How to Take Screenshots in Windows 10, 8, and 7

There are shortcuts and tools galore to create screenshots

Snipping Tool in Windows 10

There are a lot of ways to make a screenshot, sometimes called a screen capture, in Windows. The methods depend on which version of Windows you have. Here's how to take a variety screenshots if you're running Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7.

The steps for taking screenshots on Windows XP and Vista can be slightly different from later Windows versions detailed in this article.

Quick Screenshots in Windows 10

You can quickly snap a screenshot in Windows 10 by pressing Windows key + Shift + S. This opens a small clipping menu at the top of the screen.

Performing a screenshot capture in Windows 10.

You have three options for the type of area you want to capture:

  • Rectangular Snip
  • Freeform Snip
  • Window Snip
  • Fullscreen Snip

Select the kind of screenshot you want to capture. If you want to use a Rectangular or Freeform Snip, click and drag the mouse to define the area you want to capture. When you release the mouse button, the area will be clipped and saved to your clipboard.

If you select Window Snip, the active window that you select will be saved to the clipboard.

If you select Fullscreen Snip, the entire desktop (including any additional attached monitors) will be saved to the clipboard.

With any of the snips, you will get a notification that the Snip saved to clipboard.

Windows notification of a snip in Windows 10.

If you select the notification before it disappears, it will open your snip in Snip & Sketch, the new version of the Snipping Tool in Windows 10. Or, you can paste the copied screenshot into an image editor, email message, OneNote, or other application.

Screenshot displayed in Snip & Sketch.

Snip & Sketch (Windows 10)

Snip & Sketch takes the above quick screenshot and adds the ability to annotate or crop your snips. If you take a screenshot with other techniques and have Snip & Sketch installed, Windows notifications will give you a quick way to access your screenshot in Snip & Sketch. It also has a timer as well which can be set to a delay of 3 or 10 seconds.

Snip & Sketch delay timer settings.

Full-screen Captures (Windows 10, 8, and 7)

No matter which Windows you run, you can take a screenshot of the entire desktop by pressing the PrtScn (or Print Screen or on some laptops Fn + Prnt Scrn).

Using PrtScn takes a screenshot of the full screen and copies it to your system clipboard. From there you can paste the image where you need it, such as into an email, or into an image editor such as Microsoft Paint or Gimp for Windows.

To paste the image, select the location where you want to put it and press Ctrl + V. You can also use the mouse. In Gimp click Edit > Paste, and in Paint select the clipboard (Paste) under the Home tab.

Keep in mind that if you are using multiple displays, the full screenshot will capture all working monitors for the image.

Alternate Fullscreen Capture (Windows 10 and 8)

The PrtScn method above works in all versions of Windows. Windows 10 and Windows 8 users, however, have an additional trick that makes screen capturing a little faster.

Press Windows key + PrtScn (or Fn + Windows key + PrtScrn). Your display will momentarily dim as if a camera shutter just snapped, indicating that a screenshot has been taken. Instead of having to paste the image into another program, however, the image is saved to your Pictures > Screenshots folder.

Screenshot of File Explorer displaying the Screenshots folder.

Single Window Screenshots (Windows 10 and 8)

If you want to take a screenshot of a single window, first make it the active window by selecting its title bar (the top). Press Alt + PrtScn. A screenshot of just the active window will be saved to your clipboard. You can then paste the image to another program or location, like an email message or the Microsoft Paint app.

Windows Snipping Tool (Windows 10, 8, and 7)

Microsoft includes a built-in utility for Windows called Snipping Tool that gives you another way to make screenshots but with much more control over the area that is captured. It is available in Windows versions starting with Vista, but some versions differ from one another.

The Snipping Tool in Windows is being incorporated into a new tool called Snip & Sketch. Snip & Sketch lets you take screenshots just like Snipping Tool, but also to annotate and crop images. Both tools are still available to use in Windows 10.

  1. Select Start and type snipping into the Search box.

    Searching for the Snipping Tool in Windows 10.
  2. Select Snipping Tool in the search results.

    The Snipping tool interface in Windows 10.
  3. This is where Snipping Tool in Windows 10 differs from earlier versions.

    WINDOWS 10: Select Mode in the Snipping Tool menu.

    Snipping Tool mode menu in Windows 10.

