laptop screen capture

How to take screenshots on PC, macOS, Linux, and mobile – The Absolute Guide

Taking screenshots on your computer, whether that runs Windows 10, macOS, or Linux is vital for everyone, from every day users to… bloggers. There are many ways to do to in on every operating system, but to give an idea on the best ways to take a screenshot on each operating systems, let's pin it down to these options:

  • On Windows 10 the built-in Snip & Sketch tool is a fantastic option in 2021.
  • On macOS pressing Shift-Command-5 is the best way all-around, similar to Snip & Sketch.
  • On Linux, using the PrintScreen button is an easy way to capture a screenshot with your keyboard, and Gnome's Screenshot is a great tool similar to Windows' Snip & Sketch.
  • On iOS pressing the side button (or Home for older iPhones) and volume-up will do the trick
  • On iPadOS pressing the top button (or Home on older iPads) and volume-up will capture a screenshot
  • On Android, the universal way is pressing Volume down and Power at the same time. Otherwise, it depends on the phone manufacturer, so check the list at the bottom of this post.

windows 10 capture screen shot

How to capture screenshots on Windows 10

Snip & Sketch

On Windows 10, I always have the Snip & Sketch tool on my taskbar, but another way to open it is by pressing Windows key + Shift + S. The Snip & Sketch tool is easier to access, share and annotate screenshots than the old Snipping Tool. You can also find the Snip & Sketch tool listed in the alphabetical list of apps accessed from the Start button. You can also find it on the notification panel (you can open it by clicking the notification icon on the bottom right corner) listed as Screen snip. Finally, you can search for it if the other ways don't work for you.

Snip & sketch windows tool menu
The Snp & Sketch menu at the top of your screen. Source: PC Tech Bytes

Either the keyboard shortcut or the notification button will dim your screen and open a tiny menu at the top of your screen that lets you choose which type of screenshot you want to take. The available options are:

  • Rectangular snip: This options lets you capture any type of rectangular shape in your screen
  • Free-form snip: With this option you can capture any kind of shape you want
  • Window snip: This allows you to capture any open window on your screen
  • Fullscreen snip: This option lets you capture the full screen or screens

Among the four options, you will probably find the rectangular and the window snip the most useful ones. Once you take your screenshot, it will be saved to your clipboard and show up for a moment as a notification in the lower-right corner of your screen.

Click the notification to open the screenshot in the Snip & Sketch app to annotate, save or share it. If you miss the notification you can find it in the aforementioned notifications menu.

Alternatively, if you open Snip & Sketch from the Start menu or by searching for it, it will open the Snip & Sketch window. From there, you need to click the New button in the upper-left corner to launch the small screen capture panel. If you click the down-arrow button next to the New button you can delay your snip for 3 or 10 seconds.

Snipping Tool

The Snipping Tool has been around since Windows Vista and it was the top screen capturing option until Snip & Sketch became awesome. Eventually, the Snipping Tool will be removed, so I don't really recommend using it, but I included it in this guide for completeness. You won't find the Snipping Tool in the apps list section of the start menu but you can use the search bar next to the Windows start menu button to search for it.

After you open the Snipping Tool window, you can click the New button to begin the screenshot capturing sequence. The default snip type is a rectangular snip, but you can also take free-form, full-screen, and window snips, just like on Snip & Sketch.

The Snipping Tool does not automatically save screenshots. Instead, it copies them to the clipboard, and it opens a window in which you can edit your capture. On that window, you can manually save your screenshot.

Print Screen

You can use the Print Screen or PrtScn key on your keyboard to capture your entire screen. Your screenshot will then be copied to the clipboard. You will need to use an image editing tool (such as Microsoft Paint), paste the screenshot in it, and save the file from there. Since this option is limited to capturing your entire screen (or screens) you will probably need to do some editing anyway.

However, you can also set the PrtScn key to open the Snip & Sketch tool by heading to Settings > Ease of Access > Keyboard and turning on the option Use the PrtScn button to open screen snipping under Print Screen Shortcut. This is highly recommended if you ask me.

Windows key + Print Screen

To capture your entire screen and automatically save the screenshot, you can press the Windows key + Print Screen shortcut on your keyboard. Your screen will temporarily go dim to show that you've just taken a screenshot. The screenshot will be saved to the Pictures > Screenshots folder.

