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How to make screen grabs and post them to EE

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Often a screen grab can quickly get your point across and/or clarify your meaning, while saving far-more than a thousand words.

This article describes how to make simple screen grab images, and post them to Experts Exchange. I've also included some criteria you might consider when choosing an image format.


[step="1"title="Copy Screen to Clipboard"]
     To copy the entire screen to clipboard, just press and release the Print Screen key (on the top row next to the Scroll Lock key on most keyboards).
     To copy only the selected window (i.e. the window with 'focus') to clipboard, hold down an Alt key and press & release Print Screen, then release the Alt key.[/step]
In 'keyboard shorthand' the latter process is usually abbreviated as ''Alt+Print Screen'' (e.g. refer to the keyboard shortcuts on the right-hand side of File/Edit/View/etc drop-down menus).


2. Open Image Editor



     Click on Start->All Programs->Accessories->Paint (or open your favorite paint program).

3. Transfer Clipboard Contents to Editor



     Do Ctrl+V, or click the Edit->Paste menu command, to 'dump' the clipboard data into an image container. Crop and/or edit to suit.
Here are some data to consider when choosing the format in which to save your image.
BMP is ''BitMaPped'' so a 24-bit BMP uses 24-bits to map the color of each and every pixel onscreen. There are 8-bits in a byte, so that means 1 pixel = 3 bytes in 24-bit BMP.
Typical screen resolution these days is 1024 pixels wide by 768 pixels tall. 1024 x 768 = 786,432 pixels.  Times 3 = 2,359,296 bytes just for the pixel information of a 1024xd768x24bpp (bits per pixel) bit-mapped screen capture. Yes, 2+MBytes!
That's completely lossless, but also completely uncompressed, and typically a huge waste of hard drive space (and bandwidth) to store (and transfer) images in the BMP format. Even 16-bit BMP's use 1.5+MB for a 1024x768 image.

PNG is Portable Network Graphics, which is a 24 to 48-bit (true color) format featuring lossless compression, gamma and color correction, and - best of all - it's free. PNG's been an ISO standard since 2004.
It was developed shortly after Unisys and Compuserve started (in January 1995) charging royalties for any program that made use of the the 8-bit (256-color) Graphics Interchange Format (aka GIF).
JPG already existed at that time, but JPG does not have lossless compression... and 'heavy' use or reuse results in major visible artifacts near edges of object in the image (e.g. when compression of more than 5-10% is applied).
Yes, if you crank up the compression factor on JPG, you can make them smaller than PNG images, but I guarantee the PNG image's contents will look better in that situation.

Internet Explorer has had native display support of PNG images since v4.01 (IE 6.5 was released before MS finally licensed AOL code from IE 4.01 and later so the AOL browser was able to display PNG files, by the way).
Firefox has always had native PNG support; Netscape had it from version 4 until its demise; all other currently supported browsers I'm aware of have native PNG support.

TIFF (''Tagged Information File Format'') is another image format, and while it supports lossless compression, most TIFF (or TIF) files do not use any compression, resulting in very large files.
Patents on the TIFF image format are owned by Adobe, so while it's currently free to distribute files in that format, they could easily decide to start charging royalties on display/editing programs just as Unisys/Compuserve did with GIF.

Anyway... with lossless compression, widespread support (including here on EE), and its 'public domain' status meaning you won't ever have to pay royalties to use that format, PNG appears (to me, anyway) as the obvious choice to use when saving your screen grabs as well as other images.

4. Select the Screen Grab's Image Format



     Click on File->Save As... in the Save As window click down arrow on the Save as Type picklist (immediately below the File name line) where it says ''24-bit Bitmap (*.bmp;*.dib)'', and change that to ''PNG (*.PNG)''

5. Name and Save



     Give your screen grab a filename (besides ''untitled'') which identifies and helps you classify (and to later find) it. e.g. VistaBSOD6304, DevMgr-Error, WirelessNoConnect, et cetera. The extension will be added automatically when you click the Save button.
     If the computer you're on is currently marooned without internet access, copy the file across the network (wired, wifi, bluetooth, infrared, et cetera) or to a USB thumb drive, memory card, CD-RW, DVD-RW, or [gasp!] floppy disk and transfer it to a device that can access EE.
Now you're ready to post the image.

6. Open a New Question or the Replying Thread



     In a question or reply, below the Comment field, check the Attach File box.

7. Add File



     Click the Add File button that appears, then in the Choose File dialog browse to the location containing your screen grab, select the file and click Open.

8. Description



     Add a short description (keep in mind this description should also appear as the 'alt text' when the cursor is floated over the image, for browsers with that option enabled, or in place of the image if the browser is configured not to display images).

