Technology Tip of the Month
April, 1996: Using Screen Shots
by Deborah Healey
To Make More Readable Handouts
As software becomes increasingly graphical, whether on the Macintosh or
with Windows, it is harder to make a handout explaining what students
are to do with a program just in words. Describing what they see on the
screen is much clearer with a picture --
a screen shot.
The screen shot can then go into a word-processed
document with the explanation of how students are supposed to use the program.
Screen shots are also very helpful when taking graphics from the
Internet or other programs such as encyclopedias (with appropriate
attention to copyright, of course).
First, a definition of terms:
- Screen shot
A copy of a computer screen (usually just part of the
screen) that can be put into text form or used in electronic form. The
graphic on the right is a screen shot (reduced in size) of Eudora Pro's
- To preserve in time; to make a screen shot
- Command key
- On the Macintosh, the Apple or "cloverleaf" key
- To make an image smaller by cutting off parts of the edges. You lose
part of the picture when you crop.
- To make an image larger or smaller, usually proportionally. The
picture may become hard to read if you resize too much.
- A working area on the screen, usually marked by borders. Both the
Mac and Windows allow several windows to be open at the same time.
You can take screen shots using either the Macintosh or Windows using
just what's built into the operating system. It's also possible to use
shareware or commercial programs that make screen shots a bit easier.
The following explanation will focus on the built-in methods for screen shots.
- The first step is to find something you need to take a picture of,
often the opening menu of a program.
- If possible, position the window so that the top of what you want to
'shoot' is at the top left corner of the computer screen.
- Move the mouse until the pointer is appropriately placed -- either
off the window entirely or pointing to what the student needs to click
- Take the screen shot (see machine-specific techniques below)
On the Macintosh
The built-in method is to hold Shift and Command and press 3
(Shift-Command-3). You only need to press 3 once. If you are using
System 7, this will save a picture on your disk called Picture 1 (and
continuing sequentially from there).
If you are using System 6, the
picture will be called Screen 0 and continue to Screen 9. You can't take
more than 10 screen shots under System 6 until you rename the old ones
so they no longer say Screen 0-9.
Now you have a couple of choices.
If the picture looks fine as is, just open your word-processor, then
choose Open from the File menu and open the Picture file. This will
work with most word-processors. See "Putting it into the Word-processor"
below for more details.
If you want only a piece of what was on the screen or if your
word-processor won't open the Picture file, you'll need to move the
picture into a graphics program first -- see "Cleaning up the Picture" below.
Under Windows (3.1 or '95)
The built-in method under Windows is to hold Alt and press PrintScreen
(PrtScr). This saves a copy of the screen to the computer's memory.
Since the picture is in memory, you need to immediately copy it into
something else--the word-processor or a graphics program. See "Cleaning
up the Picture" and "Putting it into the Word-processor" below.
Remember -- you can only take one screen shot at a time before saving it
in a word-processor or graphics program.
DOS doesn't have a built-in way to do screen shots, so you need to start
with Windows and then open MS-DOS (the MS-DOS icon is usually in the
window called Main). This is trickier, since not all DOS programs will
run when Windows is going. If you are lucky, you will be able to follow
the Windows instructions above and get a screen shot. Be prepared to
have to restart the computer if things go wrong!
Cleaning up the Picture
Unfortunately, life -- and screen shots -- are often not perfect. You
may need to cut some of the screen shot to focus in on just what you
want or to size it to fit. In that case, you need to copy your screen
shot into a graphics program, such as Paint, PaintShop, Corel Draw (not
for the faint of heart), MacPaint, SuperPaint, MacDraw, etc.
Graphics programs come in two basic flavors: "draw" or
"object-oriented" and "paint" or "bit-mapped." Either kind will work,
though the "paint" programs will let you fine-tune more easily and "draw"
programs will let you resize images better.
Putting it into the Word-processor
Now comes the heart of the handout-- the word-processed document. You
can create the text first, then paste the screen shot into the
appropriate place, or paste the screen shot first and add text later.
Some word-processors make it easy to place a picture relative to text,
so the text is where you want it to be. If you use one of the Works
products (Microsoft Works, ClarisWorks), this is the case. Other
word-processors, such as Microsoft Word, need more effort.
One way to get better
the location of graphics in Word is to use the tables option. Create a
table with the appropriate number of columns -- two if you just want one
column of text with your graphic, and
three if you want text of both sides of your graphic.
Put the picture into one "cell" of the table, then add your
text to the other cell(s). Adjust the size of each cell to suit.
You can also resize the picture within many word-processors. Click
on the picture, then see if there are little boxes at the edge. These
are the "handles" that you can pull or push to change the picture's size.
Look good? You're done! Save and print your masterpiece.
There are a number of commercial and shareware programs for the Macintosh
and Windows that make taking a screen shot easier. Mac programs include
Capture and Flash-It; a popular Windows program in both shareware and
commercial versions is PaintShop.
This may seem like a lot of work. It gets easier with practice, but it's
still time-consuming. You probably don't want a lot of screen-shots in a
handout you plan to use only once.
If you have questions, comments, or for more information,
contact Deborah Healey, dhealey AT uoregon DOT edu
updated 26 June, 2009