Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

How to Do a Screen Capture

Windows, macOS, Linux

Windows | Mac | Linux | About Screen Captures

A screen capture of the Linux Mint desktop with the applications menu open.

There are several programs that will allow you to capture an image (screenshot) of your desktop, dialogue box or any other item on your computer screen.

Operating System Differences

The process is fairly similar between operating systems but there are variations so I'll cover the default processes for each.

How to Do a Screen Capture in Windows

Recommended Programs

I'd recommend MW Snap for its simplicity as a quick capture utility, but Microsoft's Snipping Tool/Snip & Sketch have more editing and markup capabilities.

MW Snap

MW Snap is a free 32-bit program that allows you to capture:

MW Snap showing the Window/menu option selected.

Even though it was released in 2002, it works fine in currently supported 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows, including Windows 10.

Most of the captures on this site were accomplished with MW Snap although many were later edited in Photoshop.

Snipping Tool/Snip & Sketch

Snipping Tool has been in Windows since Vista and is now slated for retirement. Snip & Sketch appeared in Windows 10 with the October 2018 update.

Snip & Sketch adds a whole lot of capability to capture, markup and share screen content including snippets of videos and has delay options of 0, 5 and 10 seconds. New tools are being added based upon suggestions such as a ruler that allows you to draw straight lines.

Unlike Screen Sketch, the Snip & Sketch app will show up on the taskbar and in the task switcher (Alt+tab), which makes it much easier to multi-task. You can also set the window size, and it even supports multiple windows.
Athima Chansanchai

Snip & Sketch capabilities are demonstrated in the following videos:

Snipping Tool offers several options in capturing the image when you click on the New button.

Microsoft Snipping Tool showing the “New” menu extended.   Microsoft Snipping Tool showing the pen options menu extended.

After the selection you can mark up the captured image using various colours of pens as well as a highlighter. If you make a mistake, the eraser removes the markup (it removes the entire markup but doesn't allow minor edits like trimming the edges around your markup).

Snipping Tool can be found in the Windows Accessories folder but I suggest you pin it to the Start menu or desktop if you use it frequently. However, you'll want to check out the more capable Snip & Sketch.

Return to top

How to Do a Screen Shot on a Mac

Mac Built-in Capabilities

Most people will find the built-in capture capability on a Mac works well for them.

In every option below, the screen shot is saved as a .PNG file on your desktop using the name “Screen Shot” with the date and time appended.

Experiment with the setting to find out what works best for you.

Capturing the Full Desktop

To capture the entire desktop click on Shift+Command+3.

Capturing a Section of the Desktop

To capture a portion of the desktop, the process is similar except that you click on Shift+Command+4 and a crosshairs cursor appears on the desktop to define the area you wish to capture.

Modifying Your Selection

Holding various keys after Shift+Command+4 but before releasing the mouse allows you to modify the selection:

Capturing a Window or Menu

To capture a window of the desktop, click on Shift+Command+4 then press the Space Bar after the crosshairs cursor appears.

Once the cursor changes to a camera it highlights various windows, folders and toolbars to show what will be captured when you release the mouse.

I found that I could even select individual icons on the Apple menu bar and that selecting the Dock captured it intact even though a window was covering a portion.

Learning More

The apple documentation provides more details including how to capture the Touch Bar with macOS Sierra.

Screen Recorder

Return to top

How to Do a Screen Capture in Linux

I primarily use and support Linux Mint. Other Linux distributions may capture screen shots differently.

Screen shots in Linux Mint

Linux Mint provides a built-in Screenshot program (click on Menu ⇒ All Applications ⇒ Accessories then choose Screenshot):

Linux Mint's Screenshot program.

You may choose to capture

There is also a time delay option that can help if capturing a menu or similar target that requires you to prepare the area to be captured.

Current Window Options

If you choose the current window option, you can apply

and can elect to have the window border appear.

Mouse Pointer Option

You can also elect to have the mouse pointer included in the capture (useful when the presence of the mouse is an important feature of a captured image).

Saving the Image

The screen shot is saved as a .PNG file with the name “Screenshot from” followed by the date and time (e.g., Screenshot from 2017-02-16 17-28-34.png). The save location defaults to Pictures but you can save it in any of the default folders or navigate to a custom location.

Return to top

About Screen Captures

Screen captures is a generic term for images taken of your desktop or portion of your desktop. The terms used in various programs, documentation and operating systems, but they all refer to the same process.

Why Would I Want to Do That?

You may wish to record the settings in a program or capture an error message for later reference, particularly if it is lengthy or contains complex error codes.

I use it to create a consistent desktop across various computers or to recreate a client's desktop layout when I've reinstalled Windows on their computer.

Naming the Image

Be sure to give the document a name that is meaningful so you understand what it is and why you captured the image. Appending a date and/or time may help if you take a series of screen shots. Both the Mac and Linux Mint programs do that automatically.

If you aren't given the option to name the resulting image (such as the Mac's default screen shot capturing capabilities) you can rename each screenshot after the process is complete.

Getting Ready

Before proceeding with any capture, ensure that the desktop is laid out as you want. You'll want to close any unnecessary programs and move windows and programs that are visible so that they don't interfere with the area of the screen you're capturing.

When doing a full desktop capture, you might want to consider what is showing in the taskbar or Mac Dock.

Saving the Screen Capture

When storing a screen capture (screen shot) for later reference, you'll not only wish to name it (or rename it) so that you'll recognize its significance later but also select a location that is logical.

Default Locations

The Mac stores files on the desktop. Both Windows and Linux Mint store images in Pictures by default. Your system may have other defaults.

However, screen captures are a different sort of image than the photos from your vacation or family gatherings and I feel it should have their own location.

Other Options

My client screen captures are saved in my Backups folder so they're easy to find.

I've organized over 325 other images into 54 nested sub-folders in my Screen Captures folder in Documents.

Related Resources

On this site:

Found this resource useful?
Buy Me A Coffee


Return to top
Updated: March 17, 2023