Alt + Print Screen

Finally, to take a screenshot of the currently active window, you can use the keyboard shortcut Alt + PrtScn. This will snap your currently active window and copy the screenshot to the clipboard. Once again, you will need to open the screenshot in an image editor to save it manually.

This concludes the best ways to capture a screenshot on Windows devices. These are by far the easiest and most flexible options, with the Snip & Sketch tool standing out as the cream of the crop. Let's now move to other operating systems.

macOS capture screenshot take screen shot
Source: Canva

How to capture screenshots on macOS

Capturing screenshots on a MacBook or a MacBook Pro (or, you know, the rest of the Mac army) requires you to remember three keyboard shortcuts. There is also a fourth option if you have a MacBook with a touch bar. You also have a number of options to open the screenshot for markup and editing, save it, or just delete it. Here are all the keyboard shortcuts for screen capturing on macOS:

Shift-Command-3

This Command-Shift-3 keyboard shortcut captures a screenshot of the entire screen.

Shift-Command-4 

With this keyboard shortcut, you can turn the cursor into a crosshair, which you can drag to select a portion of your screen to capture. Just release the mouse button or trackpad to take the screenshot.

Here is the interesting part. You have several other options after hitting Shift-Command-4:

Press and release the space bar: The crosshair now turns into a little camera icon, which you can move over any open window. Click on the window of your to capture a screenshot of it. Screenshots captured with this method feature a white border around the window with a bit of a drop shadow.

Press and hold the space bar after dragging the cursor to highlight the selected area before releasing the mouse button or trackpad. This option locks in the shape and size of the selection area but allows you to reposition it on the screen. This is very convenient if your initial selection area is off by a few pixels as you can hold down the space button and readjust the captured area before taking the screenshot.

Hold down the Shift key after dragging the cursor to highlight an area before releasing the mouse button or trackpad: This one locks in each side of the selection area made with the crosshairs except for the bottom. So you can move your mouse up and down to adjust the bottom side before capturing a shot.

Moreover, without releasing the mouse button, you can release the Shift key and hit it once again to reposition the right edge of your selection area. You can cycle through moving the bottom edge or the right edge by keeping the mouse button or touchpad engaged and pressing the Shift key.

Shift-Command-5

This one is the latest addition to the macOS screen capturing options. It was added in 2018 and it is quite a bit Windows-like. By pressing Shift-Command-5 you launch a small screen capturing panel at the bottom of your screen. The panel provides you with three screen capturing options:

  • Full-screen capture
  • Window capture
  • Selection area capture

It also provides access to two screen-recording options:

  • Full screen recording
  • Selection area recording

You can close the panel by hitting escape or clicking the X button on the left. On the right side, you will find an Options button that allows you to choose the saving location of your screenshot, with the options being:

  • Desktop
  • Documents
  • Clipboard
  • Mail
  • Messages
  • Preview

You can also set a 5-second or a 10-second delay before capturing the screenshot.

This method provides a floating thumbnail preview of the selection-area you are about to capture. The great thing about the Floating Thumbnail is that you can click on it to open a Markup View window with several available tools, just like the ones you can find in Preview. You can also right-click the Floating Thumbnail to:

  • Save the screenshot to your desktop, Documents folder or clipboard
  • Open it in Mail, Messages, Preview or Photos
  • Show in Finder
  • Delete
  • Open it in the aforementioned Markup preview window
  • Close it and save it

Finally, you can choose to show or hide the mouse pointer in your screenshot or screen recording.

Shift-Command-6

This option is available on MacBooks that come with a touch bar and it captures just the touch bar itself. I have never used outside this guide, to be honest.

Overall, the macOS options are very nice, with some snappy shortcuts and a full-blown capturing and editing tool when using the Command-Shift-5 shortcut.

It's time for everyone's favorite penguin then!

How to capture screenshots on Linux

Just like you would expect from Linux, you can find some very easy and straightforward ways to capture a screenshot, but you can also find some very exotic – or even annoying ones. This guide focuses on the former options as we are looking at the best ways to capture a screenshot on every operating system. So here are the options for screen capturing on Linux.

Print Screen/PrtScn

This option will capture the whole screen or screens and it will ask you where to save your screenshot.

Alt + Print Screen/PrtScn

This shortcut will create a screenshot of your active window and the file will be created in your Pictures folder.

