How to take (and save) a screenshot on Windows or Mac

Screenshots, also called screen dumps, or screen captures are useful for showing a problem you’re having with your computer, saving images of websites for archiving, for demonstration, and many other instances when you need to simply show someone else what’s on your screen. Taking these has become second nature to me, but I had a client last week who had never done it before. I walked him through it over the phone, and he was amazed at how easy it is. No special software required.

If you’re using Windows:

Step 1
Press “Shift” and “Print Screen” at the same time (”Print Screen” is usually in the top row of your keyboard, to the right of the F keys) This will copy your entire screen into the clipboard. (Pressing ALT-Shift-Print Screen will copy only your active window)

Step 2
Open MS Paint (or Photoshop, Fireworks, etc.), and press Ctr-V to paste the screen capture into your document (You can also select “Paste” from the “Edit” menu.

Step 3
Save your document by pressing Ctr-S or selecting “Save” from the “Edit” menu.


If you’re using Mac OS X (or Mac Classic):

Step 1
Press Command-Shift-3. Mac OS automatically saves a copy of your screen to the desktop. You can then open that file in Preview, Photoshop, or whatever graphics program you like.

It seems very mac-like to only require one step. If you want to get fancy, here are some variations:


  • Command-Shift-4 takes a screenshot of a chosen area of the screen
  • Pressing “Space” afterwards allows you to choose a window on the screen to individually screenshot.
  • Holding down the Control key with the rest of the keyboard shortcut copies the pictures to the clipboard instead of being saving them to the desktop.

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