. That means not all devices have the same features or use the same controls. Still, most Android devices should be able to take screen grabs by holding down the power and volume buttons for 1-2 seconds.
Some phone models support pressing the power and home buttons together, while others have a screenshot button in the pulldown quick settings menu. If your phone has Google Assistant or Bixby (Samsung), you can use a voice command to ask either of them to take a screenshot.
Samsung phones support gestures to take screenshots. Navigate to the screen image you like, open your hand, and swipe the entire side of your palm and pinkie finger along the screen from right to left. Set this up (or turn it off) in Settings > Advanced Features > Palm swipe to capture.
No matter what device you have, all Android users can download third-party apps to take screen captures. Google Play has too many screenshot apps to count; some free, some paid. Screenshot Easy is a top-rated option that uses the same basic triggers as Android itself. You can also customize it and take a screenshot just by shaking your phone, for example.
If you’d like to take screens on a PC of what’s transpiring on your Android device, check out Apowersoft’s Android Recorder. The app lets you cast your phone or tablet screen wirelessly to Windows or macOS for easy capture of stills and video. It requires Android 5.0 and above.
How to Take a Screenshot on Apple Watch
Did you know you can take a screenshot on Apple Watch? First, enable the feature. Open the Watch app on your iPhone or iPad, and navigate to My Watch > General > Enable Screenshots and toggle it on.
To take a screenshot on an Apple Watch, pull up the screen you want to capture. Hold the Side Button and click the Digital Crown simultaneously.
Like on iPhone, the screen will “flash” white and the camera shutter will go off; the image will appear on your iPhone Camera Roll, not the watch itself.
How to Take a Screenshot on Wear OS
If you’re into Google’s Wear OS wearables, good news: taking screen grabs of the watch face is much easier than it used to be. You don’t use the watch itself, but an app on your Android device.
Open the Wear OS app, hit the three-dot menu () and choose “Take screenshot of watch.” You will receive a notification on your phone allowing you to share, and therefore save the image.
This workaround is necessary because the shot isn’t stored on the watch. Instead, you need to send it somewhere for it to be seen, be it another app, a sharing service, or even as a message to someone else.
How to Take a Screenshot in Windows 10
The absolute simplest way to take a screenshot in Windows is to use the Print Screen button. You’ll find it on the upper-right side of most keyboards. Click it once and it will seem like nothing happened, but Windows just copied an image of your entire screen to the clipboard. You can then hit Ctrl-V to paste it into a program, be it a Word document or an image-editing program.
The problem with this method is it’s not discerning—it gets everything visible on your monitor, and if you’ve got a multi-monitor setup, it’ll grab all the displays as if they’re one big screen.
To narrow things down, open the specific screen you want to capture, and tap Alt+Print Screen. This will take a screen grab of just that window while also coying it to the clipboard.
In recent years, Windows has also had the Snipping Tool, which you can find in the Start menu. Once launched, it provides a tiny window with menus that make it easy to capture multiple types of screenshots.
Grab just the area you want with a rectangular capture area or freeform, select a specific window you wish to capture, or get the entire screen in one shot. Once a screenshot is taken, it is immediately moved to the Snipping Tool editor, where you can save and edit the image.
Introduced in the Windows 10 May 2019 update is a new tool called Snip & Sketch, which will eventually replace the Snipping Tool. This new tool comes with a handy keyboard shortcut of Shift+Windows Key+S, which will launch a small toolbar at the top of the screen so you can easily choose what to capture.
One more built-in option for screen grabs is the Windows Game Bar. Open the tool with Windows Key+S and tap the camera button in the Broadcast & capture section to save the screenshot to the Videos/Captures folder under your main user folder.
If all that fails, Windows has a spectacular array of third-party screen-capture utilities available. Top of the line is Snagit—but it costs a whopping $50. Of course it’ll do everything you can imagine, even take video of what’s happening on your screen.
You can find plenty of screenshot apps for free, though. Jing, by the makers of Snagit, also does screencast videos and makes sharing what you capture easy. LightShot is a nifty and small utility that takes over the PrtScrn key and makes it easy to capture and share. Both are also available for Mac.
How to Take a Screenshot on Mac
Following the update to Mojave, Mac users now have more control over screenshots than ever before. You ccan grab screens in macOS with a few different keyboard shortcuts.
