homer-computerThere are dozens of software programs you can purchase to capture what is displayed on your computer screen. Often referred to as “screen shots”, each operating system has this ability built in with no additional software required. Today we’ll discuss how to do this from a Windows, Macintosh and Chromebook machine.


Surprisingly (not), Windows is probably the most complicated way to capture the screen. Click the window you want to capture. Press Alt + Print Screen by holding down the Alt key and then pressing the Print Screen key. The Print Screen key is near the upper-right corner of your keyboard. This copies an image of the selected window to your computer’s memory. You now need to “paste” that image somewhere, so open up Paint (Start Menu / Accessories / Paint). When Paint opens, select the Edit drop down menu and paste. Make sure to save your new file and you’re all set.

One advantage Windows offers is the ability to paste the image into any program. If you aren’t interested in using Paint, open Microsoft Word and paste the picture there instead. You can also take a screen shot of the entire desktop (rather than just a single window) by pressing the Print Screen key without holding down the Alt key.


Taking a screen shot on a Macintosh computer is a little different than using the Windows machine. With a Macintosh, the screen capture is automatically saved as a .png file on your desktop. There is no need to open Paint or a program just to paste your image from memory. To make a screen capture of the entire desktop, press Command (⌘) + Shift + 3. To capture some of the screen, press Command (⌘) + Shift + 4. This will turn the mouse cursor into a set of cross hairs. Click and drag to cover the area of the screen you want saved in the screen capture. When you release the mouse, the screen capture will be saved. You can also capture an entire window by pressing Command (⌘) + Shift +4 + space. This will cause the entire window under the mouse cursor to be selected. If you really want the screen capture to stay in memory (so you can paste it into a program), try Command (⌘) + Shift + Control + 4.


Just like the Macintosh method, Chromebooks save the screen capture as a .png file without the need for a separate program. To capture the entire screen, press the Control + Overview buttons. The Overview button is usually in the top row and looks like 3 little squares on top of each other. I’ve also seen the Overview button referred to as the “Window Switcher” button. Your .png screen capture file will be saved in the Chromebook’s downloads folder. If you’d like to select a specific area of the screen, try Shift + Control + Overview.


With any screen captures, always make sure you are not capturing passwords, addresses or copyrighted or other sensitive information. You’ll find some programs, like DVD and video players, do not allow screen capture techniques to work. To get a screen capture of something like that you’ll need to break out the original screen capture device…your camera.