computer image

Technology Tip of the Month

April, 1996: Using Screen Shots
To Make More Readable Handouts

by Deborah Healey
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
sample screen 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 options menu.
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.

Getting ready

  1. The first step is to find something you need to take a picture of, often the opening menu of a program.
  2. 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.
  3. Move the mouse until the pointer is appropriately placed -- either off the window entirely or pointing to what the student needs to click on.
  4. 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.

Under DOS

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.

3-column tableOne way to get better control of 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.

Other Alternatives

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.

Final Note

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.

See Other tech tips

If you have questions, comments, or for more information, contact Deborah Healey, dhealey AT uoregon DOT edu
Last updated 26 June, 2009