To capture the entire screen, tap Command+Shift+3 and a PNG image of the screen will be sent to your desktop. If you only want part of the screen, tap Command+Shift+4 to turn the cursor into a crosshair. Select the section of the screen you want to capture.
You can also press the space bar (or Command+Shift+4) and the cursor turns into a camera. Click on any open window to highlight it, then click again to capture just that window. If you have a Mac with a Touch Bar, you can capture it by pressing Command+Shift+6.
If you prefer to capture an image to the clipboard instantly, add Control to any keyboard shortcut you use. To recap: Use Command+Shift+Control+3 to capture the entire screen, or Command+Shift+Control+4 for a specific section. The image won’t save to the desktop, but it can be pasted into an app.
Mojave also introduced a screenshot tool that you can trigger by pressing Command+Control+Shift+5, or by navigating to Launchpad > Other > Screenshot.
The screen capture window allows you to perform different actions. Choose to capture the entire screen, part of the screen, or a specific window. You can also capture video of the entire screen or just a portion of it, and there’s also the option to take screenshots on a timer.
If you’ve got a Mac with Retina display, a screenshot of the entire screen can be huge in PNG format—as big as 7MB. If you’d rather the Mac save in JPG or some other format, change the settings. You need to open a terminal window on the Mac in question and type:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg
Enter your password if asked, then restart the computer and future screenshots should save in the preferred format you specified. you can always change it back by typing the above command with PNG at the end instead.
If you prefer a third-party solution, options like Snappy (which can sync screenshots with the SnappyApp for iOS), Jing, Snagit, Skitch, LightShot, and others are available.
How to Take a Screenshot on Linux
There are almost as many ways to take a screenshot in Linux as there are flavors of Linux. Let’s take a look at Ubuntu, in particular. Open the Activities menu and select Screenshot, then choose between the whole screen, a single window, or a custom area before snapping an image.
Linux also allows you to use the Print Screen button, as well as the Alt+Print Screen shortcut to screenshot a window. Use Shift+Print Screen to select a custom area to capture. You can also add the Ctrl key to any shortcut to save the image to the clipboard.
The program GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) allows you to take a screenshot from the same program where you edit the image after.
Open GIMP and go to File > Acquire > Screen Shot. You’ll get a few options, such as taking the entire screen, a window, or using a time delay. The captured image then opens in GIMP for editing.
How to Take a Screenshot on Chromebook
If you own a Chromebook, you can take a screenshot with help from the laptop’s Window Switch Key. This button is located at the top of the keyboard and has an image of a box with lines next to it. Hit Ctrl+Window Switch Key to take a full-screen snapshot. You will see the notification on the lower right of the screen.
Enter Ctrl+Shift+Window Switcher to get just a section of the screen. The cursor becomes crosshairs you can use to select what you’d like to capture.
If you’re using a standard keyboard—not a Chromebook keyboard, you won’t see a Window Switcher button. You’ll need to Ctrl+F5 and Ctrl+Shift+F5 instead.
If you’re using your Chromebook in tablet mode, you can take screenshots without the use of the keyboard. Press the power and volume down buttons to snap a picture, though this method only captures the entire screen.
All the images are saved as PNG files on the computer’s local Downloads folder. If you wish to preserve these screenshots permanently, you must upload them to Google Photos or back them up in Google Drive.
Since 90 percent of what you do on a Chromebook probably takes place in the Chrome web browser, you can also utilize a number of Chrome extensions. For those, look below.
Screenshots in Web Browsers
Chrome, Firefox, and even Safari all support add-ons that extend browser usability. Here are a few programs you can download that have browser extensions. Use these add-ons to put screen-capture utilities right into the browser.
- LightShot is free and works on Windows and Mac, but can also be added as Chrome and Firefox extensions.
- FireShot is a paid ($59.95) capture program that works with a browser or email client. It will capture and allow instant edits, sharing via social media, or instant saves to the computer. There are also Chrome and Firefox extensions.
- Awesome Screenshot is a free program that captures a whole page or a section, and then quickly annotates it (or blurs out the naughty bits) before sharing instantly. There are extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
- Nimbus Screen Screenshot is free and will let you capture the whole screen or just parts of it. You can also use it for drawing, to make annotations, or mark up those same images. There are Chrome and Firefox extensions.
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