9. Add File, or Finish



     Next you can click Add File to attach another file (up to the 5MB limit), or finish your Comment and click Submit.
     If you change your mind, you must click the 'REMOVE' link above the description field... unless they've changed how that works recently, just unchecking the Attach File box after uploading the file does NOT unlink the attachment from your Comment.

I hope you found this article useful. If so, please let Experts Exchange know by using the link in the upper-right corner of this article; If you have any information you'd care to add, you can also leave a comment below.
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Comment
Author:Darr247
6 Comments
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Expert Comment

by:WaterStreet
Nice write-up.
I liked the explanation of the various formats.
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Expert Comment

by:b0lsc0tt
Good article.  I enjoyed reading it and appreciated the instruction and details on file formats.  I will be pushing the little Yes link to say this helped me.  Thanks for the contribution.

To add my 2 cents, some may even find them worth more than that, I will suggest 2 great programs.  As a LONG time user of the process above (and perfectly happy to save some money or computer space) I ignored some of the "screen capture" programs that are available.  While I still agree they aren't needed I can say if you will regularly be capturing screens, especially if you will be doing them as an expert or for the purpose to instruct, then I strongly suggest get a program.  Copy/paste works and Paint is adequate but is like the Internet before high speed. :)

My program is SnagIt by TechSmith (http://www.techsmith.com/).  Another great program is ScreenHunter (http://wisdom-soft.com/products/screenhunter.htm) by Wisdom Software.  There are a number of other programs but after my own research and testing I found those 2 the best.  If you refuse to spend money then I recommend ScreenHunter; it offers a few more features and has a free version.

My overall recommendation is SnagIt.  It is worth the money.  If you are a student then it is an especially great price and bargain.  Not only does it condense the 3 steps above to one keystroke but you now have the image in an editor that will provide you tools to edit the image.  You don't just have a screenshot but an image of a screen that could highlight the section(s) of interest; point to a part of the screen with arrows, etc; or use callout or fading to emphasize or "hide" screen contents.  Unlike the "program-less" option you also can now capture just a selected area of the screen with just the one step I mentioned.

I hope this helps a bit and contributes to your article.  Again, thanks for the contribution and time working on it.

b0lsc0tt

p.s. I am just a satisfied customer/user so any "sales pitch" slant of this can be blamed on my enthusiasm for "screen grabs" and the software.  I have no ulterior motive and I won't benefit financially from this.  If this helps click the Yes above to elevate this article and maybe let them (TechSmith or WisdomSoft) know you read about it in an EE article. :)

p.s.s.  If you want help finding a program EE's knowledge base was a helpful resource for me.  There are recent questions on this so the solutions are timely and helpful.  (and, Yes, that is a plug for EE and premium services but I still won't gain financially. ;))
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LVL 50

Expert Comment

by:DanRollins
Good Article.
FWIW...
On my system, pressing the [PrintScreen] key does not capture the screen.  I use
   ALT+PrintScreen
to get the current active window and
   CTRL+PrintScreen
to get the entire desktop.
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by:Darr247
Thanks. :-)

What OS are you using, DanRollins?

If it's windows, maybe there's something wrong with your keyboard (?) 'cause every MS GUI I've ever run, through Win7 RC works the way described above. I never tried v2, but I still have a copy of v1 beta around here somewhere on a 700K 3.5'' floppy.

But I'll keep that in mind, and if anyone else mentions it I'll add it into the article (in the meantime, your note here in the comments might tip them off).  Cheers. :)
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Expert Comment

by:DanRollins
I'm running Win XP.  Mine's a pretty old keyboard -- OmniKey/102 with function keys on the left (where God intended them :-) I used an original IBM AT keyboard for nearly 20 years (those things were *tough*) but I spilled one too many cups of coffee on it.  It did not even have a dedicated PrintScreen key, but ALT+SysReq would do the trick.

BTW, I wrote my own article about some of the more subtle aspects of screen-grabbing, and I just now finished it:  
   More Tips and Tricks for Posting Screen Grabs on EE
   http://www.experts-exchange.com/viewArticle.jsp?aid=1262
In it, I refer back to this one as my inspiration <*grin*>
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by:Darr247
Cool... I can't say I agree with your comparison of PNG and JPG, though... I have done so before and just tried it again - pasting random screengrab data from the clipboard into Paint then saving it as JPG, closing and reopening Paint and pasting the same clipboard data in and saving it as PNG... the PNG format is consistently 30%-40% smaller filesize than the JPG file.

Some paint programs allow you to adjust the compression factor of JPG, and in that case you can often squeeze them down smaller (with the 'cost' of visible artifacts near the borders of objects and type in the image), and/or whether the image you're saving is interlaced or progressive encoding, but I don't find those options available in the Paint program that comes with windows.

Still, JPG is far-better than having them saved and posted as BMP files.  :-)
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