screen prints

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There will be times when you need to use the screen display itself as an illustration – to show how a document might appear on screen, how a programme works or for images in notes like these.

On your keyboard there is a Prt Scr (or maybe Print Screen) key. Many years ago it did just that – you hit the key and the printer printed the screen display. Not now, though. What it does today is silently copy the screen display. To add that image to a document you could just hit paste and it would appear. Unless you’re using the image as a full screen presentation, the image copied, however, will nearly always be too big or include bits that you don’t want to include.

So rather than just pasting it directly into a document – and certainly don’t use it unedited on a web page – paste it instead into an image editor. There you select just the parts you require and export, or save, them as suitably compressed and smaller files.

Including these images in your document can then be achieved using the Insert|Picture route as for any other image.


Often, you may only want to use an image of a small active window on the screen.

Hold the Alt key and press the Prt Scr button to do this. It may not always work but it’s worth trying and will save a lot of reduction work later if it does.

There are lots of programmes available which can help with this process, storing and compressing the files automatically for you. If you’re likely to do this often and don’t want to bother with managing the files then a search for “Print Screen” on the web will show you what’s on offer. Always check with your IT Services people before downloading as most free software has licence restrictions or limitations as to use or may contain hidden and less desirable software. appear to offer a reasonable product that might be suitable.

Generally, though, the “hit Prt Scr – paste into image editor – crop and resize – export as a gif (or possibly jpg) – insert picture into document” route is pretty painless.

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page updated by Andrew Hill, Dunstable College 24 July, 2006