A screenshot is just a picture of what is on your screen at the moment you take it. Might not sound too sexy but when you need one you really need one! I’m not thinking here about the “nice to have” case. I’m thinking about the “I got a real problem and I don’t have even a tiny clue how to fix it” case. That is when you really need to be able to show it to someone. Someone who does have a clue or two. But that person might not be there to help you understand what the heck you are looking at. You probably can’t describe it in words anyway. Maybe that error message that appears to be in Egyptian hieroglyphics will mean something to someone else, but to me? No way! Yep. It’s screenshot time.
If you already know about screenshots click here to go to the How To.
Why Take a Screenshot?
Capturing evidence of a problem is one important reason to take a screenshot, of course. But there are other reasons to take screenshots too. It is a way to capture a permanent image of something that will go away and never come back again. If you use Snapchat or anything similar you know what I mean. It lets you save the evidence of how great you are at something like a game. And you are sure that all your friends really need to see it! It can be the easy way to save a picture of something on the web. Just saw a shocking or insightful or funny Tweet? Capture it for posterity. Or whatever other devious purpose you might dream up for a picture of your screen.
The info here will help you take screenshots for any reason at all. But my basic motivation for writing this article was prep you to deal with the “I got a problem” case.
Taking a screenshot is a pretty basic kind of thing really. But if you do not know how to do it it can be quite a mystery! And when you are in “I got a problem” mode you do not want to be trying to learn how. Learn how to take one now on a device you have (Android, Windows, Mac, iOS (iPhone, iPad), or Chromebook). Do it before the emergency happens! And, find out how to send the one you took to someone else. That is typically what you would want to do with it.
What is a Screenshot Really?
A screenshot is just a picture of what is on the screen of your device at any particular moment. It does not matter what is showing on the screen. It might be an app that is doing something strange. Maybe a display of info you would like to capture or a picture of something you want a copy of. Sometimes it is an error message you need to get help with. Or just about anything else.
But the screenshot itself is just a file. A file of the same types of file as a photo like a selfie or a family pic. The only difference is that it contains a perfect image of your screen at the selected moment. So, in the end, it is just a photo. But a screenshot does not lose even the slightest detail. You can think of it as your device taking a perfect selfie of itself. Not a bad trick actually!
Since it is a photo file you can do the same things with it as a photo. When in “I got a problem” mode that normally means getting it to someone else. You can send it in an email as an attachment, for example. Or you can post it on a web site that provides technical support. You can save a copy to a history folder. That helps if you need to build up a historical record of particular things happening. There are lots more possibilities.
Be Careful With What You Send
Just remember that screenshots can contain sensitive information that you would not want just anyone to have access to. Look at each one closely prior to sending it to anyone. If there is any private or sensitive info in it be very careful where it goes. You might also want to learn how to clip out just a part of it to send. Or how to mask a part that you want to hide. For example, if it contains financial details. You still might need to send it but you could mask out the critical details.
How Do I Take a Screenshot?
That depends on what device you want to take it on. Each device does this a little bit differently. Some devices have more than one way to do it. And within one category of devices, such as the Android category, manufacturers implement different methods on different devices. This makes things a bit more complex.
Learn how to do it on the device or all the devices that you actually use. There can be real differences in how to do it so practice with what you actually have is valuable. Below you will find instructions for taking screenshots on Android, Windows, Mac, iPhone/iPad (iOS), and Chromebook.
Click one of the tabs below to select the type of device you want to make a screenshot on:
Taking a Screenshot on Android.
Got an Android device such as a smartphone that is not an iPhone, a tablet that is not an iPad, or a few other devices? These are the instructions for you.
This is where things get a little harder to pin down. Android has lots of sub-versions depending on the manufacturer or which model it is and what updates it has. Each manufacturer can do this a little differently from the others. So you need to know what kind of device you have.
On Android there are several techniques that manufacturers have used. Below you will find the most used ones and which manufacturers/models they apply to. This list is not absolutely comprehensive. So, you might not find your device in it. Or you might need to use a slightly different method. Note that usually there will be a visual and/or audio indication that indicates the capture of the screenshot. For example, the borders of the screen flashing white or a camera click sound.
The following are the three common methods on Android. If you do not find info for your specific case you just try all three of these. Note that you need to press the buttons together. If you press one ahead of the second one the process will not work:
Hold down the following buttons together for a few seconds:
1. The Power and Volume Down buttons (most common method).
2. The Home and Volume Down buttons.
3. The Home and Volume Up buttons.
On some devices after doing the buttons above you need to pull down the notification shade. Then you tap a screenshot icon.
An app that takes screenshots can be a good alternative method. If you need some manipulation of the captured image this can be a great way of doing it. Or if you just find pressing those two keys at the same time a challenge. If you have an older version of Android from some manufacturers it may be the only way of doing it. Further down there is a section on using screenshot apps.
Some manufacturers offer screenshot widgets in the notifications shade. You get the notification shade when you swipe your finger down from the top of the screen. So, I have tried to mention those in the selections below. But be aware that these things often depend on what model you have. And they can change with time. Also, you might have to activate the widget to make it available.
There are some apps that prevent you from taking screenshot while they are open. This is most seen in banking apps and some others that show sensitive information on the screen. They attempt to prevent a malicious app running on the device from grabbing shots of that sensitive info. If you find that you sometimes cannot get a screenshot of certain things consider this possibility. (Back to snapping a photo of the screen with a camera?)
Specifics by Manufacturer of the Device
2. Using an App to Take Screenshots
There are several reasons to take screenshots with an app. The most common attraction is being able to take a screenshot by just tapping a single icon or button. An app has other advantages too. It will frequently give you tools to do more with the screenshot after you take it. These typically include editing and sharing. Your device might not have a built-in widget for this at all. Or it might lack one that gives you the options you want. An app can be the solution! On some older Android devices you cannot take a screenshot at all unless you use an app. The selections below discuss four screenshot apps that you might like. There are a lot more but these ones offer some great features.
You might want to go beyond just taking a screenshot. With some apps you have the possibility of making a video recording of the activity on your device. This can be much better than just one still shot or a sequence of them. This capability is available in DU Recorder and AZ Screen Recorder described below.
Note that your mileage may vary with these apps. It depends on what device you have and what version of Android it is. If you have a version prior to 5.0 you should look at the last two listed below. I would love to be able to tell you that “it will work for sure”. But in the Android world there is just too much variability. Also, some apps block the screenshot capability. This is a security feature.