The Windows Snipping Tool: smart screen captures for free

Windows Snipping Tool--Summary ImageYou need to capture a single face out of that family reunion scan. Or perhaps you want to clip one newspaper article out of an entire page online. Maybe your clip needs to be an odd shape, or you want to draw a circle around one element. We find treasures online constantly and need to save what matters. The Windows Snipping Tool offers a simple, efficient way to do this. And it’s free.

Screen captures without the Snipping Tool

Most of us, at some point, have learned to capture the image displayed on our screen. Press the <PrtScn> (Print Screen) key, then go to a document or email and paste it. It captures everything you see on your monitor. But you rarely need to capture everything you see. Capture of full screen--multiple windows

Of course, you can restrict the image capture to the active window by pressing <Alt>+<PrtScn>, then pasting. It excludes windows layered behind the one in front. Better. Still, it often captures more than you want to keep.

capture of a single window

The extra steps required to save the file can also slow you down. You must paste it somewhere, sometimes crop away excess image, and save it to your drive. Still, it has its uses, and I use both keyboard shortcuts quite frequently.

If I want more control over what I capture and a quicker path to saving the image, Windows offers an excellent free utility called the Snipping Tool. I use it every day.

What the Snipping Tool can do for you

Let’s say you want to grab an image you see from an online newspaper page:

News photo clipped with Windows Snipping Tool

What if you want to surgically extract one island from a map of an archipelago? Doing a rectangular snip would pick up pieces of the other islands in the corners. To exclude them, try the “free-form” snip:

Free-form snip with Windows Snipping Tool

If you want to draw attention to something on the clip, the Windows Snipping Tool allows you to draw on the clip in multiple colors.

Census with markings by Windows Snipping Tool

You can also draw attention to a piece of a clip by highlighting text:Screen capture with highlights, using Windows Snipping Tool

The Snipping Tool lets you email your snip or save it as a JPEG. It has also written your snip into your computer’s clipboard, so you can paste it into documents.

Opening the Snipping Tool

To open Snipping Tool for the first time, go to your Windows Start Menu search field and type “Snipping Tool.”

Opening Windows Snipping Tool

If you think you’ll use it often (and trust me, you will), right-click on “Snipping Tool” in the displayed list and choose to “Pin to Taskbar.” From then on, you’ll see an icon of scissors in your taskbar at the bottom of the screen. It’s handy whenever you need to snip.



Using the Snipping Tool

To capture the image you need, bring the image into view on your desktop. Then open your Windows Snipping Tool program and choose “New.” The drop-down arrow on the right edge of the “New” button allows you to select the type of snip you want: free-form, rectangular, window, or full-screen. You’ll notice the screen dims a bit, which means the Snipping Tool is waiting for you to select the region you want to snip. Click and drag the cursor to select the desired section of the screen.

Snipping Tool Selection Screen

If the Snipping Tool has snipped an image to the clipboard previously, the screen will look like this:

Snipping Tool screen with clipboard capture

Capturing popups

Some windows that appear on your screen will disappear when you click outside them, therefore can’t be captured the regular way. While I hear Windows designed the Delay button to work around this, I haven’t been able to make it work. However, I have found that pressing the <Alt><PrtScn> shortcut while the popup is displayed will capture the popup in Windows 10. I have not tried it in earlier versions of Windows.

A word about permissions

Remember to get permissions when necessary, before using screen clips in publications or presentations. Copyright laws protect the material you see online, whether or not you see a copyright notice on the screen. Be ethical!

My thanks to my friends at the Birmingham Public Library for allowing me to clip from their digital collection site. Take a look at the treasures there!GEG_Single Wrap


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