Shift+ Print Screen/PrtScn

With this option you will be able to draw a rectangular selection of the area that will be capture in the screenshot. The screenshot file will be save in the ~/Pictures directory.

The Gnome Screenshot utility tool

You can find this tool by search for “Screenshot” or in the Accessories folder of the Applications menu. This tool is similar to Windows' Snip & Sketch and macOS' Shift-Command-5 options. It allows you to capture:

  • A full-screen snapshot of the whole screen or screens
  • The currently active window
  • A selected rectangular area

With the Gnome Screenshot tool you can also choose to delay the screen capturing process for any number of seconds. You can also choose to include or exclude the mouse pointer and the window border.

How to take screenshots on iOS/iPadOS

Once again, here we go with the easy ways to capture your screen on iPhones or iPads. It is very easy to capture screenshots on your iPhone. All you need to do is:

  • Press the side button and the volume-up button on iPhones simultaneously and instantly release them. For iPad, you need to press the top button and the volume-up button.
    • Note for older iPhone/iPad users: if you have an iPhone/iPad that has a Home button, you need to press the side/top button and the Home button instead.
  • This will create a thumbnail image of your screenshot in the lower-left corner
  • Tap on the thumbnail to enlarge it and icons will appear in the upper-right corner, allowing you to share or delete the screenshot. There will also be editing tools below that will let you add highlights or add markup annotations. Click on the plus sign in the lower-right corner and you can add text, a signature, arrows, or various shapes.
  • When you’re finished, tap “Done” in the upper-left corner. You can save the image to Photos, Files, or delete it. If you choose to save the screenshot in Photos you will find it under Albums > Screenshots.

How to take screenshots on Android

Time to head to the final operating system featured, Android. This one is a bit of a mess because Android OEMs cannot even agree on such a basic operation. Here is how to capture a screenshot on every different Android manufacturer's models.

The universal way to take a screenshot on Android devices

If this works, and it probably will if your device is not too old, you are saved!

  1. Open the screen that you want to capture.
  2. Depending on your phone:
    • Press the Power and Volume down buttons at the same time.
    • If that doesn’t work, press and hold the Power button for a few seconds. Then tap Screenshot.
    • If neither of these works, check the list below for your Android phone's manufacturer.
  3. At the bottom left, you’ll find a preview of your screenshot. On some phones, at the top of the screen, you'll find Screenshot capture

Acer phones

  • Hold down the power and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.
  • Pull down the notification panel to reach quick settings and tap the Screenshot icon.

Asus phones

  • Hold down the power and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.
  • Pull down the notification panel to reach quick settings and tap the Screenshot icon.

Google phones

  • Nexus: Hold down the power and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.
  • Pixels: Hold down the power and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.

HTC phones

  • HTC U12+: Press and hold the power button until your phone vibrates, and then tap the virtual home button on the navigation bar while still pressing the power button
  • HTC U series (up to U12+): Hold down the power and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.
  • HTC 10: Hold down the home and power buttons OR hold down the power and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.
  • All other HTC phones: Hold down the power button and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.

Huawei and Honor phones

  • Hold down the power and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.
  • Pull down the notification panel, switch to Shortcuts, and tap the Screenshot icon.

Lenovo

  • Hold down the power and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.
  • Pull down the notification panel and tap the Screenshot icon.

LG phones

  • LG G7: Press and hold the power and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.
  • All other LG phones: Hold down the power (located on the back of the phone) and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.
  • Pull down the notification panel and tap the Capture+ icon.

Motorola phones

  • Hold down the power and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.

OnePlus phones

  • All OnePlus phones: Press and hold the power and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.
  • OnePlus 5, 5T, and 6: Swipe down with three fingers on the home screen.

Samsung phones

  • Galaxy S8 and later: Hold down the power and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.
  • Galaxy S7 and earlier: Hold down the home and power buttons for a couple of seconds.

Sony phones

  • Hold down the power and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.
  • Hold down the power key until a screen appears and tap Take screenshot.

ZTE phones

  • Hold down the power and volume-down buttons for a couple of seconds.

Google Assistant

On supported phones, you can also ask Google Assistant to take a screenshot for you. When you're on the screen you want to snap, say, “OK Google, take a screenshot” and this will capture the screen under the floating assistant pop-up. If you want to capture the Google Assistant screen itself, you'll have to resort to the hardware buttons.

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