    WINDOWS 7 and 8: Select New dropdown.

    Windows Snipping Tool in Windows 8 and older

    You have several options for the shape of the screenshot area you will be capturing. Select one for your screen capture:

    • Free-form Snip lets you draw the screenshot area freehand. Click and hold the left mouse button and move the mouse to draw the area you want to capture.
    • Rectangular Snip uses the familiar left-click-and-drag to create a rectangular area on the screen. Everything inside the rectangle will be captured in the image.
    • Window Snip will capture an entire window. After activating a Window Snip, move the mouse to the window you want to capture. The window that will be captured will become selected. Left-click the mouse to create the image.
    • Full-screen Snip will capture an image of the entire desktop and opened in Snipping Tool.
  4. Free-form or Rectangular Snip options: After you have the area drawn that you want to capture in a screenshot, simply release the mouse button and the image will be snapped and opened in Snipping Tool. The image will also be copied to your clipboard as well.

    Getting a screenshot with the Snipping Tool.

    Window Snip: Move the mouse pointer to the active window and click to capture the window image.

    If you use the Window Snip option and click on a window behind the active window, a screenshot will be taken of that window behind, plus any other windows in front of it.

    Full-screen Snip: As soon as you choose this selection, the Snipping Tool will instantly capture the full desktop image.

  5. If the screenshot is not as you expected, you can take another by selecting New in the menu.

  6. When you're satisfied with your screenshot, select File > Save As to save it. You can also save by pressing Ctrl + S or selecting the floppy disk in the Snipping Tool menu to save.

Snipping Tool does not capture opened context menus or other pop-up menus. When you attempt to make a screenshot of these, as soon as the Snipping Tool is activated, those menus close.

Using Delay to Capture Pop-up Menus (Windows 10)

Windows 10 offers a delay feature when making screenshots with Snipping Tool. The delay allows you set-up your desktop before the program freezes your screen. This is very helpful if you're trying to capture a pop-up menu that disappears the moment you press New in the Snipping Tool.

  1. Click Delay and select the amount of time you'd like Snipping Tool to wait before capturing the image, up to a maximum of five seconds.

    The Delay menu in Snipping Tool in Winows 10.
  2. Select New and set up your screen the way you want it to appear before the timer runs out. For example, if you're trying to capture an open context menu, open that menu before the timer runs out. When the delay ends, you can capture the screenshot, including open menus.

The Snipping Tool doesn't have a live timer to show you how much time you have left. To be on the safe side it's best to give yourself five seconds for each shot.

Using OneNote Screen Clipping

OneNote used to have a screen clipping function you could use to take screenshots. The screen clipping function is not available in newer versions, however, but if you have an older version of OneNote, you may still use this method to make a screenshot.

The OneNote clip tool sits in the system tray of the taskbar. To find it, select the upward-facing arrow in the bottom right of your desktop. In the window that opens right-click the purple OneNote icon with a pair of scissors on it. Select Take screen clipping from the context menu. Similar to the Snipping Tool, your screen will then freeze and allow you to define the area of the screenshot.

OneNote Clipping tool on Windows

Once you've taken the shot, OneNote will pop-up a small context window asking you to choose whether to copy the new screenshot to your clipboard or paste the image directly into an existing or new notebook.

Web Shots Using Microsoft Edge Browser

Windows 10 users have a tool they can use for taking screenshots from the web in Microsoft Edge. This is called Edge's Web Note feature. This is a more limited screenshot capability, because it only allows captures from within the browser itself—no screenshots of the desktop or other programs.

  1. In the Microsoft Edge browser on the web page you want to clip, select Add notes (the icon looks like a pen drawing a line) in the upper right of the browser window.

    A toolbar will open at the top of the browser window, and the screen will freeze, including any video playing such as on YouTube.

    Microsoft Edge web clipping tool
  2. Select Clip in the new toolbar.

    Clip button in Microsoft Edge browser
  3. Drag a rectangle for the area you want to capture on the web page. When you release the mouse button, the clipped image will be copied to your clipboard.

  4. Select Exit in the upper right corner to close the web clipping toolbar. You can then paste the newly clipped image.

Screen Captures on Windows Tablet

You can also use the autosave screenshot feature on a Windows tablet by pressing the Windows button + volume down.