More Tips and Tricks for Posting Screen Grabs on EE

Published on
12,690 Points
5 Endorsements
Last Modified:
In  How to make screen grabs and post them to EE, member Darr247 described the basics of how to take a snapshot of the screen for use in posting on EE.  In brief,
Press PrintScreen (or ALT+PrintScreen or CTRL+PrintScreen]
Paste it into MsPaint
Save the file in the desired format
Then use EE's "Attach File" option
I have a few things to add to that earlier article, including some things that are a bit more subtle but can make your screen shots more useful in EE posts and (especially) when writing Articles here.

First, on my system, pressing the [PrintScreen] key by itself does not capture the screen.  I use
to get the current active window and
to get the entire desktop.  Your system may use the same or other keystrokes.  A bit of experimentation will set you right.

A full-screen capture  can be problematic if you have a two-monitor system.  On mine, CTRL+PrintScreen will generate an enormous 3120x1052 image.   In such cases, I then use MsPaint to clip the image to just the portion that I need -- some combination of the two or more windows that I'm trying to display.

To clip an image in MsPaint:
After CTRL+V (to paste), click anywhere in the image and drag the whole thing upward and to the left, clipping off the top and left side of the desktop (parts that are not important to the reason for posting the image).
Then scroll down to the bottom right and grab the tiny "handle" there and drag it up and to the left to clip from the lower right.
You can make gross and fine adjustments by using the menu item, Image/Attributes... and decreasing the height and width (this clips from the bottom and right).
I save the image in the "My Documents / My Pictures" folder since that seems to be the default for both MsPaint and for EE's upload browse-for-file feature.
Here are my additional tips and hints related to posting screen grabs -- these come into focus once you've done it a number of times.

1. Use the JPG file format

A screen image is often used mainly to provide a context for the reader; that is, the specific words etc., are less important than the overall image.  In such cases, it is a slight waste of storage to use a PNG format.  

I use JPG format (a slightly "lossy" option) and it typically saves at least 25% over PNG.  Also, in such cases, it is possible to collapse the image itself (in MsPaint, Edit>Select All, then Image>Stretch/Skew, to say 75%,75%) and that can cut file size and bandwidth usage considerably -- and still be perfectly legible to the reader.

2. Work [i]with[]/i] EE 'thumbnailing', not against it

Since EE is the destination, I also keep in mind that when the image is larger than about 560 pixels wide, EE shows a "thumbnailed" or "size-compressed" version of my carefully-prepared image.  Since it retains the proportions, that means that a wide image ends up being squashed in two directions.  
So wide the EE must "thumbnail" itThe result is that the reader can't see details anyway (unless he double-clicks the image to load it into a viewer).  Thus, using MsPaint to *clip the image* to a width less than 560 lets me show the exact/intended image in one glance.
Cropped so details are immediately visible

3. Collapse unnecessary 'whitespace'

Look at your image:  Is there a huge gulf of whitespace in the middle of it that is not contributing to the image and causing it to be too wide or too high?   It is possible to use the MsPaint selection tools to drag the bottom (or right side) up (or over) to get rid of some of that empty space.
Using selection tool to get rid of "whitespace"After judicious removal of image partsYou might also consider resizing the window and re-doing the screen dump.

4. Use callouts to focus attention

While I've got the image in MsPaint, I ask myself,  "Do I want to draw attention to some particular part of this image?"  If so, I use a thick red brush to draw an ellipse (oval) around that part of the image.   I might even put together a sort of "callout" using a thick red line and a text box.
Point to critical information with a callout

5. Carefully check for personal information!

There is one serious "gotcha" to avoid.  When you do a CTRL+PrintScreen, your entire desktop is shown -- including desktop icons, quick-launch icons and running programs in the Taskbar.   Even if you are pure-in-heart (and there are no "BrittnyNaked.jpg" icons on your desktop), there can be any number of other things that you don't want to reveal to the entire world -- what BitTorrent client you favor, what accounting program you run, what multi-player game you waste your life playing, and so forth.  

So carefully review the image while you have it in your paint program.  If you make screen shots often, you might want to create a secondary Windows User who has a sanitized desktop, and snap your images there.  Also, look out for email addresses, Social Security Numbers, or other personal items within the snapshot image (For instance, in figs. 3 and 4, I have obscured my email address).

6. Other screenshot tools

The windows built-in screen dump facility is limited in several ways.  You can't grab a screen with a menu dropped down and it hides the mouse cursor before taking the snapshot.  Some people use a dedicated screenshot utility program -- SnagIt and ScreenHunter -- are often mentioned, and there are any number of shareware programs available. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
If you liked this article and want to see more from this author,  please click the Yes button near the:
      Was this article helpful?
label at the top.  Thanks!
Welcome to Experts Exchange

Add your voice to the tech community where 5M+ people just like you are talking about what matters.

  • Help others & share knowledge
  • Earn cash & points
  • Learn & ask questions
1 Comment
LVL 58

Expert Comment

Good tips, Dan!

The tips you mention are all quick to execute and should be applied in all cases. If the screen shot is meant for an article, I'd go one step further: the author should spent some *real* time working it over until it communicates meaning by itself. Two examples (without false humility): http:/A_1789.html and http:/A_1920.html. Both use 50% shrinking, re-highlighted with elements at 100%.


Featured Post

Free Tool: ZipGrep

ZipGrep is a utility that can list and search zip (.war, .ear, .jar, etc) archives for text patterns, without the need to extract the archive's contents.

One of a set of tools we're offering as a way to say thank you for being a part of the community.

Join & Write a Comment

Articles on a wide range of technology and professional topics are available on Experts Exchange. These resources are written by members, for members, and can be written about any topic you feel passionate about. Learn how to best write an article t…
Microsoft Active Directory, the widely used IT infrastructure, is known for its high risk of credential theft. The best way to test your Active Directory’s vulnerabilities to pass-the-ticket, pass-the-hash, privilege escalation, and malware attacks …

Keep in touch with Experts Exchange

Tech news and trends delivered to your inbox every month